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Scorched
cast: Woody Harrelson, John Cleese, Alicia Silverstone, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Paulo Costanzo

director: Gavin Grazer

89 minutes (12) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
Universal DVD Region 2 rental / retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Here's yet another one of those underrated comedy-adventures that pops up from nowhere, on DVD, and turns out to be an satisfactory weekend rental, despite the lack of critical fanfare accompanying its belated release.

A bunch of likeable eccentrics, garrulous misfits, and geek losers all hatch various ingenious or ingenuous plots to rob a small town bank on the same day. Some are in it for the money, others want revenge, or just to prove they can do it (if only to themselves). Ostensibly, the film stars Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, True Crime, Batman & Robin - in which she played a memorably feisty 'Batgirl', and 2006's hopeful summer-blockbuster Stormbreaker), and Woody Harrelson (Indecent Proposal, Natural Born Killers, The People Vs Larry Flint, Play It To The Bone), but it's the sidekicks, like the luckless worrier, Stu (Paulo Costanzo, Road Trip, The Tao Of Pong), and veteran Dungeons & Dragons' gamer Shmally (Rachael Leigh Cook, She's All That, Antitrust, Josie And The Pussycats, 29 Palms, The Big Empty), who's terrific fun as wannabe 'Xena' in one of the vividly amusing daydream sequences. Also stealing scenes left, right and centre is John Cleese, as a miserly and crooked businessman; part mischievous prankster, part malicious nutcase. Jeffrey Tambor has a neat cameo as a prospective employer.

Even if the longwinded story unwraps in non-linear flashbacks, cranking up the suspense without stepping into the quicksand of melodramatic tragedy, we can easily see from the beginning that nothing concocted by these amateur thieves will work out as they, or the home viewers, expects. Unanticipated, frequently calamitous, events conspire with blatantly predictable twists of fate to throw everything out of whack and deliver intriguingly fresh perspectives on many of the film's earlier, seemingly throwaway, scenes. Satirical black farce intrudes at the oddest and most inopportune moments with weirdly timely and/or ill-timed revelations about characters backgrounds and their motives.

Suffice to say, there's rarely a quiet or quirk-free moment in this energetic little circus of errors. It'd be a shame to miss it!
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