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New Release Review - DEATH IN THE DESERT (VOD)

A stripper and her lover conspire to commit murder.



Review by Emily Craig (@emillycraig)

Directed by: Josh Evans

Starring: Michael Madsen, Shayla Beesley, John Palladino, Paz De La Huerta, Roxy Saint



For a crime film, I was expecting much more grit and violence; the only glimpse of this we get is when Ray smacks Kim around the face. What I wanted was fireworks; they never lifted off.


Death in the Desert is a crime film directed by Josh Evans (Che Guevara, 2005) and is based on the life of Ted Binion, a casino owner who became infamous in the public eye when his girlfriend Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish, whom she was having an affair with, were charged with murder, but later this charge was acquitted. In Death in the Desert, our main casino man is called Ray Easler (Michael Madsen) and it follows his developing relationship with Kim Davis (Shayla Beesley), a stripper.
The basis of the story is very simple; Easler goes to the strip club that Kim is dancing at and is instantly attracted to her. He spoils her with treasures and gifts until finally she agrees to live with him (how can she turn that down?). Their relationship seems perfectly healthy until Kim speaks out about Easler’s severe drug addiction, which is where things get complicated for the two. Easler is planning to bury a heap of silver he owns in the desert, and has hired handsome Matt Duvall (John Palladino) to be involved in it; spending a lot of time at Kim and Ray’s house, Kim and Matt grow closer and closer.
So yes, the film is based on the life of Ted Binion, but when I researched his life, it seems much more interesting than this movie. It would have been a much livelier ordeal if the film had focused more on Ray’s death and the aftermath rather than the events before, because in all honesty, it wasn’t that entertaining to watch. For a crime film, I was expecting much more grit and violence; the only glimpse of this we get is when Ray smacks Kim around the face. What I wanted was fireworks; they never lifted off.
The performances in the film are pretty emotionless, especially from Shayla Beesley; I just didn’t feel any sympathy for her character as there isn’t much development. Same can be said for the character of Ray; as a viewer, I knew almost nothing about the character other than the fact he is a shadow of his late father (he likes to mention this a fair amount). When you’re watching a film that is so character based, you expect to feel for those characters, and unfortunately I felt nothing.
What I will say is that the cinematography and overall feel of the film is very unique. I liked the idea of Ray’s voiceover but in the end it just didn’t come together. The low lit lighting gives the film a cool underground feel; unfortunately, the lack of entertainment and boring characters lets the film down immensely.
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