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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Shaken, Stirred, and Every Which Way Loose
by Donald Levit

Modus Operandi proves in spades how seldom spoofs of spoofs are successful. Even David Niven was embarrassed in big-money star-stuffed Casino Royale; Mike Myers’ star-cameo Austin Powers threesome grossed big at the box office but mainly grossed out at the lowest common denominator; S*P*Y*S trashed Trapper John-Hawkeye Pierce chemistry; and Britain’s The Spy with a Cold Nose chilled Laurence Harvey. And so on.

“Presented” by ex-adult film star Sasha Grey, consciously devoid of dialogue real or otherwise, done on Super 8 and meaninglessly running back and forth between the grainiest of black-and-white and even clumsier color, Modus Operandi screams DVD shelves and camp midnight movie culture. Shoestring homage to shoestring action espionage-and-sex adventure fare of forty years ago, it shoots in too many directions to plumb any of them, let alone develop character or story.

With relatively little speech, wooden at that, the would-be humor is left to depend on what meets the eye, but by the fifth or sixth paunchy male basking among bare-bosomed babes, the parody joke grows stale. And one full-frontal female chained and knifed in gratuitous Dan Brown secret sect ceremony, is laughable but not comic.

The other full-frontal, male, is merely unappetizing, as two Swinging Sixties-booted and –skirted CIA women rouse and cold-shower balding former Black Ops ace operative Stanley Cashay (Randy Russell). In naked drunken stupefaction on a floor mattress, he mourns the wife killed by assassins because he was not around. In offices and playboy pads and on Deep Throat park benches, the identity of that murderer is carroted to him in exchange for the recovery of two attaché cases.

Pilfered from subsequently victorious presidential candidate Squire Parks (Michael Sottile), one contains an incriminating videotape, the other for no reason at all a full spool of film. Also on the assignment is red-appareled Black Licorice (Nicole Johnson), a less than statuesque Pam Grier-copy telephoned in from lounging in panties on her Tokyo balcony.

First-time feature director and co-writer Frankie Latina is a Milwaukee product, and this is pretty much a Wisconsin affair, cast, crew, musicians. Location, too, which -- not to slight the city that Schlitz made famous -- makes for quite a comedown from the international tourist spots of the spy genre, as in a small boat against an unimpressive lakeside skyline or the zombie-like hero’s extended walk along drab grated storefronts.

With a dishrag of a hero-agent and double-crossing characters with sophomoric snappy names but difficult to differentiate or care about in staccato scenes, the adventure ends with an eyeful of a revenge bang. This may or may not save someone’s honor but is ninety minutes too late to rescue the film.   

(Released by Frankie Latina Motion Pictures; not rated by MPAA.)

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