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Genius Products presents
Toxic (2007)

"Past. Present. Future. It's all in your head. It's not the same. It's not...real."
- Lucille (Charity Shea)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 30, 2008

Stars: Susan Ward, Corey Large, Master P, Charity Shea
Other Stars: Dominique Swain, Danny Trejo, Bai Ling, Paul Johannson, Costas Mandylor, Tom Sizemore, Steven Bauer, Cerina Vincent, C. Thomas Howell, Kitana Baker, Brande Roderick, Tabitha Stevens, Ron Jeremy, Lochlyn Munro
Director: Alan Pao

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some violence, sexual content/nudity and brief drug use
Run Time: 01h:31m:42s
Release Date: July 08, 2008
UPC: 796019813488
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A C+A-A- F

DVD Review

Alan Pao's Toxic is 91 minutes of strangeness, edited with fast cuts, juiced-up coloring, and dialogue and sound cues that swirl and stutter around in bright bursts.

Underneath all of the visual and aural window dressing is a story—somewhere—about the tyrannical Van Zandt (Tom Sizemore) searching for his missing daughter Lucille (Charity Shea), who has escaped from a mental hospital. Van Zandt employs a couple of thugs to do the legwork, and as the narrative jumps forward and back, the plot also throws onto the pile a psychic, a strip club, a pimp, some prostitutes, and a general layer of what-the-hell-is-going-on-here.

The logic-defying complexities of the plot are almost overshadowed by the way Pao assembles it, piecing things together with more than a casual nod to Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. And to Pao's credit, he does it with such a steady weave of manic wackiness that it almost works. The head-scratching intricacies of the script almost seem like an afterthought, because Pao is relentless in keeping things off-balance, and I guess not always knowing what was going on didn't really soften my appreciation for the way it all looks.

Toxic is one of those films that wears its massive quirkiness like a medallion, and it seems impossible for Pao to stage even one solitary scene without resorting to jerky cuts, distorted voices or some kind of weird stuttering effect. The visuals threaten to eclipse the storytelling at times, but considering how twisted the plot is, I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing. Pao utilizes all manner of clever camera angles, and he is constantly moving the camera around to layer on some kind of wild freneticism.

While this may not be an absolutely flawless film (far from it, actually), there's no denying Alan Pao knows how to assemble things in such an ADD sort of way that it's hard not to just sit there and allow it to wash all over you. Some of his overdone style may seem regurgitated—from others as well as himself—yet Toxic remains extremely watchable throughout.

The plot? Well, that's another story.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Toxic comes from Genius in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Pao opts for all sorts of super-saturated colors and bleaching, and the transfer renders these artificial tweaks quite well. No evidence of print damage or debris, and this one really looks sharp and colorful.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Just one audio choice, and it's an aggressively fun Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option. The mix is a fitting match to Alan Pao's frenetic editing, as voices and sounds move around all channels, reflecting the herky-jerky narrative. Dialogue—even whispered—is clear at all times, and the soundtrack music has a nice wide feel to it.


Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Awake, Cassandra's Dream, The Hunting Party
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras, save for a trio of unrelated trailers. The feature film is cut into 18 chapters, with optional subs in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

A bit confusing—but rarely predictable—Alan Pao's Toxic operates with the chaotic ricochets of a speed freak uncorked. The story bounces all over the place, treading ever so lightly on the Tarantino/Ritchie soil of the quirky crime genre, as an assortment of seedy characters experience some very bad things.

Perhaps not a great film overall, but certainly one that tries like hell to never be boring.


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