DirectorAngelica De Alba, Paul Ragsdale
Release Date(s)2016 (August 1, 2018)
Studio(s)A & P Productions/Slasher // Video (Olive Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C
Streets of Vengeance centers on Mila (Delawna McKinney), an adult-film actress who is preparing to abandon the industry. Mila is kidnapped by The Sword, a cult whose members claim that immoral women provoke men to commit sex crimes and take it upon themselves to murder any woman they regard as immoral. Mila escapes and teams up with a sympathetic male friend, Brian (Anthony Iava To’omata) and a posse of tough-as-nails women to destroy The Sword and avenge the deaths of their friends.
Made in 2016 but in the lurid style of 1980’s exploitation flicks, Streets of Vengeance, directed by Paul Ragsdale, contains lots of gratuitous nudity, with shots of bare-breasted women undulating for no reason other than to titillate. The dialogue is awkward in its attempt to sound hip and capture the parlance of women well acquainted with the reality of making a living in a socially spurned livelihood. Frequent expletives are tossed in to show that these avengers are no-nonsense babes.
There is considerable graphic violence, but it is staged amateurishly, with gallons of blood spurting from slashed throats, sharp objects impaling victims, and faces bashed in with baseball bats. One scene, involving the castration of one of the male captives, is completely over the top. With little build-up to these murders, there is little suspense, and without suspense there is no tension. The murders occur as quick shocks rather than well crafted set pieces that are the culmination of a gradual series of intense moments.
Director Ragsdale might have taken a look at any Hitchcock film to see how to construct a murder scene. And because characterization is an afterthought, the victims never register as real people, just fodder to be dispatched every few minutes.
The violence is interspersed with long, drawn-out scenes of Mila walking alone as she thoughtfully stares off into sunsets while flashing back to how she was lured into the porn industry. Not only do these scenes contrast with the tone of the movie, they slow the pace to a standstill. Viewers of this kind of film likely don’t crave introspective moments.
Ms. McKinney is not your typical beauty, though she’s made up to be striking. Her acting consists of stiff line readings, odd cadences, strange pauses and eccentric emphasis. The weird delivery adds to the overall bizarreness of the movie.
Mr. To’omata’s performance is more believable, characterized by conversational dialogue and a puppy-dog look. Brian is in love with Mila, a woman who’s clearly out of his league, yet he’s willing to die for her. The character reminded me of Quasimodo, the hunchback infatuated with the dancing girl Esmerelda. The women, including Mila, act as if this evil organization is a pushover, which it is not. Brian often seems lost in the gory goings-on, but does become more involved later in the movie.
Despite being an exploitation film, Streets of Vengeance does contain worthwhile themes and poses the question: Do adult sex industry workers provoke men to sex crimes? Once the question is raised, however, the movie takes off into its own dizzying whirlwind of sexploitation.
Some viewers will be annoyed by an extended introduction to the film by a bikini-clad young lady who cheerily tosses a beach ball around and makes it sound as if we’re about to watch a Beach Party movie with Frankie and Annette. Later, she breaks into the movie just before a critical point to show us a trailer for another exploitation film, Slashlorette Party. This interruption might have been incorporated to simulate a commercial break in a late-night viewing of the movie. The gimmick falls flat.
The sound in this Blu-ray release is uneven, with many of the dialogue scenes sounding echo-y. The driving electronic score often does more to create tension than the visuals. Color filters are often used to give a scene an especially garish look, and overall color tends to emphasize very red lipstick on the women and dark rivulets and pools of stage blood.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release include audio commentary with writer/director Paul Ragsdale, producer Angelica De Alba and cinematographer Dan Zampa; making-of featurette; cast and crew interviews; outtakes; bloopers; photo galleries; music videos; Slashlorette Party trailer; and Tough Guys trailer.
- Dennis Seuling