Playback (2010) (DVD)

Rewind at your own risk.

Stephanie (Tiffany Bowyer), a beautiful young model, is found murdered inside her home. Her father (Rob Terrell) is a police detective investigating her case. Inside Stephanie’s home is a bunch of tapes made with her home video camera. She obsessively recorded all aspects of her life, include her wild sex life. Stephanie’s dad orders all of his fellow cops to leave him alone in her house for the entire weekend, where he watches all the tapes and learns all of his daughter’s secrets.

Playback is a movie is at odds with itself. It has scenes of graphic eroticism, which some would argue is the point of the story. For every sleazy scene of in-your-face kinkiness, however, there is a scene of the girl’s dad Gus Van Sant-ing around her house, being all sad and mopey as he rummages through her things, or just plain sitting around being miserable. I get erotic comedy. I get erotic horror. But erotic bereavement? That’s a new one. Is the idea that we’re supposed to be turned on by the sexiness and then feel bad for ourselves because we were turned on by the sexiness? I just don’t know.

The basic conceit of the story, in which a father breaks down upon finding and watching his daughter’s sex tapes, has a couple of serious logical holes that kept bugging me as I watched the movie. First, I’m pretty sure that a cop wouldn’t be assigned to investigate his own daughter’s murder. Isn’t that, like, a conflict of interest? I also doubt the cops would let family members view all the tapes, what with them being evidence and all. OK, let’s give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and assume these are corrupt cops and they know they’re breaking all the rules. There are other narrative missteps that took me out of the movie. Like how the dad watches what must have been hours of his daughter’s tapes, but when he finds pictures of her in a nudie magazine, that’s when he finally freaks out and starts crying? I won’t spoil it here, but the ending is a letdown as well, in that the central mystery goes from “Who killed Stephanie?” to “Why was Stephanie so promiscuous?” You’ll likely see the answer coming from a mile away.

For what is obviously a low-budget flick, filmed almost entirely in and around a single house, writer-director James Avallone adds quite a few interesting visuals. Stephanie Bowyer gives a fearless performance, often called upon to do emotionally strenuous scenes while completely nude. Rob Terrell’s side of the story isn’t as strong, but then he’s given less to do outside of sitting around looking sad.

The video quality on the DVD can’t overcome the flat recorded-on-video look of the movie, but perhaps that style is intentional on the part of the director. Still, there are no overt flaws that mar the picture. The audio is simple, except for when the occasional song pops up on the soundtrack, at which point the 5.1 track sounds very nice. For extras, we get some deleted and extended scenes, some behind-the-scenes raw footage from the set, the trailer, and a still gallery.

I didn’t hate this movie. It had some good acting and was nicely filmed considering its limited resources. The problem is that it’s not as psychologically deep or shocking as it thinks it is. There’s just enough good here that I’ll happily check out Avallone and Bowyer’s work in the future, but that’s about it.

The Verdict

Put your clothes back on.

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