Saturday, September 6, 2014

Double Nickels (1977)

The main conceit of this brainless action/comedy movie is that a California Highway Patrol officer is such a speed demon during his off-hours that he’s lax about enforcing traffic laws, making him susceptible to coercion by a crook who claims to do repossession work, but is actually a car thief. Had cowriter-director Jack Vacek invested even a modicum of effort into contriving dramatic tension and fully rounded characters, Double Nickels could have become undemanding fun in the vein of Burt Reynolds’ innumerable movies about likeable rascals blowing past speed limits. And, indeed, Double Nickels has a few moments of pleasant distraction, such as elaborately photographed car-chase scenes. But sitting through the film’s entire 89-minute running time? That takes more patience than most people will be able to muster. The movie is so repetitive and shallow that it feels like the plot is turning in circles, with nearly identical scenes recurring throughout the flick, and Vacek loses control of the picture’s tone quite frequently. While vignettes involving the main character and his waitress girlfriend have a casual bickering-lovers vibe, sequences featuring the car thief feel not only serious but also painfully flat. Were one to view Double Nickels from an extremely generous perspective, one could say that some scenes have a documentary feel thanks to long-lens photography and unrehearsed-seeming dialogue. However, naturalistic doesn’t necessarily mean interesting, and in this case, the looser the scene is, the less it commands attention. Plus, even the “good” scenes, such a long bit in which a cop cruiser tails a dune buggy, underwhelm because they drag on too long. The cast of largely unknown actors—some of whom also worked on a slightly higher-profile car movie from the same era, Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)—delivers unmemorable work, giving Double Nickels the flavor of something that a bunch of buddies made on weekends for kicks. Nothing here is offensive, and car-chase junkies might dig some of the action scenes, but in terms of generating excitement, Double Nickels never gets out of first gear.

Double Nickels: LAME

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