Comedy / Crime / Horror

IMDb Rating 5.7 10 5164

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Joel Coen as Reporter at Execution
Bruce Campbell as Renaldo 'The Heel'
Ethan Coen as Reporter at execution

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Dan_Harkless 7 / 10

Much better than I expected

I hadn't heard anything good about this film, and its obscurity didn't lend much credence to the theory that it was any good, but it seemed impossible to me that coming from Joel & Ethan Coen, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell, that it could be totally lacking in quality.

And indeed it isn't. I'm surprised this film isn't more popular in the cult world. There's plenty of trademark Coen Bros. dialogue, Sam Raimi crazy camera moves (indeed, in this sense this film is more entertaining than his recent sedate mainstream work), and Bruce Campbell charming cheesiness. I wish someone would release this out-of-print film on DVD so more genre fans would have the opportunity to check it out.

I guess one problem people might have with the film is that they're trying to watch it as a straight comedy. From this perspective, I guess the film is at best uneven. But the film's purpose is as much to pay tribute to vanished 30s and 40s movie conventions as it is to make you laugh. This is fun, because while the Coen Bros. keep returning to that time period in their movies, this is the only time they really play with the *film* style of that period -- their other views on the past are filmed through a modern lens (figuratively and literally). Likewise for Raimi, who hasn't had much other opportunity for this beyond some "Three Stooges" schtick in the "Evil Dead" series. The only other film I've seen that pulls off this kind of tribute is Richard Elfman's brilliantly quirky "Forbidden Zone" (which admittedly does it better). Both films, for instance, feature the classic wipe consisting of a black circle that closes in on the shot, ceasing contraction for a moment to frame an actor's face as they do a final take, and then contracting the rest of the way to a black screen.

I guess one thing that might have lifted this movie to greater heights would have been if Bruce Campbell had been allowed to play leading man Vic as was originally intended (but disallowed by the studio, per Bruce's excellent autobiography "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor"). While Reed Birney competently plays the fumbling pipsqueak (and actually brings a more poindexterish quality to the role than Bruce physically would have been able to), he just doesn't have the charisma to really pull you in. Oh well -- Renaldo "The Heel" is a classic Campbell character, so there's some consolation there.

A parting note is that Arlon Ober, a primary composer of the brilliant score to the "Robotech" series, provides a wonderful score here as well, one of only 11 he's done, per IMDb. Almost worth seeking this out just for his great, fun score (the ending credits song is especially smile-inducing).

Reviewed by Mister-6 10 / 10

Catch the "Crimewave"!

Sam Raimi? The Coen Brothers? A COMEDY??

Yep, and a great one, too!

Even a movie as ragged and dog-eared as "Crimewave" can blindside you with all of its talent, effort and loving detail to the life and loves of criminals, love-struck young men and Louise Lasser.

The look of this movie is definitely one-of-a-kind. You've never seen another one with the kind of color scheme, cinematography and Fellini-esque attitude as this one has.

And what a cast! Not only is Lasser involved but also such dependables as Brion James, Paul L. Smith, Bruce Campbell and Frances McDormand (in a bit part as a nun).

The blinding rate of gags, both visual and verbal, is too high to count. I, myself, have several favorite quotes from this movie:

(quote 1) "Lady, you ain't seen nothin'... YET!

(quote 2) POLICEMAN - "What kind of sicko would kill a man and put lather on his face?"

KID - "My dad!"

(quote 3) "Two can live as cheaply as one!"

The list goes on and on, but why spoil it for you? "Crimewave" is such a rich, enjoyable effort that it would be a crime if you missed out on it. Beg, borrow, cheat, steal, lie and bite and claw if you must, but do whatever it takes to see "Crimewave"!

10 stars and a million mega-"hurts" for this low-budget gem that proves once and for all that nuns can talk when they have to.

Reviewed by Captain_Obviuos 9 / 10

Let's See the REAL Cut of This!

The first of two cinematic collaborations between Sam Raimi and the Coen brothers ("The Hudsucker Proxy," on which Raimi was Second Unit Director, is the other), this hilarious movie could have, SHOULD have, been a lot funnier. The story behind why it ISN'T is just as wacky as the flick itself:

After the unexpected success of "Evil Dead" in 1982-'83, Embassy Pictures, which had released "Escape From New York," among others, contacted the young Sam Raimi about possibly directing a comedy written by two up-and-comers named Joel and Ethan Coen. Raimi read the riotous script and was eager to put it on film, keeping in close contact with the Coens so he could capture the zany spirit of the script intact. Operating on an extremely tight budget, and with constant interference from the studio, "The XYZ Murders" (the film's original title) was finished sometime in 1984 -- and promptly shelved. Never liking or understanding the humor of the movie, the executives at Embassy (being pressured to find a hit because the studio was floundering) told Raimi, "No, this is another one of your CULT movies, we don't WANT that." (These are not, by the way, my words; this is all from an interview in "Fangoria" Sam Raimi did in 1985 or '86. **EDIT 2018: the interview is in issue #64, 1987, page 33**) So, the studio, trying to keep afloat, re-edited the final cut of the movie, releasing it as "Crimewave." It did not, of course, work, as Embassy Pictures went bankrupt that same year, but not because of this film -- Embassy was finished long before they released this, actually.

If there was some way Raimi and the Coens could, I wish they would go back to this movie and either remake it or re-release it in its intended form. "Crimewave" was good, but you could tell it had been butchered (which gave it its uneven tone). In the "Fangoria" interview, Raimi confessed he regretted the way "The XYZ Murders" turned out -- so why not re-do it now that he can probably do anything he wants (thanks to the "Spider-Man" series)?

What a shame that a struggling movie studio took a great, unique, funny movie and turned it into a curiosity. I'm sure, as we all know, THAT never happens anymore.

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