You may or may not have noticed, but the Urban Street market is exploding. Go into your local Blockbusters and you’ll find the shelves stocked full of movie titles made by people you’ve never heard of. Every now and then these filmmakers will manage to rope in some (formerly) known actor for cameos, but for the most part these are low-budget endeavors. And the one thing they all have in common? They’re invariably about — and set around — the urban streets, gangs, crime, and how crappy the cops are. Which isn’t to say all those things aren’t realistic or true — that’s just the main feature of Urban Street films.
“Devil’s Knight” is an Urban Street movie with a Latin slant. This isn’t strange in and of itself, because Latinos and blacks dominate this particular subgenre. What is interesting is that the writer/director is one Quan Phillips. (Does that sound Hispanic to you?) In any case, Phillips’ movie is about two Latino mechanics that runs a successful garage in the barrio, and whose latest prize creation is a low rider car called the Devil’s Knight. One day assassins murder both men and torch their garage for reasons unknown. But the men have a younger sister, Delia (Elizabeth Alvarez), who leaves the U.S. Army and fly back home.
Delia is determined to mete out vengeance because, frankly, the cops are useless. Said detectives handling her case consists of blond heartthrob Sam (Alexander Romanov) and a retiring old geezer. (Not surprisingly, Delia ends up in Sam’s bed sooner rather than later.) Delia’s search for answers is joined by lamed mechanic Zeff (Martin Kove), who sends her to the low rider circuit where Delia gets to do “vengeful” stuff like enter bikini contests and pose in various underwear while brushing up against a variety of cars. Huh? Yes, exactly.
One of the saving graces of “Devil’s Knight” is lead Elizabeth Alvarez, who is quite fetching, especially in the bikini sequence mentioned above. The other is the script, which seems to know it doesn’t have the budget for a serious movie, and thus much of the film is played out with a wink and a nod. (With the exception of a rape that comes out of nowhere, not to mention being completely detrimental to the movie’s lighthearted mood.) The script has a lot of fun with the whole air-headed beauty queen gag, which goes on for quite some time as Delia rises up the ranks of (and who knew such things existed?) the low rider street car showcase circuit. She also gets to meet TV host Big Eddie, played by TV vet Garry Marshall, who must have owed someone a really big favor. Not surprisingly, Marshall is the biggest name in the cast, even though he appears in only two scenes.
A word of caution: If you plan on watching “Devil’s Knight”, my suggestion is to polish up on your Spanish, or have one of those Spanish-to-English translation books handy. Being that the film is set in the barrio, ethnic slang abound. Unfortunately for your humble reviewer, it’s been a while since my required two years of Spanish in college, leaving me stump whenever the characters break out the Spanish. Not that one needs to know Spanish to understand the movie, but it helps.
In many respects, “Devil’s Knight” runs along the lines of such “brainteasers” as “The Fast and the Furious” and its various imitators. The film spends a lot of time on the subculture at hand — in this case, flashy cars that bounces on hydraulics. It’s slightly interesting from an outsider’s point of view; although I do question why anyone would want to make his car, er, hop around. In any case, who knew bikini modeling was such a lucrative gig? To further make the parallels to the aforementioned “Fast and the Furious”, Delia has to go undercover to expose an illegal operation, but inexplicably spends most of her time in various bikinis instead. The men in the audience will certainly drool a lot, that’s for sure.
It’s all very convoluted, and if not for the continued (ahem) exposure of Ms. Alvarez, the film might have run out its welcome at around the hour mark. Action-wise, there’s not much here to grapple onto. The movie offers up one bloody execution scene at the beginning and a final gunbattle to close things out. Not surprisingly, Delia seems more at home in the whole undercover bikini model angle than she is as the ex-soldier. To wit, her action scenes are limited and unconvincing. There’s also a humorous conceit where the film tries to convince us Delia is in her twenties, or at least young enough for people to treat her as such. This is humorous only because actress Elizabeth Alvarez is obviously in her thirties.
“Devil’s Knight” is an entertaining movie in spite of its limited budget. Thanks to a game performance by an attractive lead and some funny gags, the film is better and has more wit than the string of big budget Paul Walker films, that’s for sure.
Quan Phillips (director) / Quan Phillips (screenplay)
CAST: Elizabeth Alvarez …. Delia Rivera
Alexander Romanov …. Sam Blake
Jaime Gomez …. Richie Cobor
Martin Kove …. Zeff
Garry Marshall …. Big Eddie