Sometimes there are films that, initially, grab you by your eyeballs to pull you into the chaos onscreen. You’re taken on a wild ride, with adrenaline pumping through your veins, clouding your senses along the way. But then, when the film ends, you have to have that crash. The high wears off and then you start to think about what you’ve actually just watched. Like buyer’s remorse, you start noticing the flaws a bit more. Once you start pulling back the shiny veneer, it becomes difficult not to notice. This has been my experience months after initially watching Andrew Thomas Hunt‘s SPARE PARTS. A movie that would have been great as a midnight showing at a fest (alas, a global pandemic ruined that for the film fest season), the action and gore featured on screen is top-notch given the film’s presumably smaller budget. However, the over-reliance on tropes in its screenplay and a dragging second half take away from an overall heart-pumping movie.
SPARE PARTS begins in a bar in the middle of nowhere, where all-girl bad – Ms. 45 – is taking ass and kicking names while they perform their set. A fight breaks out and, of course, the ladies handle it like champs, but not without its consequences. Both the performance and the subsequent fighting with the crowd have attracted an overly enthusiastic fan who has nefarious plans for them. After the ladies get into an accident driving to their next town on the tour, the fan lures them into a trap, renders them all unconscious, and then starts the process of removing their arms. For what purpose? Well, to install weapons in place of their actual arms that will remind fans of Cherry Darling from Planet Terror or maybe Ash Williams from Army of Darkness. As the ladies gain consciousness, their shock is overwhelming. They have now been weaponized, but are now forced to fight like modern-day gladiators in a junkyard arena owned by a sadistic man who’s proclaimed himself emperor. The prize? Their lives and freedom!
I’ll be frank. SPARE PARTS is a bit ridiculous, and definitely a film with a plot that should be taken with a grain of salt. It pays homage to Grindhouse-style films of yore with a visual style that keeps it feeling fresh and modern. Throw in female gladiatorial representation (you just don’t see that often in media despite the historical influence of female gladiators back in ancient Roman times) and some ace action choreography being executed (no pun intended), and you got yourself something fairly entertaining here. That being said, though, there are a couple of issues with the film.
One major issue in SPARE PARTS is that the characters aren’t given much depth both on-page and off of it. The audience spends the bulk of their time with Emma (Emily Alatalo), Amy (Michelle Argyris), Cassy (Kiriana Stanton), and Jill (Chelsea Muirhead), but all are defined by the tropes their roles are hooked into. This note pertaining to tropes extends itself into the screenplay, making it all too easy to predict where each individual character’s fate will lead. This is a bit of a spoiler, but as soon as it’s revealed early on in the film who is gay, the ‘kill the gays’ trope rears its predictable and ugly head (and why we need more stories like The Retreat to relieve the predictability of this trope because it’s like clockwork.) Circling back to the lack of character development, the actors don’t have much to work off of. ven Julian Richings doesn’t have much to do as the mysterious emperor. However, the entire cast manages to exude enough energy to at least keep the audience drawn to the screen. However, storylines that abruptly end, or the feuding sister storyline between Emma and Amy that drags on longer than it should, does little to endear itself to audience interest.
Speaking of dragging, the second half of SPARE PARTS does drag as the storyline tries to find its way to a resolution. The training montage with Driller (Ryan Alleb) is where specifically the film loses its steam because the sister rivalry, as well as the gladiatorial fights, are meant to stir enough drama to spur the plot forward. What helps camouflage some of that uneven pacing, later on, is the score crafted by Wade MacNeil and Andrew Gordon. Once those crunchy, grunge notes kick into gear in the gladiatorial ring, it does help amplify the chaos and frenetic energy the audience needs to become the spectator we all need to embody in these moments. That and the stunt background from some of the cast members really shines in these gladiator fights. Seriously, kudos, to the team for that choreography, and the angles utilized by Cinematographer Pasha Patriki shots to take full advantage of the space created by Production Designer Vincent Moskowec. It definitely helped to bring the action to the audience.
Overall, to this critic, SPARE PARTS is not meant for viewers who can take things a bit too seriously. It’s a silly, fun, and brainless Grindhouse-style film that’s aiming to entertain, even if it’s not fully rounded out in its execution. Alatalo, Argyris, Stanton, and Muirhead make the most of what they’ve been provided from the script and manage to bring energy and fire to otherwise flat, trope-ridden roles. With well-executed fight choreography and great use of angles and shots of the arena, the audience can easily project themselves into the film as proper spectators. The only thing that really weighs the film down is the predictability of the plot, even if the scenario is a bit out there.
SPARE PARTS is now available on VOD, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray from RLJE Films.
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