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Exterminators DVD Review

ExTerminators (2010) DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Exterminators

Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R / Video Debut: November 2, 2010

Director: John Inwood / Writer: Suzanne Weinert

Cast: Heather Graham (Alexandra Jane Case), Jennifer Coolidge (Stella), Matthew Settle (Detective Daniel Ian Burke), Amber Heard (Nicole Caroline O'Gara), Joey Lauren Adams (Kim Clark), Sam Lloyd (Robert Hutt), Farah White (Marsha), Drena De Niro (Dr. Press), Glenn Morshower (Bart S. Bryant), Kathy Lamkin (Landlady), Charlie Robison (Rick Clark), Andy Buckley (Steven Cantor), Jeff Schwan (Detective Pete Gardener), Eloise DeJoria (Danielle Cantor), David Hickey (Harmony)

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $27.97; Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.97 SRP)

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Was there any chance that Exterminators was going to get a theatrical run? This black comedy stars Heather Graham and Jennifer Coolidge, actresses you most likely know. Both are over 40 now (yes, Heather Graham hit that milestone this year) and in Hollywood, the list of over-40 women allowed to carry major movies on their own is only maybe six deep. Yes, that seems sexist and unfair, but at the same time, I can't confess to attending or wanting to attend a 40-and-up actress vehicle. There just aren't many out there and there aren't many that appeal to the masses. Whether the blame lies with supply or demand, gender is just one factor to explain why Exterminators premieres on DVD and Blu-ray next week to minimal awareness.

At the film's start, Texas accountant Alexandra Case (Heather Graham) is kind of a nerd, as her large glasses indicate. Nikki (Amber Heard) and Stella (Jennifer Coolidge), classmates in the mandatory rage therapy group, become Alex's best friends and accidental partners in crime.

Graham stars as Alexandra Case, a Texas accountant who loses her job and her husband on the same day. She comes home early to find him with another woman and divorce proceedings follow. In the seventeenth century play The Mourning Bride, Englishman William Congreve wrote of the wrath of a scorned woman. I'm not sure if Alex lives up to that famous phrase, but she does punch a male shopper who tries to take a cute top she wants to buy. The act gets her sentenced to a year's worth of weekly one-hour women's rage group therapy.

There, she befriends a couple of her classmates: vehicularly violent Stella (Coolidge) and young sociopath Nikki (Amber Heard), who is never seen without a cigarette or lollipop in her mouth. The three bond over their regular post-session visits to McNasty's Bar. One night,
they try to teach a lesson to the drunk and abusive husband of another classmate named Kim (Joey Lauren Adams) and they unintentionally cause him to drive off a cliff. The women line up their stories and vow to stay silent. But then Kim shows up at Stella's extermination business with gratitude and an envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash. The women soon realize the lucrative service they could provide and money is needed because Stella owes back taxes and Nikki has just lost her dentist's assistant job.

As our goody two-shoed protagonist, Alex doesn't follow her friends into the racket of offing unfaithful and unkind men for their partners. She switches from oversized glasses to contact lenses and manages to get a new job and a new boyfriend in Detective Dan Burke (Matthew Settle), an acquaintance from Boston College who is now heading the police investigation of the suspicious homicides. But, as we see from the start of the film, Alex is guiltily confessing her knowledge and involvement to an unknown party. How can she betray her new best friends over something as trivial as repeated pre-meditated murder?!

Alex (Heather Graham) is surprised to recognize some names on the homicide map of her police detective boyfriend (Matthew Settle). "Scrubs" lawyer Sam Lloyd plays IRS agent Robert Hutt, who's big on following, investigating, and videotaping women.

Exterminators marks the feature screenwriting debut of Suzanne Weinert, the former assistant to one of those handful of 40-something female movie stars (Julia Roberts) and former vice president of her production company. You definitely sense a woman's touch in the writing, something you don't often encounter in dark comedies. Jilted lovers taking revenge isn't too much of a stretch, but not many would think to work lethal poisoning and bludgeoning into the mix. Naturally, the movie doesn't really show us any of this and it couldn't because it wants us to sympathize with the women. But we don't. At least, I didn't. I've got a hard time rooting for vengeance kills in movies, even when they're performed with smiles, lipstick, and cleavage.

Without getting behind the human exterminations (which are illogically logged in the financial records, so as to involve Alex and a creepy videotaping stalker/IRS agent played by Sam Lloyd, who follows director John Inwood from "Scrubs"),
there isn't much to enjoy about the film. Despite the R rating and plot, this is a rather tame comedy that wouldn't take too much tweaking to play on Lifetime. Though that women's cable network generally doesn't do homicides for laughs, the entire Alex-Dan romance would be right at home there, what with her pretending to be able to cook and him being a totally decent guy.

Outside of a few scattered moments, the movie isn't really funny, but it doesn't try too hard to be. It's not too serious or dramatic. It's not bad. It's not good. It's not really anything, but a forgettable 90 minutes you're never on board with but never strongly bothered by. If the movie was about men killing their unfaithful and physically abusive ex-wives, it'd be sick and offensive. Overlooking that, though, if it was made with the likes of Ed Helms, Seann William Scott, and Neil Flynn in this same fashion, it'd be just as certain to go straight to video.

The videotaped confession of Alex (Heather Graham) provides the film with narration, but who and what it's for remain a mystery until the end. Stella (Jennifer Coolidge), Alex (Heather Graham), and Nikki (Amber Heard) process the fiery consequences of their spiteful driving.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Exterminators (and the official title is just that, not ExTerminators as the packaging calls it nor Ex Terminators as the menu does) appears in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The DVD's picture quality is not excellent, but it's usually pretty passable. Some presumably unwanted grain turns up at a number of points in the film (along with some that is likely deliberate). In addition, interlacing is rampant and the credits text looks distractingly compressed and low-tech.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fine. It needs to be turned up in a few spots and does little in the way of environment, but it's clear enough throughout. Unusually, the DVD altogether lacks subtitles and closed captioning, which is sure to be a bummer for the hearing impaired.

Jennifer Coolidge and Amber Heard share a laugh pretend-watching a Cary Grant movie together in bed in Exterminators' substantial gag reel. There's no scene selection, subtitles, just a single luxury... Exterminators' main menu is as primitive as can be.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Exterminators has a single silent, static menu screen with just two listings: "Play Feature" and "Gag Reel". Surprisingly, the latter is about ten times as long as your typical outtakes reel; it runs 21 minutes and 27 seconds. It's a little funnier than usual because of that. We get context to flubbed lines, unused improvisations, and a bit of behind-the-scenes. Jennifer Coolidge is front and center throughout, so her fans may enjoy seeing some of the person behind the comedy.

The package lists a trailer, but there is none to be found, besides ones for The Lightkeepers and Fade to Black that play at disc insertion.

The Exterminators -- Stella (Jennifer Coolidge), lollipop-loving Nikki (Amber Heard), and Alex (Heather Graham) -- have an early morning talk, which explains the attire here.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Compared to many of the movies that end up going straight to video, Exterminators isn't too bad, but this dark comedy is still subpar enough not to mind it missing a theatrical release. It doesn't have the teeth to go with its men-killing plot, giving it a kind of flavorless First Wives Club-meets-Lifetime feel (or so I imagine, without having actually seen The First Wives Club or too much Lifetime) rather than the offbeat crime caper it half-heartedly wants to be.

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Reviewed October 27, 2010.



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