July 26, 2013

Gallowwalkers (2012)

"A cursed gunman whose victims come back from the dead recruits a young warrior to help in the fight against a gang of zombies."

Made seven years ago but still not due to be released until August, "Gallowwalkers" stars Wesley Snipes in a comicbook-style fantasy which is more like "The Crow" being played out on the set of a Sergio Leone western than "Blade" no matter what the promotional posters and trailer might want you to believe.

Pirates have already uploaded this film to the usual sites out of spitefulness rather than helpfulness, but as I'm a huge Wesley Snipes mark and will be buying the DVD anyway, I feel no guilt about succumbing to the streaming temptation. I'm not in the loop of chosen people who was sent a screener copy anyway although I damned well should have been. It's not going to taint my honest review of "Gallowwalkers", but it does leave a nasty taste in my mouth that someone who the distributors did trust with a screener then uploaded it.

Rather than spoil the big surprises of "Gallowwalkers" with a synopsis of what little plot there is, especially as I could describe it in one or two sentences and know that I'd done a good job, I have to begin by correcting an error in the IMDb description which I've quoted above. "Gallowwalkers" is definitely not about zombies. Thank God for that! Instead, it's a $17,000.000 hybrid of spaghetti westerns and "Hellraiser"-style fantasy-horror with laconic Wesley Snipes making a lot of strong poses and looking surly while far less well-known performers attempt to act around him. While not exactly brilliant, it's a typical Wesley Snipes movie.

There are worse things out tonight than vampires.

I say "performers" rather than "actors" because there isn't a whole lot of acting to talk about. Apart from the action scenes, and a fantastic cameo by Patrick Bergin, "Gallowwalkers" is mostly (but not entirely) one of those movies where once everybody got dressed up, they thought it would be enough to carry them through rather than putting any more effort in. Since it was filmed in a desert in Namibia, I'm sure the heat could be blamed for the overall listlessness, but that's not a satisfactory excuse for having the atmosphere of a cheap SyFy channel movie rather than a product designed for theatrical release.

Long camera shots, barren sets, very little dynamism, and stylistic homages to "High Plains Drifter", "Hang 'Em High", and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" show that director Andrew Goth loves his Clint Eastwood westerns, but none of it comes together in the "cultish" way that I'm sure he wanted it to. I don't know the full story of why "Gallowwalkers" sat on the shelf for so long, but I assume Wesley Snipes' incarceration for tax evasion may have caused so many rewrites and a such a nightmare for the editors that we're lucky to have this movie at all.

To be brutally honest, "Gallowwalkers" is a bit of a mess, and there are some very weird elements in it which aren't properly explained, but as a salvage job, it's actually not bad overall. There are a couple of plot holes and a few loose ends, but I've obviously seen far worse things which other reviewers rave about. The good news is that it's not as boring as "Jonah Hex" (2010).

One intentionally quirky thing which sticks out is that the major characters are never named except in the end credits. I'm not sure if they were named very quickly and I missed it, but I don't think so. I suppose it doesn't matter because, for all intents and purposes, Wesley Snipes is the black version of "the man with no name", and the gang he fights is another generic and instantly forgettable bunch of baddies anyway.

Nice coat, dude!

Kevin Howarth tries hard to inject some menace into his role as the boss of the bad guys, and Riley Smith is likeable as Wesley Snipes' recruit, but everyone else is barely more than eyecandy. Nobody has more than two or three lines each throughout the movie, and the beautiful girls are underused to say the least. Tanit Phoenix, Simona Brhlikova, and Alyssa Pridham all shine in their few minutes of screen time, but none of their characters go anywhere. Simona Brhlikova is the best as the bad girl member of the gang, but Tanit Phoenix's character has almost no purpose whatsoever. Alyssa Pridham only appears in flashbacks for obvious reasons.

Of interest to Brits of a certain age, former children's TV personality Derek Griffiths has a role in this as Mosca. Yes, he's one of the lucky few whose character actually gets a name. His prosthetic make-up stands out more than he does, but it's nice to know that he's still around.

Due to its nature, there's nothing scary about "Gallowwalkers", but the violence and gory set pieces are nicely done. Gunshots which smash large chunks out of their targets and bullet holes with blood spurting out of them are always enjoyable. Decapitations are simply a bonus! There may not be anything here that hasn't been seen before, but the effects are very good, and there aren't lots of quick cuts to ruin them.

If you're a Wesley Snipes fan and can appreciate a very flawed movie which is more style over substance, you'll probably enjoy "Gallowwalkers". You might even find yourself saying the word "Lush!" on more than one occasion. I did, and I'm not that easy to please.

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