Summoned to an exclusive orgy somewhere in Montenegro, beautiful high-class call-girl and single mother Catalina “Cat” Rona (Paz Vega) ends up fleeing the scene when corrupt American senator William Krebb (Christopher McDonald) kills another prostitute during sadistic sex play. Krebb’s dodgy East European gangland pals massacre the remaining hookers to eliminate any witnesses, only Cat escapes carrying a hard-drive with evidence of the crime. The next morning she arrives at a restaurant run by struggling American chef Anthony Hester (Scott Mechlowicz), who has just reunited with his wisecracking friend Julian Simms (Alphonso McAuley), and promptly steals their car. Julian decides to put Anthony’s keen deductive skills to good use and open a detective agency above a sleazy porno theatre, hiring the legless, one-armed Dexter (D.L. Hughley) as their receptionist. Smitten with lovely Cat, Anthony resolves to rescue her and her baby. Unbeknownst to our inept amateur sleuths, the gangsters hire elegant but sadistic British hit-woman Helen Bingham (Janet McTeer) to eliminate Cat and anyone unlucky who gets in the way.
One wonders when British television stalwart Janet McTeer won a Golden Globe and was Oscar-nominated for Tumbleweeds (1999) she ever imagined her subsequent career would encompass a knockabout brawl with a multiple amputee inside a porno theatre? Actor-turned-director John Stockwell kicked off his directing career with the engaging dramas Crazy/Beautiful (2001) and Blue Crush (2002), but here continues his latter decline into a tales of pretty people in photogenic and often quite sadistic peril: e.g. Into the Blue (2005) and Turistas (2006).
Equal parts paranoid thriller, Elmore Leonard pastiche and fast-paced exploitation romp with plentiful nudity and violence, the little-seen Cat Run finds Stockwell overdoing quirky, mixing different film stocks, split-screen, leaps forward and backward in time, anecdotal title cards for every character including Cat’s baby, and attempting to leaven the misogyny still lingering from Turistas with unfunny comedy. It is yet another faintly xenophobic thriller that envisions Eastern Europe as a hell-hole of brutal gangsters, backwoods bastards (Cat’s father sells her out for a new van and gets a knife in the neck) and glamorous, disposable whores, but given the domestic film industry produces stuff like A Serbian Film (2010), maybe no-one cares.
Dreadful young leads Mechlowicz (vapid) and McAuley (doing a sub-Chris Tucker routine. Yes, that’s right sub-Chris Tucker! It’s that bad!) trade in adolescent banter that grows tiresome (McTeer gives McAuley a well-deserved slap in the face) and are easily eclipsed by smoulderingly charismatic Spanish star Paz Vega and steely-eyed McTeer as the hit-woman who carries herself like Julie Andrews but proves as lethal as Chow Yun-Fat. The tough, resourceful Cat Rona is far more compelling than her bumbling, would-be protectors whose antics aren’t any where as amusing as screenwriters Nick Ball and John Niven seem to think they are. Far more interesting is Cat’s dynamic with the ice-cool Helen, which goes undeveloped. A handful of scenes bear subversive wit (Helen’s evening wear-clad, Tango-styled climactic fist-fight with a lover-turned-adversary) but the casual indifference to an alarming amount of innocent deaths leaves it hard to empathise when Helen switches sides. Stockwell clings to that irksome post-Tarantino theory that wit and cool makes sadistic killers charming.
Having offended most East Europeans with an array of stereotypes ineptly inhabited by an array of bad local actors, the film then sets out to annoy Scottish people. Not only does Tony Curran cameo as a foul-mouthed assassin (who demands Cat fellate him at gunpoint, only she can’t decipher his accent), but hapless Julian disguises himself as a Scotsman, lifting his kilt to provide some unwelcome full-frontal nudity and distract an assault team at the crucial moment. Given the opening scenes linger on a plethora of beautiful naked prostitutes, perhaps the film was aiming for equal opportunities nudity, though one imagines the sight of McAuley wiggling his member to a rap song is one most viewers could do without.