I should’ve known better, but Henry Sheehan’s review on FilmWeek convinced me that maybe Bitch Slap was worth a look. Co-written and produced by Rick Jacobson and Eric Gruendemann of TV’s Xena: Warrior Princess fame, it wants to be a throwback to the Russ Meyer-type sexploitation flicks of a gentler era. It’s a mash up of biker chick, chick in prison and other grindhouse genres with lots of slow motion cleavage, asses in short skirts, girls kissing and girls fighting. In principle, I’m ok with that. In the right hands, any one of those fetishes could be a solid foundation for 90 minutes of shallow entertainment, but Bitch Slap isn’t clever enough to be homage or funny enough to be parody. It’s just boring.

It starts out with a pretty but sooty brunette kneeling amid a pile of burning wreckage in the desert beseeching the heavens for an answer to how it all ended up like this. The film then flashes back and forth to show us how three women found themselves in the desert looking for $200 million in diamonds and how the plan went to hell.

Delivered with tongue in cheek, there’s a gleeful stupidity to Bitch Slap that threatens to entertain at times, but it never goes far enough. This is a movie that is desperate for Bruce Campbell to show up and start chewing scenery. Instead we have three women (Julia Voth, Erin Cummings and America Olivo) who weren’t hired for their acting, but aren’t especially convincing ass-kickers either. One or the other would’ve made for a better movie. Zoe Bell (Death Proof) was the stunt coordinator and she would’ve been preferable in any of the roles.

Saddled with a silly story, charmless performances and zinger dialogue as flat as the pages it was scribbled on, Bitch Slap tries to cover its tracks with just about every cinematic trick in the book. With lots of flashy editing, fractured chronology, split screen and 300-style fight scenes – all of it slathered with an annoying guitar-heavy soundtrack – the movie merely calls more attention to its own stupidity.

The idea isn’t a bad one. There is room in this world for some good old-fashioned cinematic exploitation, but Bitch Slap never strikes the right balance. The filmmakers are never fully enough committed to their roots to pull it off convincingly. They want you to know they’re really smarter than their material even as they wallow in it. It turns out they really aren’t and the result is a total misfire.

Bitch Slap. USA 2010. Directed by Rick Jacobson. Written by Rick Jacobson and Eric Gruendemann. Cinematography by Stuart Asbjornsen. Music score by John Graham. Edited by Joe McFadden and Corey Yaktus. Starring Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivio, Michael Hurst, Ron Melendez, Minae Noji, Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless. 1 hour 44 minutes. MPAA rated R for brutal violence, strong sexual content and language throughout, and brief drug use. 2 stars (out of 5)

6 Responses to “Review: Bitch Slap (2010) **”

  1. Yep, this is precisely what I figured. A “silly story,” “charmless performances” and “zinger dialogue” certainly isn’t a winning combination in my book. I’ll keep my distance.
    You are really on a roll with the reviews. Nice.

  2. I like having more reviews from you, and for more types of films. This one isn’t one I’d seek out, but at the same time, there’s always that little wondering voice in my head that’s slightly suspicious I’m being a pretentious cinematic isolationist and missing out on some good films from less auspicious quarters. Good to know that in this case, at least, I’m probably not missing out on a hidden gem.

  3. I’m going to try and review everything I see in 2010, even if it’s just a less-than 400 word “mini-review. ”

    I’m not against a movie like this in principle. If it had been sexier, funnier, crazier or more clever…any one of the four, I might have enjoyed it. Based on the trailer, it didn’t seem so, but a snobby critic liked it so I thought it might be worth a look.

    To be fair, there was a woman a few rows behind me (I suspect she was an old Xena fan) who seemed to enjoy the hell out of it. She’d cackle every time the film would jump around “4 months ago”, “6 minutes earlier” etc. which it did a LOT.

  4. Craig, you should give Bitch Slap an extra star just for inspiring you to write such an entertaining review!

    To quote you, “In principle, I’m ok with that.”

  5. Pierre: I did!

  6. Actually, that’s not true, but it did get an extra half-star for a ridiculous yet entertaining water fight between the 3 stars. Had the rest of the film been that unrepentantly crass, I might have enjoyed it more.

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