Film review by: Witney Seibold
Nadia Bjorlin has huge blue eyes, a beautiful olive complexion, and breasts of steel. According to the Internet Movie Database, she’s fluent in six languages. She’s won multiple beauty competitions. She is a classically trained opera singer, and can play the flute, the piano, the guitar, and the harp. Daytime television viewers may know her as Chloe on “Days of Our Lives.”
Me? I know her because she is the star of the honest-to-goodness “B” exploitation movie “Redline,” directed by stuntman Andy Cheng, and produced by Daniel Sadek, rumored to be Bjorlin’s boyfriend.
“Redline” is a strangely beautiful film. It’s rare that you get a film that is so transparently exploitative, so lunkheadedly eager to please, so aggressively nonsensically noisy. So deliberately vapidly entertaining. My friend, Marc, who recommended the film to me, was lucky enough to see it at a drive-in theater. This is the perfect movie for a drive-in. The plot makes little sense, the characters never once stretch past an inch their easy-to-understand archetypes, and director Cheng never, not once, misses an opportunity to show a close-up of a hot model’s legs, cleavage, or buttocks. Well, that is, when he’s not cramming the screen with noisy $1,000,000 phallic extension cars with shiny, shiny paintjobs. There’s more vehicle fetish in this film than in the Fast and Furious triune entire.
To give you an idea of how much this film is for vehicle fetishists, here is the plot summary from The Internet Movie Database in its entirety: “Redline” is an auto/action thriller that features an extensive exotic car collection. The movie features a Phantom Rolls Royce, Lamborghini Murcielago, Enzo Ferrari, Ferrari F430, Ferrari Scaglietti and two Mercedes SLR McLaren AMGs. A $450,000 Porsche Carrera GT is actually crashed during one sequence. Eddie Griffin accidentally crashed and destroyed the Enzo Ferrari, one of only 400 ever produced. The film follows an ace driver who becomes part of illegal drag racing.
Not one mention of any of the characters, but eight different shout-outs to car models.
So here’s the story: There is a world out there of high-stakes car racing, where millions upon millions of dollars are bet on illegal (but well-stocked and well-catered) stock car races. The major players of these races are lecherous silver fox Jerry Brecken (Tim Matheson), nutty Buddhist-type-with-mob-connections Michael D’Orazio (Angus MacFadyen), and the trash talking Eddie Griffin-type named Infamous (Eddie Griffin). Infamous takes one of this moneymobiles to a local racetrack mechanic for a tune-up. The mechanic is Natasha (Bjorlin) who impresses Infamous with her madd phat racing skillz. Infamous wants to hire her to drive in one of the high-stakes races he attends, but she refuses. Her father died in such a race, you see. Plus, she’d rather focus on her band whose name I have forgotten, but who seems to be manned by 1970s rockers who have been mysteriously displaced in time.
I think that the inclusion of Natasha’s rock band was less an idea of a screenwriter and more a demand of the producer to promote his girlfriend’s awesome rock skills. It would be worth looking up to see if there’s a “Redline” soundtrack album somewhere in the world.
Anyway, Natasha’s mom, Sally (Barbara Niven, who was actually 54 at the time of shooting, but who looks maybe three years older than her daughter) encourages Natasha to watch one of the races so’s she can get over daddy dying. She attends with her band. Infamous, though, manages to stage the injury of his old driver, and coerces Natasha into racing in his stead. She agrees, but only if she can have a contract for her band. See what the movie did there?
In a subplot, a fellow named Carlo (Nathan Phillips) has recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, and is now being taken out on the town by his fey little brother Jason (Jesse Johnson). Carlo is, I suppose, supposed to be the steamy hot male lead in this film, but he looks more like a buttsteak made of leather. He squints through his scenes and gives half-hearted Keanu line readings. He does seem to know his kung-fu, though, as there is an inexplicable fight scene with some perfunctory gangsters when he is being picked up at the bus station. Oh, and I must mention the prominent product placement in this scene. Carlo stops at a soda machine to get a refreshing soda pop. She is seen taking the soda out of the machine, opening it, and drinking it, the label clearly pointed toward the camera.
Jason, unlike his brother, is wimpy and stylish. His hair is spiked up, and he wears expensive suits. He looks like he’s made of makeup. Jason is also, not incidentally, one of the racers in the above mentioned high-stakes race.
Well, the race goes down, Natasha loses by a hair, and Jason dies. Michael D’Orazio manages to kidnap Natasha for himself. You see, he fell head-over-heels in love when he laid eyes on her. But, thanks to his unshaven face and Jeff-Lebowski-ish fashion sense, we know that his love is an unwholesome thing. She has pretty blue eyes, plays in a band, races fast cars, and has massive iron hooters. What unwholesome mob boss wouldn’t fall for her? Oh and Carlo vows revenge for the death of his brother. Revenge on whom is a little unclear.
Carlo stocks up on weapons and explosives from an old friend. Yes, Carlo, a U.S. soldier has extensive connections with friends in the weapons–dealing underworld. Friends who give him enough guns and explosives to explode Monrovia without batting an eye. Carlo will break into D’Orazio’s mansion, free Natasha, and… uh… yeah. There’s then a scene where Carlo jumps a motorcycle in front of a moving train, missing it by mere inches.
Natasha is indeed now languishing away in D’Orazio’s mansion. She is forced to wear nighties and to eat a strict vegetarian diet. D’Orazio must be evil, as he won’t eat good old American meat. We learn that D’Orazio owes a great deal of money to an even bigger mob boss, and has been trying to pay said bigger mob boss with counterfeit bills. The bigger mob boss, who is never named, has one of D’Orazio’s friends/relatives/associates hostage. It’s never made clear who the hostage is, only that he will die of the money is not paid. Eventually everything boils down to a big race at the end. Oh, and an additional race even after everything has been resolved.
MacFadyen is a talented actor who has played in Shakespeare. Here he plays a half-hearted crazy. It’s kind of hurtful to see him slumming in junk like “Redline.” Make no mistakes, “Redline” is pure junk. It is jam-packed with ancient action tropes like car wrecks and explosions, and doesn’t even bother to make excuses for showing them. The camera lingers lecherously over the hot bodies of countless models, both of flesh and of steel. Disappointingly, there is no nudity in “Redline.” It’s like the living fantasy of a “Maxim” reader. Or perhaps a complex ad campaign for an upcoming car show.
After a while though – when your eyeballs have become numbly oversaturated with miles of cleavage and acres of bright glossy finishes, and you have come to a Zen-like peace with the idiotic plotlessness of it all – “Redline” becomes something truly enjoyable. It helps if you focus not on what it is trying to do, and look instead upon what it is: a cheaply-produced “b” movie. In recent years, as film distribution has become more streamlined, and low-budget films (which, if it can be imagined, are of an even lower quality today than they were notoriously known for in the past) have been condemned to the lower shelves at Blockbuster video. It’s a pleasure to see that a rich car lover with a hot girlfriend can still throw gobs of money at some fairly competent filmmakers, and crank out something as old-fashioned-exploitative as “Redline.” The camerawork may be up-to-date. The models may be less clothed. The pacing may be fast and slick. But “Redline” is a brother-in-spirit of “Teenage Rebel,” “Motor Psycho,” “Death Race 2000,” and countless “B” films from the last five decades.
If you are a fan of glorious unironic “B” movie trash, by all means, see “Redline.”