Saturday, September 13, 2014

Triskaidekaphilia: '2:13' (2009)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.
The supporting cast of 2:13 includes Jere Burns, Teri Polo, Kevin Pollak, Mark Pellegrino and Dwight Yoakam. So why is some guy named Mark Thompson the star of the movie? If you're unfamiliar with the long-running Los Angeles morning radio duo Mark and Brian, you may be completely baffled by how this Thompson guy managed to get a movie made of his terrible screenplay, starring himself, with a bunch of competent, recognizable actors in the supporting roles. But Thompson (who is also an executive producer, along with his wife) is an LA radio icon and certainly quite wealthy, even if he and his partner Brian Phelps never quite achieved the national fame of people like Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony (they were syndicated for a while and had a short-lived TV show in the '90s).

So if Thompson wanted to write and star in a low-budget thriller, he undoubtedly had the money to bankroll it himself, hire a director (Charles Adelman) whose filmography consists primarily of bikini-model videos and convince solid working actors to take jobs acting opposite him and pretending he's remotely in their league. It's the definition of a vanity project, and not surprisingly it did not lead to a thriving movie career for Thompson (who has no subsequent movie or TV credits). Although I remember listening to the Mark and Brian show while growing up in Southern California, I didn't connect the two until after I finished watching the movie, and I spent the whole time trying to solve a much greater mystery than who was killing people and covering them in creepy masks: the mystery of how the hell Mark Thompson managed to become the star of this movie.

Because while Thompson's screenplay for 2:13 is terrible, it's really not that much more terrible than screenplays for dozens of other straight-to-video crime thrillers. With another actor in the lead role, 2:13 might have been slightly more tolerable, or at least less inadvertently hilarious. But Thompson overplays his cliched burned-out cop on the edge so excessively that every one of his actions becomes like a parody of a hard-boiled detective. Poor Teri Polo deserves hazard pay for having to pretend to be overwhelmingly attracted to this smug shlub, and their post-sex cuddling is some of the most awkward intimacy I've ever seen in a movie (thankfully the movie skips over the actual sex).

Thompson's Detective Russell Spivey is your basic tortured maverick who doesn't play by the rules, dealing with buried childhood trauma while tracking a serial killer who arranges his victims in ritualistic scenes complete with hand-painted masks. It's mostly standard-issue serial-killer stuff, all grim and ornate and pointless, complete with an overwrought backstory and predictable (yet also nonsensical) twist ending. Spivey is supposed to be some kind of master profiler, but he's prone to keen observations like "Emotions aren't possible without feelings," and he makes numerous dubious logical leaps in his efforts to capture the killer. (Even the title is part of that, since it refers to the time at which the killer always does something that turns out to not really be related to the murders.)

Despite his supposed keen psychological acumen, he's consistently stymied by the efforts of the therapist (Pollak) he's required to see following an on-duty mental breakdown. Those scenes are some of the movie's worst, with repetitive banter (Spivey's catch phrase is a sarcastic "Match?" when he tries to smoke a cigarette even though he knows it's not allowed) and a totally far-fetched hypnosis scene that of course sets the stage for the idiotic ending.

Since Thompson seems to have spent the entire budget on hiring semi-famous actors, the whole movie looks dingy and cheap, shot on unconvincing sets and locations and given a grimy visual style that's probably meant to make it look intense and brooding. Adelman may be great at shooting women in bikinis, but he can't do anything to improve Thompson's awful writing and even worse acting. Every time a new familiar face popped up, I felt bad for them for having been convinced to participate in this debacle. I'm sure the behind-the-scenes story of the radio DJ's vanity project, if it ever gets told, would be a lot more interesting than the movie itself.

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