Nick is a dim-witted, petty felon in the German crime biz. All he wants is to take his equally dim girlfriend, Celia, to the States for a fresh start. But it’s never that easy, is it? Before he leaves town, he must pay off some unseen crime boss with an undisclosed amount of money…or else! In a moment of desperation, Nick decides to rob a gas station and accidentally shoots a cop in the process. Now on the run from pretty much everybody, Nick and Celia decide to hide out in a mansion and take the owner, Victor von Hartenberg (Billy Zane!!!), hostage. Unbeknownst to them, Victor’s German accent is shoddy for a reason. Victor is not who he says and his family isn’t “just at dinner.” Now, under siege by a motley Special Forces Unit and trapped in a house with a madman, Nick and Celia begin to second-guess the safety of their “Perfect Hideout.”
With such a plot and the presence of Billy Zane, it’s difficult to imagine where they could go wrong. But wrong they went. Their biggest mistake was not marketing this thing as a crime thriller spoof because it is damned funny and I’m certain that was not their intension. Sure, there are lines that are clearly jokes (Nick and Celia’s constant bickering, for instance) and Zane hams it up like his name is Virginia. But when a Special Forces guy shouts things like, “It’ll be a massacre!” and “That’s madness,” I don’t think we’re supposed to laugh. It’s a shame too, because if director Stephen Manuel owned the inherent comedy in the script, he may have really had something. With a few dialog tweaks and a different directing style, we could have had the “Tropic Thunder” of crime thrillers.
By way of example, take this exchange between the arcane European Special Forces Officer who is now in charge and the inexplicably American Special Forces Officer who was formerly in charge. They are discussing the identity of the man they think Nick is holding hostage:
Euro Boy: Do you have any idea who this man is?!
G.I. Joe: An important private banker.
Euro Boy: …AND serious political heavyweight!
This, my friends, is comedy gold. But gems like this are squandered; as Manuel clearly thought he was making “Die Hard.” Like Gina Gershon in “Showgirls” before him, Billy Zane is the only one who knows what kind of movie he’s in, and decides to make the best of it. You know a movie is flawed when you desperately want the bad guy to win. Not the protagonist reluctant criminals mind you, but the absolute antagonist with no redeeming character value whatsoever. At best, “Perfect Hideout” is the Billy Zane Show. At worst, it’s a schizophrenic, silly pile of Eurotrash. If only Stephen Manuel had listened to his friend Billy Zane.