Friday, August 26, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn 2 (1999)

It's as if no one stepped in with both feet

Right off the bat, this was executively produced by Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender, but sent straight to video, came with a third of the budget and was also handled by a different director and writing team. Not the biggest deal, as other horror sequels such as "Hellraiser II," "Aliens," "Psycho 2" and even "Amityville II" had different directors and scriptwriters and worked in their own ways. Though two of the biggest issues here is they didn't take it as seriously as their counterparts and they tried to do a story on its own that's very loosely related to the first to the point of losing context. It doesn't come with any revelations and the plot feels flat and unremarkable to try to carry its own weight. The opening scene sets up the tone of the rest of the picture with purposefully campy acting, inflated music, overextended screaming, gore and a tongue so far in the cheek that it bores a hole out the other side.

Gone are the glue-you-to-the-screen personalities of the first, and present are a bunch of nincompoops from Texas. The characters are inept, run at a slower pace and have few things on their mind but money and having a sleazy time. It makes you watch this from a distance as there aren't any relating points, just a group of guys that are neither cool, smooth or that you want to be in the same room with. One of them is a criminal named Luther (Duane Whitaker) who escaped from custody in Texas. There are news briefs and a Sheriff named Otis Lawson (Bo Hopkins) looking for him. Meanwhile, Luther contacts Buck (Robert Patrick) about a Mexican bank deal for $5 million of laundered drug money. Buck rounds up a team with his old buds C.W., Ray Bob and Jesus, and off they go to Mexico without showing how the known criminals got there.

On an empty road and with the whole barren area to fly a bat charges into Luther's car grill. After shooting the bat, he heads up the road to the Titty Twister and mentions the situation to the barkeep (Danny Trejo), who offers to give him a ride to the hotel where the rest of the crew are meanwhile extensively watching and talking about porn. The barkeep instead heads to Luther's car, gets out and follows the blood trail of the bat. The bat is transformed back into a regular vampire form and after a scuffle, Luther gets turned. He heads over to the hotel, turns one of the others into a vampire and then tells the rest of the crew that they need to do the job tonight. Not being the brightest people, they head over and from one thing leading to another more of the crew gets turned and Buck tries to escape only to get caught up in a heated cops vs vampire shootout.

Some of the characters here don't even make sense. The barkeep returns without explanation as to why he's still alive. Bruce Campbell and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen play lawyers for a pointless opening scene that gave another homage to Hitchcock but otherwise was pointless. White hotel clerks, black security guards, and then Texas Rangers allowed to investigate a crime scene in Mexico where they have no jurisdiction. Some poetic license for entertainment value is fine--the first movie even had some omissions as well--but this just pushed the bar and it makes it look like it's not even trying. As if everyone here treated it as a stepping stone by giving it half an ounce of effort with the intention of moving on as fast as possible. For a viewer, all those little nuances that made the first returnable are lost with the second followup, and that in itself is disappointing.

"From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money" is a movie that does it all on purpose, so how do you fault it for doing nothing but that? Except it feels like it missed the mark completely with very little redeeming value even by those lesser standards. The dialogue doesn't always give separation of character between the performers. There are a few momentary puns and jabs at its own devices that get some chuckles, a nude scene, and a few inventive camera setups, but those areas only carry it so for amusement. There's very little relating points emphasized--not even the money angle; even a 'Got to do it for a cause' line--nothing to learn, not much to see as far as locations and all of the characters you want harm to come their way, but then get upset that it took too long to do so. This has none of the elaborate creature effects of the first, but then again some are made to look cheesy, such as enlarged bats. Though money was spent in the last quarter of the movie. That segment was entertaining to a degree as it turns into an all out action battle with tons of fire power gone off and some gory deaths. Still doesn't make you forget what came before it.

Rating: 3.5/10

Director: Scott Spiegel (Intruder, writer of Evil Dead II)
Stars: Robert Patrick, Duane Whitaker, Bo Hopkins, Raymond Cruz, Danny Trejo
Link: IMDB

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