True Blood is a low-budget movie that unfortunately follows a familiar formula. It’s a typical drama of the streets, with a somewhat complicated setup.
The film begins with a young New York hood (Jeff Fahey) getting the blame for the shooting of a policeman. He didn’t do it, but an obsessive cop on the case (James Tolkan) is sure he did. Fahey grabs his 10-year-old brother and tries to flee for the West. The police sniff out his plan, and Fahey has to leave town without the brother.
Cut to 10 years later. Fahey has led a fugitive life that includes a stint in the Marines. He returns to New York to see if the kid brother is still around.
After 10 years, the kid brother (Chad Lowe, brother of Rob) has changed a bit; he has now fallen in with a bad crowd. In fact, the baddest: He’s a member of the gang, led by a psycho named Spider, who killed the cop in the first place. Clearly, Fahey must save his brother from this evil character before it’s too late. The only problem is, the little brother still resents the earlier abandonment.
Once this is (laboriously) established, the film has nothing to do but mark time and engage the brothers in skirmishes. And drag in an intellectual waitress to provide some appealing counterpoint to the grittiness of the story.
Every once in a while the writer-director, Frank Kerr, seems to signal his intentions to do something interesting, through the use of shadows or other expressionistic devices. These signals, however, are usually just that. They don’t lead anywhere.
Fahey has some problems with the straight role as the leading man of the piece. He made a splashy impression as the guitar-wielding kook in Psycho III, and he looks as though he’d be more comfortable playing an oddball. And oddball certainly describes Billy Drago, the cadaverous actor who played creepy Frank Nitti in The Untouchables and plays Spider here. You don’t want to meet this guy in a dark alley, or anywhere else, for that matter.
First published in The Herald, May 6, 1989
I don’t know if there was more to this review. (Maybe that was for the best; the only thing more laborious than this movie’s set-up is my set-up of its set-up.) I feel certain I would’ve mentioned that the female lead is Sherilyn Fenn—as if there weren’t already a whiff of 80s straight-to-video about this movie, what with Fahey and Drago and Tolkan hanging around. The hero’s last name is Trueblood, by the way, which seems to fit perfectly.