The Grim And Grimy Streets of Dayton, Ohio in 1988

Deadbeat At Dawn (1988), directed by Jim Van Bebber, reviewed by Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr.

While everyone’s talking a cat named Goose in Captain Marvel, I’m going to talk about another Goose. He is the main character of Deadbeat At Dawn, played by the writer/director Jim Van Bebber. Goose is the leader of The Ravens, a gang on the mean streets of Dayton, Ohio. The Ravens are in a street war with The Spiders, led by a misogynist psycho named Danny, played with scenery chewing intensity by Paul Harper. Goose revels at being a badass, something his witchy, somewhat pagan girlfriend Christie, played by Megan Murphy, is unhappy with, wanting him to leave the gang before all her rituals stop keeping him safe.

After a rumble at a cemetery where he messed up Danny and a few of his Spiders, Goose has an argument with Christie, who threatens to leave him. Goose, deciding he loves her more than being a Kung Fu fighting, nunchuck twirling, knife throwing badass, quits The Ravens, leaving the gang under the leadership of Keith, his second-in-command, who promptly forms a partnership with The Spiders.

Goose then goes on one last drug deal to get some money to start his new life with his girl. Too bad Danny and his two Spider henchmen Stubby and Bonecrusher are having none of that. Stubby and Bonecrusher go out on Danny’s orders to find and kill Goose. Unfortunately, they find Christie instead.

An underground low-budget classic, this film is as grimy as it gets. Goose is only marginally more likable than his gang counterparts, and they are fucking awful, evil people. You feel sorry for him because Christie was his path to being a better person and having a better life, even though it’s apparent that he’s in too deep to ever take it. When he discovers Christie’s body, instead of calling the cops or taking her to a hospital or even just leaving her corpse in their apartment, he drops it in a trash compactor and pushes the button. We follow him down his drug and alcohol fueled spiral, as he reunites with his Vietnam vet junkie dad (played hilariously by Charlie Goetz), leaves him when Dad has a heroin-driven PTSD freakout, gets drunk and high, beats up homeless people for booze, and contemplates suicide. Then Keith reappears with a proposition: Goose helps the united Ravens and Spiders in an armored car robbery. Of course, you know, there must be bloody vengeance.

Meanwhile, Danny manhandles his pregnant girlfriend and Bonecrusher (portrayed manically by Marc Pittman), while in a drug haze, reminisces about how Christie’s intestines looked like snakes that he had to help out of her belly. Yep, Dayton, Ohio was a sick, ugly town in the late ‘80s. At least, that’s how Van Bebber envisioned it for this twisted feature.

For a movie that was reportedly made for $10,000 and took four years to finish, it looks pretty good. The acting is all over the place, but not distractingly so, and the straightforward plot holds the interest through the bloody denouement, with Van Bebber displaying martial arts chops as good as David Carradine (maybe better).

A grimy and grim underground masterpiece.

5 out of 5 cheese curds. See it.

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