Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and now it’s time to do it again.
S.I.N. SPECIAL INTELLIGENCE NETWORK (2001)
Starring: The dynamic new medium of AM Radio!
The closing credits of Kelly Schwarze’s S.I.N.: Special Intelligence Network play under a bunch of interviews where the principal actors talk about how excited they are about the film, and while that’s a pretty unusual place to stick what would normally be a special feature, I’ve got to admit that it’s got an interesting effect. After all, if you’ve made it to the credits, then you’ve just been through around 85 minutes of an alleged “thriller” that’s both poorly made and mind-numbingly dull, and getting a glimpse of the people who were excited about the script and thrilled to get their parts, well, it’s a reminder that they’re not just actors, they’re people who worked hard to get something done. It recontextualizes the whole thing, and to be honest, it makes it pretty difficult to hate on ’em.
Fortunately, I’m up to the challenge.
S.I.N. is the perfect occupant of that special section on the Venn diagram where “terrible” and “generic” overlap. It is the Platonic ideal of a lousy, low-budget amateur film in virtually every aspect, from a cast in which every member bears the distinctive earmarks of community theater or high school drama class to the production itself, wherein the only scenes where the dialogue isn’t overshadowed by the incidental music are the scenes where the boom operator is kind enough to lower the mic into the frame. And then there’s the plot, which opens and closes by using the visually exciting technique of filming an AM radio interview.
After a solid fifteen minutes of wandering around, the movie finally settles on a protagonist: Bud Chelzer, who apparently has a lot of free time now that he’s not watching over Curious George:
You know, a lot of movies try to give their protagonists strong names, like “Dutch” or “Quaid” or “John Matrix,” which is a name so strong that no actual human being has ever had it ever. The makers of S.I.N., however, went with “Bud Chelzer,” and I’ve got to admit, that takes moxie.
Chelzer is identified as an investigator, and he’s been brought into the plot to find out why someone keeps bombing a delivery service. This plot point is quickly forgotten about and left completely unresolved once the actual plot shows up, which hinges on the fact that every single politician ever is given an above-the-law task force from the Special Intelligence Network to carry out their bidding, which Chelzer himself used to be part of back when he was the sixth man in the Watergate break-in team.
Seriously. That’s what this movie is about.
As you might expect, Chelzer’s experience gives him an edge in getting to the bottom of the conspiracy, which comes in pretty handy since his entire investigative method appears to be walking around in airports dressed like a male prostitute.
Complicating matters is a parallel plot about a failed nightclub singer who gets brought into the S.I.N. without any training or interest whatsoever, a move that promptly leads to the rest of the team pretending to get shot while waiting for an FX department that consists of a Sega Genesis to add muzzle flash. He’s been brought in by the team’s leader, Skye, whose acting style is so much like Artemis from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia that I expected her to break into a sob story about having to shake it down at the Coyote Ugly at any moment. And just in case you thought there was a cliche this movie was going to leave untouched, she’s doing it because she made a promise to his dead brother.
Chelzer and Skye’s division of S.I.N. are harrassed by guys that we know are evil because of their super-sweet mullet-and-trenchcoat ensembles…
…and it’s eventually revealed that they are, in fact, another division of S.I.N., because of a conspiracy so widespread that it involves murders and coverups on both sides of a mayoral election.
By the end of it, Chelzer’s able to mastermind a double-cross involving the rival S.I.N. agents and the mafia and in the grand tradition of terrible movies everywhere, only the minority characters died so everyone just figures that’s a happy ending.
Quick word of advice to amateur filmmakers, though: No matter how confident you are in your cast, you may not want the resolution of your low-budget direct-to-video movie’s plot to hinge entirely on one of the characters being a good enough actor to fool his rivals. Just a thought.
|Chris Sims is a freelance comedy writer from South Carolina. He briefly attended USC before he dropped out to spend more time with Grand Theft Auto, and his career subsequently took the path that you might expect from someone who makes that sort of decision. He blogs at http://www.the-isb.com and creates comics at http://www.actionagecomics.com.|