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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Christmas Rush (review)

Die Hard in, Like, a Mall

By Christmas Eve, $10 to $12 million will be sitting in the vaults of Chicago Place, the most exclusive shopping mall in Chicago. And Eric Roberts wants it all. Bwahahahahaha.

But he’s not evil, not really. His beloved son needs a bone marrow transplant. Forget “Baby needs new shoes” — baby needs new white blood cells. And it’s up to Dean Cain to stop him.

I know. He’s such a sweetie-pie, Dean Cain, isn’t he? But I guess he’s an appropriate response to a bad guy who’s not really a bad guy, right? Oh, with the unshaven thing there’s a halfhearted attempt to make us think cutie Cain is a tough cop… plus he’s up on a “police misconduct charge” for “excessive force.” It’s okay — you can laugh. Dean Cain? Excessive force? Nicest Superman ever? He wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Christmas Rush has all the inevitability of, well, the made-for-TBS Superstation movie that it is, but it has a goofy kind of wannabe Die Hard charm to it. Only half the laughs are unintentional and, actually, the best ones are intended. I think.

Cain is Morgan, one of Chicago’s finest, who actually has to turn in his gun and badge in the beginning of the movie — that badass thing again. So cute, Cain trying to be all hardened. He has a fairly badly written argument with his wife, Cat (Erika Eleniak), on Christmas Eve morning, and later goes to her workplace that night to make it up with her. What’s this? She works at Nakatomi Tower… I mean, she works at Chicago Place, and Cain, strolling through the mall at closing time, sees Roberts and his gang striding in purposeful, almost-evil slo-mo through the food court, and he instantly knows they’re up to no good. (Cain and Roberts have a past, of course. Probably Roberts’s more evil brother will come back in Christmas Rush 3 to exact revenge. Cuz naturally Cain wins. But you knew that already.)

It’s all really too funny: bad guys with indistinct Euro accents, last-minute shoppers and employees taken hostage — including, of course, Cat. Good thing Cain brought his spare gun along with the let’s-make-up flowers for the wife. You wonder whether his mother knows he has a gun. You kinda want to hug him. At least he hasn’t ended up doing awful Radio Shack commercials with Howie Long.

For Die Hard in a Mall, Christmas Rush is astonishingly free of product placement — I guess seeing The Gap and fye and Aunt Annie’s Pretzels ravaged by thieves and rogue cops is no good for business, however good it might be for the soul. Chicago Place looks like the Serbian army came through before it’s all over, the decorations all trashed, the shootout under the giant “Peace On Earth” banner — har har. Silent night? Oh dear god, the decibels coming off the submachine guns hurt my ears.

Cain’s would-be badass tagline is pretty lame: “There’s an easy way, and there’s a hard way,” meaning the guys with guns can either come quietly or die in a hail of excessive-force gunfire. Not quite the panache of Bruce Willis’s “Yippie-ki-ay,” but I guess you can’t say “Merry fuckin’ Christmas” on basic cable.

It just goes right off the deep, bizarre end at the end, but before that there is, inexplicably, a three-legged cat that escapes an explosion. Inexplicable, yet cool.


MPAA: rated TV-PG LV

viewed at home on a small screen

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