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By James Teitelbaum | September 1, 2009

A couple of months ago, I reviewed a film from Ponderous Productions, which bragged (right on the DVD itself) about its $300 budget. I wrote that the film was pretty impressive for having been made for $300. However, that is very different from being an impressive film. Now, director Brett William Mouser returns with what appears to be approximately the same budget, and a whole lot more ambition. “The Innocent Killers” is the first in what promises (or threatens) to be the ten-part “Innocence Saga.”

I was unable to detect much innocence in the characters: they’re all cops, killers, cop killers, and criminal kingpins. The innocence might reside behind the scenes, however: the cast members, almost without exception, seem innocent as to the art of acting, the lighting people seem innocent of their basic skills (like using lights when needed), and the scriptwriters seem innocent of ever having had an original thought. The word “wooden,” when used to describe poor acting, is a bit tired, but in this case, no better word is possible. I don’t buy the cops as cops, I don’t buy the killers as killers. There are nine more of these films coming? If so, I truly, deeply, honestly hope that this film does well, so that Mouser can afford to hire more talented people for the coming films.

The story is that some sort of bigshot named Donovan wants some sort of mysterious coins returned to him. He hires a woman named Caroline and her strike team to get the coins back from an evidence locker within a Texas police station. I’m hoping that for the second film, the team can help Donovan build a stamp collection, and then they can move up to mint-on-mint-card 1980 Boba Fett action figures by the end of the saga. After murdering an entire city’s police force, Caroline gets the goods, but finds her team down a few killers. She assembles a new team comprised of the usual comic book stereotypes: the hacker, the couple, the huge guy, the serious marksman, and (naturally) the wise-cracking gay emo psychopath. The latter is, I believe, one of Joseph Campbell’s heroic archetypes.

The biggest plot hole in history crops up about 55 minutes into the film when Donovan gives the team a pep talk. He feebly justifies their career choices when he says that their job is defending his business (how noble) and points out that most of their intended targets are drug dealers, Yakuza members, and Mafiosos, as opposed to “innocent men and women trying to make a decent living.” He has apparently forgotten about the entire police force that they wiped out in cold blood a few scenes earlier. We’re supposed to believe that this completely unlikable gang of murderous thugs are somehow the heroes of the film (the film’s tagline goes as far as to say “meet your new heroes”). Since this is impossible, it sinks the entire movie.

At this point, the film is less than half over, and “The Innocence Saga” is, alas, less than 1/20th over. Continue, provided mediocrity and tedium are your thing.

Certainly, completing a ten-movie saga is an incredible ambition, and one must admire Mauser’s drive. However, I am thinking that he might want to hone his craft and nail the art of making one great film, and then perhaps move up to a trilogy, before he tries to tackle ten mediocre films at once. In fact, the only film series that I can think of that worked successfully and consistently as a ten-film cycle is “The Decalogue.” Those ten flicks were all shorter films, and had the distinction of being made by the master Krzysztof Keislowski. Certainly, as dedicated as he seems to be, Brett William Mouser is no Keislowski.

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