PACKED TOO TIGHT
Director: Tony Wash
Screenplay: Kevin Lockhart
REVIEWED BY JEREMIAH
Sometimes less is more.
This, an idea which unfortunately escapes High on the Hog, a film that not only says, "more is more", but also "there is only more". And in spite of whatever good intentions had by its narrative, the overwrought Grindhouse chuckler is ultimately let down by this credo (more on that later). But even so, there's still some fun to be had, some scuzzy pulpy goodness to be taken away from the experience, just so long as you're willing to navigate past it's largest problem.
With a potent strain of pot sweeping the City, DTA agents attempt to infiltrate a small town farming operation that has a strong leader and interesting family members.
I mean, you never decide to watch a film like this because of it's ability to stimulate you intellectually, so the plot works just fine for what Hog sets out to accomplish—namely, tickle and provoke with a blunt senses-shattering presentation and delivery. Expect copious amounts of violence, titillation, angst, juvenility, and marijuana as Sid Haig defends his kushy lifestyle from ill-intentioned agents stuck in a cowboy fantasy. Similar to Rob Zombie's Devil's Rejects (another film starring Sid Haig), the "good guys" often come across as being crazier than the "bad guys", painting the proceedings with a thick coat of moral ambiguity. And because everyone seems to have it out for everyone else, no one seems safe. It's a mixture of elements intended to keep the film unpredictable, and on edge, something I can absolutely get behind.
But what I can't (get behind) however, is how all of this is fed to us.
I'm sorry, but High on the Hog is so far out of control in the post editing department that any strengths had by the film, whether that'd be its bonkers story, or zany characters, or unabashed indulgence of ultra-violence, are unfortunately, strongly muted. And it's not so much how the film itself is cut; the cadence isn't the problem (even taking into account the rapid-fire pacing and frenzied shooting style, I was more than able to keep up), but rather, how the cuts themselves are presented.
I get that this is supposed to be a nod-and-wink to the film-damaged look of grindhouse cinema, but holy shit. Instead, Hog comes across more like a visual exercise in excessive grindhouse-homage masturbation. Every single cliche you can think of when you think "Grindhouse" is overly represented here. Cigarette burns, "missing footage" frame inserts, scratches, dirt, burns, rough cuts, pulsing colors etc. They are all applied, always on, playing at random, with seemingly no regard to what's happening underneath. It's as if someone dragged and dropped their favorite Grindhouse filter onto every segment of this film across it's entire timeline. And I can't understand why.
Attempts at distraction?
Whatever the reasoning behind it, there's no question that's it's only worked out to disservice the film. Awesome characters like Big Daddy and Agent Dick, crazy moments like whenever someone's mind goes full-tilt nuclear (represented with some FANTASTIC stop-go animation), and refreshingly mellow scenes such as those featuring Ellie Church as kush radio personality Mary Jane, are robbed of their impact and sapped of their energy.
Again, it's not a total disaster, but it's excessive enough—frustrating enough—that you can't help but feel let down by it all, and ultimately left wondering how things would have turned out had the phrase "less is more" been embraced by a particular aspect of its production.