Saturday, August 27, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn 3 (1999)

Rough and pale riders square off in the past

I originally rented "FDTD 2" and remember turning it off for lack thereof to the original. Similar to "Exorcist II" missing the mark and losing the essence of the first, I didn't even give the third part a chance for a while. "From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter" moves at a much more steady pacing than the mentioned and has a story that is richer with legend. This is a western/horror prequel that includes some characters from the first film but set a hundred years ago in Mexico with additional outlaws and more folks that just got mixed up at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A man named Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi), who looks to be doomed by the fate of a broken neck with a crowd of onlookers, is walked to a podium and first suffers the whip of The Hangman (Temuera Morrison). He escapes with the help of a younger friend and shoots his way out, but not before kidnapping the ruthless executioner's daughter Esmeralda (Ara Celi) who radiates a comely look and innocence opposite of her scarred face father. The younger friend, Reece, wants to join the newly formed gang of Johnny Madrid and gives him information about a cynical writer by name of Ambrose Bierce (Michael Parks) who is set to trade Pancho Villa something valuable to his revolution. Madrid and gang catch up with Bierce and a religious couple riding in a stagecoach. They knock them around and steal their belongings, only for everyone included to catch up at a bar/whorehouse later where every vice imaginable is taking place, and, of course, a deadly trap awaits when some blood is spilled.

The western/adventure aspect was handled pretty well with some decent enough acting and performances. Michael Parks, as Bierce, gives some charisma to the role with a certain wit and a pessimistic outlook, along with strange visions that give him a kind of mysteriousness--possibly due to alcoholism--or something else? Marco Leonardi brings some fun to his character of Madrid, even if you can't take his persona as the toughest outlaw to ride despite the scruffy facial hair and bladed boot. There's some gory scenes that make this one of the bloodier westerns out there--the Italians would be proud. This has a share of setups and a consistent pacing when it comes to action sequences instead of milking a certain set for budgetary reasons. There is also some atmosphere at times to show that there isn't anything but antiheroes out on the harsh, dusty terrain--just a you or me attitude.

For the latter portion the characters end up at what looks to be a slice of heaven with a saloon/whorehouse. By this point the setups were handled with less of the steady flow and tact of the earlier portion by instead going for an all-out, in-your-face delivery. Where most of the humor was somewhat dry before then, they threw in Orlando Jones as a salesman with a lisp and he seems so out of place, it's as if he just got off the set of a Mad TV skit without switching tones for the movie he's in. There are a share of extras and they don't always seem to be coordinated, as it feels like a free-for-all with strobe lights to add to the confusion of vampires gone wild. The first film jumped right into the horror portion as well and threw out some tongue in cheek humor. Though here the horror aspect feels like nearly a complete joke and a parody of itself, not to mention it's hard to take it seriously with soap opera looking lighting and with some of the props looking just shy of what you'd get at the Halloween store with styrofoam and painted on stones. It takes a complete miss on any suspense of the survival horror aspect and concentrates more on gags.

Looking at director P.J. Pesce's filmography with some westerns and action films, he feels out of his element with the horror portion. Yeah, there's some nudity, vulgarities, fights, more gore and vampires running amuck for amusement, but it also feels like it immediately got cheapened. The most to get out of this section is some character change away from the straightforward, and then a momentary twist regarding Esmeralda, which gets somewhat buried to concentrate on the others. There's tragedy in it, but it goes by so quickly as to be unrecognized.

Rating: 6/10

Director: P.J. Pesce (The Marshal TV series, The Desperate Trail)
Stars: Marco Leonardi, Ara Celi, Michael Parks, Temuera Morrison, Jordana Spiro, Rebecca Gayheart, Danny Trejo, Orlando Jones
Link: IMDB

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