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FUZZ TRACK CITY – The Review

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Review by Dane Marti

This film rocked my Rock and Roll World. How’s that for an obnoxious way to open a serious film review? I don’t care if I sound juvenile. As I write this, I am listening to Led Zeppelin, to be followed by The Stooges first album.

Anyway, this movie put me in a damn good mood. Of course, having spent years in the local music scene, hanging out with friends dedicated to the lovely pursuit of vinyl acquisition, I was definitely interested in the film, an obsessive and positive interest that would compel many of my generation to enjoy the movie. I collect old records, and I know this unique and obsessive world. FUZZ TRACK CITY rings true.

The main character – a Detective named Murphy Dunn (seems stuck in the past. Trapped in a lava light – ”no, trapped in a bad 70′s cop show. He’s a Starsky without a Hutch. Dunn is colorful: With his brown leather coat (which he happily wears in all weather conditions – including heat!), his long shaggy hair and ‘stash, he’s VERY 1970′s. He could have been a pal of Serpico. Or bonded with ‘The Dude.’ Frankly, he has style.

Many people might think he is a tad disturbed, or dorky, but as this clever film unfolds, appearances can be deceiving: there’s a plethora of unusual people in this flick without any saving graces that can hold them tethered to reality and they will met bad ends by the end of the movie. The Detective might look like he stepped out of a disco inferno time machine from the era of Boogie Nights, but once he gets a cup of coffee or two’ he’s good to go! He’s a great character. He should have more misadventures after this film concludes.

Anyway, Detective Dunn (he’s played with understated cool confidence by Todd Robert Anderson) is hired to find the missing son of Mrs. Lockwood (The wonderful Dee Wallace). Once upon a time, she had been the Detective’s high school guidance counselor, a sexy authority figure that all the dudes had wanted to do the ‘wild thing’ with.

Mrs. Wallace mentions her son to Dunn: He went to get his oil changed and he hasn’t been back since, Lockwood tells the rumpled, sad, but cool Detective. Dunn reminds me of a younger Moses Gunn. Remember that Detective?

As Dunn becomes embroiled in the conflicts and quicksand of his intriguing case, Detective Dunn – as well as the audience – soon realizes that everything revolves around finding an extremely rare, vintage 45 of garage rock, music of psychedelic, guitar intensity – a missing audio link from the early seventies!

How many of us record collectors have scoured record stores, flea markets and garage sales, desperately attempting to find that one extraordinary disk? I didn’t find the characters to be stereotypical however. In the film, Dunn finds himself caught up in a mystery that centers less on finding the sweet woman’s missing son and considerably more on finding a vintage pressed 45! The record is by a band called, Culture Monks and it is the B-side of the record, the side without a title, which is the reason for the mayhem that ensues in the story. Yes, the viewer will have a rockin’ time.

The relationship between Dunn and Mrs. Lockwood is handled with sweet charm that never collapses into silliness.

The Detective carries a plethora of ‘baggage:’ I cannot go into all of it here, but perhaps a little info: Before the movie starts, our hero – Dunn–is drinking and smoking more than usual. He is melancholy and fixated on the death of his friend and partner. The diseased, a charming older man whom our hero once had a little ‘conflict’ with, has now left a void in Dunn’s life. As far as the problem is concerned, Dunn has been able to still love and miss his friend. He has gotten over the past, the troubles – he’s removed any ugly, unfortunate memories that he might have had with his buddy; obviously, Dunn considers this guy to be genuine and better than many of the people he meets on a daily basis, and if the story is any indication of the Hollywood, Record industry folks he runs into, there are a lot of people without many redeeming qualities. This is another incisive look at Hollywood-the good, bad and glitteringly fake. Hey, I still dig Hollywood.

Dunn also has an ex-girlfriend who is pregnant. The viewer can tell that there is still love and affection between the two. Soon, they decide to get the Detective Agency moving into the future and not stalled in the past. Good idea.

