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Featured DVD Review: Wrong Turn at Tahoe

January 27th, 2010

Wrong Turn at Tahoe - Buy from Amazon

Wrong Turn at Tahoe is a direct-to-DVD organized crime movie starring Harvey Keitel, Miguel Ferrer... and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Oh boy. After winning an Oscar for Jerry Maguire and shining in As Good as it Gets, Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s career has been filled with miss after miss and for a while now his films have had a better chance at being dumped direct-to-DVD than being a hit with critics and / or moviegoers. This movie wasn't able to end the box office slump, but can it at least be better than Way of War, which I reviewed previously? Oh please let it be better than Way of War.

Gooding stars as Joshua, a collector for a small time organized crime boss, Vincent, played by Miguel Ferrer. One day he and his partner get word that a new drug dealer, Frankie Tahoe wants him dead. Vincent and Joshua take care of him first, but that brings them to the attention of Nino, who demands Vincent pay him for the lost profit Frankie would have made selling drugs for Nino, or Nino's men will beat the crap out of Vincent. Vincent is not the kind to back down under any circumstances, and when Nino goes after his wife, he decides it's war.

The other thread running through this film is the relationship between Joshua and Vincent. While Joshua works for Vincent, his loyalty to him runs a whole lot deeper than that, as Vincent saved Joshua's life when he was just ten or eleven years old when Joshua's father got into debt and collectors came to get what he owed. Now Joshua wants to retire and this desire has something to do with Vincent's recent instability. (You get the impressive that he's become a lot more trigger-happy lately. Not just that he has a temper, but that he's becoming paranoid.)

Organized crime is a sub-genre that is visited frequently by filmmakers. Adding the wrinkle of two warring bosses, or an underling trying to get out of the business hardly makes the movie any more unique. The overwhelming sense of familiarity is the movie's biggest weakness and nothing really stands out as fresh. There are a few twists in the script by first time screenwriter, Eddie Nickerson, and at least he does create compelling characters and relationships that go beyond the usual violent crime story. Franck Khalfoun, director of P2, handles the action scenes well enough that they can be seen as a solid selling point, but what really stands out is the acting. I never got the impression that the three leads were treating this movie as merely a paycheck to them. Overall, the movie isn't great, but it works better than expected and for fans of the genre, it is worth checking out.

On a side note, I've never heard anyone tell the frog and the scorpion story in real life. I have, on the other hand, heard it told four or five times in movies. It's a minor point of the movie, but just another part that seems borrowed.

The only extra on the DVD is a 12-minute making-of featurette that combines talking heads, clips from the movie, and behind-the-scenes footage. As a special feature, it is well done and worth checking out. As the only special feature, it is disappointing. Although since this movie is a direct-to-DVD release, it is not unexpected.

The Verdict

I don't think a lot of people are going to consider Wrong Turn at Tahoe a great movie, but it works better than you would expect going in. It does have some flaws, however, and the DVD is nearly devoid of extras. Its value is limited to a rental.

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