CHIPS (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, Pervasive Language, some Violence and Drug Use

Directed by: Dax Shepard

Written by: Dax Shepard

(based on the TV series CHIPS by Rick Rosner)

Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Adam Brody, Rosa Salazar, Kristen Bell & Jessica McNamee

After both JUMP STREET films banked at the box office, Hollywood seemed to have found an untapped niche: hard R-rated comedy versions of old TV series. After all, Hollywood has been rebooting small shows for the big screen for decades…but they never decided to invigorate these big budget reboots with raunchy material and R-rated sensibilities. However, studios may want to rethink its strategy…because two R-rated comedy remakes of TV shows have hit this year and both have underperformed. Unless BAYWATCH is a total failure from beginning to end, I cannot imagine it being the lesser of 2017’s two TV remakes. By every conceivable measure, CHIPS is woefully lame.

When corrupt cops begin running amok in the California Highway Patrol (a.k.a. CHP), undercover FBI agent Frank Ponch (Michael Pena) is on the case. However, Ponch encounters immediate trouble in being paired with do-gooder rookie Jon Baker (Dax Shepard). Jon is woefully underqualified for his job and frequently reads a bit too deeply into things. Still, the mismatched partners begin to get to the bottom of their case and find a dysfunctional friendship developing between them. Basically, this is a generic buddy-cop comedy that frequently bores the viewer and suffers from abrupt tonal shifts. Also, there are just enough chuckles to build a deceptively funny trailer.

I haven’t seen all of Dax Shepard’s output, but he’s starred in a couple of comedies that I would consider to be woefully underrated (e.g. WITHOUT A PADDLE and LET’S GO TO PRISON). I hoped that I might feel the same way about CHIPS when I rented this film, because this thing has taken a severe beating from critics/audiences and is already being called one of the worst films of 2017 by certain websites. Unfortunately, CHIPS deserves every bit of negative feedback it’s received. The film is inept in delivering laughs or a compelling story. The jokes don’t rise above the levels of occasionally referencing ass-to-mouth (in jokes that seem to rip off CLERKS II from over a decade earlier) and attempt to poorly mimic other better comedies (mostly 21 JUMP STREET and 22 JUMP STREET). CHIPS isn’t very funny, other than a handful of chuckles that have already been revealed in the trailer.

To further complicate the film’s many problems, Shepard’s R-rated CHIPS reboot doesn’t treat itself as pure comedy the whole way through, because things get needlessly dark and the material is frequently played with a mind-bogglingly serious tone. The introduction of the Vincent D’Onofrio’s villain has a cop committing suicide in order to save his hostage boyfriend. Hilarious? This entire scene seems like cheap shock value to make us loathe the villain. However, the usually talented D’Onofrio is phoning it in, so I felt nothing other than sheer boredom when his baddie was on the screen. The finale also sees a showdown that’s mostly uneventful and seems to blatantly copy countless other buddy cop flicks (including a gore gag that’s a toned-down version of 21 JUMP STREET’s most hilariously twisted moment).

As the two mismatched cops, Dax Shepard and Michael Pena are dull. The two have next to no chemistry together in scenes and seem to be woodenly reciting jokes, which weren’t that funny to begin with. Shepard’s Jon has a lame running gag about being prone to vomiting from house smells and it’s just as stupid as it sounds. Also, Michael Pena’s Ponch is a sex addict, so I’m guessing you can imagine from whom most of the film’s graphic nudity and sex humor arrives. Pena’s character’s arc seems like a lesser version of Will Ferrell’s occasionally funny Chazz from BLADES OF GLORY. The rest of the cast members are completely forgettable, with Kristen Bell serving as Jon’s bitchy wife, Rosa Salazar being a half-hearted love interest, and Maya Rudolph and David Koechner popping in for all-too-brief cameos.

CHIPS is a crappy comedy and an even worse buddy-cop mystery. It speaks volumes that half of this film is dedicated to a solving clue that turns out to be a cheap joke. The tone frequently gets too dark and straight-faced for its own good, while the comedy aspect feels dusty and poorly imitates better jokes from far better movies. There are a couple of well-directed motorcycle chases and two minutes worth of chuckles. However, CHIPS remains a woefully unfunny, boring, and audience-insulting piece of non-entertainment.

