“Banshee,” the first original action movie from Oxygen, the network owned and operated by women, is so off the mark it makes you want to beat your head against the glass ceiling. Rife with more references to oral sex than a Howard Stern show, the film is ridiculous, exploitative and downright creepy.
A confounding amalgam of car-chase action and serial-killer mystery with a little opposites-attract romance thrown in, “Banshee” purportedly delves into the mindset of a female car “tagger” with a heart of gold (think a grungier Angelina Jolie in “Gone in 60 Seconds”).
Film stars “Hustle & Flow’s” Taryn Manning as the streetwise Sage, a car thief who can throw a mean left hook and will only bedguys who cook dinner first. Her philosophy on life, particularly men, is that the world is an enormous barnyard. The minute you give it up for a guy, “you’re a hog, wallowing and snorting in your own revolting slop.” And that’s the warm and fuzzy part of the movie.
After stealing a mint-condition ’66 Dodge Charger, Sage drops her ID at the scene of the crime. Director Kari Skogland makes viewers eminently aware of this grievous error twice, perhaps on the assumption you’ve got to be pretty dim to be watching this film.
As it turns out, the Charger’s owner really is a badass, just as it says on the license plate. Sage comes home to find her boyfriend’s ear in an ashtray with a note demanding the car by midnight or else lover-boy turns to lunchmeat. But Mr. Badass (Christian Campbell) isn’t your run-of-the-mill psycho. He’s an uberpsycho and a hip DJ, who captures and tortures women, records their screams along with his accelerated heartbeat and then morphs them into techno rock tunes to play at local clubs.
The imaginative effort writer Kirsten Elms put into creating such a highly disturbing serial killer would have served the movie more had it been funneled into creating a realistic story with better dialogue. Never mind the gaping plot holes vis-a-vis law enforcement procedure. Elms’ script is filled with axioms such as such as, “You had me at hand job,” and “I’m going kick your ass if you don’t kick my ass.”
Not that explicit language is off limits for women (this is the network with “Talk Sex With Sue Johanson” after all), it just takes a certain panache that’s missing here. The humor is off the mark, as are the perfs, so not much rings true.
Which makes the promise of thrilling car-chase scenes its last hope and biggest disappointment. Skogland’s camerawork is erratic and confusing, with special effects used to little benefit far too late in the film. Similarly, the chameleon-like quality that makes Canada so attractive budget-wise robs the movie of any real atmosphere. The mean streets of Montreal don’t elicit a gritty enough vibe here.
Mike Lombardi, who plays the rookie fireman on “Rescue Me,” plays a rookie cop who’s been tailing Sage on her recent crime spree. Despite her negative attitude and hostile behavior, he becomes enamored with her and forgoes all normal police procedure in doing so — most egregiously in the final sequences.
Performing with the same scowl from scene to scene does not a tough chick make, although Manning does invoke what could easily be the evil twin of Susan Bradford from “Eight Is Enough.” On the plus side, her makeup and scars are appropriately frightening.