“You can’t keep getting wasted and playing shitty music forever” is one of the insightful pieces of dialogue spoken by the lead character, Finn, in Compound Pictures’ release, “Cordoba Nights”. That line of dialogue could be used as a bit of a metaphor for what the Campbell Bros. were trying to accomplish with this film. Gone were the days of slashers, and blood flying everywhere-they were ready to take on more mature fodder and with that transition, you get to see what taking risks does to develop the growth of already-smart directors.
The film follows a night in the life of a pizza delivery guy named Finn. Finn’s existence is as staled and miserable as the city in which he delivers his pizzas in. The only joy he finds is in the ability to listen to vinyl records on a giant radio in his backseat, as he carries along. While on a routine delivery, he stumbles upon a young woman named Allie who hitches a ride with Finn to , what he thinks, is the convenience store up the street but turns out to be the entire wild evening they encounter. Allie’s different-she’s beautiful, a little crazy, and uninhibited. But she’s just the thing to keep Finn’s night from slipping into the usual doldrums it usually dwells in. Unfortunately, Allie’s kind of-boyfriend is a gangster with a crew of scumbags who don’t like her being gone and especially don’t like her being gone with the “pizza boy”. So, as Ally and Finn’s night carries them into strange places, strange situations, all inhabited by even stranger people. As a chase ensues, the duo engage in conversations about music, life, and all things important/unimportant. While Allie knows this night could end up badly, Finn is fairly unaware of the danger that’s in pursuit of them. Still, they continue on with the delivery schedule, as the audience gets an intimate look at 2 vastly different strangers connecting with one another.
If you hadn’t already noticed, we’re fans of Luke and Andy Campbell here at The Blood Sprayer. Call it Ohio favoritism, but what it really comes down is the Campbell’s ability to tell a story that keeps you intrigued. This films moves them away from the splatter-style horror that we were accustomed to, and instead uses it’s characters and scenery to tell this sordid tale. Raymond Turturro and Ashleigh Holeman portray Finn and Allie with a lot of heart. They’re believable as two people who’s lives have intersected in an unusual way and decide to make the best of it. The best part about Turturro’s take on Finn is his way of making Finn really feel like just a pizza guy. He’s a mopey, slumped over, forgettable human being. Finn is the guy that brings your pizza. You don’t even look him in the eye, sometimes. Just get your food, hand over money, transaction complete. But as the film carries on, you see a different Finn. Allie brings out an energy in him that isn’t common of his personality, mostly because any other time he doesn’t feel as alive as he does in that moment, with her. Allie is trouble, but not intentionally. She didn’t mean to get wrapped up with bad people, it just sort of happened. She wants to be happy, and when she’s with Finn, she is. Those moments spent driving together, talking, listening to music, purify her system and perhaps allow her to forget about the trouble that stalks her, if only for a moment. Ashleigh Holeman is the perfect person for the role. One of the regulars from the Campbell’s films, she tackles the role of Allie with a demeanor that would make any guy fall in love with her. How could you not? Allie’s this beautiful girl who falls into Finn’s lap. She’s spontaneous and smiles in the face of insanity-again, she makes him feel alive. Any guy would crumble under that sort of invoking. Holeman’s ability to seem aloof yet, completely dialed into Finn is where she shines. For Turturro, one could only hope to see more of him in the Campbell Bros.’ films and when it comes to Ashleigh Holeman, it’s the finest performance she’s ever put forth in a Compound film, and I pray she will continue to be used in future roles in their films.
Everything about Cordoba Nights worked for me. I like the cast of regulars that show up in these films and I was also pleased to see some bigger names joining their ranks. Veteran character actors Duane Whitaker (Feast, The Devil’s Rejects, Pulp Fiction) and Joe Estevez (yep, THAT Joe Estevez!) rounded out the cast and made fantastic additions to the storyline. They took on their roles with all the professionalism you’d expect from 2 gentleman so well-versed in their craft. The city of Cleveland makes for the perfect backdrop to adventures of Finn and Allie. It opens up their path and provides them with the events that take place in their evening together. It’s shot on film and has all the grittiness of some of the character driven films of the 70’s, while maintaining it’s youthfulness that the Campbell’s are capable of. Aesthetically, Cordoba Nights reminds me of drive-in films like “The Sister-in-Law” and “Van Nuys Blvd”, with it’s look and character-driven heart that is rooted in illicit goings-on. When you watch the film, you get so wrapped up in the bond between the 2 lead characters, you forget how much horrible stuff is going on around them. But the film makers do a great job of bringing you back to the reality of the matter, with bursts of violence that are reminiscent of the film “Cop Killers”. Basically, the film still has that nostalgic feel that has been a signature (whether intentional or not) of their films. Every detail has been looked after by making wardrobe decisions that were vintage-but-current, to adding a soundtrack of artists hailing from the Cleveland/Akron region. It’s a smart, funny, heartfelt, edgy progression in the careers of Andy and Luke Campbell. Cordoba Nights is a solid step forward in a career that was already climbing upward. The Campbell Brothers have consistently impressed me with making fun, bloody genre films and with Cordoba Nights they continue to be impressive and manage to venture into new territories while doing so.
Tags: Andy Campbell, Ashleigh Holeman, Blood, Cleveland, Compound Pictures, Cop Killers, Cordoba Nights, Duane Whitaker, Feast, Horror, Indie, Luke Campbell, Ohio, Pulp Fiction, Raymond Turturro, The Blood Sprayer, The Devil's Rejects, The Sister-in-Law, Van Nuys Blvd