MRR Review: "Pawn Shop Chronicles"

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An all-star cast embarks on a wild-goose chase to find a missing wedding ring. Calamity ensues as meth addicts, skinheads, cowboys and an Elvis impersonator are brought together by a small town pawn shop.
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Movie Review: "Pawn Shop Chronicles"

Rating: R (violence, language)
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Wayne Kramer
Genre: Action/Comedy

"Pawn Shop Chronicles" is a three-part film that tells the story of a small-town pawn shop owner and his ragged band of customers. All three stories are connected, but each of them could stand on their own. The first part of the film follows a meth addict named Raw Dog who is played by Paul Walker. Raw Dog and his white-supremacist friends, played by Lukas Haas and Norman Reedus, pawn his antique shotgun at General Lee's Pawn Shop right before they realize they need it to rob a meth lab. The second story finds a young newlywed named Richard, played by Matt Dillon, shocked to see his first wife's custom wedding ring at General Lee's Pawn Shop. He begins a quest to find his ex-wife and reconnect with her, leaving his second wife behind. On the way, he meets Johnny, a lascivious farmer played by Elijah Wood. Johnny kidnap and imprisons women on his farm, treating them like animals. He kidnaps and tortures Richard as well in a shocking twist that turns the film on its head.

The third and final portion of the film opens with an Elvis impersonator who happens to be down on his luck. He works at the carnival where Johnny's kidnapping victims now live after being freed by Richard at the end of the second act. The film comes full circle when the Elvis impersonator finds himself back at General Lee's Pawn Shop.

"Pawn Shop Chronicles" has been compared to "Grindhouse" and "Pulp Fiction" with a dash of "The Dukes of Hazzard." The film proudly portrays redneck culture with plenty of over-the-top antics and Southern drawls. Director Kramer takes shock value to a whole new level, dividing the film into three different sections, each one unsettling in its own unique way. The second act is by far the goriest with its lengthy torture scene and visceral gut punches. "Pawn Shop Chronicles" may not be for the faint of heart, but fans of action-packed gore fests like "Kill Bill" and "Grindhouse" will certainly enjoy it.

The acting in "Pawn Shop Chronicles" is what pulls off a controversial script and a rapid-paced plot. Elijah Wood is brilliant as Johnny, who is destined to go down in history as one of the creepiest comedy movie villains of all time. Matt Dillon plays Richard as an average guy, both flawed and likable. Richard is easily the most relatable character in the film, which makes it even more shocking when he is tortured by Johnny. Shock seems to be exactly the reaction Kramer wanted his film to receive. "Pawn Shop Chronicles" is one of the most intense action movies of the year.

Visuals are an important component to any action film, and that goes double for "Pawn Shop Chronicles." From the gritty yet colorful costume design of the film's various characters to the shocking imagery found in the second and third acts, "Pawn Shop Chronicles" is a full-scale visual assault that fans of the gore movie genre are sure to adore. Just when you think you've seen it all, Kramer throws another action sequence or surprise your way that you could never see coming.

The most important element to "Pawn Shop Chronicles" is the unique method of storytelling. The film shifts rapidly from one perspective to another, and although the three acts are divided, they are also interrelated in meaningful ways. At first look it may seem like the film's storyline is erratic, but that stylistic choice is part of its charm. The pace of the film changes abruptly, keeping audiences on the edge of the seats their entire time. There is not a dull moment to be found in "Pawn Shop Chronicles," which is more of an imaginative look at a subculture than a tale of the pawn industry itself. This pacing is precisely why "Pawn Shop Chronicles" is such a unique cinematic experience. Unlike the linear storytelling of most action films, viewers get to experience a raw story from multiple angles.

"Pawn Shop Chronicles" is witty, disturbing, shocking, and brilliant. Audiences will be hard pressed to find a summer 2013 film with more intensity than this. Kramer knows how to keep a film moving from scene to scene, each one more shocking than the last. "Pawn Shop Chronicles" is anything but a typical summer comedy, so movie fans looking for a change of pace should give the film a try. With a style reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino and a flavor all its own, "Pawn Shop Chronicles is fast on its way to becoming an action comedy cult classic.

Rating: 3 out of 5