"Pass the Ammo" (citywide)--is a grotesque, cartoonish satire on big time TV religious programs. The movie takes some well-earned swipes at the commercialism of fundamentalism, the hypocrisy of some of society's self-appointed moral guardians and the staggering credulity of the well-meaning faithful who keep the TV preachers swimming in dough. And though, overall, the film is very inconsistent, its best moments have a crazy, liberating energy that keeps you wishing it were better.
The writers, Joel and Neil Cohen, have taken some fitfully clever burlesques of televangelists and grafted onto them a Southern-style "Dog Day Afternoon" situation. Four hapless robbers are trapped during a revenge holdup of the Rev. Ray Roberts' televised "Temple of Bethlehem" services. They take the Rev. Ray (Tim Curry), his bimbo-in-excelsis wife Darla (Annie Potts), the entire cast, congregation and technical crew hostage while bargaining with the salty, decent Cajun sheriff (Leland Crooke) outside.
The gang is a mismatched bunch: young lovers Jesse and Claire (Bill Paxton and Linda Kozlowski) and Claire's jailbird brothers, Big Joe and Arnold (Dennis Burkley and Glenn Withrow).
The Cohens, Northerners both, have some good ideas. But their structure is too obvious and they may be writing from too far outside their subject.
But if the script is flawed, the director, David Beaird, gives it a lunatic sense of sizzle and style. Beaird is a talented young film maker, who can make dubious material work.
"Pass the Ammo," like Beaird's mini-screwball comedy, "My Chauffeur," is more entertaining than it should have been. It may fall apart afterward when you think it over, but while you're watching, you can be seduced by the brightness and pace, the sharp angles, the wittily garish camera work of Mark Irwin and by the unbuttoned, full-throttle way the actors tear into their parts.
Ironically, both Curry's father and grandfather were Methodist ministers. With his magnificent, blood-chilling screamer's voice, Curry sends up the Rev. Ray in grand style. He's playing a Jim Bakker type carried one step further--a slick wedge of show biz expertise rammed into the heart of religious feeling: charismatic, pretty boy, glassy good looks, a Las Vegas-beatific smile and a voice that throbs with sincerity. Like all satires, "Pass the Ammo" (MPAA-rated R, for language, sex and nudity) tries to attack the wicked and to level the falsely mighty. And, when it occasionally succeeds, it shows a moral edge lacking in the Rev. Ray and his money-changing brethren. If the movie doesn't deserve a Hallelujah Chorus, at least its attacks on lies and greed merit a few zesty "amens."
'PASS THE AMMO'
A Vista Organization presentation. Producers Herb Jaffe, Mort Engelberg. Director David Beaird. Script Neil Cohen, Joel Cohen. Camera Mark Irwin. Production design Dean Tschetter. Editor Bill Yahraus. Music Carter Burwell. With Bill Paxton, Linda Kozlowski, Tim Curry, Annie Pots, Anthony Geary, Leland Crooke.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
MPAA rating: R (under 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian).