Writer: Joe Carnahan
Director: Joe Carnahan
Budget: $7 300 (estimated)
Gross: $13 674
every now and then a film is released that becomes a genre all to itself. when these films come out it takes no time at all for copycat films to emerge trying to piggyback on their success - just look at how many movies came out using the good ol' "bullet-time" in the years following The Matrix.
another one of those seminal films was Pulp Fiction, which brought, in its wake, many wannabe-but-weren't-cool-or-good films such as Two Days In The Valley and Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead to name a couple. it also, however, made way for the debut feature from director joe carnahan, Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane, which stands out from the wannabes as a solid debut on its own with its own personality.
Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane might not be the best title, but it does mention four things that are quite prevalent in the film itself. the film is about two used car salesmen, about to be evicted from their lot, when they are given an offer they can't refuse: keep a convertible parked on their lot for two days and get paid $250 000 dollars. that's it and that's all! sound to good to be true? well that's what they think, which causes them to... well you can watch and find out. there you have the octane, and with the first half of the film taking us through the journey of the car to the lot, you get your blood and bullets (although there is more of that in the second half as well).
the film was made for under $7 500 and it shows, although not in a bad way. because, while there is plenty of blood and bullets, this movie is all about the talking. which is where my thoughts turned to Pulp Fiction and i guess also Reservoir Dogs. both films have their fair share of violence, but i remember them much more for the talking ("i don't tip", "that would have to be one charming mother fuckin' pig" and of course "i don't know, i didn't go into burger king").
Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane relies even more so on the talking (because they probably didn't have the budget for much else) and overall, it works. there are the tarantinoesque moments of dialogue: like when one of the salesmen is offended by the claim that johnny cash had a gay experience in fulsom prison. while the pop culture nature of the unnecessary tangent sounds like tarantino, it doesn't feel derivative as so many other post-Pulp Fiction movies did at the time. the way the script is written and the manner in which the dialogue is delivered feels maybe more like mamet then tarantino (i'm not claiming in any way that he is on mamets level, just making reference to the specificness of the dialogue and pace). carnahan even acts in the film. while this is also like tarantino in his films, the difference here is carnahan is actually pretty good.
this isn't a perfect film by any means. it is a first film made for under $8000. however it is a fun, violent crime movie, with some fun characters, great dialogue and a silly conclusion that i felt fine buying into given the enjoyment i had getting to that point.
carnahan followed-up Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane with a film called Narc, which, like Pulp Fiction following Reservoir Dogs, showed that his first independent outing was only a sign of great things to come. his latest film Smokin' Aces didn't really do it for me (felt like it was also trying to be just a fun, violent romp, and although it had more money and more violence it was missing something that Blood, Guts, Bullets And Octane had).
it took him about eight years to make his first three films. however, he has about four films in production or announced over the next 2-3 years, so we are going to really be able to see whether he peaked with Narc or if he has more great films in him. while you are waiting to see where he goes though, don't forget to go back and check out Blood, Guts, Bullets And Octane to see where he began.