The Keeper Review
Seemingly adamant at cementing her status as a through-and-through B-movie actress, Asia Argento’s latest picture to secure a UK DVD release, The Keeper, is a trashy Canadian effort which pairs her with the equally oddball Dennis Hopper. The level of trash is confirmed her a role, a stripper and pole dancer who escapes the attentions of a showgirl-murdering serial killer but ends up being imprisoned in a basement belonging to Hopper’s small town sheriff.
Before Argento gets installed in Hopper’s ready made cage, The Keeper is quite a pacy affair, but makes a very simple mistake early on in audience trust. For the opening 15 minutes or so we are expected to believe that Hopper is simply the wholesome, conventional good guy - and Hopper never plays the wholesome, conventional good guy, and certainly not a representation of the law. The closest he ever got was in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, though he was hardly playing the most level-headed of characters. Indeed, he’s a regular movie psycho - or at least has a screw loose (River’s Edge, Tracks) - meaning that the part he plays for director Paul Lynch here is of the kind that he can do in his sleep. That said, Hopper is also rarely less than watchable and that proves to be the case here. He brings a welcome shade to the role that wouldn’t be present with a lesser actor which allows his reasons for kidnapping Argento to remain largely ambiguous even if the screenplay provides some bargain basement psychology involving an over-bearing father. Moreover, he straddles the sane-insane line with aplomb - one minute he’s indulging in pleasant conversation, the next he’s got that mad glint in his eye which we’ve seen many times before.
However, there is a possibility that Hopper’s performance seems all the more impressive owing to the lacklustre efforts of his co-stars. The filmmakers’ intentions with regards to Argento are clear from the opening scenes: the first has her perform a pole dance, the second take a shower. Indeed, there’s no depth to her, rather she is nothing more than the basic woman-in-peril of whom we learn little about (beyond her criminal record) and care for even less.
Thankfully, The Keeper has a sub-plot up its sleeve which proves more than enticing. Inexplicably, Hopper’s character also has a sideline in anti-drugs Punch and Judy shows which he tours around schools in the region. Yet not only does he have the adulation of the kids around him, but also Helen Shaver’s teacher who wishes to become his manager and gain him national television exposure. As can be expected there are a lot of odd edges to their relationship which make for intermittently gripping viewing. Sadly, they’re also mostly lost as they continually play second fiddle to the central kidnapping scenario and as such have little overall effect. But somewhere in The Keeper there’s a decent film trying to get out.
Presented anamorphically at a ratio of 1.78:1, The Keeper looks fine on disc if never truly impressive. Director Lynch favours a low-key visual style meaning that much of the film is in the dark, although the disc rarely has problems with such lighting. The soundtrack likewise never calls much attention to itself, but once again never provides any noticeable problems and remains clear throughout. As for extras, these are limited to interviews with Lynch and his major cast members. Of the assembled interviewees it is the director who proves the most watchable, primarily for what he has to say, though also because he proves such an amiable presence. Sadly, however, all these pieces are split up into little sections rendering them choppy and ultimately tiresome. Moreover, Lynch’s presence makes you wish that he’d recorded a commentary.