Silk Degrees (1994)

Silk Degrees (1994)- *1\2

Directed by: Armand Garabidian

Starring: Marc Singer, Mark Hamill, Deborah Shelton, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Des Barres, India Allen, Gilbert Gottfried, and Charles Napier

When actress Alex Ramsey (Shelton) witnesses a murder by gangster Degrillo (Des Barres), she has to go into witness protection. Degrillo had previously been under surveillance by federal agents Rick Baker (Singer, not the famed makeup artist portraying himself) and Johnson (Hamill). Ramsey doesn’t want to leave her glamorous Hollywood life, though she is tired of being bossed around by her TV director, Rene (Gottfried). Baker and Johnson decide the best course of action is to go to a rural inn and get some country livin’ during her sequestration. While hiding out from Degrillo and his goons, they meet local folk such as Violet (Barbeau) and Sheila (Allen), who work at the inn, as well as bumpkins looking to sell meth to bikers. Schultz (Napier) is a classic WYC (White Yelling Chief) who constantly screams at Baker to do his job. But naturally there’s romance in the air as Ramsey and Baker – as well as Sheila and Johnson – succumb to the cabin fever and pay-cable 90’s nudity ensues. Will our heroes return to civilization un-shot at and intact?

Erotic thrillers. Gilbert Gottfried. Two things that have gone together since time immemorial. But for some reason, this time the two don’t mix. Silk Degrees typifies the movie you would see on the shelf of your local video store, look at it quickly, shrug your shoulders, say “meh...” and keep walking by. Hence, it’s a “walk-by”, a term we would like to start using. Having Mark Hamill and Marc Singer be partners was a novel idea, if only for the fact that we can see the both of them together in the same place at the same time, thus proving that they are indeed two different people. The difference in the two men is academic; casting them as partners is just confusing. At least have one of the federal agents have dark hair, a mustache, a scar, something to distinguish the two. But judging by the mediocrity of it all, the writers must have said “meh...” too.

So why should we, as viewers, care? Is some nudity meant to be enough to keep our attention? Because even that is doled out sparingly. Fan favorite Napier just goes through the motions as he did so many times during his 90’s career, Hamill and Barbeau don’t even really need to be there, and the presence of Gilbert Gottfried is off-putting. To be fair, Shelton is attractive and does a decent job, and Singer puts in a respectable amount of energy. But the whole thing is lazily written, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen a million times before. For a far better movie about someone put under witness protection, check out Hit List (1989). Silk Degrees isn’t softcore porn, so fans of that will be unsatisfied, it’s not a biopic of Boz Scaggs where he reveals the secrets of the Lido Shuffle, and it’s not a decent mystery, thriller, procedural, or drama, so fans of those will be left wanting. And it’s certainly not an action movie, though there is one really funny moment at the end (that should have happened a lot earlier, and more moments like it to boot - more stupidity on the part of the filmmakers) - but that’s not enough to save it.

The perfect time and place for Silk Degrees was Skinemax in the mid-90’s. In 2015 (or whenever you happen to be reading this), it, sadly, doesn’t cut it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Ice (1994)

Ice (1994)- * *1\2

Directed by: Brook Yeaton

Starring: Traci Lords, Zach Galligan, Phillip Troy, Jorge Rivero, Jaime Alba, and Floyd Levine

Ellen and Charley Reed (Lords and Troy, respectively) are a happily married couple, and also a couple of diamond thieves. Their latest heist job has them breaking into the estate of mobster Vito Malta (Rivero) and nabbing his stash of jewels, reported to be worth over sixty million dollars. Complications arise when Vito sends his goons after them, two detectives, Prine and Little (Levine and Alba, respectively) also go after them, and even more mobsters…go after them. Ellen must reluctantly turn to her brother Rick (Galligan), a fast-talking slickster with a gambling problem, for help. She also has to contend with the advances of Det. Little, who naturally has a romantic interest in her. Who will get away with all the ice without getting iced?

Ice is okay. It’s nothing great, though it does have its moments. Thankfully, the outing as a whole isn’t overly “heist-y”, and delivers some action moments. This is a PM, after all. So Pepin and Merhi probably felt that they would be remiss if, even though this is ostensibly a heist movie, it didn’t have multiple car blow-ups, car flips, an exploding helicopter, shootouts, neck snaps, a weapons-supplying “Machine Gun Joe” character, and of course a guy screaming his brains out while shooting a machine gun. And let’s not forget the utterance of the line “We got company!” and the time-honored sax on the soundtrack.

Jorge Rivero even gets a scene to do what he does best, fist fight. He was Fist Fighter (1989), after all. This is to be distinguished from Punchfighting, because the goons surrounding the fight are not wagering/clutching cash in their hands. Sure, the scene is a gratuitous time-filler meant to add some brainless grappling to the proceedings, but the guy Rivero fights is a Van Damme clone, Lionheart (1990)-era to be precise. Even Lords gets to do some Traci- Fu, and it’s really not bad, thanks to the help of Art Camacho. Thank goodness for independent companies in the video store era like AIP and PM. They truly gave Traci a home when she needed it most. No one ever gives them any credit for that, and Traci does indeed rise to the occasion, utilizing her strict post-adult-career “no (real) nudity” policy to show she can do other things. If nothing else, this movie is a showcase for her sourpussed, sulky beauty, and, let’s be honest here, that’s the reason we’re watching ICE in the first place, right?

In the not-Traci Lords acting department, the guys that play the two cops actually have a very good chemistry, which again very few people are bound to appreciate. Zach Galligan seems to have a smarmy good time playing the brother that’s constantly bickering with his sister/partner, another classic cliché herein. But it wasn’t all stuff we’d seen before: we greatly enjoyed the ice skating rink shootout, that was new to us. Though to be honest, even that didn’t live up to its full potential. There should have been more baddies slipping and sliding around as they tried to shoot their targets. But still, it was a good effort.

Ice is decent, if a tad sluggish, and the main song, “Stand Tall or Fall” is by a band called Lost Art, and NOT sung by Traci herself, as we were hoping. Her character is even supposed to be a nightclub singer in the movie, and she did have a real-life recording career, so it wasn’t far-fetched to believe she might do some singing on the soundtrack, but sadly no.  PM and Traci fans will get something out of it, and it’s a masterpiece compared to Laser Moon (1993), but for the average viewer, Ice is adequate.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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