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quietearth [Film Festival 06.21.10] movie review scifi drama fantasy

Year: 2009
Directors: John Michael McCarthy
Writers: John Michael McCarthy
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 1 out of 10

Oh, Cigarette Girl! I was so looking forward to watching you. I got up early, eagerly skipped to the cinema like a big girl, sat in the back row and opened my notebook. Nothing could have prepared me for how bad you are. Nothing. The festival buzz around this film was big, with the awesome premise of future smokers having been segregated from the rest of society and living in ghettos, while gangsters illegally trade cigarettes for cash, drugs and favours. Cigarette Girl is part of this world, but decides after a death in her family to quit. Quit smoking, quit gang life, and quit all the hard and hateful things in her life. The cinema was packed for the press screening - near empty by the end.

The film is billed as a low-budget masterpiece; an indie ‘Sin City’ with a dazzling lead performance from Cori Dial in her first feature role. Director John Michael McCarthy is said to have waited years to make this film until he found his ideal actress and, looks wise, I can see why Cori won out. She’s strikingly beautiful, but her acting leaves a lot to be desired as she fails to make CG anything more than a clichéd bad-girl with a lot of sad memories. The character needed to be a vamp; a sexy, confident chick that we’d admire and desire, but as is she acts more angered victim – somehow seeming afraid to really jump into the role offered - and this is the first problem.

The film tries for a certain noir-ish style, but more often the shots are badly lit, unfocused and uninspired, all of which makes this an exhaustingly frustrating film to sit through. Much of the dialogue is dubbed, which again takes some getting used to and made the film seem very cheap indeed. There is a tiny, amateur cast of supporting characters who have very little to do, including J. Lazarus Hawk as the villain, Ace. He’s all black trench coat, long hair and knee high boots; just your standard action movie villain really. He has a moustache.

Ace runs the Vice Club, which is the main point of distribution for cigarettes in the Smoking Section and they sell at around $67 a pack – giving more weight to the question, “can I bum a smoke?” CG sells cigarettes at the club, but also sells them on the outside where she charges a more reasonable $50, to supplement her income. When Ace finds out, there’s hell to pay and our heroine has to decide whether to fight or flee, so when Grandma gives her a nice looking hand pistol, she knows what she has to do. Meanwhile a teenage runaway, called ‘Runaway’, becomes the new cigarette girl at the Vice Club and she’s in way over her head. Ace’s two henchmen, Johnny Valet and Hat Check Girl (seriously) track down CG and let her know that Ace is out for blood. The names in this film are something else. They couldn’t think of a better bad guy name than… ‘Ace’? I’m not even going to try to hypothesise why so many of the characters are named for their role, it kind of screams of laziness, or pretension I’m not sure which.

So the film is set in the future but there is no indication of this (apparently it’s 2035, but I got that from another review, not the film). There is one sign post that reads: ‘You are now leaving the smoking section’, and a hospital that she visits is very brightly lit, perhaps to indicate how futuristic it all is, or maybe just because the cinematographer showed-up that day. There are no gadgets or computers or flying cars, as I guess they were going for the ‘future as a gritty noir’ idea, but it doesn’t really work.

I loved the concept of this film but execution is way off and with very little merit. I’ve not even written about the dialogue which is cringe inducingly awful in the very worst sense, I mean characters basically just shout random gibberish most of the time, trying to force the story along. The plot, while it makes some sense, is thoroughly stupid and everyone takes themselves so seriously that we can’t even humour them. There are some sweet moments between CG and her cancer ridden, chain smoking Grandmother, but they’re lost in a sea of clichéd ‘badass action movie’ lines from Ace and his gang of idiots and hangers-on. The misogyny levels are high too, as I think they were trying for a ‘Kill Bill’ style revenge flick, and CG is whipped and beaten by Ace, only for her former lover, The Cowboy (again with the names!) to return to her life and start burning her with cigarette stubs and slapping her around. It’s alarming and it’s deeply unpleasant, but adds nothing except a feeling of needing a shower afterwards.

There are so many questions left unanswered, like the gang of Rasta guys who smoke joints and rob liquor stores but aren’t explored at all, or the mysterious ‘New’ cigarettes that Ace mentions once and are not followed-up. It’s as if a ton of ideas were floating in the director’s head, but he didn’t have the money to fully include them so just made references to them in the hope they might impress. A tacky TV show called ‘Questions and Cancers’ raises a dry smile, but again we only catch a glimpse and then it’s over, and has nothing to do with the plot.

Some mildly impressive digital effects of a large sculpture on the roof of the Vice Club are pretty cool; a huge metal cigarette that gently tips into an ashtray and then rises slowly in the wind. The more I think about it, that big metal cigarette is actually the coolest thing in the film, and it looks like it belongs in another, better movie.

Overall it’s just a mess, and fails to provide even basic levels of cinema production values. It’s ugly, badly acted, badly shot and poorly written garbage which sits with other films such as ‘Zombie Planet’ as a film with a great central idea, but no skill involved in bringing that idea to the screen.

I am very disappointed and am going outside for a cigarette because you can’t smoke in here...

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chuck (10 years ago) Reply

The segregation of smokers was handled in an episode of the Seaquest remake from the 90's featuring Dom Deloise (I think his son was a lead on the show). The show sucked and the only reason I know this tidbit of trivia is because a friend's ska band played in the background during a few scenes.


Michael Allen (10 years ago) Reply

I wrote a similar bad review for the film, which is in my signature. I hate dubbing:(

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