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By Rachel Morgan | March 31, 2005

The second least appealing monetary crime is kidnapping (the first is bank robbery). Holding people for ransom just never seems to work out like you hope. An annoying, smartass teenager or an irritating child prodigy is usually involved or you end up falling for the hostage and things just get too damn complicated. Plus, let’s face it, arranging for the pick-up of the suitcase (or gym bag) filled with money is awkward. While playing poker with fellow con artists Joey (Nick Dibrizzi), Jerry (Bob Bennet), Ralphie (Harry Karp) and Sam (Ray Wise), Eddie (Andrew Divoff) comes up with the idea to kidnap the daughter of popular game show host, Steve Skyler (Shadoe Stevens), and hold her hostage for the show’s million dollar prize money. The plan involves the tech savvy Eddie switching the phone lines of the Skyler residence so that when the family hears of the kidnapping and calls the cops they will really be calling a cell phone belonging to a member of the kidnapping crew. In turn, a couple of the guys will simply pose as detectives, head over to the Skylers and easily grab the cash, assuring that the real police won’t be involved. Although the plan sounds faultless and uncomplicated, several things go wrong (though not the obviously flawed elements).

First of all, the ring leader, Sam, is approached by Rick (Trevor King), the grown son that he never knew he had and Sam, of course, decides to let him participate in the scam. Secondly, Ralphie decides to take a break from waiting on Rick to abduct Dawn Skyler (Michelle Pierce) and makes a Twinkie run to a nearby convenience store where he is caught in the middle of an armed robbery and killed. To make matters worse, Joey goes to see what’s keeping Ralphie and is mistaken for the robber/murderer. Finally, Dawn looks like the long lost child of Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, a fact that Rick finds very appealing (please refer to the third sentence of this review). Despite the set backs, the crew manages to successfully nab Dawn and switch the Skyler phone line, but the aforementioned problems are just the beginning, not to mention Sam and Rick have some major father-son issues to work out.

“Sharkskin 6” is a film that probably wouldn’t exist (at least in its current state) if it weren’t for “Reservoir Dogs” (with an added suggestion of “Swingers”). The Tarantino influence is heavily recognizable and, unfortunately, a bit detrimental. An especially disconcerting fact considering that Director Trevor King seems talented enough to stand on his own. First and foremost, the film looks great. The lighting is exceptional and the composition in many areas is equally outstanding. King and his associates have done an excellent job capturing a great 50’s aesthetic. The locations are perfect and the film’s color palette (great pinks and sea foam greens) is extraordinary. “Sharkskin 6” is shot on film (Panavision) and it shows. The story itself is decent; it is, at the least, entertaining, but the gimmicks (such as the character “introduction” interludes) are silly and distracting.

It is no surprise that Ray Wise is incredible in the film. Shadoe Stevens displays his best acting since his cameo on “Beverly Hills 90210” (but his hair alone makes the film worth watching). Andrew Divoff is good, but he has very little screen time. The rest of the cast is average at best, though Michelle Pierce shows potential. In general “Sharkskin 6” is enjoyable and stands as a pretty impressive first effort from filmmaker Trevor King, though his future films could benefit from shedding the outdated Tarantino influence and, in turn, a bit more originality.

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