Grade: D-

URGE (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violent and Sexual Behavior, Drug Use, and Language throughout

Directed by: Aaron Kaufman

Written by: Jerry Stahl

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Ashley Greene, Justin Chatwin, Alexis Knapp, Danny Masterson, Kea Ho & Bar Paly

The trailer for URGE sold it as a cross between THE CRAZIES and LORD OF THE FLIES with drugs. I was sold, even if reviews were terrible and Pierce Brosnan was clearly showing up because he needed some quick cash. Still, I sought out URGE and instantly regretted it by the time the end credits began to roll. Much like a drug, this film lures you in with false promises and then crushes your hopes into a fine dust. URGE has cool ideas and a few redeeming qualities, but it’s mostly hot garbage that should be avoided in favor of better crazy thrillers.

A group of friends head out for a relaxing weekend on a tropical island paradise. They have all sorts of fun activities planned, including booze, boobs, and drugs. After stopping by a strange nightclub, rational member of the group Jason (Justin Chatwin) is given a suitcase full of glowing vials by a strange intellectual simply known as The Man (Pierce Brosnan). These vials contain a drug, called “urge,” that’s all the rage on the island. Urge guarantees a high to end all highs, but it comes with one big rule: You can only use it once…ever. Being a bunch of idiots, the group decides to break the drug’s single rule and bad things happen. As their inhibitions slip away, their humanity gives way to a darker side.

URGE has a pretty awesome premise. It’s THE CRAZIES with drugs and that sounds cool. The main idea was interesting to the point where I was excited to watch this film. The story has a handful of twisted set pieces that stick out as the best moments in the whole damn film. There’s one person eating an entire cake in an orgasmic way that had me laughing my ass off. There’s a memorable moment of weight-lifting gone horribly wrong, as well as other crazy bits of over-the-top violence. These are entertaining scenes in an otherwise disappointingly dull film.

With the good, comes a whole lot of bad. URGE’s characters are bland as bland can be. The darker moments are cool for their pure spectacle, but these bits don’t leave much of an impact because the characters are paper-thin. Justin Chatwin (THE INVISIBLE, WAR OF THE WORLDS) plays a protagonist that we’re supposed to root for simply because he isn’t an unlikable douchebag. Danny Masterson plays an insufferably snobby rich asshole, while Ashley Greene looks bored as his perpetually annoyed secretary/crush. Meanwhile, the rest of the main characters include: a British jock who’s obsessed with his abs, that British jock’s diet-happy girlfriend, a nerdy outcast stereotype, and a somewhat sensible gal who begins to realize that urge is dangerous.

The only capable actor here is Pierce Brosnan as the scenery-chewing Man and his hammy bits consist of about ten minutes of screen time. While Brosnan is on the screen, he somehow makes this film entertaining in a really stupid way and this includes the story’s inexplicably baffling stray into supernatural territory. The film’s script progressively gets more ridiculous as it moves into a final third that’s mind-boggling in the worst ways imaginable. There was an attempt to throw deeper meanings into the mix and these bits come off as laughably inept, especially with a two-minute end credit sequence that belongs in a completely different movie.

URGE’s visuals look slick for the most part, but this film tries too hard to be stylish and edgy. The latter comes from opening credits that feature close-ups of two rubber fetish suits for no damn reason other than to push the envelope. The film has annoyingly sped-up transitions and unnecessary close-ups during its first act that give way to the laughably bad drug trip sequences. Urge is a drug that gives its user: sex-filled montages, psychedelic colors, and (later on) split-second images of scantily clad evil angels. This is all as laughably bad as it sounds. There are also spots of CGI blood that look godawful. Could the budget really not afford “expensive” fake blood, so they just added these fake-looking splatter effects in post?

URGE has slick visuals and a few cool moments. These redeeming factors only marginally counteract the film’s tonally muddled script, stupid plot twists, pretentious attempts at deeper meanings (brace yourself for Biblical discussions), and thoroughly unlikable characters. It’s also worth noting that the titular drug doesn’t seem all that special. The characters seem amazed that a drug would make you want to have sex in the middle of a rave party, but isn’t that the exact function of ecstasy too? Also, urge looks like a small glow stick that you snort up your nose. In short, URGE is not worth watching. Cool premise, terrible execution.

Grade: D+

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