Reviewed By: Rat Faced Killa

Plot Outline: Goose is the leader of the Ravens, a street gang in Daton, Ohio. As a result of his girlfriend’s pleas, he decides to quit the gang. Taking advantage of the loss of protection Goose had from his gang, a rival gang, The Spiders, decide to kill him. Unfortunately, they break into his house while he is doing one last drug deal and kill his girlfriend instead. After giving her a decent burial in a trash compactor, Goose goes on a drug binge before re-joining the Ravens for an armored car heist assisted by the Spiders. When the Spiders double-cross the Ravens, Goose has to engage the rival gang alone in a bloody fight to the death


The Review
The first thing that should be mentioned is that this film is cheap. I don’t mean Reservoir Dogs cheap, I mean El Mariachi cheap. Even cheaper. In fact, I’d be surprised if the film cost more than I paid for the DVD. This is primarily where its problems lie. Deadbeat at Dawn makes a poor initial impression. One negative factor is the short psychedelic kaleidoscope sequence which begins the film and is (unfortunately) repeated several times throughout as a transition between scenes. In the opening scenes when Goose’s girlfriend is attacked by a member of The Spiders, we are presented with a less-than-believable police officer. Apparently the film-makers couldn’t locate a uniform because this officer’s attire consists of a windbreaker, jeans, and a hat. Enter the two gangs the movie is centered on, who look like rejects from Walter Hill’s The Warriors, at a cemetery, which must be a cool place for gangs to fight in Daton. What follows is a brawl between the two gangs, which could have been entertaining had the fight scenes in this film been choreographed better. Instead, we watch a bunch of people pull their punches and kicks poorly, noticeably missing in most of the shots. This is quite unfortunate, since the film has to depend on these sequences. Had the script been more than a standard revenge fare this may have been acceptable.

The acting in this film is strictly amateur night. It’s as if director Jim Van Bebber grabbed these people from the street and asked them if they wanted a part in a movie. Bebber himself, who plays Goose, does a decent job and seems natural in the low-life surroundings, but his lines usually come off as forced.This situation is made worse by his screenplay, which is accented with moronic lines like “Come on out, snakes” (said by the murderer of Goose’s girlfriend, referring to her intestines). There are also several logic problems with the film. One example would be why Goose and his girlfriend have a padlock on the outside of their apartment door. And why don’t the Spiders take advantage of certain situations and shoot Goose, such as near the end of the film when he is unarmed? These contrivances don’t really help the credibility of the film. Other problems associated with the films lack of budget include people looking directly into the camera in public scenes and the absence of a competent cinematographer. In many of the scenes, shadows, garish colored lights, and bright light fall across the onscreen characters haphazardly. This really interferes with the movie and doesn’t help with suspension of disbelief at all, making the viewer self aware of the lighting and cheapening the overall look of the film. I imagine most of the problems I had with this film would be non-existent if the film had a higher budget, but Bebber does the best he can with what is available.

The Conclusion
Even considering all the negative aspects of that I’ve mentioned, Deadbeat at Dawn still manages be a watchable film with several positive attributes. Although the first half of the film is pretty boring, the second half moves at a rapid pace until the conclusion, which is an insanely bloody battle between Goose and The Spiders. The film also manages to deliver some realistic looking makeup effects, a majority of those showcased in final scene. Bebber also adds some humor to the script, such as Goose’s crazy junkie dad (not sure if that was intentional). Other moments of hilarity include a scene where a vagrant asks Goose what he’s going to do with his brandished gun. Goose replies that he is going to kill himself the vagrant retorts, “Alright, yeah, cool”. It’s also quite funny and ridiculous when Bebber tries to rob a gas station and a geek bystander grabs his grandmothers’s gun and starts shooting while the grandmother yells, “Shoot him in the head!”. Some of the stunt work is impressive as well, including a sequence where Goose descends down a parking garage with only a rope or gets hit by a car. It’s a wonder that Bebber was still alive when this movie was completed. Even though they are poorly choreographed, Bebber puts his energy into every one of the fights. This is especially the case for the finale, which is the best segment in this movie. The climatic fight combines kung-fu, outrageous violence and brutal gore. Goose gets beat up, his fingers bitten off, scraped against a brick wall, and stabbed multiple times. Deadbeat at Dawn wasn’t the great no-budget flick I expected it to be, but it should be of interest to fans of the obscure or no-budget. It’s a deeply flawed but energetic action/gang film that is worth tracking down. That is if you can find it, because the DVD is now out of print.