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Who the hell names these kinds of movies, anyway? Of course the writer gets first dibs on the title, but usually those in serious charge of making the thing have the choice of placing the word ‘working’ in front of it while they think of something a little more appropriate. It seems the collective genius of all those behind this movie couldn’t think of anything better so they settled for Swimfan, about as lame as those kids at school who used to play chess in the library and suffer a nose-bleed at the mere sight of a tennis ball. But there are Hollywood cool kids in this movie and even the nerd looks like he could beat the living hell out of anyone he wants to. Still, he’s got glasses and a hearing aid, so he fits firmly into the ‘strange’ category.

"You called it Swimfan!?"

Movie
Ben Cronin (played by Jesse Bradford, that bloke from Bring It On) is a pretty good swimmer, something in which we find out in the opening minutes in case our mashed potato brains hadn’t figured out the film has something to do with that particular sport before we sat down. He’s that typical Hollywood great guy who is driven by a burning passion and looming college scholarship, slaps hands with random guys and girls walking down the corridors at school and has a cute-as-a-button girlfriend (played by Roswell’s Shiri Appleby) who adores him.

But when a girl named Madison (Traffic’s Erika Christensen) asks Ben to help open her locker (why is it that lock-picking is a cinch in the movies yet I can’t even get into my own house in under six hours when I forget my keys) his life begins to change in a predictably downhill fashion. Right from the start you can tell that this girl is a bit of a crackpot but basically everyone in the movie won’t really notice it until well after the pivotal moments have unfolded.

We cut to the chase (actually, it’s more like the swim) pretty darn quickly, with nice-guy Benny seduced by Madison in the pool after only a short while. It’s obvious that we’re meant to get to the crux of the action pretty quickly, and to hell with how the characters are feeling as they travel there. You can tell where this is going, as the nutter becomes more and more obsessed with the now highly concerned Ben, leading to all sorts of problems (and plot holes) in his life. Why you would even consider looking at another girl when you’ve got Shiri Appleby by your side is beyond me, but for the purposes of this movie we’re asked to suspend our disbelief like never before. Heck, Ben doesn’t take much persuasion, but it’s not surprising as he looks like the kind of guy that’d enjoy having it off in a swimming pool anyway.

Swimfan, the musical

The movie plays out just as expected, with Madison getting more and more psychotic and Ben becoming more and more screwed up by her actions. For a psycho-thriller such as this one the events unfold pretty slowly after the speed-of-light opening and for the most part you’re just left wondering when Christensen and Appleby are going to get their gear off. Sadly this doesn’t occur, so what we’re left with is a straight out thriller that prides itself as the teen version of Fatal Attraction. Believe me, it’s not a patch on anything in that film as Australian actor/director John Polson stumbles his way through incredibly dark lighting, some glaring continuity errors and some writing gaffes that should have been ironed out in pre-production.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very easy film to watch. It’s just that there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about any of it and you’ll be able to figure out how the movie is going to pan out after the opening ten minutes. Appleby deserves a lot more screen time and much better roles than this one, Christensen seems to enjoy playing a nut-job in a disappointing follow up to her impressive turn in Traffic and Bradford just seems content with being able to play a character who pashes on with the both of them. There’s plenty of eye candy but not much else so a rental is definitely recommended before you think about parting with your hard-earned cash.

Video
Despite what seems to be the lack of any fill lights throughout the whole production, the 2.35:1 transfer actually looks quite good. It handles the darkness of the whole movie quite well and does its best to maintain a decent level of sharpness throughout. The colours are vibrant, especially the deep blues around the pool scenes. The print is very clean and there are no signs of aliasing or shimmer at all, so overall this is a pretty good transfer. Shame about the film.

The animated menus used are quite good, although the introduction using clips from the film teeters on the brink of giving a little too much away. And it’s unskippable, meaning you’ll get frustrated having to sit through it after the first time.

Psycho-killer uses floating devices

Audio
Included on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which really doesn’t have a lot to do. Sure, there’s a few surround effects in the pool and at the race meet, but on the whole the use of the rears is kept to a minimum, with only selected ambient sounds given a lengthy stay back there. Subwoofer action is almost non-existent save for the extra-punch needed during some of the musical sequences. The music is pumped out quite well, with the 28 Days track while Ben is riding in the car being very easy on the ears. The score is quite cheesy at times but only intrudes if you’ve got a keen ear for the stuff. Not the best soundtrack going around but it does a decent job.

Extras
Fox have put together a decent little extras package to add weight to the disc. First up is a collection of ten deleted scenes which must be played as a whole, either with original audio or comments from director John Polson. Some of these sequences are quite interesting to watch and it’s good to hear the reasons why they were cut out in the first place. There’s also an homage to Fatal Attraction that was originally going to be placed in the closing credits but ended up being pulled altogether. Worth a look.

Next up is an audio commentary from director John Polson, Erika Christensen and Jesse Bradford. This is a decent track, with all three having a great deal of fun watching the movie again. There’s a fair amount of back-slapping which can get a little grating at times but the three participants are happy to impart anything they can about the production. Bradford in particular is quite chatty so they all make sure there aren’t many silences at all. If you’re a Swimfan (sorry, it had to be done) then you’ll enjoy this track.

Swimfan

Rounding out the extras section is a collection of trailers, TV and radio spots. A good addition to the disc even though most users won’t be all that interested. The theatrical trailer in particular makes the film look a lot more exciting than it actually is. Overall there’s a couple of solid extra features here to add a bit of worth to the disc.

Overall
If you can get past the stupid name, lame story and a few plot holes here and there you might actually enjoy this one. But the whole film just smacks of being very sloppy and poorly thought out, although the video, audio and extras try their best to make this disc worthwhile. Rent this one and decide for yourself, though there’s no guarantees it’ll tickle your fancy.


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