Crimewave is one of those films that should have been a lot better than the finished product. In 1985 the director Sam Raimi was hired to work with a script written by the up and coming talent that was the Coen brothers. He had some definite ideas about what he wanted to do with the film and the comedic story looked to be a perfect fit. His choice of leading man was Bruce Campbell, fresh from the cult success of The Evil Dead. The studio had other ideas and Campbell was rejected in favour of Reed Birney for the headlining role. Things went from bad to worse with Raimi eventually disowning the film after the studio imposed its own cut on the director.
The film tells the story of a rather simple security guard who is on death row for the murder of his boss. As he is lead to the electric chair he recounts the tale of how he found himself in that situation. The security company that he worked for was run by two men who had stopped seeing eye to eye. So, one of them had the bright idea of selling off the business on the sly and arranging for his business partner to be murdered. The gents hired to do the job are a psychopathic pair who take great pride in their work. Their problem is not knowing when to stop. So after the deed is done they go about trying to kill everyone else. It is up to the lowly security guard to try to save the day.
Even with its obvious flaws the film is still pretty enjoyable. It isn’t a film to be taken seriously. The tone of the film is very much in the mould is the slapstick comedies of the 1930s. There are influences ranging from Cary Grant, through to Laurel and Hardy and the Tex Avery cartoons. The latter appears to be the biggest point of reference with the score playing a major part in setting the scene. Nearly all of the characters have an almost manic personality and the violence, when it comes, is comedic in the extreme. The exterminators are the most outrageous members of the cast. They use the same equipment for killing vermin and humans. The kilohurts setting just has to be adjusted.
Where the film falls down is in the casting of the lead. He is fine in the role but is seriously overshadowed by the supporting turn from Brace Campbell as the sleazy womaniser Renaldo the heel. The part was originally very small but when Campbell was overlooked for the main role Raimi beefed it up a bit to give him something to do. He gets all the best lines and his performance is one of the stand outs from the film.
The film moves along at a very brisk pace which just about keeps the audience engaged. It uses rapid dialogue and some slapstick humour to try to cover its flaws. It just about manages it.