Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Kevin Rankin, Vincent D'Onofrio, Norman Reedus, Chi McBride, Elijah Wood, DJ Qualls, Pell James, Lukas Haas, Sam Hennings, Ashlee Simpson, Michael Cudlitz, Thomas Jane, Matt O'Leary, Kaitlin Ferrell, Rachelle Lefevre
Written by: Adam Minarovich
Directed by: Wayne Kramer
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual material, graphic nudity, pervasive language and some drug use
Running Time: 112
Date: 07/12/2013

Pawn Shop Chronicles (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Pawns in the Game

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Wayne Kramer once tried to make an insanely over-the-top action movie, Running Scared (also starring Paul Walker), which many admired for its sheer over-the-topness. But then Kramer detoured for the completely earnest (and awful) immigration drama Crossing Over, which proves a point: Kramer isn't going over the top for any honest, organic reason, but rather as a cold, calculated exercise. He switches styles to suit the occasion, or the current trend. It's the same with Pawn Shop Chronicles, though this time he and screenwriter Adam Minarovich very obviously draw empty inspiration from Pulp Fiction.

In a small southern town, a pawn shop run by Alton (Vincent D'Onofrio) becomes the focal point for three intersecting stories. In the first, two methheads, "Raw Dog" (Paul Walker) and Randy (Kevin Rankin) decide to rob their supplier to get their next dose of meth. In the second, a newlywed (Matt Dillon) finds his missing wife's wedding ring, goes after her, and discovers a bizarre sex slave ring run by the mysterious Johnny (Elijah Wood). In the third, an Elvis impersonator (Brendan Fraser) must decide between two warring barber shops, and then choose whether to sell his soul to the devil. Meanwhile, Alton is haunted by the mysterious driver of a sinister black truck.

So the movie is crazy and agitated and loud and full of left turns -- and, yes, over-the-top -- but these things do not add up to what can be called a good movie. It has a couple of shock-based laughs early on, but then the laughs dry up, as do the thrills and the tingles. Its ideas -- a plethora of devil-related imagery, as well as a long sequence about the choice between two local barbershops -- don't go much of anywhere. It's just mainly horrifying and soul-deadening. However, for some reason Vincent D'Onofrio gives a very interesting performance as the slightly befuddled pawn shop proprietor.

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