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By Evan Erwin | December 20, 2001

“Real Time: Siege At Lucas Street Market” is an out of the ordinary take on the overused concept in which story time and screen time are identical. This mockumentary details a convenience store robbery that goes awry featuring fixed-positioned security and police-squad cameras to tell the tale. The plot concerns two dope addicts, the level-headed Frank and loose cannon Bud, who attempt to rob the store for a little cash until one wrong move transforms the situation into a full-blown hostage crisis.
Tom Keane, playing Frank, is the standout here but his solid performance isn’t enough to save the writing that limits his abilities. Larry Coven, a Second City alum and masterful comic, suffers the same fate. He is no more than window dressing. The one chance Coven gets to show his abilities is passed off in thirty seconds of the trailer. The film has been criticized for its overacting, but with such a distant perspective such measures are necessary to successfully convey any type of emotion. Don’t look for deep, nuanced performances here.
“It’s like The Blair Witch Project in reverse.” – Director Max Allan Collins
In many ways this statement is true. The film is almost entirely indoors and we now get to see many more points of view. There are no more bouncing cameras, something Blair Witch critics were quick to loathe. The acting is on-par with the horror film phenomenon and the reality both present are very on-target.
The differences between the two are many. While the story is much more scripted this time there is simply no real danger here. We wait and wait for something to happen and when that something finally does you realize the entire film has passed you by. And though the director succeeds in presenting “seventy minutes of these characters’ lives,” it’s just too bad they’re so boring. The short running time drags on and the setup takes forever. The film fails to hit its stride until the fifty-minute mark, far too long for such a premise. The gimmick of using security and squad-car camera perspectives, utilizing up to four screens at once in some places, wears out fast. Since there is no coverage of the actors involved we never form a connection to them. Part of the reason that Blair Witch was so terrifying is that you learned to care for those characters. In this film you care for no one making this an effort to stay interested and a long seventy minutes to sit through.
VIDEO ^ Presented in 1.33:1 full frame, this is a nice transfer considering the source material. Changing perspectives often you may find the picture at times blurry, grainy and noisy. In its better moments the images are crisp and sharp. Utilizing Hi-8, Beta-SP, and two digital cameras, the best video comes from the digital takes mercifully utilized most of the time. The color bleeding and noise can get tiresome though few digital artifacts or instances of edge-enhancement were found.
AUDIO ^ The soundtrack is only available in 2.0 Dolby Stereo and muddled mess is a pain to try and make sense of. The annoying score buries the dialogue even further in the mix than it already is. The left to right imaging-when two screens are displayed alongside one another the left channel is for the left picture and vice versa-is a nice concept, but the hiss and low dialogue make you strain to hear anything. I missed most of the dialogue because of the dominating bass-heavy score and the sound effects were clearer than anything else. A good first try, but how this mix made the final cut we’ll never know.
EXTRAS ^ Troma is no slouch when it comes to special edition DVDs, and this one follows that legacy.
Multi-Angle Feature ^ One of the main selling points used for this DVD is that during the feature you can switch to a separate angle on the action. This second point of view isn’t edited very well and mainly features empty sections of the store or shots of the hostages just sitting around instead of proving any additional insight or better storytelling. This is a gimmicky feature at best.
Screen-Specific Commentary by Actors Brinke Stevens, Larry Coven, Tom Keane and Chris Christenson ^ This commentary features views from Tom Keane and Chris Christenson for the first fifteen minutes then switches to Brinke and Larry for the rest of the film. The first couple don’t have enough time to give interesting details and the second duo sometimes go off into the dreaded “Let’s tell you what’s happening on screen,” syndrome that dominates lesser commentaries. An appealing listen though neither pair shed much light on the production as a whole.
Screen-Specific Commentary by Director Max Allan Collins ^ This track is a fast-moving venture and it’s evident that the man has either done many commentaries before or had experience listening to them. From stories dealing with what food vendors they had to deal with, how fast the six day shoot went by or what production problems were incurred, this is the best commentary of the bunch and not a bad way to spend seventy minutes learning the trails and tribulations of low-budget filmmaking.
Screen-Specific Technical Commentary by Phil Dingledein (editor), Greg Ballard (composer), Jeff High (producer), Joe Collins, Matt Clemens, and Max Allan Collins ^ This commentary is an odd beast since it features great information but is hard to discern exactly who is speaking. There is also an echo-effect since only one mike was utilized for all of the participants. Max takes over this one as easily as he did his own commentary, though some crew members get their thoughts in as well. The funniest story of the bunch is how the store owner insisted on them signing a statement that said they wouldn’t do anything that would affect the Hostess Snack Display, his “pride and joy.”
Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes (9:15) ^ Three scenes are presented here in 2.0 Stereo and full frame video. They include one deleted scene and two alternate takes.
-Deleted Scene: Peter Interrogated ^ Actor Larry Coven is interviewed by the actual police chief of Des Moines and does a damn fine job at it. Only utilized for the trailer this is obviously deleted scene material considering it basically provides the Cliff Notes version of the film in four minutes.
-Alternate Take: Janet Enters ^ One of the first scenes of the movie is here with much clearer sound. Since it was done in one take all three times here is the version that includes four extra lines from Larry Coven’s character.
-Alternate Take 2: Bud Stacks ^ When Bud realizes that the back door may be an entry point for the police he goes into the backroom to block the door with whatever he can find. While this scene is verbatim to the one in the film, the dead body covered with a trash bag moves a few times which obviously forced them to do the scene again.
There is commentary available here from the director and 1st Asst. Director Steven Henke. While they discuss the alterations between the scenes and the final film they mainly drift back into stories of the production.
Audition Outtakes (7:30) ^ Presented on what looks like Hi-8 or digital video are two different auditions, one for Frank starring Tom Keane who eventually got the part and another with Chadrick Hoch who plays Bud in the picture. The remarkable thing here is the role reversals in each audition. The first with Tom Keane features a short, skinny actor portraying Bud. The second features Chadrick with an even scrawnier Frank and the results are fascinating. If there was one thing that the director did correctly it was casting and these tapes prove it.
There is also commentary included again from 1st Assistant Director Steven Henke and Max Allan Collins who discuss the casting process and what it was like to coerce the actors to over-act due to the forced perspective of the film.
“Perspective” PBS Interview ^ In full frame video and shot very recently this public broadcast footage features the director and producer Jeff High.
-A New Way To Tell Stories ^ Max and Jeff discuss what it was like to shoot the film and how the concept of the movie came about. Interestingly enough the idea of watching the entire film through various security camera angles instead of traditional film techniques wasn’t originally planned. When Max’s father died in post-production he showed his entire family the film using rough, time-coded video during the wake and by their reaction his decision was finalized.
-Building Mini-Mart ^ Forced to construct the convenience store from scratch inside an empty building this interview piece focuses on Jeff High and his effort to accomplish such a task. The cooler rack problem Jeff encountered is an amusing tale. To fill the shelves with product he didn’t have Jeff took digital pictures of an actual cooler rack and blew them up to full size and placed the plates in the doors of the coolers. Since the perspectives were fixed there were no problems with depth perception. Now that’s ingenuity!
“Ms. Tree” comics story: “Maternity Leave” ^ This is a twenty screen or so piece is a comic book story of a pregnant detective written by Max Allan Collins though I’m not sure who the artist is since he or she wasn’t listed. A warning at the beginning of the piece states: “If your monitor is too small to see the text, we hope you enjoy the artwork!” The problem is I don’t think there is a monitor out there capable of displaying the miniscule manuscript of these images. Packing two pages per screen, the artwork is nice but the lack of wording will leave you head-scratching as to what it all means.
“Inconvenience Store” (37:24) ^ This feature took me by surprise. A short story version of the film is read by a female actor with a few different details and character names. The dialogue is almost word-for-word what is featured in the flick so this feature is a little too redundant to sit through its entirety.
Theatrical Trailers ^ -Full Trailer (2:31) ^ A non-MPAA trailer filled with cursing but decent editing it quickly sets up the story as a documentary and is pretty enticing.
-Alternate Mix (2:31) ^ The first trailer only with a few scenes switched around, the editing isn’t as solid as it was in the full version.
Other trailers are also featured, including Max Allan Collins’ Mommy, Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day, and some other Troma flicks: Citizen Toxie, Terror Firmer, and Rowdy Girls. Cast and Crew bios are also included.
For such a boring film Troma has compiled a pretty extensive package considering the fact it holds three separate commentaries and a half-hour reading of the short story that might have inspired the movie. But a boring story is something the film can’t outgrow no matter what the disc holds. Nevertheless this is a good resource for those wondering how to make that movie budget stretch with limited time, money, and resources.

RATINGS ^ OVERALL (DVD): * * ½ – 2.5 Stars ^ MOVIE: * * ½ – 2.5 Stars ^ VIDEO: * * ½ – 2.5 Stars ^ AUDIO: * – 1 Star ^ EXTRAS: * * * – 3 Stars

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