REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


BULLET IN THE FACE. Independent Film Channel, August 16-17, 2012. IFC Original / Just For Laughs Television and Muse Entertainment Enterprise in Association with Alan Spencer & Company. Cast: Max Williams as Gunter Vogler, Kate Kelton as Martine/Lilly, Eddie Izzard as Tannhauser, Eric Roberts as Racken, Neil Napier as Hagerman, and Jessica Steen as Commissioner Eva Braden. Developed, Executive Produced and Written by Alan Spenser. Directed and Co-Executive Produced by Erik Canuel. Music by James Gelfand. Theme “Dispatch” written, produced and performed by Amanda Bauman and Patrick Doyle (Courtesy of AmA music). [Series is available online for purchase.]

BULLET IN THE FACE

   Bullet in the Face is a comedy developed and written by Alan Spencer. Spencer is best known for his over the top comedy Sledge Hammer, a series that broadly mocked the TV cop shows. Here Spencer takes on neo-noir. The result is an at times funny but always strange series featuring excessive violence with graphic language and enough gore and blood to satisfy Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino.

   It helps (as with any satirical comedy) to be aware of the genre. The series’ targets include such neo-noir movies as Frank Miller’s Sin City and crime graphic novels by such writers as Ed Brubaker. Fans of film directors John Woo and Luc Besson as well as mystery writers such as Duane Swierczynski will enjoy this series.

BULLET IN THE FACE

   Set in the corrupt city of Bruteville, Tannhauser, an agoraphobic evil mastermind with a fondness for snow globes, is trying to take over the city now under the control of old school mobster Racken.

   The story begins with psychopath Gunter learning his lover and equal psychopath Martine is pregnant. This complicates his life as their boss Tannhauser has ordered him to kill her after they rob a jewelry store. During the robbery, the city’s hero cop arrives. Gunter kills the cop but is betrayed and shot in the face by Martine on Tannhauser’s orders.

   Gunter wakes up in a police hospital with a new face, the face of the good guy cop he had killed. Seems the female police Commissioner loved the cop (the cop didn’t return her affections, he spent all his time with men). So hoping for another chance, she had his face transplanted onto Gunter and gives Gunter the opportunity to go after those who had betrayed him.

BULLET IN THE FACE

   The acting matches the exaggerated humor of the script and the cartoonishness of the characters. Max Williams plays Gunter with the appropriate hamminess and silly German accent.

   Kate Kelton as Martine/Lilly is the love of the life of three men, Gunter, Tannhauser and Racken. Each man thinks he is the father of her unborn child. Kelton matches Williams’ Gunter in insanity and accent.

   Here is a clip with Kate Kelton and Eddie Izzard. Warning, it contains adult language: http://www.ifc.com/bullet-in-the-face/videos/bullet-in-the-face-killer-species

      [Editorial Comment: I've been unable to view the video at this link. I've included it in Michael's review in the hope that others may succeed where I seem to fail.]

   It is Izzard and Roberts as the two mobsters that steal the show. Eddie Izzard is a bizarre delight as Tannhauser. When asked if he thought he was God, he answered, “No, God thinks He is me.”

BULLET IN THE FACE

   Eric Roberts is equally wonderful as the old school mobster Racken, who keeps a scrapbook of photos of cops he had killed. Racken does not approve of Tannhauser’s style, “He’s not a normal criminal, probably never had a hoagie in his life.”

   Jessica Steen convincingly plays the sexually frustrated, boss from Hell, Police Commissioner Eva Braden who has her own unique ways of trying to keep Bruteville safe from a possible mob war.

   Neil Napier is Gunter’s police partner Hagerman, an easy to cry, absurdly righteous cop who had been partner to the man Gunter killed, the man whose face is now Gunter’s. Hagerman is hated for his decency and Napier plays him with a delightful goofiness that adds a layer of humor to the character.

         EPISODE GUIDE

“Meet Gunter Vogler” (8/16/12) Guest Cast: Christopher Heyergahl and Maya Fuhr *** Sociopath Gunter is having a bad day. When his plan to rob a jewelry store and kill people goes wrong, his lover and mother of his unborn child shoots him in the face. To make matters worse Gunter wakes up with the face of a heroic cop he had killed.

   A very funny episode that wastes no time as it sets up the premise and characters.

   Sample of humor: When shown video of Matrine shooting him in the face, Gunter refuses to believe it. “Why would that woman shoot me? We had dinner reservations later.”

“Angel of Death” (8/16/12) Guest Cast: James Kidnie and Alix Sideris *** Priests are being murdered by the Angel of Death.

   Another fun episode as Gunter begins to enjoy his role as a cop as he seeks revenge against Tannhauser who is in hiding. This episode can offend many with its excessively irreverent treatment of the rituals of Christianity.

   Sample dialog: When the doctor (Alex Bisping) wishes to do oral surgery to help the face transplant take, Gunter reacts violently, “I killed the last dentist I went to and stole his car. His office still sends me a bill.”

“Drug of Choice” (8/16/12) Guest Cast: Robert Naylor and Marcel Jeannin *** Gunter attempts to mentor a young boy who had just murdered two people and a parakeet.

   Weakest episode of the series. While it advances the story arc, the humor usually falls flat.

   Sample dialog: While chasing the man who gave the kid the gun used in the killing, Hagerman calls out, “Fassbinder, we would like a few words with you, as well as some complete sentences.”

“Kiss Me Thrice” (8/17/12) Guest Cast: Heidi Foss and Jason Cavalier *** Racken recruits Gunter to kill Tannhauser.

   This episode has some great scenes such as during a catfight between Martine and a huge woman, Martine wins by reminding her opponent she’s pregnant every time the other woman comes close to hitting her.

   Sample dialog: Martine discovers Gunter is alive with another man’s face. She has a gun pointed at him, demanding he explain what is going on, Gunter ignores her and leaves. She screams after him “This is a real gun, not an abstract piece of art. It shoots bullets.”

“The World Stage” (8/17/12) Guest Cast: Debbie Wong and Kaoru Matsui *** A third group entrance finally sets off the drug war.

   The identity of the third group and its plan is comedic genius. Also watch for writer Alan Spencer’s cameo. Hitchcock would have been proud.

   Sample dialog: Racken defends himself to a PC Mobster (Larry Wilmore) who wonders if Racken is progressive enough, “I was the first guy to recruit kids from low-test score schools. It was like, it was like, no juvenile delinquents left behind.”

“Cradle To Grave” (8/17/12) Guest Cast: Miranda Handford and Andrew Campbell *** The gang war concludes and Martine gives birth.

   Nice final episode that resolves the story while lampooning the ending of another popular crime TV series.

   Sample dialog: The cops have fled the police station to escape a bomb. Gunter finds the bomb and tosses it out the window, killing all the cops outside. The Commissioner notes no one had to die. “True,” replies Gunter, “If they’d stayed inside, but instead they fled like yellow kittens from a Korean butcher.”

   While many will find the series offensive, it is a funny parody of neo-noir (a genre many find offensive). As in true neo-noir the language, sex, violence, and situations are extremely graphic, but I enjoyed watching the story Gunter described as a rollercoaster ride designed by Kafka.

   At the time of this posting IFC still had information and clips for the series available at the network’s website.