'Shangri-La Suite': Film Review

Courtesy of Haven Entertainment
A faux exploitation flick offering little but self-conscious style.
10/28/2016

Two young lovers go on a killing spree with Elvis (played by Ron Livingston) as their final target in Eddie O'Keefe's debut.

Two hot young lovers on the run take up arms against an uncomprehending grown-up world in Shangri-La Suite, and if that sounds familiar, well, that's probably the idea: Eddie O'Keefe's debut feature overflows with so many references large and small to other sex-and-guns romances that even the element that might set it apart — these killers are crossing the country to slay Elvis Presley — looks like a twisted ripoff of Elvis obsessions in Wild at Heart and True Romance. A pastiche that never really breathes life into its faux-exploitation-flick construct, the pic gets a surprisingly strong cast to play along, but will struggle to attract attention even on small screens.

Luke Grimes and Emily Browning play Jack and Karen, who meet in a rehab center. Using a voiceover by Burt Reynolds and a series of quick-cut flashbacks to their troubled childhoods, O'Keefe seems to be nodding to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers while using characters drawn equally from Badlands. But the movie's tone soon settles into a straighter evocation of 1970s grindhouse cinema, one that explains an intentionally wooden performance by Alan Tudyk as the psychologist whose groping of Karen initiates the couple's violent escape and road trip.

Jack reveals that the ghost of his mother appeared to him during a mescaline trip, ordering him to kill his hero — Presley, who by the time of this 1974 story is a bloated and drugged-out shadow of himself. So the two embark on a predictable picaresque in the direction of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the film displays sympathy for the fallen King by showing Presley's hazy attempts to get himself together for his latest tour. As Elvis, Ron Livingston steers clear of caricature and doesn't lay the drawl on too thick, but he finds it hard to conjure the icon's personality; joined by John Carroll Lynch's similarly restrained Colonel Tom Parker, he seems to be trusting that the script's meager ingredients will somehow be transmogrified by the filmmakers into something greater. Despite some seemingly sincere efforts, that never really happens.

Production companies: Bow and Arrow Entertainment, Haven Entertainment, Anonymous Content, Bona Fide
Cast: Emily Browning, Luke Grimes, Ron Livingston, Alan Tudyk, Burt Reynolds, John Carroll Lynch, Avan Jogia, Ashley Greene
Director: Eddie O'Keefe
Screenwriters: Chris Hutton, Eddie O'Keefe
Producers: Tariq Merhab, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman
Executive producers: Mauricio Betancur, Kevin Mann, Giulio Marantonio, Phil Stephenson, Temple Williams
Director of photography: Delaney Teichler
Production designer: Maya Sigel
Costume designer: Alysia Raycraft
Editor: Franklin Peterson
Composer: Mondo Boys
Casting directors: Angela Demo, Barbara J. McCarthy

Not rated, 84 minutes

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