"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". Edmund Burkeís thought-provoking quote opens writer-director Ken Cosentinoís film.

Then we meet Walter (Mike Leszcynski), an aspiring comic book artist whoís become obsessed with his latest creation, a masked superhero called Crimson. His girlfriend Brook (Adah Hagen) is understandably annoyed by the fact that he spends all his time in his study either illustrating Crimsonís adventures or pumping iron in a bid to achieve a physique similar to his fictional iconís. But Walter is quick to remind her: heís working on his masterpiece so they can afford to get married and live in a big house. "You mean the world to me" he tells her, "I donít know what Iíd do if I ever lost you" Ö

Walterís day begins crappily with Brook nagging at him for doing his weights at 7 in the morning. It gets worse when he then goes to his favourite cafť for a blueberry muffin Ė check out Cosentino in a cameo as the clerk Harry Ė and walks in on it being robbed. Walterís attempt to save the day ends with him being pistol-whipped by the robber, and chastised by Harry for nearly getting them both killed with his wannabe hero antics.

Can Walterís day get any worse? Of course. His editor, cigar-chomping Rawtowski (Ron Harkins), has finally tired of waiting for the completion of his 5-years-in-the-preparation Crimson book. Brook dumps him. And heís about to have a run-in with hardened criminal Cael (Michael Schimmel) and his Irish-American family.

Cael, you see, is a member of the local Irish Mafia. Theyíre leaning on residents in the neighbourhood to sell up their properties so the mob can build a casino in their place. The most resistant tenant on their list just happens to be Walterís hot sister, Amanda (Lizzy Bruno). She wonít sign her parentsí old home over to Caelís thugs. Uh-oh.

Walter ends up taking a severe beating and wakes in hospital a couple of days later suffering from memory loss and an unexplained 80-cigarettes-a-day voice. For whatever reason, he now believes he IS Crimson. "Heís pretty fucked in the head," his doctor observes Ė also pointing out that Walter can no longer feel pain.

Meanwhile, Caelís psychotic brother Tommy (James Ventry) gets released from prison, thanks to his dadís ties with a local judge. He accompanies Cael to Amandaís house, determined to do whatever it takes to get her to sign over the deeds. The scene ends with blood on Walterís hands Ė and Tommy insane with vengeful rage.

Can Walter take on his hometownís Irish Mafia in the belief that heís his comic creation Crimson?

On paper, CRIMSON sounds like a shameless rip-off of both KICK ASS and SUPER. I mean, Christ, even the superhero in SUPER was called The Crimson Bolt: from reading this DVDís back cover alone, I was bracing myself for some serious no-budget plagiarism.

Well, I was right about the shoestring aesthetics. Shot on digital and relying heavily on both natural lighting and handheld camerawork, CRIMSON further demonstrates its impoverished credentials through some truly pitiful performances. Thankfully these are largely restricted to the bad guys (whose dialogue is stilted and phony, just to add insult to injury). Ventry and Schimmel belong in a Troma film, such is their unfettered over-acting.

But CRIMSON does have its own style. Itís darker and generally more serious in tone than the films that clearly influenced it. There is occasional humour, but itís ill-judged at almost every turn. The film works best when itís humour-free; the violence is at times gritty, while Leszcynskiís hero is troubled and aimless: a truly disturbed individual.

CRIMSON did hold my attention. Cosentinoís screenplay had occasionally decent ideas, and there are some endearing performances Ė most notably from Leszcynski and Bruno. The character of Tommy is too broadly overplayed but is at least sufficiently evil so as to keep the viewer watching, just to see what heís capable of doing next.

Thereís no real momentum achieved though, thanks to the aforementioned shortcomings. I know this is a low-budget affair and concessions should be made as a result, but there are times when whatís on the screen is unbelievably amateurish.

Bloody Earth Films have released CRIMSON onto region-free DVD in its uncut state. The transfer, which is 16x9 enhanced, is a fair one. If images arenít particularly sharp and colours donít exactly pop off the screen, thatís through no fault of the discís authoring: the film was shot on digital for peanuts.

English 2.0 audio is nice and clean throughout, with only very occasional dips in dialogue volume.

The disc opens with a static main menu page which makes no effort to distance itself from KICK ASS or SUPER. There is no scene-selection menu.

Extras begin with a revealing and highly watchable 28-minute Behind The Scenes featurette. Cosentino is a likeable, cheerful guy who has a good rapport with his cast and crew. The film took 17 months to make (including 10 months of pre-production) and is an obvious labour of love for the director.

We also get trailers for a few other Bloody Earth titles: BACTERIUM, COME AND GET ME, INTERPLANETARY, RED RIVER, ROT, SHOCK O RAMA and STASH.

CRIMSON did keep my attention, for bad reasons as well as good. Thereís a lot of shouting, bad acting and unconvincing physical violence. The plot is also clearly derivative of much better films. But the whole thing manages to be oddly endearing at the same time.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Bloody Earth Films
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review