It’s mighty hot in Baker, a dusty little town just outside of Las Vegas. We know that because the announcer on the radio keeps talking about extreme heat warnings and temperatures reaching as high as 120 degrees. Good thing, too, because otherwise we might not know how hot it really is. (Of course, there’s always the title of the movie.)
But even in the sweltering heat the bad guys all wear suit jackets. True, they may have forgotten how hot it is in the desert. I mean, they did pull a dime for trying to rob a Vegas casino dressed as Sinatra and members of the Rat Pack. (Didn’t they see the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven with Frankie, Dino, Joey Bishop and other Rat Packers playing a gang of thieves plotting to rob Vegas casinos?) Those outfits make the bad guys look cool and all but they must be uncomfortably warm.
The local sheriff (Lennie James), he should know better. And yet he wears a T-shirt under a long-sleeved shirt, a suit jacket and a hat! That layered look may be fine for what passes for winter in Nevada but in 120 degree heat? He even drinks hot coffee. (I dunno about you but I start to perspire after drinking hot coffee in the summer. (And the temperature in these parts doesn’t get anywhere near 120 degrees.)
And here’s the thing. In spite of the heat, nobody sweats. Not even the young girl behind the counter of the local cafe who is dressed for the heat in a tank top and short shorts. (I guess she listens to the radio more carefully than the guys do.)
About that sheriff ….. seems he has amnesia and can’t remember anything about his past life. (He has adopted the name Bishop – any Rat Pack references are up to you.) Imagine his surprise when his friend the doc (Alfred Molina) tells him he was involved in the casino heist, got away with the money and the bad guys are looking for him. Worse, uh, “Bishop” buried the loot before he got amnesia and now he can’t remember where he hid it. Oops!
Meaningful glances substitute for dialogue. That’s probably just as well when actors are forced to say things like “The Apaches say that where there is thunder there is bad medicine …..” and “There are two kinds of people in this town, the dead and the dying ….. I wonder, which are we?”
“I really wanted the vibe of a western,” SWELTER writer/director Keith Parmer tells a website called “Manly Movie”. We have some great sequences; classic gunfights, barroom brawls, etc. but it was important they stay within the framework of the story.” True, Mr. Parmer has a shoot-out on the main street of town between the bad guys and the good guy although he admits that for this most American of cinematic art forms the main roles are filled by: British-born actors (Mr. James, Mr. Molina); an Australian (Grant Bowler plays the chief villain); and a lady from South America (love interest Catalina Sandino Moreno was born in Bogota, Columbia). And then there is the Muscles from Brussels. That’s right, I’m speaking of Belgian born Jean-Claude Van Damme. I seem to recall that after he had basked in the glory of 2008’s JCVD, a film in which he played a version of himself and was allowed to be vulnerable and all too human and take potshots at some of the direct to video quickies into which his career has devolved (no less an authority than TIME magazine said he deserved an Oscar for his acting in this film) Mr, Van Damme said he would no longer star in cheaply made “action hero” flicks. Martin Scorsese may not have called but Sylvester Stallone wanted him for a villain role (and a return to the big screen JC had once dominated) in 2012’s Expendables 2. Mr. Van Damme also played a villain in 2003’s dismal direct-to-video Enemies Closer. Although his mug is prominently displayed on most of the promotional material for Swelter, the former star of such big screen epics as Bloodsport, Kickboxer and Time Cop has a relatively small role (compared to the rest of the bad guys) and doesn’t deliver a single high-flying kick. Judging from this 2014 release, the 54 year old star may be trying to establish himself as a character actor (before he has a groin injury.
Mr. Parmer also tells the Manly Movie website (quote) “The movie is an homage to Sergio Leone and other Spaghetti westerns …. ” Maybe so but I couldn’t help feeling Mr. Parmer may have seen Reservoir Dogs on DVD and/or on late night cable TV.
No doubt about it. As a film-maker Mr. Parmer has a lot of style but (in this pic, at least) he overdoses on attitude.