THE DEATH COLLECTOR/FAMILY ENFORCER (1976)

The extremely low-budget of THE DEATH COLLECTOR should not be a detriment since  it effectively provides an eerie realism to what's a potentially asphalt-gritty mob flick where relatively young climber Joe Cortese works collecting cash for lowly but still edgy crime boss Lou Criscuolo... both decent enough actors: The problem is what's missing: we never completely experience the thrills of collecting debts since it hardly ever occurs...

Indie horror flicks have creative methods of filming random killings because that can be afforded, and it's what kind of genre it is, but COLLECTOR merely aspires as a mob flick yet lacks the villainous fun in the process... Perhaps because lead actor Cortese (with underused natural-beauty girlfriend Anne Johns) is too grim and one-note serious while his buddy... a non-famous Joe Pesci... is so natural, energetic and involving, he would've made a far better lead while sidekick's sidekick/comic-relief Bobby Alto would be promoted to second banana instead of third, because he and Joe's scenes (foreshadowing Pesci's witty back-and-forth with Frank Sivero in GOODFELLAS) are the only truly human moments...  Also featuring another future Martin Scorsese regular Frank Vincent, whose low-rent mafioso foreshadows his violently doomed fates in RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS and CASINO... Overall, THE DEATH COLLECTOR aka FAMILY ENFORCER has some terrifically shot sequences, and makes for a moody 1970's hybrid of Martin Scorsese and John Cassavetes... but its uneven story feels more pieced-together than fully realized: ultimately cheating both the characters and the audience. Grade: C—

Frank Vincent in The Death Collector
Anne Johns in The Death Collector

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)

Most blame the low-budget (yet still effective) production studio Cannon Films for SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE being such an awful movie, but it's instead the fault of Christopher Reeve for the very reason he did the movie in the first, second and third place...

Set in the mid-1980's during the Reagan Administration: when Russia had nukes aimed at America and vice versa... only here the superhero plot demands the kind of urgency where The Cold War's turned into an impending/existential threat... which it NEVER was... an idealistic and childish plot with schoolchildren calling for Superman to get rid of all the nuclear missiles, and Gene Hackman has returned as Lex Luthor, burdened with godawful teenager Jon Cryer as a geek-punk nephew, so it doesn't even feel like Hackman's involved: His goal to sell nukes to opposing countries while having somehow gained the scientific knowledge to create his very own superhero, Nuclear Man, something so corny even a TV-movie would avoid it...

Meanwhile, Margot Kidder has returned, and even flies around with Superman, but she's wedged in during a romance with b-villain Sam Wanamaker's rich girl daughter Muriel Hemingway, who tries her best only she's stuck in the wrong picture... So don't blame Cannon for a lead actor attempting to manipulate audiences into thinking The Cold War was actually red hot... and by 1987 that anti-nukes concept was tired and dated anyhow. Grade: F

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)

The romantic comedy that made Hugh Grant a star both in England, where it was made in that country's quirky style, and America where it was a surprise smash hit, has a very different style of Grant's befuddled sarcasm...

Lacking the kind of edge and closure to one-liners (which there aren't many)... and for the most part his endearingly flaky persona has a plot-line all its own: to serve the female viewers, as this one's almost solely for them, a niche audience, before also relating to the guys who take the girls out, like NOTTING HILL, MICKEY BLUE EYES, MUSIC AND LYRICS, and a few others where Hugh stretched beyond the adorably vulnerable dreamboy...However the movie itself isn't squeaky-clean, and is a bit painfully stretched, especially the first wedding in which 35 minutes seems its own plodding 90-minute movie where the British characters, a collective of smug/judgemental friends serving their outlining more normal friends' weddings, are so quirky and offbeat there are few characters to balance them out, making their eccentric personalities roll into a one-note cliche...

Which improves as soon as the plot of Hugh Grant, basically in the same smitten-shoes that Emilio Estevez was in for the same actress, Andie McDowell, in ST ELMO'S FIRE... as in, both want her badly but some benign older guy's already got her... Yet Andie... always pretty... isn't all that great here, and hardly compels Hugh to pick up his game, with American Import written all over her comparably tame character to Hugh's zany friends that never stop talking...

 And perhaps that's the point: she was what he needed because he never had a few beats of silence now and again, for himself... But what WEDDING shapes into by the very end (a kind of THE GRADUATE for the 1990's) is a movie that's told well even when it's not as funny as it should be... with a primary character who both leads the story and watches others working hard (perhaps too hard) around him. Grade: B+


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