In Shawn Piller and Scott Lew's dark comedy thriller Sexy Evil Genius, Katee Sackhoff plays Nikki Franklyn, the eponymous comely genius of dubious morality. And the former Battlestar Galactica star is joined in this oddball, straight-to-DVD flick by an incredible who's-who of geek pop culture.
The action begins when Nikki invites her three unsuspecting ex lovers Zachary (Seth Green), Miranda (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Marvin (Harold Perrineau) to a bar to meet her fiance, attorney and professional Jack Donaghy impersonator Bert (William Baldwin.)
Nikki has recently been acquitted on charges of murdering her ex boyfriend Mark (Anthony Michael Hall) having plead not guilty on the grounds of homicidal mania. Sounds legit, right? Her fiance, who happens to also be her lawyer, is understandably concerned that her relationship pattern might be just a few degrees south of the Tropic of Sanity and so Nikki has gathered her (all currently breathing and intact) exes to vouch for her mental stability. But of course, the real reason she called everyone together is...well, that would be telling.
Sexy Evil Genius isn't a bad film, just a bit generic. The plot setup is interesting and clever and the story has the feeling of that screenplay you write after your first bad breakup when everything you thought you knew about yourself, the other person, love and humanity in general is suddenly covered in a thick tar of doubt and confusion. Did it really make sense that she stood me up that one time because her cat was ‘acting weird?' Was that girl who kept calling in the middle of the night really ‘stalking' him? When she asked to borrow my car for ‘a few hours' and then disappeared for three days without a trace, was it really out of line me to ask where she'd been? Why did I end up apologizing for that? Have I said too much? Moving on...
Narratively, the film has the feeling of a Joss Whedon dinner theater production of Richard Linklater's Tape. The characters narrate anecdotes over action shown in flashback, but without the kinds of interlocking twists and turns that normally justify breaking the "show, don't tell" guideline. The performances are all solid, but the only relationships that exist in the backstory are between Nikki and the individual exes, so their perceptions of each other's stories don't play as large a role as they could have. Their eye lines rarely diverge from Nikki's magnetic presence and they spend a good deal of time saying things like "wait, what?" when Nikki reveals the next level in her seven layer crazy cake. Had they crossed paths in past as Nikki moved from one relationship to another, their stories might have taken on a more Rashomon quality, with differences of perception creating a sum of all paths to deeper truth and richer character drama.
Ultimately, this unfinished quality bends Sexy Evil Genius without breaking it. In the final analysis, the film is a triumph of casting. If, like me, you're in the demographic that enjoys watching grown-up heroin chic Dawn Summers cruise her big sister's best friend's werewolf ex-boyfriend or if you just always wanted to know what it would be like of Starbuck and Walt's Dad from Lost played together in a jazz band, look no farther than Sexy Evil Genius.
Sexy Evil Genius is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Jason Shankel (Twitter: @JasonShankel) is a writer and creative developer who really can't believe she'd do something like that to him and then just walk away without saying a word. But that's so her.
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