Who’s In It: Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo, Michael Hurst, Minae Noji, William Gregory Lee, Rob Melendez, Kevin Sorbo, Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor
The Basics: A trio of busty bad girls – redhead power broker Hel (Erin Cummings), psycho lesbian Camero (America Olivo), and ditzy stripper Trixie (Julia Voth) – arrive at a desert hideaway with a man in their trunk and a stash of diamonds to steal from a mysterious underworld kingpin. As tensions rise and eccentric thugs drop in to engage in gory fistfights and sexual innuendo, the events that led up to the present are revealed in flashbacks and everyone appears to be hiding a secret agenda.
What’s The Deal: Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, folks made B-movies about catfighting femme fatales for the drive-in crowd, tawdry pieces of schlock designed to titillate and entertain by putting sex, violence and the female form on display. In 2010, co-writers Rick Jacobson and Eric Gruendemann deliver a cheeky B-movie about catfighting femme fatales that’s at once homage to the exploitation cinema and a parody of it, mish-mashing elements of such genre classics as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and every movie to which Quentin Tarantino has ever made/paid homage. Now take all of those ideas and filter them through the lens of such modern TV action cheese as “She Spies,” “La Femme Nikita,” “Cleopatra 2525,” “Young Hercules,” and the aforementioned “Xena” (all of which were produced and/or directed by Bitch Slap filmmakers Jacobson or Gruendemann), add a bazillion cleavage shots and naughty dialogue, and you’ve got a pretty good sense of what Bitch Slap is all about.
Questions I Had In The First 30 Minutes: Will the sexual tension between these three amigas get in the way of securing their booty? How many slow-motion cleavage shots and flashback sequences can one film contain? What's the deal with the razor yo-yo-wielding Gogo Yubari knockoff and her punk boyfriend with Tourette's? More importantly, do the cameos by fan fiction faves Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor reveal anything about the love that dared not speak its name between “Xena, Warrior Princess” and her trusty gal pal, Gabrielle?
It’s Supposed To Look Cheap…Right? Aside from one desert set, everything in Bitch Slap looks like it’s been green-screened; it has the weightless, stagey feel of what I call the D.E.B.S. aesthetic. And with the exception of a few digitally enhanced, hyper-stylized flashback sequences, none of it looks particularly great. Ditto the performances, which are consistently inconsistent all around, especially when America Olivo is snarling in a psychotic rage or every time Erin Cummings veers back and forth between serious and campy.
The History Of The B-Movie, In Two Minutes: The film begins as a bloodied and beaten Trixie laments, “How did it come to this??” What follows is a clever montage that answers her question and sets the tone for what’s to come in one fell swoop, a historical survey of the female-centric B-movie circa the 1950s to the 1970s that paved the way for Bitch Slap: sexy school girls, Pam Grier, catfights, switchblade sisters, kittens with whips, They Call Her One Eye, Bettie Page, caged women in heat, and much, much more. If you really want a lesson in the glories of exploitation films, make a list of every movie name-dropped in the opening sequence, go home, and throw yourself a real B-movie marathon.
In Sum, I Send Kudos To: The cast of Bitch Slap, for delivering lines like “Shut up, axe wound” with straight faces and always spectacular cleavage, and to stunt woman-turned-actress Zoe Bell, who shows up briefly as a character named Rawhide but, more importantly, adds stunt coordinator to her résumé.