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November 7, 2012

FMWL Indie Spotlight - Dust Up

(2012, Dir. by Ward Roberts.)

Dust Up - which wants to be a grindhouse western comedy, I think - is a bizarre little movie that seems like a Troma film on half the budget and half the sleaze.  With an eye patch laden hero, a kinda TV star in the cast - Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Amber Benson - and an inordinate amount of random sexual deviance, Dust Up certainly makes an impression in its own way.

Set in the modern day southwestern United States, the film is plotted like most westerns of a time gone by.  A loner with a violent past (and, as mentioned, an eyepatch) lives alone and only interacts with his Native American friend (in this case, a guy who's pretending to be a Native American), until he becomes caught up in a battle between a down on her luck mother (Benson) and a ruthless criminal.  That criminal is the film's biggest departure from the norm for classic westerns, presented as a ruthless drug dealer with a henchman who pretends to be a lizard - and is thus called "Mr. Lizard".

You can tell that this is not going to be your grandfather's western from that explanation, but you really can't understand how true that is yet.  It isn't long into the film before things kind of degenerate into a mishmash of devious acts that cover all kinds of bases.  At the forefront of this cluster of cheesy sleaze is a strong dose of random sexual humor, as the film has more references to hand job techniques and more attempted male-on-male rapes than almost anything I've ever seen. (In fact, I kind of hope it's more than anything I've ever seen, for my own sanity.)  Everything is done with a tongue in cheek, I guess, and there's nothing overly malicious about the film's sexual quotient - nor does the film really ever reveal anything visually that's too inappropriate - it's just really bizarre for the sake of bizarreness.

When you get past some of the more uncomfortable humor that misses the mark - most of which centers on the drug dealer aspect of the story, there's a lot of fun to be had with the hero, sidekick, and mother characters who are fighting to survive here.  The awkward tone of their relationships reminds a little of quirky indie films like those of Wes Anderson or the like, and each of the actors seem to be having fun with the roles.  Aaron Gaffey's performance as the one-eyed veteran is probably the film's most rewarding, as he plays the role with a straight face and seems at home in Dust Up's madcap universe.  Benson gets star billing and - as she was on Buffy in many crucial moments - is certainly the heart of the picture. It's just that - as was the case on Buffy in other crucial moments - she's not necessarily given a lot to do at times.

When you put all the pieces together, Dust Up is kind of just there. It's not grindhouse enough for that crowd, nor is it accessible enough for mainstream crowds.  It's definitely unique and there are some really fun moments, but it seemed like there were just as many moments that came off as too forced or too brazen or - worst of all - too pointless.  I can't bring myself to call it a failure - it's too unique and too good-hearted at times to be a waste of time - but I also don't think you should go out of your way for this one. It probably would play best for fans of wacky westerns with a devious streak - I'm just not sure that crowd is really out there looking for this flick.

1 comment:

John said...

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