A one-eyed vigilante with a dark past has vowed to change his ways, trading his machine gun for a yoga mat. But when he encounters a beautiful young mother in deep trouble with a cannibalistic drug lord and his evil goons, he soon realizes that justice must be served. Teamed up with his smooth-talking Native American hipster sidekick, our hero rides into the badass brawl of the century.
Thanks in part to the work of filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, the grindhouse exploitation film has been making a comeback in recent years. The newest entry into this recently re-popularized genre is Dust Up and comes courtesy of Writer/Director Wade Roberts (Little Big Top).
Dust Up is the story of Jack (Aaron Gaffey from The Jackhammer Massacre), a war veteran who has lost an eye in combat and returned home to live a peaceful, zen-filled life in the desert as a handyman. He gets a business call from Ella (Amber Benson, Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), a young mother who is having plumbing problems. Ella's pipes, however, are not her only problem, as her husband, a meth addict named Herman (Legend of the Sandsquatch's Travis Betz), has run afoul of his drug dealer, a sadistic badass named Buzz (Lo's Jeremiah Birkett) and his crew, which includes a crazy nerd named Keith (Nesting's Mike C. Nelson) and an enigmatic nut known only as Mr. Lizard (special effects whiz and stuntman Al Burke). Jack calls upon his friend, an Indian named Mo (Devin Barry from Crashing), for assistance in helping to save Ella and Herman from the drug clan, but Buzz and his boys may prove to be more than Jack and Mo can handle.
While it's never slow or boring, the big issue with Dust Up is the story; it's a fairly stereotypical new-age western tale that doesn't bring much to the table that hasn't been seen before. The characters are pretty interesting - Jack has a great back story, Buzz is an unlikable heel that is incredibly fun to watch, and Ella is a no-nonsense mother caught between her man and his drug dealer. And then there's Mo, probably the most fun character in the film; Although actor Devin Barry looks nothing like an Indian, the character somehow comes off as a modern tribesman (he even makes mention of leaving the reservation because he gets tired of dividing up the casino money) who is both a skilled fighter and a crafty thinker. At times, it seems that Mo should be the main character, as the entire film seems destined to end up with a climactic fight between Mo and Mr. Lizard (which it does, and the scene does not disappoint). Nonetheless, Dust Up is Jack's story, and although Jack is an interesting enough character, his story is not.
Dust Up is a fascinating combination. The film combines the murder and intrigue of a Tarantino movie with the shock and awe of a Troma picture. Unfortunately, the script is not as polished as one of Tarantino's, so Dust Up tries to overcompensate with gratuitous gore. Much like some of the more inferior Troma movies, Dust Up tries too hard to shock. The character of Buzz is a great example of this; while he makes an amazing villain, and Jeremiah Birkett's performance is one of the strongest in the film, the character is spoiled by repeated instances of masturbation, cannibalism and sodomy (yeah, he leads that kind of cult). The impression is that it's supposed to be comedic; the problem is that no one's laughing.
Dust UpDust Up does have the grainy look and gritty feel of a classic exploitation flick. However, the story is too one dimensional and predictable to be in the same class as a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie, and the blood and gore is not tongue in cheek enough for Dust Up to be a good schlock fiction film. Dust Up is entertaining, so it's not a complete waste of time, but it pales in comparison to the films to which it is paying tribute.
Much of the soundtrack for Dust Up was written and performed by a psychedelic western band called Spindrift. Spindrift gets it right. Their music fits the grindhouse vibe of the exploitation film to a T, sounding somewhere between shit-kicking country and surf-rock instrumentals. Spindrift's reverb-drenched cowboy rock adds as much to the vibe of the film as the dialogue or sound effects, creating an additional dimension to the picture - the sounds of fists punching or whips cracking go hand in hand with the high-octane tunes. The music in Dust Up keeps the blood pumping and the gasoline flowing, providing a nice psycho-billy backdrop to the spaghetti western filmic images.
October 2, 2012