Welcome to “Your Weekly Short,” a new feature on LakeFrontRow.com that showcases one short from a Wisconsin filmmaker each week, every week. Brace thy face.
“Bitch Slapped” comes courtesy of Wausau-based filmmaker Jarrod Crooks, but don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is an excuse to be crude. Crooks stars as police officer Jason — or is it “Randy,” as his recently scorned girlfriend/rescuer (Brittany Lange) calls him? — and Jason’s cover has just been blown, a revelation that’s bluntly illustrated with the end of a baseball bat. Face bloodied and arms tied to a chair, Jason must contend with the impending death threats of a bald badman (Nate Shallue) and his loitering posse of mouthbreathers while fighting off the worst headache ever. Now if he could only reach that cell phone.
Without looking I can tell you there are ten action shorts on YouTube that are a Google search away. And again without even looking, I’m betting most of them are terrible. By proximity alone, “Bitch Slapped” is far more exuberant and kinetic. Taking cues from early Jackie Chan a la Drunken Master, Crooks blends comedy with a surprising heap of martial arts action, and both he and his stunt crew of bland goons seem to be having a blast trading blows in awkward positions and cramped confines. Splatter aside though, the action itself isn’t as surprising as how cool a bunch of Midwestern filmmakers make it look wailing on each other. For all of Crooks’ Ben Affleck-lite handsomeness, his real asset is a clear understanding that great action is only buoyed by great sound design, and it’s how real the bumps and bruises feel that raises “Bitch Slapped” above the dozens of run-of-the-mill “lightsaber FX” YouTube reels. Well, that and Brittany Lange, the mercurial firecracker Jason respects and fears in equal measure. Given how Crooks treats his lone female character, the title of “Bitch Slapped” seems less a derogatory jab at Lange and more an encapsulation of her prissy volatility, as much a crazy chica as she is a whirlwind of lady empowerment.