7 June 2004 | rsoonsa
IT IS PITIFUL.
In 1978 and 1979, the skid row sector of downtown Los Angeles was the setting for more than a dozen homicides with derelict victims having their throats cut; the unknown killer was dubbed "Skid Row Slasher" by Los Angeles area media. Former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Bobby Joe Maxwell, suffering from an inoperable brain tumour, was eventually arrested and convicted for the crimes and this production, shot in the same environs, apparently utilizes the serial homicides as inspiration. However, only the sobriquet links this woefully weak effort with the original crimes as it focusses upon activities of freelance television news photographer, i.e., "stringer" Frank Simmonetti (Anthony Finetti) who searches for newsworthy stories along skid row due to its high rate of criminal activity. Frank hires a purportedly unstable ex-policeman, Jack Mitchell (Tim Thomerson) as a sidekick and the pair attempts to outwit and outguess a killer whose prey come from the typical flotsam that clogs rundown inner city districts. Filmed in a curiously sanitized Los Angeles skid row, the work's script is consistently insipid, demonstrating seemingly unlimited ignorance of basic law enforcement procedures and a grievous lack of continuity that, in combination with its flaws of logic, makes for a trying viewing experience. The cast in this suspenseless thriller, although sincere enough, can do little with a scenario as manifestly silly as is this one, and even Thomerson's substantial talent for developing a storyline's innate irony is muted due to his underwritten part. Most of the supporting players are one-notes, with extras wisely selected from denizens of the street; we visit what is supposed to pass as one of their "cardboard condos", the interior of which provides nearly all that one might wish to live comfortably, a typical unrealistic note in a movie wherein the journalist, whose auto illegally sports a functioning red emergency light, benefits mightily from camaraderie and favours tendered by local police officers.