I like film noir. There, I said it. Call me pretentious or a hipster or whatever people call people that like things that are good these days, I don’t care. I like Noir and I’m proud. Sexy Evil Genius seems to be an attempt to create a noir in the style of a tv show bottle episode. Always gotta have a unique angle to your noir in this day and age. Just look at Brick. That was all high school set and stuff and it was cool. So, Sexy Evil Genius has it’s own unique premise. Well, unique in that it’s My Dinner With Andre but with murder and a few more people. Click the link below for my review.
In Sexy Evil Genius three strangers are brought together in a bar by an ex girlfriend they all share. An ex girlfriend that just recently got released from prison for murdering another ex. Obviously this is a little worrying for this set of ex’s. For some reason they decide to stick around and find out what’s really going on. Because chatting with a murderer is on most people’s to do list. So the three ex’s, Zach (Seth Green), Miranda (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Marvin (Harold Perrineu), await their collective former girlfriend, Nikki (Katee Sackhoff) and her new fiancée/lawyer that got her out of jail on an insanity plea Bert (William Baldwin) to arrive and probably kill them or something. The film starts with police surrounding the bar and someone being dragged out on a stretcher whilst a wine glass is placed in a bag. Yes, it’s doing the starting near the end thing that Noir has been doing since Double Indemnity!
I’ve made that intro sound unfairly cynical. I apologise for that. Sort of. Sexy Evil Genius tries it’s best to be a twisting mystery, with plenty of paths the story could go down, but it’s overly concerned with misleading you right from the off. It’s hoping that you’ll accept many of the leaps in story logic just because Nikki is probably insane. Or is she just super manipulative? To be fair, the vast majority of the story is actually handled really well. The characters and the dialogue do a fine job of creating a nice history for Nikki whilst leaving enough there for you to wonder what she’s like now in the aftermath of her apparent psychotic episode. Naturally there’s an element of revenge at the centre of Nikki’s plot but who it is that will be the victim, or rather how many victims there may be, ends up becoming the thread your interest will hang on.
Working out Nikki’s potential plan is likely to be an exercise in futility as, to the film’s credit, her ultimate goal is well obfuscated enough along the way. Whether the actual final result of the plan is entirely satisfactory, I’d argue, is up for debate. See, an element of Noir is that people lose. Actions are taken by outwardly decent people that lead to a comeuppance of a deserved proportion. Sexy Evil Genius makes a bit of a misstep here. You see, that trope is so worn out now that it becomes predictable. When we think a certain outcome is due in a film like this what we really expect is for the film to subvert that outcome. When the film delivers a level of punishment to the characters involved in such a way that feels almost like the writer (Scott Lew) has created a formula for the exact measurement of just desserts required based on a flow chart of moral good, through ambiguity, to evil… well… It ends up that form of predictable that leaves us disappointed.
So the eventual development of the story is a little disappointing, however, the journey is far more important. The film moves along rather snappily thanks to some sharp dialogue that fits in with the films tone, in its own idiosyncratic way, and each of the characters are unique entities within the film’s world. Zach is a former artist turned lonesome workaholic. Miranda is a former junkie turned nurse. Marvin is a jazz musician who loves talking about how soulful and real jazz is and stuff. You know, like jazz musicians do. This is the way to do a dialogue driven movie. A criticism you can level at, say, a Kevin Smith film, is that most of the character talk in almost identical ways. They deliver the lines differently but they’re all speaking from one voice, that being Kevin’s. Each character’s background and personality is fully taken into account in their words and the delivery of their lines. It’s not ground breaking writing but it’s a step above what a lot of writers these days manage.
Cinematography is also handled well with a smart use of varying light sources and smart use of the location’s layout to make sure that the background behind the actors doesn’t bore. If you need to keep people hooked on dialogue you don’t want them drifting when the walls all look the same behind the actors. There’s occasional flashback sequences, which serve to prove how Seth Green still looks like he’s 16 with minimal effort. These flashbacks are brief and never actually take over the narrative, such as how flashbacks are handled in a show like Arrow, which helps keep the story focused on the events at the bar. Considering the limitations of budget and location plenty is done visually to keep the film from feeling tired. There is a little bit of a TV drama feel to it but it’s more AMC than Hallmark.
There’s a solid little noir thriller crossed with a TV bottle episode here. The cast do a fine job of playing their parts, injecting enough wit and style into the film to keep things interesting. There is a plot element that feels a little bit like a leftover from a Buffy The Vampire Slayer fanfic, but I’ll let them off. Generally everything moves along well without any slow scenes bogging everything down. But Sexy Evil Genius trips at the final hurdle by delivering a final act that comes so close to reaching a satisfactory height, only to slump into cliché and rote morally OK ending format. That said, it’s certainly not a waste of time and is suitably different enough for other mystery films around these days to be worth a viewing. Or, if you want a great modern Noir film, you could watch Brick or something. Maybe The Last Seduction. It’s a bit older but it’s a great twist on the format. Chinatown is still awesome. I’m saying there’s much better Noir films. This is decent though. Decent.