It's one thing to make a movie that pays homage to your favorite filmmaker (example: J.J. Abrams paying tribute to Steven Spielberg through styles used in the '70s and '80s in 'Super 8'), but it's whole other thing to blatantly rip off dialog and plot points from a director you admire – which is exactly what newcomer Aaron Harvey does with 'Catch .44,' an ad-lib of Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction.' Anyone who has ever seen 'Pulp Fiction' is immediately going to notice the not-so-subtle similarities between the two. 'Catch .44' is two lines of replicated dialog shy of a lawsuit. If I was Tarantino, I wouldn't be flattered, but rather furious that someone failed so horribly at trying to recreate my work.
Just like 'Death Proof,' 'Kill Bill,' 'Jackie Brown' and 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Catch .44' revolves around some supposedly "tough chicks." The movie opens with Malin Akerman, Nikki Reed and Deborah Ann Woll chatting about nothing in a diner at three in the morning. Just like the opening scene of 'Reservoir Dogs,' one of the girls is rambling on about an argument that doesn't make much sense. They swear a lot. We understand that they're not simply there to dine, no, they're present for another purpose. I suspected something Tarantino-ish was coming, but thought, 'No new director would replicate the same opening of 'Pulp Fiction' and have these girls rob the diner' – but that's exactly what Harvey wrote into the screenplay. The girls suddenly get up and yell, "I'm not even going to say it because y'all know what this is." Sound familiar? The only difference is the dialog used. Harvey knew he couldn't use "everybody be cool, this is a robbery" – although he repeatedly uses the the phrase "be cool" just like 'Pulp Fiction' - so he wrote the opposite of that line. From there out, everything in 'Catch .44' resembles something from a Tarantino flick, as if his whole catalog was dissected and re-stitched together like Frankenstein's monster.
As we see the beginning of the robbery, we jump back a few hours and see what led the girls to this point. Then it jumps forward to reveal more of the robbery, only to jump back and show a little more backstory. We do this several times, see a flashback from two years earlier, then finally get resolution to the robbery storyline just before the closing credits roll. Nothing new, fresh, creative or original comes from 'Catch .44,' it's a recycled mash-up of things you've already seen before – most of them being Tarantino-esque elements. You'll see each character get a freeze frame title-card introduction like Hugo Stiglitz on 'Inglourious Basterds.' Each time we jump through the chronology of the narrative, the picture distorts and skips around like a scratchy flawed film reel – just like the entire look of 'Death Proof.' This effect wouldn't be bad had it not been completely unfitting with the rest of the great-looking film. When the film closes, a grindhouse-esque title card pops and hails the credits. One of the actors even tries acting like Tarantino's Jimmy from 'Pulp Fiction.'
The most surprising element of 'Catch .44' is not its great-looking bursts of graphic violence, but the cast that this no-name newbie writer / director was able to coax into acting in his direct-to-Blu movie. Known mostly for her small role in 'The Twilight Saga,' anyone who wants her can land Nikki Reed in a movie. 'True Blood' actors like Deborah Ann Woll are lucky just because that show is still running, so they'll take anything thrown their way. Malin Akerman isn't exactly a big star yet, so she's done plenty of these low-budget movies before. Bruce Willis showing up for only two scenes isn't a shocker – he's done that plenty of times in the recent past - but seeing Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker in a major role is completely unexpected.
There's a difference between paying homage and ripping off, but the thin line between the two is blurred for Aaron Harvey. Unlike another Tarantino rip-off, 'Running Scared,' there's not a single redeeming quality to 'Catch .44,' rendering it a worthless Blu-ray no matter how good it may look or sound.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay has placed 'Catch .44' on a Region A BD-25 in an eco-friendly blue keepcase. Upon inserting the disc, you're forced to watch an FBI warning and an Anchor Bay vanity reel, but can skip through the commentary disclaimer and trailers for 'The Son of No One' and 'Texas Killing Fields' to get to the main menu.
Bypassing festivals and those pesky theater chains, Anchor Bay has given straight-to-Blu 'Catch .44' a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. As great as this Blu-ray looks, it can't make this stinker worthy of recommendation.
Bruce Willis' character is not only the "Bill"-ish villain of 'Catch .44 because he's the head of an assassin squad, but because we don't see his face fully revealed for some time. The movie opens with an extreme close-up on his mouth and chin, revealing each nappy hair in his soul patch. The high amount of detail visible in that first scene reveals a level of sharpness that you'll relish in, too bad it isn't always consistent. But when it works, it really works. From the smallest mosquitoes buzzing in the headlights of a parked car to individuals specks of blood that fly through the air after someone takes a shotgun blast to the abdomen – it's all clearly visible.
After Willis' face-less intro, we meet our three supposed-to-be badass chicks at the diner. The nighttime exterior shot of the diner reveals the film's rich black levels. The night sky seamlessly blends into the letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the screen caused by the 2.40:1 aspect ratio so that you can't tell where the bars begin and the sky ends. Colors are natural and vibrant. The daytime shots reveal thick green forestry that line the highway where the diner can be found. Interior shots of a neon strip club show off how dense and saturated the colors can be.
Aside from minor inconsistencies with details, the only other negative effect from the transfer is a small amount of aliasing. When we finally fully see Willis' character, he's wearing a gross silk robe that flickers with aliasing as he walks around his living room. Banding, artifacts, DNR and edge enhancement are absent in this completely noise-free video.
Just like the video quality, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track falls victim to inconsistencies. Whenever music and ambient effects are present, the lossless track is actively engaged and dynamic. The vocal audio is perfectly balanced with music and effects, but odd imaging issues occur over time.
In one still shot of an open highway, a car enters from the right rear and moves across the screen to the left – but the sound mix plays this audio backwards. Instead, we hear it come from the back left and hear it travel to the front right. The traveling sound flows with perfection, only it's moving in the wrong direction. This mistake happens a few time where sounds are heard in the wrong channels.
As generic as the scoring is, the ominous bassy sounds that emit from all channels effectively ring through the theater. These rich tones provide great tension for the impending doom of several of the characters.
Have you seen the self-proclaimed ads on the cover art for 'Catch .44' that claim it is "in the tradition of 'The Usual Suspects' and 'Reservoir Dogs?' If dropping references to those two classics makes you want to check out 'Catch .44,' then just revisit those two films and get some satisfaction out of what you watch. Despite featuring a recognizable cast of actors, 'Catch .44' is a worthless waste of time. The audio and video quality aren't without their faults, but not even 5-star demo-worthy qualities would make this unoriginal stinker worth watching. Skip it.