London Betty (2009)

DVD Cover (Brightly Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 57%
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Ranked #8,940
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London Betty is the plucky British journalist who gets a newspaper job in the small American town of Pharisee. But trying to get an audience with her elusive, agoraphobic publisher is only part of her problem. Her first story requires the toppling of the corrupt and perverted administration run by Mayor Plumb and his band of off-kilter hoodlums. However, Betty has unlikely allies to help her bring down the mayor: a pair of petty thieves, a golden-hearted prostitute, and a transvestite ex-Marine hitman. --TMDb
Daniel von Bargen
Daniel von Bargen
Nicole Lewis
Nicole Lewis
Clint Howard
Clint Howard
Thomas Edward Seymour
Thomas Edward Seymour
Margaret Rose Champagne
Margaret Rose Champagne
Review by Chad
Added: November 26, 2008
A touching comedy about thieves, whores and immigrants. So reads the tagline for London Betty, the upcoming film from Thomas Edward Seymour (who you may recall from the Bikini Bloodbath series), and that tagline is the perfect way to describe the film in a nutshell. Now, I have to admit that I was skeptical about this film even after seeing the slick little trailer that the filmmakers produced; after all, I thought that the second Bikini Bloodbath release was pretty damned good, but it seemed as though they were trying to aim for an entirely different crowd with this one.

Bikini Bloodbath was for horror fans who enjoyed campy humor and T&A, while London Betty was made for fans of those quirky little comedies that are becoming popular as of late... you know, the ones that always revolve around buddies who find themselves in absurd situations? While I can certainly appreciate both types of film and even though Seymour had proven that he can handle the former, it just seemed a little hard to believe that one could successfully make that transition to the latter over the course of a single film. Guess who got proven wrong?

We begin with an introduction to a trio of friends - the foul-mouthed and perpetually-angry Billy (Thomas Edward Seymour), Russian immigrant Volgo (Russ Russo), and lady of the night Jess (Margaret Rose Champagne) - and quickly get an idea as to how they live their lives and how they interact with one another. Billy and Volgo make ends meet by stealing things off of porches and out of backyards before selling their ill-gotten goods to the other citizens of this town (or sometimes back to the rightful owners), and of course, Billy also runs a used panties site that brings in a little extra change. Jess earns a living by laying on her back, and while none of them are rich or even particularly thrilled with their lives, they do take comfort in the fact that they have each other to shoot the shit with and fall back on when times are tough.

However, as the title may imply, things change soon after Betty arrives from London. It all begins innocently enough: Betty has always dreamed of moving to America and landing a job as a reporter, so when she's offered a job doing just that, she jumps at the opportunity even if it is in a rinky dink little town. She soon meets Billy after he steals her pet rabbit and sells it back to her (twice!), and while that's just harmless fun between a pair of strangers who are slowly falling in love with one another, the real story begins when Betty decides to write an article on Mayor Plumb (Dick Boland).

You see, Plumb is a little... eccentric. He has been embezzling town funds to build an amusement park in his backyard, and while that's sort of par for the course as an elected official, he takes things just a little too far when he attempts to silence Betty by threatening her life... and stealing her beloved rabbit. Now, Betty must enlist the help of the man she knows to be a "master" thief to get her bunny back, Plumb raises the stakes by enlisting some bodyguards - Todd (Philip Guerette), Roy (Matt Ford), and Karate Stan (Chris Ferry) - of his own, and a cross-dressing veteran (Phil Hall) will soon choose a side. As always, there's more to the storyline, but that's all that you're going to get out of me. Watch for an appearance by Daniel von Bargen and keep an ear out for Clint Howard as the narrator.

As you may have noticed, the film gets a little strange as it moves along, but that's the beauty of it: it's silly and it's absurd, but save for one particular character, it all feels natural. Unlike some other comedy releases, you never get the impression that this scene or that piece of the story was inserted merely to move the plot from one point to the next or to deliver an easy joke, and everything found in here simply feels like it belongs - the fact that this absurdity is hilarious is just icing on the cake. It's funny when Billy steals a grill while the owner is using it to barbecue some hot dogs... but this scene also has a larger purpose in the storyline. Having a government official steal an innocent woman's pet rabbit to keep her quiet is a little silly... but in this particular universe, it makes perfect sense. Having a fight scene amidst a flurry of fireworks... well, that might be pushing it, but it looked neat.

In keeping with the naturalistic theme, I felt that the actors playing the parts here handled their roles perfectly. Even though some of them may not have turned in great "acting" performances in the traditional sense of the word, I thought that the main characters and quite a few of the secondary characters were handled appropriately by their respective cast member and again, each of them felt completely natural. For example, Russ Russo is a white guy playing a Russian immigrant (complete with fake accent), but he never comes across as a white guy playing a Russian immigrant with a phony accent - the man makes this character work and seems authentic in the process. Likewise, Thomas Seymour may be a complete sweetheart in person, but the character that he played genuinely came across as a complete douchebag... a douchebag that you'd want on your side who also displays an occasional glimmer of charm and loyalty, but a douchebag nonetheless.

Faults? I saw a few, but nothing major. I wasn't a fan of the music selections (but to be fair, that's completely subjective - the songs did fit the given scenes though) and I thought that the "Karate Stan" character felt completely out of place (but the character delivered a couple of good laughs, so that can be overlooked). Really, those two things were the only faults that I found throughout the eighty minutes that the film ran for, and overall, I felt that it delivered what it promised: it's funny, it has a damned fine storyline, and yes, it's even touching when we hit the grand finale and see... well, I can't spoil it all, now can I?

The Bikini Bloodbath movies are silly and the second one was enjoyable, but they were by no means "career-makers." If the right people see London Betty when it starts its festival run, it could very easily do for Thomas Edward Seymour what Clerks did for Kevin Smith. It's that damned good. 9.5/10.
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