Deadbeat At Dawn is essentially West Side Story shooting heroin between it’s toes; a film so chock full of raging testosterone that it should come with a warning sticker cautioning people that repeated viewing may cause male pattern balding in men and women alike. It’s a dirty, hateful, nihilistic romp where every character is misogynist, sadist, psychotic, a burnout, or some bitter flavor in between. And everything about this film is a mean spirited punch to the balls; the cinematic equivalent of a 3,000 megaton middle finger to the world. Needless to say I loved every filthy, gut wrenching minute of it!
Is it sad that I find myself inspired by this film? Because of director Jim Van Bebber (My Sweet Satan, The Manson Family), I’m totally down with learning the art of nunchucking now, not to mention the forgotten art of shuriken throwing. When I die can someone please put my body in a trash compactor? Please!? The flick kicks off with a gang turf war in a cemetery, which in by itself is one of the coolest ideas for a fight scene between gangs ever. There’s an ugly one-on-one knife battle between the story’s main cheese, Goose (Jim Van Bebber), a man with a feathered mullet and leader of the Ravens and Danny (Paul Harper), the crazy leader of rival gang, the Spiders (or Spyders). Right off the bat you know this movie is going to be awesome based on this scene alone. The battle between the two is less like the pretty choreographed ballets you see in other films and more like a dirty brawl you may see at some local dive bar where at least one regular patron has a glass eye and the whiskey is undoubtedly watered down.
Speaking of dives, the locales used in this flick are absolutely bleak looking. Everything is so run down and grimy that you can practically smell the awful combination of hobo piss and cheap booze emulating from your speakers. Nothing looks bathed, cleaned, or pretty in any way, not even the actors themselves. It’s like God just took a massive gravy dump all over Anywhere, USA; the sets are so screwed up it they could easily be passed for post-apocalyptic, and for all the audience knows this could really take place in some dysfunctional future where gangs run rampant and spray paint catchy, totally fear inspiring things like “Led Zeppelin” and “You suck” over every inch of concrete they can find.
After the fight, Goose’s girlfriend Christy (Megan Murphy) serenades him in bed by reading a few passages out of a Satanic Bible, then he gets stir crazy and decides to practice his nunchucking skills back at the cemetery. After his kung fu exercises he knocks some random guy off a hog and steals the guy’s bike so that he can take his girl joy riding. Wait a minute…..what!? Even the movie’s downtime from the gritty action scenes are completely bizarre and absurd; read BRILLIANT!
Then the leader of the Spiders sends his head goon Bonecrusher to break in to Goose’s apartment (which is curiously locked with a pad lock from the outside) and kill Goose’s main squeeze. Bone Crusher (Marc Pitman), who is more drugged up than Corey Feldman on New Year’s Eve, treats us with some moving, truly Shakespearean dialogue to mull over that I’m sure contains the secret meaning of life:
….and then he proceeds to rape and mutilate Goose’s Ouji loving chick with a wooden golf club. NEVER ask a Ouji board if you’re going to die! It’s really bad ju-ju. Who didn’t see that coming? So after an impromptu funeral (read dumping his girl’s body into a trash compactor) Goose falls into a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol, self depreciating, and trippy kaleidoscope transitions.
I feel like I’ve already said too much. All you need to know is that the rest of the film plays out like Paul Verhoeven (you know, the guy who directed Robocop, Starship Troopers, Total Recall…get with it!) tried to adapt the Double Dragon video game to the big screen. It’s revenge served raw with a sloppy pile of hot molten gruel that will liquefy your intestines upon consumption and have you screeching for more like Goose’s dad begging for smack money. The last half an hour is so soul crushingly awesome you’ll never fully recover, like a ninja star to the junk!
The DVD of this movie we currently have listed is the Synapse Film‘s version that hit shelves back in 1999. In 2008, Dark SkyFilms released a 2-DVD Collectors Edition of Deadbeat At Dawn that contains the following:
The film, Deadbeat At Dawn, including a bit of footage not included in the Synapse version
-Four Short Films: My Sweet Satan, Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin, Doper, Kata, Into the Black
-Featurette with Jim VanBebber
-Behind The Scenes Footage
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