Editors’ note: Once a month, the Rental Rehab gals like to take a break and watch a movie that doesn’t make them want to stab their eyes out. That’s when they hand off their duties to a guest columnist. This month, Troy Reimink returns to mock the inadequacies of a sub-par exploitation adventure.
The line that separates a work of parody from its source material is blurred to an irritating degree in Bitch Slap, a monstrously vacuous film that aims to send up Russ Meyer-style violent-bimbo exploitation flicks and, in its failure to do so, merely registers as an obnoxious entry in the genre ostensibly being satirized.
There are problems, philosophically, with the premise. Chixploitation B-movies arguably are tongue-in-cheek to begin with (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! may have been guilty of many things, but self-seriousness wasn’t one of them), so a convincing parody is, if not altogether beside the point, definitely a tricky thing to pull off.
In general, you could say the same thing about zombie movies or blaxploitation, but triumphant homages in recent years—Shaun of the Dead and Black Dynamite, namely—have succeeded by riffing on the sillier elements of their given genres while operating respectfully within their boundaries.
As with those films, Bitch Slap wants it both ways; to revel in the titillating cliches (in this case, liberal deployment of cleavage, bullets and hammy dialogue) yet keep its distance by winking constantly at the audience, just so everyone knows, yeah, we get it, this is really stupid and we’re above it.
But there is a deadening effect here. Every spoken line and split-screen/slow-mo sequence drips with a sense of self-awareness and irony that grows old fast, the ludicrously cheap special effects are more laugh-at than laugh-with and director/co-writer Rick Jacobson doesn’t give the impression he’s studied anything that predates Tarantino.
Basically, the story is Reservoir Dogs with boobs. At the outset, the film strands 3 women—who are On the Run From Somebody or Something—in the desert. They are Trixie, Camero and Hel, but they are more or less differentiated by outfit; Tank Top, Business Casual and Evening Wear.
If you woke up with your arm around any of these people, you’d think seriously about chewing that arm off and making a quick getaway rather than disturbing the shrill, unhinged nutcase sleeping next to you. Will the revelation of their lesbian feelings toward each other come as a surprise? Stick around. Let it be said that each actor’s performance is totally adequate considering the material.
The ladies have a man tied up in the trunk of their car who is supposed to reveal the location of some dangerous sought-after object and also a large quantity of diamonds. They fight him. They fight each other, viciously. People come after them. The women fight them. They fight each other some more, always with unspeakably dumb aggressive rock music blasting on the soundtrack. Outfits are torn. Hair is violently removed from scalps. Shallow graves are dug in sexy slow-motion.
Events leading them to their spot in the desert are explained through convoluted flashbacks. In a longer version of the movie, presumably there would have been a flashback scene in which Jacobson watched Death Proof and decided more women ought to have been nailed in the chest with garden rakes.
The 3 women and their various enemies turn out to be on the run from a murderous gangster named Pinky, who exists in terrifying legend, like Keyser Soze, but has never been seen, like Keyser Soze, which is a guarantee that Pinky will later be revealed as a character who’s been on screen the whole time, like Keyser Soze. Frequent reference also is made to a shared location called the Glory Hole. The one thing I know about glory holes is, if you find yourself looking at one and aren’t sure which side you’re standing on, give it a minute.
During a break in the violence, time is made for a slow-motion waterfight, followed by incongruous sex between Evening Wear and Business Casual. Oddly, this encounter includes no toplessness. More curiously, the scene appears to have been photographed by people who like the thought of woman-on-woman sex but don’t have any idea what it might look like materialized. Certainly porn could have been referenced when choreographing?
Come to think of it, Bitch Slap contains no nudity whatsoever. This is baffling. Here’s a very R-rated movie whose every act of gleeful sadism, extended catfight and line of overreaching dialogue is deployed with meticulous gratuity and calibrated for exploitation, whose idea of irony is to show characters reading a book titled Slutty Bitches Post-Feminist America, yet the display of naked breasts is a line they’re too tasteful to cross? Lame.
Anyway, if you’re going to watch Bitch Slap, which I don’t recommend doing with fewer than 5 drinks in you, definitely put the subtitles on, lest you miss such golden one-liners as:
–“Why don’t you and your fur pie jamboree just gather around and slob my knob?” I assume this question is rhetorical.
–“How hard can it be to administer a simple oral serum while sloshing someone’s powder keg?” In context, this is less rhetorical.
–“He won’t nipple lick us if he’s sucking daisy roots.” This is fancier than necessary way of saying a male character is about to die.
–“You have to help me, Mother Superior. My impure thoughts have gone beyond inanimate objects and devolved into lusting after strapping Latvian gymnasts.” This one, I believe, speaks for itself.
–“The women’s movement will hoist my skirt for all eternity.” Hmm.
If you think too hard about that last one, your head starts hurting, and you get angrier the more time you spend wondering whether it’s clever or idiotic. It’s all of Bitch Slap contained in one line.
Rental Rehab guest review by Troy Reimink