If Guy Ritchie made “The Hangover” in the Netherlands, it might look something like “Black Out,” a competent but convoluted crime thriller about a man who wakes up the day before his wedding beside a dead body with no memory of how he or it got there. With amusing quick thinking he finds an enormous suitcase and stuffs the corpse into it, but it doesn’t quite fit; the head remains poking out of the top. So he gets a duffel bag, cuts a hole in the bottom, shoves it over the head, and walks out his front door in broad daylight.
A clever start. But from there director/writer Arne Toonen and co-writer Melle Runderkamp get a bit too clever, dragging their hungover hero Jos (Raymond Thiry) through a parade of altercations with cartoonish gangsters and cops. There’s the flamboyant former figure skater turned drug dealer, and the wildly racist police detective, and the “coke connoisseur” who can tell a drug’s purity just by rubbing it between her fingers, and the bumbling thieves who run a dog grooming salon, and the old underworld kingpin who’s slowly dying, and his hired muscle, a pair of incredibly sexy, pop culture dissecting sisters. In the style of “Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels” or “Snatch” all these characters lives interweave into an intricate web of crime and macho posturing, with poor Jos the fly ensnared at its center. In the style of “The Hangover,” he has no idea how he got there.
Jos used to work for the kingpin and used to be married to the coke connoisseur, but claims he’s out of the business forever, looking only to settle down quietly with his soon-to-be wife. But during his mysterious blackout, Jos apparently stole quite a bit of cocaine from two different sets of criminals, and he also attracted the attention of both the police and his crooked soon-to-be-father-in-law, which means he has just one day to sort through his debts, clear his name (even though he might be guilty), dispose of a body, and find his wedding rings.
Toonen has clearly watched a lot of movies, and if nothing else, he’s certainly an apt pupil. “Black Out” is the work of an undeniably gifted visual stylist and editor. Juggling this many storylines for a sustained period of time is not easy, and Toonen makes it look like it is. But juggling the same couple of balls over and over gets a bit tiresome after 90 minutes unless you mix a few other tricks in there — maybe a sword or a flaming torch. Other than one impressive third act twist, “Black Out” proceeds as you expect, and long before Jos gets his head right we’ve realized exactly where he’s going. And why not? We’ve seen most of this stuff before in other movies.
“Black Out” is playing again at Fantastic Fest on Monday, September 24th at 12:05 PM.
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