Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Estelle Raskin, Alexander Nevsky, Billy Zane, Robert Davi, Bai Ling, Armand Assante, Richard Tyson, Andrew Divoff
Directed by Roscoe Lever
A serial killer thriller about a woman, the daughter of a slain magician’s assistant, setting about to learn the truth behind her mother’s death and encountering a Las Vegas illusionist who may be a cunning serial killer. Sounds simple enough, so why is it such a mess? Scenes that serve no purpose, subplots that go nowhere, an unfocused script boasting some of the flattest dialogue this side of Dragon Wars. Good actors relegated to nothing roles while very bad no-name actors get the meatier parts. The most elaborate scene of action being a foot chase between two middle-aged men huffing and puffing along the second floor of a motel balcony. Either Magic Man was one of those productions where things went horribly awry somewhere along the way or there was just so much behind-the-scenes ineptitude that the movie was doomed from the outset.
A friend of the heroine is found dead, her body chopped in half, the severed halves put in side-by-side elevators (a visual effect that looks positively Photoshopped, I might add). The heroine peers into one of the open elevators, gets an eyeful of the top half of her friend’s severed corpse, and rushes over to a nearby detective to tearfully ask him, and I quote, “How did she die?”
SHE WAS CUT IN HALF!
Didn’t ask who did this or why someone would do this; she asked, “How did she die?” Hmmm… What must she think are the possibilities here: murder, elevator malfunction, or spontaneous torso severing?
Such few moments of unbridled stupidity can be laughed at. Most of the time I just wanted to put my head in my hands and weep for the species as I further subjected myself to this boring and incompetently constructed mess of a movie.
It must be said that the cast is quite impressive for a low budget b-movie. Even more impressive is how the filmmakers found a way to waste every last one of them.
We are first introduced to a depressed sounding Robert Davi as a Las Vegas homicide detective sullenly recollecting whether or not his life as a cop has made any difference whatsoever. This monologue leads to nothing in regards to his character and from there out Davi will take a backseat to his partner, who I will get to in a moment.
Flummoxed over how the killer keeps getting around a hotel-casino unseen, Davi will mutter the line, “I’m beginning to wonder if Godzilla walked through the lobby would anyone notice?” I bet the director would and he’d film Godzilla casually strolling about that lobby for far too long. If someone walks down a hallway – by God – we are going to watch those characters walk all the way down that hallway. The lazy director appeared to relish any opportunity he got to just set the camera somewhere and shoot from one angle for as long as possible.
Richard Tyson shames himself for a couple minutes as a bumbling cop whose name in the credits might as well have been “lovable doofus”. He serves no purpose other than to provide some comic relief, except there is nothing funny written for him to say and do, just Richard Tyson doing a half-hearted goofball routine. I kept waiting for Tyson to break character and let out a depressed sigh after every scene he was in.
Armand Assante makes a pointless cameo as the Las Vegas police chief. Assante has few scenes, little dialogue, and constantly has this angry look on his face like a man who is one terse word away from punching a hole in the wall. That sense of disgust may not have been acting.
Something about how Davi, Tyson, and Assante availed themselves gave me the impression that they were fully aware they were appearing in a terrible movie but since they had been paid in advance they were just going to tough it out. Billy Zane at least decides to give it his all as Krell Darius, the seductive Vegas magician who might very well be a serial killer. Zane is a volcano of charisma compared to the rest of the cast and in a better film might have made for a compelling villain.
Bai Ling makes a few appearances as Zane’s magician’s assistant. One of her first scenes has her mourning at her brother’s funeral, a scene that has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie. Then the script has her behave in a manner that leads you to suspect she might have something sinister up her sleeve only for her to be never seen or heard from again.
Andrew Divoff is a disgraced ex-magician whose biggest scene is a flashback to a magic trick that went fatally wrong. You know the old sawing a woman in half trick? The woman got sawed in half for real. A hysterical moment; the magician’s assistant being cut in half for real doesn’t look nearly horrified enough, her young daughter in the audience reacts as if she just watched mom accidentally drop a prop and look foolish in front of the live audience instead of the sort of horror she should have watching her mom dying a gruesome death right before her eyes, and Divoff the magician reacts to this horrific turn of events with this comical “Whoops!” look on his face.
That daughter all grown up who knows all the tricks of the magician’s trade arrives in Vegas with some college friends to learn the truth about her mother’s death. Actress Estelle Raskin looks like the genetic off-shoot of a Bryce Dallas Howard/Melora Hardin Brundle-Fly experiment, but without the charisma of either. For some reason she develops a Russian accent every time she says her character’s name, Tatiana.
The actual star of Magic Man is Alexander Nevsky, a former Russian bodybuilder. Nevsky speaks stilted English in a thick Russian accent you can’t even understand a third of the time, so, naturally, they gave him more dialogue than Davi, Tyson, Divoff, Ling, and Assante combined. Why? Probably because he is also credited as one of the producers. IMDB lists Nevsky as playing Hercules in his next movie. That I can see. As a Las Vegas homicide detective… not since Tor Johnson in Plan 9 From Outer Space has cinema seen a bulky marble-mouthed homicide detective like this.
Nevsky’s cop comforts a distraught Tatiana after she discovers the corpse of yet another friend and hands her a flask of vodka actively encouraging her to get liquored up to help dull the pain. Well, he is Russian, isn’t he?
How much liquor will you need to dull the pain of watching Magic Man?
1/2 out of 5
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