I’m not sure if writer/director Aaron Harvey is attempting to give us nothing more than B-movie along the lines of 2 Days in the Valley or (God help us) Smokin’ Aces or if he aspires to something more like early Tarantino. Whatever his intentions, what Catch .44 delivers is a trio of attractive actresses, short skirts, a couple loving butt shots, and a movie not nearly as smart as it wants to be.
Our story begins with a theft of a drug shipment gone wrong. Our would be robbers are a trio of women working for a local drug trafficker (Bruce Willis). After the opening shootout the movie resets to the beginning of the night as Tes (Malin Akerman), Kara (Nikki Reed), and Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll) while away the hours together before their job goes horribly wrong.
Tes is the leader of the pack, or “the smart one.” A waitress in a seedy strip club who gets kicks by stealing customers wallets, she takes the job as a drug runner as much out of boredom as anything else.
Throughout the girls’ night out we fast forward to see an increasingly small amount more of the robbery before returning to events from earlier in the evening, or earlier in their careers as drug runners. Complicating the evening further are $2 million in missing cocaine, a double cross, a Mexican standoff, and an odd individual (Forest Whitaker) who has killed and assumed the identity of a local deputy (P.J. Marshall) and has an unusual fascination with one of the girls.
Whitaker’s character makes little sense, even once some of his behavior is explained. And Willis is mostly wasted in a role he can do in his sleep. The pair have on nice scene together late in the film, but it feels far more like Tarantino-light that the writer having anything worthwhile to say.
And I’m not even going to get started on the problems which arise by casting Ackerman as the smart one. Here character, however, is maddening to behold. Somehow Tes is both unbelievably dense and near brilliant (depending on what the scene calls for).
Movies like Catch .44 fall into two categories. Most are instantly forgettable. Then there are those few that, whether good or not, become cult classics. Even had the film cast the originally proposed cast (Maggie Grace, Sarah Roemer, and Lauren German), it’s unlikely given the limitations of the script that it would amount to more than we get here.
That said, there are a couple of interesting moments. The standoff, although nothing special, works well enough for a movie of this genre, and the the film certainly doesn’t skimp on fake blood as our poor protagonists (and several others) get themselves blown all over a skeezy truck stop.
The film boasts quite a few familiar faces including Whitaker, Willis, and our leading ladies, there’s also a good chance you’ll recognize Brad Dourif, Michael Rosenbaum, and Jill Stokesberry (even if you don’t recognize their names). Sadly, none of the actors are given much to do, but a friendly face here and there does give the film a bit of a lift its lulls.
As a one-time rental Catch .44 works some of the time, but not quite enough for me to recommend it. Had the script chosen to go either grittier and more realistic or developed darker sense of humor it might have separated itself from the pack of unremarkable films to which it belongs.