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SPREAD EAGLE
DVD region 0. Vivid.

Spread EagleThe latest release from Vivid’s XXX Super Hero line moves away from the parodies of Superman or Spider-Man to bring us an original hero – or as original as any comic character can be these days. Taking (I suspect) inspiration from The Crow, the film stars Tommy Gunn as the title character who, after being shot during a mugging, is revived by an eagle that drips red, white and blue saliva (at least I hope that’s what it is) into the wound. This scene, like the other effects-requiring moments in the film, is rendered motion comic style – a sensible move given that the alternatives would’ve been expensive special effects that I doubt anyone involved in this was capable of. These inserts are by far the best part of the film, though of course they do tend to highlight the shortcomings.

Back at his apartment, Gunn begins to mutate into a birdman – claws, a beaky nose (that squeaks when it’s touched – a deliberate attempt at humour I assume) and wings sprout and before you know it, he’s off fighting crime. This seems to consist entirely of saving prosititutes from violent pimps, though how much saving they need is open to question – one ‘victim’ has very enthusiastic and willing sex with her alleged kidnapper on a large sofa in the middle of an empty warehouse, while another takes on two guys on a sofa that appears to be in the middle of an alleyway – though to be fair, once the sex scene has finished, they do threaten her with a knife for no immediately obvious reason (incidentally, if you’re so fucked up that you like to see women threatened with violence, this film is certainly for you). Eventually – after allowing the guy who shot him and murdered his girlfriend to escape easily – he corners unconvincing crime lord Big Lee, screams his eagle scream and – in another moment of cartoon imagery – makes his head explode.

Vivid seem to have some high hopes for this, so I can only imagine their reaction when they saw the finished film. Because while the cover art suggests this will be a dark, moody effort, the end results are truly shocking. It can’t seem to decide if it’s meant to be a dark thriller or a comedy, the story goes nowhere (and simply fizzles out at the end) and it looks like something that was made on video in the 1980s – flat, cheap and nasty, I’d be amazed if it turns out that this was shot HD – with without doubt the worst sound you will ever hear. It’s as if the thing was entirely filmed next to a busy road. Even Birdemic is better! This might not be an issue in a Gonzo film – hell, it might even add to the authenticity – but for what is supposedly an ambitious feature, it’s really unforgiveable.

Spread EagleDirector B.Skow shoots the sex as if this is just another wall-to-waller – each scene drags on forever and makes no effort to fit into the plot at all (I’m not suggesting that the afore-mentioned pimp/hostage scene should’ve been shot as a nasty rape moment by any means, but if you have a character set up as a hostage, you really shouldn’t have her being quite so eager. A simple rewrite of the character or – heaven forbid – not having her do a sex scene with her kidnapper would’ve made more sense). The fact that we get a thirty minute sex scene before the story even begins says a lot, even if it does open with a great shot of Asa Akira’s ass. I know I’ve complained about this before, but if you are going to go to the effort of making a film that, in all the promotional materials, suggests a plot, then surely the audience that demands nothing but sex will avoid it anyway. I wonder if this is demanded by the producers or is simply because the director didn’t have any confidence in his material? Either way, I think that the film is missing a trick. People who hate porn with plots will presumably avoid this anyway, and the wider market that it could appeal to will probably be put off by the relentlessness of the hardcore. Those of us who can see the value in both types of movie will find that the fact that it’s so poorly made is simply the final nail in the coffin.

Having watched this shortly after Spider-Man XXX from the same Vivid line, I have to say that I appreciate the efforts of Axel Braun even more. Spread Eagle, who is a character that is worth developing, really needs a sure hand like his – or possibly another filmmaker whose sensibilities take in hardcore, softcore, comic book and cult movie influences – to guide his adventures, should he return..

DAVID FLINT

 

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