‘Cross’: The End is Near. Look Busy.

[7 June 2011]

By Brent McKnight

Cross isn’t a very good movie. In fact it is quite bad, spectacularly so at times. I don’t say this to be mean, I really wanted to like Cross—it makes me happy that Brian Austin Green is finding work—but I can’t lie, it may take some intestinal fortitude to get to the end.

The cast is surprisingly recognizable for a movie that looks and feels like it was like it was shot for 50 bucks and half-rack of cheap beer. (I swear to god that I’m not trying to sound like a jerk here, but it’s hard not to be snarky, especially when the sound is so garbled and muddy you can hardly distinguish the dialogue.) Michael Clarke Duncan, Vinnie Jones, Tom Sizemore, and Jake Busey all figure prominently in the plot, and Danny Trejo, Robert Carradine, and C. Thomas Howell, all pop up. Not to say that any of these actors are super stars or anything—they’ve all made more than a few questionable choices in movie roles over the years—but they’re more familiar than you might expect.

Cross wants to be a comic book movie, in terms of content as well as aesthetic. The intro and credits are laid out to look like the pages of a four-color funny book, and the DVD cover gives off a definite Green Lantern knock-off vibe. However it simply doesn’t have the resources at its disposal to make that goal happen. The special effects are low budget, the action scenes primarily involve one group of people standing still and shooting at another group of people who are also standing still, the acting is iffy—Duncan is hammy and absurd, Green shows even less range than in his 90210 days, and Jake Busey is, well, Jake Busey—and the plot is made up of scattered story elements thrown together without any explanation, justification, or reason.

Callan (Green) has a magical Celtic cross that he inherited from his father. Passed down from generation to generation, the trinket gives him and his forefathers, a long line of mythical warriors, unbeatable powers which they then use to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Along with a crew of quirky, do-gooder mercenaries, including a “polite weapons specialist”, and a “comedic explosives expert” (Busey), Callan takes on a sprawling crime syndicate headed by Erlik (Duncan). Gunnar (Jones) is a Viking (with an English accent), who is cursed to live forever. He has found the legendary “Staff of Sekmet”, an ancient Egyptian tool of unstoppable evil. Once it is filled with the blood of the descendents of the gods, Gunnar can use it to kill everyone.

Fortunately for him, all of the young women that he is looking for, live in Los Angeles, and he employs Erlik to track them down. It’s up to Callan and his gang of misfit vigilantes to stop this fiendish plan, rescue a bunch of pretty young ladies, and generally save the world.

Cross is cheesy and lazy, and at some point I’m pretty sure Jake Busey’s character changes names. He is introduced as Backfire, and for a while that’s what people call him. But for most of the middle of the movie everyone calls him Fastball. This is an obvious reference to his character’s penchant for throwing glowing, explosive orbs—he detests guns—but they don’t treat it like a nickname (is Backfire his given name?), and near the end, he’s back to being Backfire. It’s like at some point in the writing process they toyed with changing his name, didn’t like it and changed it back, only to miss a few places. Normally you could pass this off as a misstep, but it is indicative of larger trend of continuity and editing errors.

At one point you cut away from Callan, to Sunshine (Susie Abromeit), his one-night-stand, and when it cuts back he’s just not wearing a shirt anymore. Maybe I’m looking for logic and causality where there is none. After all, the world of Cross is a world where pillow talk consists of Callan talking about his dead father, because, you know, there’s nothing sexier than that.

The movie starts out ridiculous enough to be marginally entertaining, wallowing in absurdity, but before long that charm wears off. Perhaps if you’re watching it with a bunch of friends and an ample supply of alcoholic beverages it could be fun, but that’s the only way. One saving grace is that the cast of Cross does feature a little guy I like to call William Zabka, A.K.A. Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid! So it has that going for it, which is nice.

You should be able to infer by now that Cross is a direct-to-video release. While the DVD comes with a decent amount of bonus material, there is little to recommend it. There is an alternate ending, which is actually the exact same ending, only shot in a stairwell instead of a wide-open warehouse with better lighting; when you watch the collection of deleted scenes, you’ll understand immediately why they were deleted; and the animatic opening sequence is a half-step above watching animated stick-figures.

I had hopes for the commentary track with director Patrick Durham. Maybe he would explain some of the choices he made, give juicy behind-the-scenes stories and tidbits, or at least address some of the trials, tribulations, problems, and solutions inherent in making a low-budget sci-fi action film. Most of the time, however, he spends recounting the action that is taking place on the screen, which you can already see in front of you, and instead of infusing the release with life and energy, it only adds the dull, listless nature of the movie.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/142503-cross/