Josh Evans’s The Price of Air starts out temptingly: Shot on digital video, the movie doesn’t tell its story so much as toss it in the air like loose cash. Evans (son of Ali McGraw and Robert Evans) plays scofflaw with rudimentary syntax like establishing shots and matching eye lines, and initially his movie has a rowdy, fractured, shake-‘n’-bake looseness that meets the needs of his characters: drug dealers. But it doesn’t take long before the fog evaporates and Hollywood-brat self-indulgence becomes the film’s primary lingo. What seems to thrum with naturalism quickly becomes arch and posturing, hardly helped by the macguffin: a new drug called “blue” that is reportedly “more addictive than air.”
Or so says Michael Madsen as the resident bloated drug honcho, cronying around with the Porky-ish likes of Dick Van Patten as an L.A. magnate married to Michelle Phillips (rest assured, Evans dresses her up in a bustier and garters before we’re through) and prone to hanging out in a local s/m club sporting a spiked collar. (Eight Is Enough fans, we never knew ye.) Evans himself plays, rather adroitly, a young layabout who moves some of the dope for quick cash, and when Madsen’s men decide to off him, he sees his best buddy (Sticky Fingaz) take a bullet, and consequently hits the bricks.
But being on the run from the mob here means wandering around, sightseeing Vegas, and eventually retiring to a hotel room with a bewitching young thing (Charis Michelsen) to do some of the shit until a hit man (Goldie) shows up, inexplicably, to remove one of Evans’s kidneys. (“Promise me you’ll take him to the hospital right away,” he tells the girl.) Meandering, listless, and more than a little condescending (wealthy Beverly Hills movie kids making yet another movie about down-and-out losers with idyllic dreams), The Price of Air culminates in a second bing-bang-boom triple shoot-out that effectively cancels out the shreds of remaining plot but is shot and cut like a sixth grader’s Super-8 struggle for Woo-ness. If digital video’s acceptance as a public medium means that celebrious incontinence will become a rank wave of its own, let’s start holding out for the true emulsion.