Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Presented by Sasha Grey: Modus Operandi

Neither producer nor star, Sasha Grey is “presenting” Frankie Latina’s new retro 1970’s exploitation midnight movie. So, after who knows how many adult videos and a starring role in Soderbergh’s digital quickie The Girlfriend Experience, Grey is evidently the new Oprah. Hey, that’s fine, I’m just checking. However, she picked an odd first film to lend her imprimatur to with Latina’s Modus Operandi (trailer here), which kicks off a week of midnight screenings this Friday at the IFC Center.

Presented by Grey and co-starring Danny “Machete” Trejo, Mark “American Movie” Borchardt, and Mark “Animal House’s Neidermeyer” Metcalf, Operandi reviews ought to pretty much write themselves. Of course, like fellow Wisconsin indie filmmaker Borchardt’s Coven, Latina’s story is largely incomprehensible. Perhaps it is the “additional material” contributed by Borchardt.

The McGuffin, such as it is, involves two briefcases filled with compromising material lost by front-running presidential candidate Squire Parks. To recover them, the CIA director, naturally played by the always seriously bad Trejo, recruits Stanley Cashay, a once lethal assassin who spiraled into a debilitating depression after his wife’s murder. Once he pulls himself together, he will have to contend with agency turncoat Dallas Deacon. As he pursues his quarry, people get killed and women walk around naked.

There are a lot of video gags strewn throughout Operandi, including a phony vintage commercial for 70’s Hindi Policewoman-esque TV show, which begs the question will we get an Ayesha Ayesha movie next? Do not even ask what Metcalf’s character “Copper Gore” has to do with anything. A member of the Wisconsin mafia, one suspects he just showed up to support his more eccentric colleagues. As Deacon, Borchardt is pretty much the same as he ever was, but Randy Russell might actually be seen doing a spot of acting as our anti-hero Cashay. Again, Trejo brings serious cult cred to Operandi that it really does not deserve.

In fact, anyone expecting Machete like attitude in Operandi might be a bit disappointed. Sure there is plenty of cartoon violence and a fair amount of nudity, but with its grainy look, surreal imagery, and surprisingly slow pace, Operandi often feels more closely akin to experimental film than a tongue-in-cheek gore fest. As a result, it is hard to know what to make of it, but it is surely not for a mass audience.

Ultimately, Operandi is a strange exercise in exploitation love that should have been much funnier, or at least more energetic. Fans of Grey and Trejo (you know who you are) probably will not let that deter them from the midnight Friday (9/10) screening, which the “presenter” and co-star will attend in the flesh, so to speak. In every way an odd film, Operandi runs September 10-16 at the IFC Center.