A sort of poor man's TEQUILA SUNRISE, RED SURF is strictly cinema for the brain dead. Or maybe for surfers. Suffused in warmed-over, whiny southern California angst, and revolving around a former champion surfer who has turned to drug running, RED SURF is a self-consciously significant
beach movie in which the usual shrill, high-decibel rambunctiousness alternates with tinny, overwrought drama. Watching it can give you a headache, making you wonder if surfers ever just talk to each other, rather than screaming, flapping their arms, and yanking each other around by the lapels as
they do here. RED SURF's characters also have dopey nicknames, like Attila and True Blue, that seem to have come from a Wrestlemania fight card. And, of course, they all look like Hollywood stars.
But whoa! Wait! These are Hollywood stars. Well, sort of. While George Clooney's name is anything but familiar, he looks enough like a David Naughton for the 90s to qualify as a promising newcomer. Doug Savant is best remembered as the would-be killer in MASQUERADE. And Dedee Pfeiffer, Michelle's
little sister, is one of the better answers to the question, "Are there any more like you at home?" Other familiar names in the cast include Philip McKeon (from TV's "Alice") as True Blue, and Gene Simmons, onetime member of the rock band Kiss, apparently old enough now to play characters named
The B-movie plot features Clooney as ex-surf champ Mark Remar (as the hero of the piece, he is spared having to tote around a silly nickname), who has turned to drug-running after an injury put a stop to his surfing "career." When his long-suffering, sleek, blonde, and pregnant girl friend,
Rebecca (Pfeiffer, naturally; aside from her sister, and maybe Meg Ryan, there are few blonder or sleeker), threatens to leave him and take their baby-to-be to Portland to make a fresh, drug-free start, Mark decides to reform. But before he quits, he wants to make one last big score.
If that were the whole plot, RED SURF might have stood a chance of being a sharp little low-budget crime melodrama. But its script and story, credited to four different people including debuting director H. Gordon Boos, is so overstuffed with subplots and peripheral characters that the film winds
up an overlong, annoying, and confusing mess. The most garrulous subplot revolves around True Blue, a goofy-but-likable screw-up who gets busted and, after spending a few nights in a cell with a transvestite, either does or does not sell out drug lord Calavera (Rick Najera), a character seemingly
sprung from the pages of the Marquis de Sade, complete with a gloomy run-down mansion and a pack of hungry wolf-dogs that dispose of people he doesn't like. Calavera threatens to call off the big deal, but Remar is already being prevented from participating in it by Attila (Savant), who has moved
in on Remar's action.
While all this less-than-interesting extracurricular activity is going on, a number of basic questions go unanswered--chiefly, how, exactly, do Remar and Attila make a living? Periodically they are shown riding jet skis--not the most inconspicuous mode of travel--out to a buoy late at night to
pick up a brick of cocaine someone (we are never told who) has conveniently left there for them to deliver to Calavera. The film's climax includes Calavera ambushing Remar and Attila at the buoy, which leaves us wondering why Calavera hasn't dispensed with their services entirely by going out to
get the damned coke himself.
Even more of a problem then these plot holes are RED SURF's uninvolving characters. What is one to make of a movie in which drug running is the only viable career option to surfing? Whatever happened to skateboarding, or managing a tanning parlor or fitness spa? Despite its pretensions (RED SURF's
ad copy proclaimed it an EASY RIDER for the 90s), the film finally boils down to just another retrograde, sunbaked "youth" movie about a rad California white dude who outwits and kills a bunch of dumb, hotheaded ethnics, then rides off into the sunset with a cool, foxy babe. When you add the
film's view of drug running and revenge murder as little more than high-spirited youthful high jinks, you are left with a movie that is much less this decade's answer to EASY RIDER than it is a humorless PORKY'S for the 90s--an insult to that film, which almost looks like a classy piece of
filmmaking by comparison. (Profanity, violence, adult situations, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: A sort of poor man's TEQUILA SUNRISE, RED SURF is strictly cinema for the brain dead. Or maybe for surfers. Suffused in warmed-over, whiny southern California angst, and revolving around a former champion surfer who has turned to drug running, RED SURF is… (more)