American Rescue Squad is one of those painful films to review. It's the kind of film that seems like it could be on to something special, but it never quite gets there. It's clear that everyone in the film had a solid vision and, to be honest, the film's packaging is quite impressive. As a film writer, I spend half my time chasing down information, credits, graphics and more while trying to construct a halfway decent review.
Most filmmakers don't make the job easy.
The American Rescue Squad team made it easy. They kept their IMDB page up-to-date. They have a quality website. They serve up quality graphics that are of a good quality and represent the film well.
Why doesn't the film actually work?
First off, it may be important to realize that the Divineys, Elliott and Adam, "get it." They really do. Why else would they let their film play Tromadance?
Self-billed as a "political action comedy musical with superheroes," American Rescue Squad centers around a mysterious group known as "The Alliance" that kidnaps a superhero known as The Taxpayer (Really!). They imprison him, torture him, and make plans to publicly crucify him. Richard Randolph, a local janitor, rounds up retired superheroes and a plan is hatched to rescue The Taxpayer. The bad guys stage a public rally, where many gather to watch the execution while, of course, the good guys invade the bad guy lair and a battle ensues.
Cue in musical numbers, comedy, etc.
The problem? It just doesn't work.
Of course, American Rescue Squad is a political satire. There's no question about that. With retired superheroes like "Common Sense" and "Personal Responsibility," that's their actual names, it's clear that American Rescue Squad is going for some intentional messaging here yet it really seems like either the filmmakers didn't trust us to actually get it or they really just wanted to drive home how ridiculous this all is.
I'll let you decide.
American Rescue Squad had its world premiere way back in 2012 at the Twin Cities Film Festival and has played in multiple fests since that time. The Minnesota production played in Tromadance in 2013. As a longtime Troma fan, I must confess this gives me quite a bit of affection for the film, even if it doesn't really change my opinion.
The tone in American Rescue Squad is really kind of all over the place, though this is a common risk in low-budget filmmaking. In many cases, an experienced actor can pick up on the tone of a film and weave their way through it even when it's not a particularly good choice by the filmmaker. Indie film tends to be different. You tend to be dealing with less experienced actors who haven't quite figured out the finer nuances of acting and, unfortunately, that means you can watch a wildly uneven film. If you're fine with a "B" movie, then you may very well find yourself enjoying pieces of American Rescue Squad, but if you're going into it expecting anything else then you're going to be disappointed.
American Rescue Squad arrives on home video courtesy of MVD on May 19th. If you're a fan of Troma Films, then you may want to check this one out for yourself. Otherwise, this is one film that could use some rescuing itself.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic