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Friday, October 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Mad Cowgirl": This breaks slasher-film rules, and not in a good way

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Mad Cowgirl," with Sarah Lassez, James Duval, Linton Semage, Walter Koenig. Directed by Gregory Hatanaka, from a screenplay by Hatanaka and Norith Soth. 89 minutes. Not rated; contains nudity, graphic violence, language and sexuality. Grand Illusion.

Even avant-garde, experimental, ultraviolent sex-and-splatter flicks such as "Mad Cowgirl" are obliged to establish their own rules and play by them accordingly. Instead, this indulgently puerile waste of time plows ahead with pointless mayhem masquerading as "art."

A film distributor-turned-filmmaker of dubious merit, director and co-writer Gregory Hatanaka eagerly caters to those who think film history begins with Quentin Tarantino and ends with Takashi Miike. That would explain the five-star rave that Film Threat magazine gave to this bloody mess, which will appeal primarily to 20-something psychos-in-training and women who hate men.

To the extent that "Mad Cowgirl" is about anything, it concerns a Los Angeles health inspector named Therese (Sarah Lassez) who's either going insane from mad-cow disease or playing out emasculating revenge fantasies inspired by porno flicks and Hong Kong martial-arts action movies.

Give credit to the attractive Lassez for diving head-first into a role that demands nothing less than total commitment. As Hatanaka's version of "The Bride" from Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies (from which Hatanaka steals most of his recycled ideas), Lassez deserves a successful career as compensation for what Hatanaka puts her through.

As Therese's reality splinters, the ordeals that she (and we) must endure include incestuous encounters with her brother (James Duval), overtures from the doctor (Linton Semage) who diagnoses her disease, and an inexplicable affair with a sleazy televangelist played by Walter Koenig (Chekov from the original "Star Trek"), whose presence here surely represents the nadir of his career.

Underground cinema is supposed to be daring and provocative, but must it be nonsensical?

You could argue that delirium is this movie's raison d'être, but in dedicating the shot-on-video "Mad Cowgirl" to indie-film pioneers John Cassavetes and Doris Wishman, Hatanaka wrongly suggests he's in their league. Only in his dreams.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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