Reviewed by Russell Tharp
Rating: 6.5 Beans
rossroads" is the semi-autobiographical story of how Ralph Macchio sold his soul to Satan in exchange for a movie career. Well, OK, not really, but that tale would doubtless be more entertaining than the actual plot committed to film by director Walter Hill (48 Hours, Streets of Fire) and writer John Fusco (Young Guns, Young Guns II), who shamelessly pillage an interesting bit of American music folklore to create a movie that will give you the blues for all the wrong reasons.
It seems Long Island resident Eugene "Lightning Boy" Martone (Ralph "The Karate Kid" Macchio) has an intense fascination with the blues. By day, he studies classical guitar at Julliard; but in the evenings he researches old bluesmen and works on his riffs (courtesy of Ry Cooder, who was Macchio's musical stunt double). In short order he discovers legendary blues great Willie Brown, aka Smokehouse Brown, aka Blind Dog Felton, aka Blind Boy Grunt, aka Scooby Snack Simpson, etc, etc; breaks Willie (Joe Seneca, now deceased) out of a senior citizen's prison (!!); and starts "hobo-ing" down to Mississippi, where he hopes to learn a "lost song" written but never recorded by an actual blues giant, Robert Johnson (Tim "ST:Voyager" Russ). Turns out, however, that Willie has an ulterior motive for getting to Old Miss: he needs to go to the Crossroads (the characters capitalize it with their voices) to find a way out of a deal he made with the Devil on the advice of Robert Johnson, who was rumored in the 1930s to have done the same thing.
So, what do we have here? It's a musical-drama-fantasy-coming-of-age-story with Ralph Macchio again playing Daniel-san and Joe Seneca playing the role of a grizzled, black Mr. Miyogi. Seneca's Willie Brown spends the entire movie spouting advice so inane and incomprehensible that we know it absolutely MUST be wisdom, while Macchio adopts his usual pasty-faced slack-jawed style of acting throughout. Macchio is as believable as a blues guitarist as he was as a karate champion, i.e., not a bit. And just when you thought the film couldn't get any more painful, in walks Jami "Twister" Gertz as Frances, the pointless and thoroughly annoying love interest. As the screen faded to black on the Macchio-Gertz love scene, I realized I'd never been more relieved to be watching a sex-free R-rated film in my entire life. The kiss alone was nausea-inducing; if I'd been exposed to any more of Macchio's clumsy, fish-lipped gropings I'd need intravenous Viagra to ever "perform" again.
The film ends with a boring and predictible "Dueling Banjos" climax, where "Pasty Boy" or "Laughing Boy" or whatever Martone faces off against a leather-trousered Steve Vai in a bid to save Willie's soul. Although both Vai and Cooder have reputations as excellent guitarists, the musical Fight to the Death consists primarily of licks nearly any halfway competent garage-band could play. Martone realizes his simple blues riffs don't stand a chance against Vai's wailing wah-wah bar, so he quickly crane-kicks Vai in the head and is declared the All-Hell Full-Contact Guitar Champion, before being torn apart by a pack of ravenous hell-hounds.
Well, OK, not really. But it couldn't have hurt.
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