Burt Reynolds did a lot of, shall we say, odd films throughout his career but the weirdest by far has to be Big City Blues, and the experience of sitting though it is akin to dunking your head in a bucket of piss and raw concrete. Ugly, murky, choppily edited, clumsily acted and shot through with more lens grain than aforementioned concrete bucket, this is the definition of leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Burt and character actor William Forsythe are Connor and Hudson, two mafia hitman in some shit-hole urban nightmare of a city. They find themselves in various jumbled misadventures presented in ramshackle vignette style, including their boss potentially betraying them, freaky underground sadists, a devil worshipping cult, psychotic doctors, duplicitous transvestites and a strange hooker (Georgina Cates) who believes her doppelgänger is somewhere out there in the city and won’t stop obsessing over the notion. Giancarlo and Balthazar Getty also show up here and there but don’t really have much to add. Reynolds gives one weird performance here, shambling about like a hungover Bassett hound and mumbling like he’s already ten drinks into hair of the dog, he seems listless, hilariously disinterested and looks like he just wants to collect his paycheque and go for day pints in a brighter, less depressing city than this (it was filmed in Miami, but you’d never guess and no other film out there has managed to make that colourful hub look as drab and run down as here). Forsythe has a bit more edge to his work and at least tries, but he’s always game no matter the material, even so he can’t save this thing from rolling into the gutter. There’s just too much bloody, gross shock value stuff that seems to have come out of left field in the script and I couldn’t tell if the psycho aspect was disturbing in itself or because it seemed to have ran in from another film and rudely hijacked this one. It also really tries to do the episodic Sin City/Pulp Fiction shtick where stories overlap, intertwine and wrap around each other seamlessly but it fails there too and these random, unpleasant and boring encounters just trip all over each other like they’re as many drinks in as Burt. This is the first film he made after his legendary turn in Boogie Nights and I wonder why, you’d think he’d have gone for something with a little more pedigree. More like Big City Poos.
Sinner is a 2007 indie buried in the depths of obscurity, and defined by its very bold choice to cast an actor in the lead role whose career so far has been so different from the type of character he plays here, it’s a true blessing for fans to see him in this new light. The actor in question is Nick Chinlund, a rough looking bruiser with a filmography almost entirely made up of villainous creeps, grizzled detectives and other assorted hardcases (see Con Air, Training Day, The X Files and The Chronicles Of Riddick for his most critically celebrated work). Here he drops every trait he’s been known for, playing small town catholic priest Anthony Romano, a man with a troubled past and an almost bankrupt parish who is facing an internal crisis, only made worse by the arrival of skanky grifter Lil (Georgina Cates) who preys on celibate priests, amongst other bottom-feeding life choices. After an incident involving Romano’s lecherous fellow preacher, he allows Lil to take refuge from the police in his rectory, against better judgment. She’s a nasty piece of work at first and Cates’s performance is far too over the top, only simmering down to meet the character arc in the script long after it calls for action, making her work too little, too late, yet still rather affecting. Chinlund is nothing short of mesmerizing, giving Romano the internal conflict and vulnerability the character deserves, which is not an easy task when one considers the complex nature of the writing. Underrated doesn’t begin to describe this actor, and lately I’ve been sad to see he hasn’t been given many roles that are worthy of his talent. I’ve searched far and wide for Sinner many years, finally finding an amazon seller who would send me a copy. I loved it, and it made me so happy to see Chinlund get the kind of role that goes against the grain of much of his work. Romano uses the sort of golf as a release from priestly and personal hardships, the script using lots of golfer’s lingo as sly similes for his personal issues. Tagging along with him is his scrappy and seemingly imaginary Caddy, played by Brad Dourif. Dourif can make any role, and I mean any, into pure magic with his dedication to the craft. Seeing him and Chinlund share a few wonderful scenes with bushels of chemistry was a nerd’s dream come true for me, and part of the reason I searched so long for a copy of this film. For casuals this may be a bit offbeat to really sink into, but for fans of the actors and idiosyncratic indie flicks, this is a bona fide goldmine.