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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Junior

JUNIOR (1985). Directed by Jim Hanley. Starring Suzanne DeLaurentiis, Linda Singer, and Jeremy Ratchford.

Not to be confused with the Ivan Reitman/Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy of the same title, this Junior is a warped little thriller set in the deepwoods South...made by Canadian filmmakers. Our story begins as two prostitutes, the tough, no-nonsense K.C. (Suzanne DeLaurentiis) and the semi-ditzy Jo (Linda Singer), are released from prison, and are almost immediately attacked by their former pimp. Subduing him by shoving his crucifix pendant up his nose (a possible homage to Chinatown?), they escape in his car, discovering in it a small fortune in cash and a shotgun. They decide to use this windfall to start a new life, driving down the country until they find a suitable opportunity in a derelict marina. Yep, they're going straight...using a pimp's stolen money. They buy the run-down establishment and set to work rebuilding it, much to the dismay of a group of local rowdies who had been using it as their own hang-out. Making matters worse, one of the members of this gang is the sheriff (Ken Roberts), who (true to the cliche) don't take kindly to strangers in his town. However, the most troublesome rowdy is the titular "Junior" (Jeremy Ratchford), a hulking, mentally challenged brute with a vicious temper.
Junior begins a systematic campaign to get rid of the outsiders, following a repetitive pattern: Junior commits some act of harassment; K.C. and Jo fight him off; Junior can't believe that two women could get the better of him (no matter how many times it happens); Junior goes home and cries to his unspeaking mother (played by an uncredited performer who appears to be a man in drag--in fact, I think it's the same actor who played the pimp in the beginning). Of course, Junior's actions escalate with each failure, moving from cruel pranks to horrific violence, until a final showdown is inevitable.
Junior is frequently as nasty and mean-spirited as its title character, but is somewhat salvaged by the appealing, resourceful heroines. K.C. and Jo never back down from their opponents, and continually find creative ways of outfighting them. Movie buff Jo draws on her knowledge of vintage action flicks, taking a page from Richard Widmark's The Frogmen to foil an underwater attack. In one memorable scene, K.C. fashions an impromptu Molotov cocktail in a manner that combines female empowerment with gratuitous nudity...a mixed message that typifies the movie as a while.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
This movie is perhaps the textbook example of a "Leaving It Off the Resume" movie: An early, embarrassing effort by a familiar face who would undoubtedly like it to be forgotten. In this case, that familiar face is Jeremy Ratchford, who went on from this humble beginning to a prominent supporting part in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and his current co-starring role in the TV series Cold Case. The young, inexperienced Ratchford shows little promise of the talent and subtlety he currently displays; instead, he hams it up horribly with his wide-eyed, leering characterization. Congratulations, Jeremy, on coming so far from this inauspicious debut.



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