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Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except

Josh Becker, 1987, USA

Rating: 1.3


Posted: May 16, 2005

Moving pictures were never intended to be used as they are in Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except. This ain’t no B-movie. In fact, you’d have to go fishing for consonants around the letter Q to assign it an appropriate alphabetic rating. Oh sweet Lord, is this a bad film! There’s no story to speak of, I can’t recall any of the characters' names, and Sam Raimi plays a “Manson-esque” cult leader who terrorizes a group of extras who look like they're concerned about being late for their real jobs.

Four buddies from the Vietnam War get together to relive some old times and shortly find themselves as the only defenders of a small town under siege from what appears to be a combination of motorcycle scum and some sort of cult. The Magnificent Four, these winners aren’t. Let me slow down here. At a svelte 84 minutes, the film begins by detailing the group’s adventures in Vietnam. For some reason, this goes on for about 20 minutes -- a quarter of its running time -- which is odd because the story is supposed to take place in the U.S. (Here’s a novel idea: Use flashbacks next time!)

Anyway, as three of the group make their way to meet up with their old buddy, they stop off at a bar and get into a scuffle with some of the aforementioned motorcycle scum. Look for one of our heroes to bust out some karate moves that I don’t think were in the script. I only say that because every time he executes one of his unpatented flying kicks, he just about falls down and props himself up with the grace of a 45-year old hooker rising from her battle-scarred knees off a garbage-strewn street after servicing a man named “El Fuego.” Anyway, he ain’t too graceful. Chick Norris, you got nothin' to worry about.

So before you know it, the guys all meet up, the townsfolk have been taken captive by the motorcycle dudes and the Sam Raimi-led cultists, and the local Sheriff has been tied to a pole and killed with lawn darts (I kid you not). All that stands between mindless, unprincipled anarchy and blessed democratic freedom is our group of buddies. So, after they all get good an' liquored up, one of them breaks out a crate of rifles and issues one to each member, and they take to the woods to engage in some of the worst fight and chase scenes ever projected onto a screen.

But here’s the thing. Thou Shalt Not Kill is so very bad, and really never makes a serious attempt at being more that it is, that there is some merit in its abject failure. There is value in this offering, and it lies in embracing both the genre and the quality (or lack of it) of the film. Simply put, it's so very bad that it is hard to stop watching. It's the proverbial train wreck that you have to watch.

I’ve often said that I respect a group of dudes with a dream who put forth a less-than-quality effort, but these cats... I mean, really! There's a poorly executed dream, and then there's this. Simple words are not enough. It defies categorization -- and common sense, and good taste, to boot. I'm tempted to mail Sam Raimi a copy right now with a note implying that it might find itself in the hands of the media if I'm not offered a juicy, high-paying part in the next Spider-Man movie. Move over, Thomas Hayden Church!

Bottom line: Thou Shalt Not Kill is a celebration of the bad movie. If you approach it in any other fashion, you will be dooming yourself to disappointment. If you ever wanted to invite a few friends over and get drunk and while you all goof on a film, well, then this is the movie for you.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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