Vainly hearkening back to classic B noirs like "Detour", Cash Markman's "The Damned" is more pretentious than his usual junkers but just as boring. Buried here are elements of what might have been a captivating in yarn assigned to a different pornographer.
Cash/Cushman's flashback structure is quite poor, embedding flashbacks in unnecessary complexity for world-weary narrator Steven St. Croix and then throwing in a flashback narrated by his leading lady Shyla Stylez that doesn't fit the format. It's about a pair of thrill-crime criminals who meet randomly and then carry on listlessly both in and out of the sack.
The petty robberies they execute are consistently uninteresting and lack the cleverness or twists of a Grifters saga. After seeing well nigh onto a hundred of Markman's trivial video features, this one convinces me that his disdain for having to include sex like clockwork in his shows created sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding the crumminess of his results. Perhaps had he been lucky enough to get a mainstream assignment instead of a thousand ephemeral porn video jobs, he might have applied some effort to the writing, re-writing and execution.
Another glaring mistake is casting all five of his female performers with near-identical fake big breasts, offering zero visual variety. Clearly the lazy way out, pandering to a perceived greatest common denominator of the target viewership, this ends up wasting a fine performance by Stylez. She takes her doomed loser role seriously, while St. Croix obviously sized up the script and does an uncharacteristic walk-through, lacking the panache he so often brings to leading roles.
The overwritten screenplay's dialog is a mass of clichés, and offers zero depth to these characters. They feel trapped by fate (more likely, trapped under the thumb of an untalented auteur) with zero degrees of freedom, summed up in Steven's listlessly recited line: "Our future was decided the day we met, we were damned at first sight". Uttered at the end of the film, it reflects the sour taste the downbeat, dumb ending leaves in the patient viewer's mouth.
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