Reviewed by Debi Moore
Starring Stephen Dorff, Jaime Murray, Jamie Foreman, Russell Smith, Geoff Bell, Hugh O'Conor, Bronagh Gallagher, Edward Duly Baker
Directed by Kit Ryan
Distributed by Warner Home Video
At first glance the idea of a crime caper/supernatural slasher hybrid seems like a questionable mix. Yet, this week sees the release of not just one, but two, such films. Along with the subject of this review, Botched, we also have The Cottage (review). Amazingly enough, each does an excellent job of delivering the goods. Both are European productions, involve a pair of siblings as crucial elements to the plot, and feature cameos by beloved genre vets. But that's pretty much where the similarities end. In The Cottage most of the humor revolves around the kidnappers' ineptitude with the big bad always playing it 100% straight. Botched is somewhat the opposite; here, the criminals are the ones who know what they're doing while the killers are portrayed more over-the-top and comical.
But enough about the competition. Exactly what are we dealing with in Botched? As the film opens, Ritchie (Dorff) is stealing a suitcase full of diamonds from an auction house as the final payment of his family's debt to Russian mobster Mr. Groznyi (Sean Pertwee in a deliciously exaggerated performance). Groznyi is the person who got Ritchie and his mother out of the Soviet Union, and he's used the young man to do his dirty work ever since. Unfortunately, as Ritchie and his accomplices are driving away, they get into a terrible accident, causing him to abandon the suitcase and its contents.
As a result, Groznyi gives Ritchie one more "final" mission before he can return home to LA: Go to Moscow, break into the penthouse suite of one of most well-guarded buildings in the city, and steal a cross that originally belonged to Ivan the Terrible, first Tsar of Russia. Piece of cake, right? Well, for Ritchie and Groznyi's men Peter and Yuri (Foreman and Smith), it pretty much is. The catch? Peter diverted from their plan and killed someone, sending Yuri into a state of near hysteria and royally pissing off Ritchie. Their elevator ride to safety and freedom becomes complicated by a group of passengers who refuse to get off and give them the cab to themselves. The motley crew includes macho security guard Boris (Bell), brash and independent businesswoman Anna (Murray, best known as Lila from Showtime's "Dexter"), meek Dmitry (O'Conor) who works at the same company as Anna, and three religious fanatic females led by the tightly wound and stern Sonya (Gallagher).
Things get even more problematic for our outlaw trio when they wind up on a floor of the building that seems to be not entirely of this world and their fellow captives are slaughtered one by one by some crazed maniac (Baker) who is either a ghost or a reincarnation of the dreaded Ivan. Or something like that -- All the audience really knows up to this point is that more than likely stealing that cross wasn't the smartest thing Ritchie could have done. The guilty, easily influenced Yuri abandons Ritchie and Peter and teams up with Sonya's crew in their quest to serve the Almighty. Anna of course bonds with Ritchie while Boris reveals his military background and makes grand pronouncements such as, "I am an Alpha Male!" As you'd expect, when push comes to shove, he's powerless. Meanwhile, Dmitry goes from wimp to warrior. Peter repeats words three times. "Yes, Yes, Yes!"
While some skits fall a bit flat, when the comedy elements of Botched stay black, they're strong and help detract from the film's weaknesses. The writing is tinged with a nice morbid sense of humor, but a couple of the tonal shifts are just too abrupt. The music plays a huge part in setting the mood, and overall the choices work, but a few times it jarred me right out of the moment. I also had some issues with the pacing (checking to see how much time is left is never a good sign), and the dialogue (and Dorff) is a bit wooden at times. But to its credit, Botched never takes itself too seriously, and for horror fans looking for something different and off the beaten path, you can't go wrong spending 90 minutes with this bunch.
And it will only be 90 minutes because there's not a single supplemental feature to be found here. Talk about a "botched" release! The film sprang from fresh, fertile minds I'd like to know more about. Director Kit Ryan -- who the heck is he? Where did writers Derek Boyle, Eamon Friel, and Raymond Friel come from, and how did they get their ideas? When formulating a review, I don't want to look online for information or read other critiques. It's best to get as much information as possible from the DVD itself. In this case, sadly, we're all left in the dark as to the filmmakers and everyone else involved in the production.
Even so, it's great to have a film like Botched see the light of day and get decent distribution. It's ambitious and pulls off most of its goals admirably. Best of all? It treats its audience with intelligence. The twists and turns aren't over-explained, and the blend of comedy, crime, romance, and horror serves all four genres quite well. Plus there's an abundance of good gooey gore. Between this and The Cottage, the month of May is bringing it on! Considering the budget, the gags are state-of-the-art and impressive. Ryan has crafted a film that's far from its title, botched … Instead I'd say it's quite above average and shows significance promise. Don't, don't, don't hesitate to rent or buy it today!
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
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