Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray Review
What do an Elvis impersonator, white-supremacist dope dealers and homemade torture devices have in common? The answer is a Deep South pawnshop somewhere in a backwoods town you hope to never visit. PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES weaves three stories—“The Shotgun,” “The Ring” and “The Medallion”—into one hillbilly-ridden movie complete with clown masks, caged women and a black Santa Claus.
In “The Shotgun,” a pair of hicks named Raw Dog (Paul Walker, who played the pretty one with the pretty hair in the FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise) and Randy (Kevin Rankin, the CBS series UNFORGETTABLE) debate whether their Neo-Nazi status holds up while trying to knock off a meth dealer.
In “The Ring,” newlywed Richard (Matt Dillon, Best Supporting Actor nominee in CRASH) finds his ex’s ring in a display case at the pawn shop and goes on the hunt for her, leading to a demented farmer named Johnny Shaw (Elijah Wood, who recently played Frank in the remake of William Lustig’s MANIAC).
And in “The Medallion,” an Elvis imitator named Ricky Baldoski (Brendan Fraser, FURRY VENGEANCE), who looks and sounds like Brendan Fraser trying to mimic The King, seeks sold-out venues in exchange for his soul.
PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES is written by Adam Minarovich, who penned 2011’s CHOP and something called WISEGUYS VS. ZOMBIES, and directed by Wayne Kramer, who used child molestation and snuff films as shock value in 2006’s RUNNING SCARED, also with Paul Walker. Here, the chaos is cranked up to an intolerable level and features a cast of psychos and sadists doing psychotic and sadistic things.
PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES is bred from ‘70s exploitation flicks and Quentin Tarantino films. But it is not a good take on either and it’s hard to say whether we’re supposed to be grossed out (which we sometimes are) or curling over in laughter (which we sometimes are), as it’s not clear whether the movie is serious or parody.
The one part of either that PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES gets even remotely right is the exploitation angle. Some portions (particularly “The Ring”) channel hicksploitation and vigilante films so well that they feel like the kind of low-level (yet still enjoyable, in a trashy kind of way) fare that would have played in grindhouse theaters for weeks on end. But its usage of Elvis (see: TRUE ROMANCE), grimy pawn shops (see: PULP FICTION) and a tangled narrative (see: PULP, RESERVOIR DOGS, JACKIE BROWN, etc.) play out like fourth-rate Tarantino. The primary problem with that, aside from the wannabe dialogue and characters that lacks any dimension, is that ripping off Tarantino went out of style even before Guy Ritchie quit trying. That kind of makes PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES a knock-off of knockoffs.
Other actors that turn up include Vincent D’Onofrio as the owner of the shop, Chi McBride as his partner, Thomas Jane as someone called The Man (we know this thanks to a convenient license plate), Lukas Haas as a strung-out buddy, and DJ Qualls (remember him?) as a cook who gets his face held to a grill by Matt Dillon.
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. While calling the picture “clean” might be an insult, it does feature strong details in both daytime and nighttime sequences that make this a very good high-definition transfer.
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. All of the dialogue, sound effects (from gunshots to clanging cages) and music cues (thankfully, Brendan Fraser doesn’t actually sing) come through without any issues.
Commentary with director Wayne Kramer and writer Adam Minarovich: While Kramer and Minarovich dish out various production tidbits, they spend much of the track praising the cast and commenting on what’s onscreen.
Also included is a DVD.