Movie Review: “Acts of Desperation”

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“Acts of Desperation” is a helluva title for a dark comedy.

“Dark?” People are shot, people die. “Comic?” It’s positively drowning in goofy characters.

There’s the police chief (Paul Sorvino) who wears four stars on his lapel and is introduced, in EVERY scene, singing Italian opera or “O Sole Mio.”

How about the two 40something stoner/extortionists (Chris Coppola, Vince Lozano) living in a perfectly restored 1960s VW Microbus? One (played by Coppola (of “those” Coppolas) has seen and heard that voice-altering technology used on so many TV shows and in movies where the villain is disguising his voice. He decides he can DIY that — not on the phone, not on video, but in PERSON, when he’s meeting the guy they want to extort.

“We meet AGAIN Glenn Klose!” Yes, that’s the name of their “mark.” His partner wants to stop this Darth Vadering voice thing, but Stu isn’t having it.

“I’M the one who read ‘Art of the Deal,’ correct? ZIP IT!”

But whatever promise “Desperation” might have had — and really, I’m not completely sure that dark comedy was what they were going for — is dithered away in other characters folded into this interconnected series of lives/stories, most of them not funny enough to make the cut in a 100 minute movie that cries out for heavy editing down to, say, 70 minutes.

This whole other series of interconnected characters and plot points, played by actors who don’t seem to be in on the joke, deflate “Desperation.” Jason Gedrick of “Backdraft” and TV’s “Major Crimes” and “Trouble Creek” is a cuckolded cop whose bombshell photographer wife (Neraida Bega) is evading admitting that she’s stepping out. Detective Grillo probably is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), since he’s been shot. And he’s being cheated on. And he has a terrible temper.

That gets him called into the chief’s office, time and again, interrupting the boss’s repertoire of Italian folk songs and arias.

But he’s needed to track down the grinning goof (Treva Etienne) with the name Glenn Klose — yes, his name sounds like that of Ms. “Fatal Attraction.” He’s a Brit-accented bank robber who believes “Remember your manners” is the first rule of robbery. And he knows that road flares can be made to look like dynamite, and that ditzy California bank tellers can’t tell the difference.

“It looked like a bomb, you know. Like you on the ‘Looney Tunes,” one says as Det. Grillo grills her.

But Glenn Klose’s career in crime is interrupted on the way home from his latest heist when he spies a woman about to jump off a bridge. The talk-her-down conversation goes like this.

“I’m Glenn. Glenn Klose,” he says to Morgan (Kira Reed Lorsch).

“I think you should just leave, Glenn.

“That’s not really an option now, is it? We’re pretty much friends.”

Before you know it, she’s in his car (decorated with dream catchers and the like dangling from the rear view mirror) and telling him her troubles.

Before he knows it, those two stoners who were eating “a ton” of pancakes in the diner where Glenn, wearing the fakest white mustache and eyebrows in existence, was casing the bank across the street, are trying to blackmail him.

Stu (Coppola is hilarious, I must confess) is SURE they’re seated next to “Hey Morgan…MORGAN FREEMAN” at that moment. You know, the actor from “Fences” (That was Denzel.), from “This is CNN” (James Earl Jones). No, impersonating Freeman’s voice doesn’t help Glenn get over his confusion at their mistaking him for someone else.

I get what they were going for, here, with Grillo searching his wife’s “sex hook-up” online profile on the “Maddy Ashley” website, etc.

But when you open your film with slo-mo blood spurts, gunshots and somebody falling to his/her death, you kind of wreck the tone that your flashback is supposed to have.

It’s not funny enough to clear that high “dark comedy” bar, even though there are amusing flashes, here and there. Did they ask Sorvino to sing? Probably not. Coppola probably brought his Morgan Freeman misidentified riffs to the set himself, too.

This thing just ambles from slow scene to slow scene, losing track of funny characters to introduce LESS funny characters and story threads.

Comedy is quick, with a hint of desperation about it. “Desperation” is meek, shy, unhurried and unworried.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: unrated

Cast: Jason Gedrick, Paul Sorvino, Kira Reed Lorsch

Credits:Directed by Richard Friedman, script by Nathan Illsley. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:40

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