CRIMEWAVE (director/writer: Sam Raimi; screenwriters: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen; cinematographer: Robert Primes; editors: Kathie Weaver/Michael Kelly; music: Arlon Ober; cast: Louise Lasser (Helene Trend), Brion James (Arthur Coddish), Paul L. Smith (Faron Crush), Bruce Campbell (Renaldo 'The Heel'), Reed Birney (Vic Ajax), Sheree J. Wilson (Nancy), Edward R. Pressman (Ernest Trend), Richard Bright (Officer Brennan), Hamid Dana (Donald Odegard), Emil Sitka (Colonel Rodgers); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Robert Tapert; Charter (Columbia Pictures); 1985)

"A strange but not funny spoof of hitmen that disappoints because the comedy is too simplistic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A campy cartoonish cult classic comedy directed by Sam Raimi ("The Evil Dead"/"Darkman"/"A Simple Plan"). Co-writers Raimi and the Coen Brothers make it into a strange but not funny spoof of hitmen that disappoints because the comedy is too simplistic and there's no dramatic impact. The three talented artists were miffed by studio interference
Embassy Pictures) and disowned the film.

In Detroit, Victor Ajax (Reed Birney) is set to be executed in the electric chair for a crime he didn't do. The innocent security guard Ajax was framed, and has one hope for a last minute pardon--that a car with nuns speeding toward the prison gets there in time. While waiting on Death Row for the midnight execution, Ajax tells the guards his story. Ajax worked as a guard for a security business which had two partners, one who planned to sell the premises to be turned into a night club and the other who will be eliminated by hitmen hired by the partner. The hitmen are psychopath pest exterminators, Faron Crush (Paul L. Smith) and Arthur Coddish (Brion James), who electrocute the unfortunate partner (Hamid Dana) in his office one night. They then go after the executive who ordered the hit (Edward R. Pressman) and his obnoxious wife (Louise Lasser), who witnessed the killing of hubby's partner. The exterminators then frame the nervous pipsqueak Ajax for the murders.

There are accomplished slapstick cartoonish set pieces from the 1940s that would make Tex Avery and The Three Stooges proud, plenty of black humor, hints of film noir and there's lots of energy. It has a funny turn from Sheree J. Wilson as the girlfriend of Bruce Campbell, the smarmy guy who goes by the nickname The Heel.  The problem is that I expected more from the talented collaborators.

REVIEWED ON 2/6/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"