Director's Cut Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Clink Productions
Directed by Adam Rifkin
Written by Penn Jillette
2016, 90 minutes, Not yet rated.
Frightfest European premiere on 29th August 2016
Missi Pyle as Herself/Mabel
Penn Jillette as Herbert Blount
Harry Hamlin as Godfrey Winters/Himself
Hayes MacArthur as Reed/Himself
It stinks to be the fourth wall these days. Fresh on the heels of Deadpool dancing all over the superhero genre and Found Footage 3D giving the, uh, 3D found footage film a much-deserved lambasting (both to varying degrees of success) comes Director’s Cut, the most meta of them all. It’s essentially the Rifftrax version of itself. Director Herbert Blount (Penn from off of Penn and Teller!) presents the director’s cut of his police procedural horror film/thriller Knocked Off – a director’s commentary track of his own cut of the movie, if you will. With extra sequences, deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage also inserted into the movie, it’s a whole movie and special features, all in one. As a concept, it is not an easy one to explain – thanks, Penn.
This may be the year of the meta-horror movie, but Director’s Cut commits more totally and admirably to its conceit than anything which has preceded it (with the exception of that Simpsons episode, maybe) never once letting up or dropping the joke. I hope you like that joke, by the way, because that’s all Director’s Cut is. One joke. For 80 minutes. What opens as hilarious (those credits, even if Deadpool did them way better) very quickly becomes a tiresome and annoying slog (just like Deadpool himself!) as Blount re-edits Knocked Off to make his own version of the movie – one which favours lead actress Missi Pyle a little too much…
A goofy cross between Open Windows and the Charlie Brooker cop spoof A Touch of Cloth, it is, at least, unique. Partner in crime Teller from off of Penn and Teller pops up in a cameo part (the film’s best gag), Gilbert Gottfried makes an inexplicable but brief appearance, and Lin Shaye plays the police captain. Its spoofing of the Saw-type procedural thriller is well done, if outdated, and even its found footage-style segments aren’t too jarring. Where it all falls apart, however, is in Penn/Blount’s commentary. Given that it’s the main draw, and the film’s driving force, it desperately needs to be spot on. Sadly, it’s not, shockingly lacking in wit or humour at times. There’s one scene where Blount sits and eats popcorn over a crucial dialogue sequence – and it lasts (or at least feels like it does) for five minutes, long after the joke ceased to be amusing. Which could be Director’s Cut’s motto.
Where a lot of movies like Director’s Cut fall down is in that the movie-within-the-movie isn’t much good, leaving us wondering why we should care about this aberrant film crew or project. This one, however, faces the opposite problem: I would much rather be watching Knocked Off than Director’s Cut. It’s funny (it has the best joke in the film, before Blount points out the punchline for you, in case you didn’t get it), has an interesting story (copycat killer on the loose) and has Lin Shaye and Gilbert Gottfried amongst the cast. The latter, by the way, destroying Director’s Cut’s internal logic and credibility - this supposedly gritty, real cop thriller stars Gilbert Gottfried and jokes about a man creaming himself in the police station? You can have Gottfried or Shaye, make up your mind! The only cut of the film I want to see is the one Penn Gillette insists on talking over. The DVD release is missing a trick if it doesn’t ultimately release both versions, anyway.
Furthermore, the ‘behind the scenes’ element inserting behind the scenes footage into the movie doesn’t work either – better they had released them later as special features for Director’s Cut’s DVD release than including them too, ruining the structure and integrity. Ambitious to a fault, it attempts too much at once, and rarely succeeds at all.
Which is a shame, because it’s an original, clever feature with a great concept, good story and wonderful cast – particularly in the irrepressibly charismatic Penn, and the character he has created here. Sadly, what starts out as amusing quickly becomes one of the more torturous movie experiences of my life. Cut!