Now, as bad as the problems get in discovering what happened to Mrs. Lockwood’s audiophile son, Dunn handles himself with determination and a quiet existential resilience. At least that’s what this reviewer saw in the character! Ha. He’s a good guy. He understands people. For instance, he is a good man when it comes to dispensing advice and listening to a young woman who has recently arrived in the ‘big city’ from Ohio with dreams of rock stardom. Sure, Dunn might look silly in his sunglasses, but he’s got a lot of intelligence going on under the wild hair. Unfortunately, some other ‘characters’ in the film, characters that are insanely looking for the spectral rare audio artifact, are pretty clueless people. However, these ‘enemies’ can be dangerous. They all desire the platter: the Holy Grail of independent, D.I.Y. recording.

The movie captures ‘the perfect storm’ of zany, but often-violent activity that the quest for the record seems to bring forth in everyone. All the characters were great. Dee Wallace is superb in a subtle and believable way. I’ve always appreciated how she brings warmth to the characters she plays. At one point near the end of the film, Mrs. Lockwood enters a motel room and stares at the scene before her eyes – Detective Dunn’s ‘girlfriend’ is about to give birth. Ha! This particular moment set off a subconscious bell in the back of my film history-mind. I mean, I was reminded of another film Dee Wallace had memorably acted in.

Repeatedly, Dunn is banged up by thugs who have vested interest in find the record. They tell him, in one painfully memorable scene while crushing Dunn’s fingers in a car door, that he stay away from attempting to find the missing guy. During the investigation, Dunn goes to the home of Lockwood Junior’s friend, played with perfect intensity by Josh Adell. He reminds me of a more pleasant version of Dustin Hoffman playing Lenny Bruce. This guy, painfully wracked by Agoraphobia and possibly zoned out on hallucinogenic, is one of the best actors in the film. I wish we had learned more about him before the end.

There is also this obnoxious Jim Morrison-type of Rock Star who has only been able to record one hit song! His name is Zack Lee and he’s full of himself. Actually, he’s full of shit, but -  Now, I shouldn’t use Morrison as an example, because as messed-up as Jim was in many respects, he wasn’t plastic. This dude is your typical, plastic, 80′s Rocker – ripped jeans and all. Like everyone else in this Neo Noir film, he is also looking for the mysterious record. The pacing of the story is great – soon we are entering heading to a climax in which all the elements are coming together. Will there be an explosion? Will there be blood? You’ll have to see it.

Directed and written with skill and imagination by Steve Hicks, FUZZ TRACK CITY is considerably more original and creative (something I find important in literature, film, music or any art form) than many movies out there, whether they are Independent, Hollywood big budget or foreign. Some elements of the film reminded me of Roman Polanski’s brilliant Chinatown. Then there were scenes and characters that seemed to fit into the Big Lebowski. Other movies that I thought of while watching this entertaining yarn, (and by that I’m not implying that the film steals from other work or cannot stand on its own cinematic feet!) was Pulp Fiction and a passing sequence of images and sound that had me recalling the pop/film ambiance of American Graffiti.

Frankly, it’s enjoyable to watch a film that fits into a genre, that isn’t just excellent with camerawork or expressionist lighting. Everything is well done in this flick. It’s damn professional, making us forget that this wasn’t a big budget film packed with slick crap and a mega marketing campaign. I was not only blown away by the performances, but a many other artistic and technical elements. However, before anything else, I must admit that the level of dialogue in the story sincerely impressed me: the quality of the writing was excellent, something even well-known filmmakers often have a problem with. Everything is helped along by excellent editing, creating a cool rhythm to the proceedings, which are humorous, but also contain serious elements dealing with life, friendship, death, obsession and commitment. Hey, a baby is born at the end. I also loved the groovy optical effects.

If you love rock and roll -  and movies that can tell a good story, while entertaining you in a kinetic and artful manner, I highly recommend FUZZ TRACK CITY.

FUZZ TRACK CITY is currently being shown at film festivals. Watch for it!

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