Searchers 2.0

The always eclectic Alex Cox takes on John Ford via Sergio Leone -- or maybe it's the other way around -- in "Searchers 2.0."

With:
With: Del Zamora, Ed Pansullo, Jaclyn Jonet, Sy Richardson, Roger Corman.

The always eclectic Alex Cox takes on John Ford via Sergio Leone — or maybe it’s the other way around — in “Searchers 2.0.” In Cox’s comic take on the Western road movie, two aging character actors meet by chance and decide to travel to Monument Valley to wreak vengeance on the scriptwriter who terrorized them when they were child extras on the set of “Buffalo Bill vs. Doc Holiday.” Zero-budgeted, Roger Corman-produced, digitally-shot curio will probably head straight to DVD, though its desert-set wanderings play particularly well on the bigscreen.

Stock Cox thesps Del Zamora and Ed Pansullo portray the two revenge-seeking bit-players, Mel Torres and Fred Fletcher.

Fred (Pansullo) comes off as a paranoid gun freak, ranting about Michael Moore and Al Gore. Mel (Zamora), on the other hand, is a deadbeat dad who tricks his grown daughter Delilah (Jaclyn Jonet) into driving the duo into the desert on the pretext of offering her a vacation. As the two codgers bicker non-stop from California to Arizona to Utah, Delilah is alternately amused and appalled.

They are pursuing Fred Frobischer (Sy Richardson), who is slated to present one of his old films on a huge inflatable screen in Monument Valley. But his Q&A is cancelled when the scheduled oater doesn’t arrive, and the would-be avengers find Fred selling T-shirts.

A final confrontation between the three men takes the form of a triangulated showdown straight out of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” as they systematically challenge one another to name still-living Leone stunt men.

“Searchers 2.0” is as minimalist and laid-back as Cox’s last film, “Revengers Tragedy” (2002), was overwrought and over-the-top. New pic’s charm lies in its B movie-obsessed protagonists arguing over everything from whether Charlton Heston was ever head of the Screen Actors Guild to the war in Iraq. Their hodgepodge of beliefs, half-truths and rarefied experiences seems to come equally from extreme marginalism and middle-of-the-road Americana.

Tech credits are impressive; Steven Fierberg’s flawless DV lensing does the wide-open spaces proud while Dan Wool’s Grieg-laced score determinedly propels the travelers onward.

Searchers 2.0

Production: A Roger Corman/BBC presentation of a Cowboy Outfit production. (International sales: New Concorde Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Jon Davison, Daren Hicks, Simon Tams. Executive producer, Corman. Directed, written, edited by Alex Cox.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Steven Fierberg; music, Dan Wool; production designer, Cecilia Monteil; sound (Dolby Digital), Richard Beggs. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), September 1, 2007. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Del Zamora, Ed Pansullo, Jaclyn Jonet, Sy Richardson, Roger Corman.

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