Wrapping up our mini-season of movies starring people much better known for TV, and starting a season of wrestling based movies, comes “Slammed”. And, even though this isn’t from Full Moon, it does have one of their most regular contributors in C Courtney Joyner, who as well as writing this has credits for the ISCFC-covered “Puppet Master 3”, “Puppet Master: The Legacy” and “Lurking Fear”.
Despite the 2004 release date, “Slammed” was actually made in 2001, right at the end of the humungous popularity surge pro wrestling had in the late 90s. So, to leave it that long, by which time wrestling was no longer the pop culture phenomenon it had been, it must have been really bad, right? Well, not really! It’s a surprisingly mellow comedy about finding love, growing up and facing your fears, with a great mix of realistic and cartoony characters. That’s not to say it doesn’t have problems, but more on them later.
Jeff and Derek are busboys at a sports bar, which hosts a thriving underground wrestling league in its back room. Derek is in love with Gina, one of the servers / “buckle girls”; and Jeff is in love with Shane, whose boyfried Rick is an up-and-coming “heel” wrestler (baddie, basically) who treats her awfully. Jeff wants to be a pro wrestler and Derek is his manager, so when there’s an extremely convenient competition to win a week’s free tuition from The Slammer (the champion of Back Bar Wrestling), they make sure they win.
Best not to overload you with too many more names. The film is packed with people you’ll recognise, though – Jeff and Derek are Justin Whalin and Zachery Ty Bryan, best known from “Lois & Clark” and “Home Improvement” respectively; The Slammer is Sasha Mitchell, from “Step By Step”; and Gina is Lake Bell, from “Childrens Hospital” and now a director in her own right. Plus, there are people from “Seinfeld”, “That 70s Show” and a fair few real pro wrestlers too.
This film is difficult to track down. The only DVD I could find was German, and I’m going to choose to believe that the rotten treatment of women is the reason it’s never been given a proper release. The camera focuses on boobs, a LOT, and Lake Bell is the only woman in the movie who doesn’t either take her top off or have it soaked as part of a wet t-shirt contest; still, she does jiggle in her bra on top of a washing machine for a few minutes. The women are either stupid and easily manipulated or clumsy and are barely characters, just plot devices or adornment for the men. That there’s one successful, competent woman introduced with ten minutes to go does not excuse them being treated as nothing but sex objects for the first 90%; their feelings are so irrelevant that the film leaves in their shocked unhappy faces when they get the buckets of water thrown at them for the wet t-shirt contest.
Because it’s important to not just demean women, gay people get it too. The Slammer is seen doing ballet, and despite it being stupidly obvious that he’s just doing it to keep limber, Jeff and Derek immediately assume he’s gay, and treat it like the worst news possible. He demonstrates some moves to them that have crotch / face closeness, and they act like he’s a hair’s breadth from raping them. You could not ask for a more obvious example of gay panic, and for a film from the last decade, it’s absolutely disgusting that it was still being used for comedy. As the film is 100 minutes long, there’s a good argument to be made that cutting that out completely would have improved both the attitude and length.
All the main storylines are wrapped up by about 1:10, so the last half hour is the build up and resolution to the big fight between Jeff and Rick – on the line, Jeff’s uncle’s scrap yard, as it owes taxes and Rick’s dad is a scumbag property developer. I have been very negative towards some of this film, with good reason, but the really annoying thing is there’s a heck of a lot to like. Sasha Mitchell, looking ripped from all the martial arts movies he was doing at the time, has a genius for comedy, the timing and delivery of a line, and he’s far and away the best thing about this film. Despite this probably being her first on screen appearance, Lake Bell is fantastic, and it’s only a surprise it took so long for her career to really take off. John O’Hurley (better known as J Peterman from “Seinfeld”) has one of the all-time great voices and is funny too, plus “Tiny” Lister, a former pro wrestler himself, has a great bit-part as the cook at the bar.
So, it’s a hugely frustrating film, and the only comfort I take is knowing that you’re unlikely to just happen upon a copy. It also seems to have killed the career of both director Brian Thomas Jones and writer Joyner (neither worked again after 2004), and Mitchell’s career seems to have ended in 2005, so I wonder if there’s an interesting story behind it? If you do want to watch it, and there’s a lot to enjoy, just be sure to have a conversation with any impressionable co-viewers about how rotten some of the attitudes are.
Rating: thumbs down