Story: Artie (Charlie Schlatter) has burned nearly every bridge he’s ever crossed, but he is perhaps looking at his final bridge at this point. He has enjoyed some leeway in his antics because his father is both rich and a judge, but that good will has all but run out. Tired of his son being kicked out schools and running afoul of the law, Artie’s father sends him to Fairfield College, the last stop for troubled youth in upper crust social circles. Despite this being his last chance, Artie doesn’t seem to take this fresh start seriously and quickly prowls for women, riles up the jocks, and raises the suspicions of the administration. But when his new girl is killed in a horrific fire, Artie finds himself swearing his innocence as usual, only this time…it happens to be true. He strikes up an odd friendship with Detective P.J. Decker (Christopher Walken) and he is given the benefit of the doubt, at least to the point Decker allows him a little time to clear his name. But can Artie somehow prove he is innocent, even as more deaths stack up and he continues to look more and more likely as the main suspect?
Entertainment Value: This was a fun one, a fairly dark thriller that has some outlandish moments and just seems a little off kilter the entire time. I say all that as a compliment, as All-American Murder was immense fun and always seemed to have entertainment on tap. The narrative is fine, even if it relies on logic gaps that would require moon jumps to cover. But the stretches of imagination are needed to push the story forward, often at the expense of Christopher Walken’s character, who seems to make some odd decisions as a law enforcement agent. As I said, the tone is on the dark side at times and almost veers into light horror in some sequences, but All-American Murder can’t resist dialing up the crazy beyond the expected levels. This includes a wealth of hilarious dialogue, sometimes awkward, sometimes over the top, and sometimes just plain inexplicable. In all those instances, the movie’s writing and performances make sure those wacky lines are delivered with enthusiasm. I’d rank the dialogue as one of the picture’s best assets, as the lines just never cease to entertain and often even surprise. The thriller aspect works well enough, even with all the wackiness, but don’t expect an airtight mystery here, as All-American Murder does cut some corners in the narrative, as I mentioned above. Even so, the movie has a good pace and has a good deal of memorable moments, so it is quite a fun cinematic ride to take.
The dialogue is certainly one of the movie’s top ingredients, but I’d have to put Christopher Walken’s outer space performance even higher as an asset. Walken is past over the top here, playing the role with great energy and never holding back in his signature style. The highlight of the film has to be Walken as he works a hostage negotiation, which involves the actor with a bullhorn and a lot to talk about. If you’ve ever wanted to see Walken use a bullhorn to criticize someone’s sexual skills, then sing the song “Feelings,” this is your chance. I couldn’t stop laughing and the scene is just pure b movie gold, the kind of magic fans of offbeat cinema live to discover. Walken isn’t just weird in that scene however, as nearly all of his screen time is awkward or off putting, due in part to his wild performance and in part to some questionable script work. The lead here is Charlie Schlatter and he is not to be outdone, so he also dials up his effort and provides some big laughs. Unlike Walken, Schlatter seems to play his role straight even in the most outrageous situations, which is of course so much fun to watch. The cast of All-American Murder also includes Richard Kind, Joanna Cassidy, and Josie Bissett.
The Disc: Vinegar Syndrome has dropped All-American Murder on Blu-ray with a new 2k scan, sourced from the original interpositive. The image here is impressive, super clean and razor sharp, with the intended dark visual presence, but well detailed. To be honest, the movie almost looks brand new, which should be no surprise, given Vinegar Syndrome’s incredible track record. The extras include an audio commentary track from a movie podcast group, as well as interviews with star Charlie Schlatter and cinematographer Geoffrey Schaal.
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