Pawn Shop Chronicles: America’s Slimy Underbelly


This is a screen capture from the film Dark Harbor, a tiny flick seen by no one but the most rabid of Alan Rickman fans (guilty) and Norman Reedus fans. That’s Norman snogging Alan (quite thoroughly, I might add); I can count on one hand the number of women that have gotten to do this (on screen) with either man.

This was the first time I had seen Norman in action. He’s since become more recognizable for such franchises as The Boondock Saints and “The Walking Dead,” where he’s my absolute favorite character:

He's got a hog, a crossbow, and a poncho.  Honestly, how much more man do you need?

He’s got a hog, a crossbow, and a poncho. Honestly, how much more man do you need?

He’s a fun interviewee too, being an equal opportunity flirter with both sexes.  DELICIOUS.

Awww, someone made him a Daryl Hello Kitty card

Awww, someone made him a Daryl Hello Kitty card

Not unlike his lover Alan, he’s had tiny roles in a lot of little films (I’m assuming; I’m not yet a rabid Norm fan), and only a few big breakouts; for instance, I started to watch Pandorum for his sake, a mediocre sci-fi horror film, until he died literally five minutes after appearing on screen. Well, BALLS.  I’ve sat through a lot of mediocre movies just for a fleeting glimpse of my favorite actors. I suppose it would be easier to fall for more mainstream leading men like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, except eww.

I mention him to mention this. I was minding my own business watching TV when I saw a DirecTV ad for a new movie, Pawn Shop Chronicles, “starring” some other people and Norman Reedus.  Well, I perked right up and ordered that puppy straightaway.  Let’s just say I would have been happier giving Pandorum another go. Spoilers certainly to follow.

This is a blatant attempt to copy Pulp Fiction, a movie I’m sorry to say didn’t impress me nearly as much as everyone else. It’s a copy in that it’s three mini movies all loosely tied together by the pawn shop that all kind of collide at the end–but not in a “cool, look how they all fit together” way, more of a “big hot mess, what did I just watch” way.

The first is about a group of tweaked out redneck meth heads preparing to rob their dealer, except one of them (Lukas Haas) accidentally pawns their rifle for gas money. LULZ.  I don’t know any meth heads personally, but the way these guys talk is like Looney Toons spoofing a “Breaking Bad” episode…in a frenetic, unrealistic, slapsticky Quentin Tarantino style.

They even try to recreate the “royale with cheese” dialogue in the car, except it’s a pointless and idiotic debate over why they’re supposed to hate blacks and Jews (neither one rightly knows).

After way too long they finally get to the dealer, and, guess who it is? My boy Norm. I think.

I'd recognize that...bicep...anywhere? Actually that's definitely his tat on his back, though I didn't notice it in the movie

I’d recognize that…bicep…anywhere? Actually that’s definitely his tat on his back, though I didn’t notice it in the movie

After a very brief showdown, shots are fired and the whole place (being a meth lab) goes up. Thank you, Mr. Reedus, that’s a wrap.  BALLS.

Yet I kept watching, I suppose in the dim hope for a flashback or any other reason he might reappear. No such luck, and I had to sit through the second story, which still has me wanting to bleach my brain.

Matt Dillon is passing through town with his new wife heading for their honeymoon when he stops at the pawn shop for some cash. He notices his first wife’s wedding ring in the case (he believed her dead).  He beats up the trail of previous owners until arriving at a farmhouse, where he finds her photo, along with dozens of other women’s, stuck to the fridge.

In the living room he finds a guy beating off to a homemade sex tape. It’s Elijah Wood.  I DID NOT NEED TO SEE FRODO BAGGINS FAPPING, KTHX.

But it gets so much worse. Matt knocks out Elijah’s teeth with a hammer and is going to kill him, when he confesses his wife is still alive. Long story short, he’s got a whole herd of women in the barn he keeps in dog crates, naked and beaten down until they’re mindless sex cattle.

I can understand not wanting to get typecast as a gay Hobbit the rest of your life, but this seems a little extreme. (I know he also played a creepy killer in Sin City, but that movie gave me a headache and put me to sleep.)

Matt goes back and kills Elijah, then releases the women, taking his wife with him.  But she’s so distraught over Elijah’s death she actually kills Matt.  Did I mention this movie is billed as a comedy?

Last segment. Brendan Fraser (I know; this movie has an all-star cast. I didn’t even mention the pawn shop owners are Vincent D’onofrio and Chi McBride) is a really awful Elvis impersonator performing at county fairs. He’s so bad he doesn’t even sing, just poses and gesticulates while an Elvis tape plays. After getting trapped in a bizarre little town where the side-by-side barber shops are bitter rivals and the townfolk’s allegiances are similarly split, he’s propositioned by a guy offering him fame and fortune. He wisely recognizes him as The Devil, but accepts his offer halfway through his show when it’s obvious he’s going to bomb yet again.

Meanwhile the meth lab from segment one explodes in the distance, looking like fireworks, and the naked catatonic women from Elijah’s farm shuffle in like zombies, only to be wrapped in American flags while the townsfolk sing an emotional Amazing Grace with The King, who has just sold his soul.   (Oh yeah, AND Elijah reappears to collect his women, looking beat all to hell but still very much alive, which really just added to the whole WTF??! tone of the piece.)   The End.

Hilarious? Maybe, if you grew up laughing at Deliverance. I could almost respect the movie if the big message was look, beneath America’s shiny white veneer is a vile, squirming underbelly of drugs, sexual slavery and soullessness, and hey, maybe it is. But I signed on for Reedus and got three minutes of what may or may not be him in a gas mask. I want my damn money back. (Maybe Norman knew it was a turd and insisted on the mask. That sounds good.)


4 thoughts on “Pawn Shop Chronicles: America’s Slimy Underbelly

    • Haven’t heard of it, but I too love him. (Although my favorite of his movies falls firmly in the “guilty pleasures” category, Monkeybone. DON’T TELL ANYONE) Spare yourself the pain of this movie then, it’s enough to ruin anyone’s actor love.

      • Still Breathing was a tiny movie that has a small but devoted fan base of which I am the president. 😉 It’s an unknown romantic comedy. I have not seen Monkeybone. But now, I may have to. 😉

        • Hey, you’re my people! I LOVE tiny obscure movies no one else has heard of. I will keep an eye out for that.

          Okay, but I must warn you, it’s very, very silly. But I like it because it’s quirky and offbeat, and parts make me laugh and others make me cry. 😉

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