Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NUN OF THAT

Gleefully offensive, NUN OF THAT (2009) is an ambitious and often funny parody of 70's urban exploitation films, that almost - but not quite - manages to rise above its threadbare production values, microbudget and unpolished performances to achieve true cult classic status. Still, it's an entertaining effort and does deliver a few genuine chuckles and a laugh or two.

Sister Kelly (Sarah Nicklin) is a pretty, young novice nun with an overdeveloped sense of right & wrong, who has a tendency to resort to violence when she sees sins she believes need to be punished. This makes her a perfect candidate for a secret sect of vigilante nuns within the Church, the Order of the Black Habit, but before she can join their ranks, she must die. Gunned down in an alley after beating the hell out of some would-be rapists, she wakes up in a very low-rent-looking Heaven, where she gets to party with a funky Christ and all his other "wives." But Eternal Reward is not for her - not yet - so after some martial arts training with Ghandi, she is returned to Earth, where, rechristened as "Sister Wrath," she joins the Black Habit and their crusade against Mama Rizzo's (Rich Tretheway, in drag, modeled after Shelly Winters' character in CLEOPATRA JONES) criminal mob.

Setting out to offend as many people as possible, NUN OF THAT is filled with twisted stereotypes and eccentric characters, including a Hebrew assassin skilled in Jew-jitsu, over-blown Italian mobsters, a singing, dancing Jesus, and, of course, lots of nuns behaving badly. There's even the obligatory nun-on-nun action. Still, I can't deny that a lot of this is genuinely funny. And the jokes and sight gags keep on coming pretty relentlessly.

Writer/director Richard Griffin shows some real storytelling and comic skills, keeping the pace lively and the tone light, if irreverent. The performances range from okay to abysmal, though the cinematography is surprisingly accomplished. The stunts and fight scenes are also above par for a film of this budget, and are edited well. What hurts the movie most is the dreary locations - as mentioned, Heaven is portrayed by what appears to be an institutional basement, while the Black Habit's convent looks like someone's living room. I know it sounds nitpicky, but the mundane settings make it that much harder to buy into the filmmaker's already outrageous fantasy world.

The Camp Motion Pictures DVD provides NUN OF THAT with an 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that adequately serves the digital videography. Supplemental material consists of two audio commentary tracks - one with the primary filmmakers, the other with the main cast - a "Making of" featurette, the original four-minute short that the feature film was based on, and a selection of trailers from Camp Motion Pictures/Alternative Cinema.

If the acting was just a bit more accomplished and they'd had just a little more resources (or more imaginative solutions to compensate), NUN OF THAT might have been a memorable exploitation gem; as it is, it's a damned good try, and worth checking out, if you're not offended by irreverent comedy and crude humor.

BUY: Nun of That