A botched drug heist goes wrong filling a diner with a cacophony of gunshots; get used to this setting as Catch .44 opens with it, rewinds, fast-forwards, revisits and expands on the events from this location as the non-linear narrative unfolds in this paltry crime action film that proves that style alone is not enough. Taking his cue’s from Tarantino’s back catalogue writer director Aaron Harvey has tried, and ultimately failed, to create an intelligent action movie that tips it’s hat to westerns and crime dramas.
Tes (Maline Akerman), Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll), and Kara (Nikki Reed) all sit in the aforementioned diner spouting useless ‘intelligent’ dialogue that sets the tone for the rest of the movie where characters will pontificate, talk in anologies, and generally attempt to prove how witty they are by slipping into tiresome monologues at the drop of a hat. Quickly it becomes apparent they’re not sitting in this diner to discuss the benefits of faking pleasure during sex but that it’s actually a robbery, or something like it, which is when everything goes to hell. This is also when the movie cuts back to begin to fill in the story. Tes works at a strip club (presumably with the other two) serving drinks but she also happens to be an accomplished pick pocket, garnering her the attention of Mel (Bruce Willis) and thus beginning her career as a drug pusher. Of course it takes a while for the flitting backwards and forward narrative to fill you in on all that.
The central scene, at the diner, get’s longer with each retelling introducing more characters, some in the back story some relevant to the present, but none of which are particularly compelling or well played. The exception being some left field performances from Bruce Willis and Forrest Whittaker (showing up as Ronny one of Mel’s employees) who are both just a bit odd, not necessarily in a good way but still the most interesting thing about the movie – though Whittaker’s spanish accent was grating, even more so considering it was a pointless affectation. Another gripe, admittedly a small one, is that you can always tell when the actor/actress smoking onscreen doesn’t smoke in real life, they over exaggerate the movements to the detriment of believability – the obvious solution is to have the person not smoke since it is inconsequential to not only the plot, but also to their character, unfortunately it is a pointless hipster gesture that plays up the idea that smoking somehow makes you look cool.
Therein lies the overall observation towards Catch .44, it is playing up a whole series of posed and referential glossy images that it comes across as indifferent when it lacks any substance to back it up. The violence, self-indulgent script, non-linear narrative, and stylistic choices (like punchy colours, film dirt or catching the film gate) all blatantly attempt to mimic Tarantino, Catch .44 poses fatuously in the mirror but the reflection is not a flattering homage, more a throwaway copy. Unfortunately what these borrowed style elements serve to prove is that they alone cannot make a good movie, the story is murky and thin on the ground and even at a mere 90 minutes the film feels slow and whilst not that awful to watch you’d expect better considering the cast.