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Reviewed June 18th, 2003 by David Nusair


The odd thing about Rip it Off is that once you get past the virtually unwatchable first half, everything that follows isnít all that bad.

Part of what makes much of Rip it Offís opening hour so unappealing is the introduction of a smattering of unbelievably obnoxious characters. We meet two Russian criminals, Sergei and Yuri (played by Brian McCardie and Alexis Denisof), who are planning a casino heist with a disgruntled employee named Troy (Steve Harris). The addition of two dirty cops (Todd Field and Michael Cole) seems to ensure everything should go off without a hitch, but thereís only one problem: The recently dumped girlfriends of the two Russians, Misha and Lexi (Nastassja Kinski and Alyson Hannigan), along with a friend of theirs named Helena (Jennifer Esposito), have decided to go after the loot themselves.

Itís only when the three women begin to plot that the film finally becomes interesting. Everything involving the Russians is completely disastrous, mostly because these characters are like nails on a chalkboard. They are aggressive and headstrong, which would be fine if they were played by a couple of actors with even a hint of subtlety. But McCardie and Denisof seem to think acting as brash as they possible can is the only way to convince us of their seriousness. But in turning these two figures into over-the-top caricatures, all theyíve done is made certain sections of Rip it Off interminable.

Fortunately, those characters exit the picture about an hour in, and the movie becomes about the heist Ė and thatís where the film finally becomes somewhat intriguing. Throughout the first hour, writer John McMahon spends a good amount of time setting up the fact that all three of these women are not exactly rolling around in riches. The Esposito character, for example, has recently been kicked out by her cop boyfriend, and now finds herself living in a tiny room above the salon she works in. It is the desperation to escape that kind of lifestyle that fuels this need to successfully pull off the heist, and the three actresses do a nice job of playing their respective characters.

Itís impossible to recommend Rip it Off, as so much of it essentially sucks. But if youíre willing to start the movie about an hour in, youíll probably have a good time with it.

Audio: Rip it Off comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, and itís serviceable. Dialogue is crisp and clear, while the music never becomes intrusive. For a flick like this, this is probably as good as itís ever going to get.

Video: This full-frame video transfer is disappointing for that reason alone, though it is entirely possible thatís the way the movie was shot. So, without letting that hinder my opinion of the transfer, this is otherwise fairly unimpressive. There is not much vibrancy here; everything has a kind of dull look to it Ė which also may have been the filmmakers intent. Still, it is watchable.

Extras: A trailer.

Conclusion: Rip it Off might be worth it if youíre a fan of any of the actors, but really, with such an annoying opening hour, itís probably not worth it.


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