In a Detroit jail, innocent Vic Ajax is being dragged to the electric chair. He flashes back to the strange circumstances which have brought him to this fate, which involve a pair of rodent exterminators who freelance as hit men.
Sam Raimi has disowned his second film, co-written with Joel and Ethan Coen, mostly because producer interference meant he had to use the bland Birney in the lead rather than his preferred star, Bruce Campbell – who nevertheless cops many of the best lines as the slimy gigolo ‘Renaldo the Heel’ (‘Hey, baby why don’t ya come on over to my pad – we’ll have a scotch and sofa’).
Surprisingly, it’s quite an entertaining little effort, combining the craziest aspects of classic Hollywood screwball comedy with the kind of fresh insanity found in the great cartoons – one sequence in which Louise Lasser is chased through seemingly dozens of coloured doors is up there with the best of Looney Toons. Though cheaply made, which gives it an odd look somewhere between low budget tat and stylised gloss, Crimewave is a more inventive, engaging and, above all, funnier comedy than most big studio films of the mid-80s.
Much of the comic weight is given to sustained slapstick chases and battles, but the film’s charm comes from its performances – particularly, hulking Paul L. Smith and ratlike Brion James as Faron Crush and Arthur Coddish, who seem like the live-action equivalents of the Tasmanian Devil and Wile E. Coyote down to the Mel Blanc-type funny voices.
With a terrific ‘40s big band score (occasioning one marvellous gag about a dance contest), a loving approach to its own stereotypes, and a sense of its own peculiarity, Crimewave is never going to be anybody’s favourite movie, but deserves a small but fanatical cult following.
Bizarre and entertaining little film that deserves a look