Roots of Evil (1992)

A degenerate (and really sweaty!) creep with a mother fixation is stalking and slashing the working girls of the City of Angels! And only one grizzled cop, haunted by his past, but having a soft spot for sexy sex workers can make the streets safe again for six inch heels and tube tops, earning him the everlasting admiration of whores and johns alike!

But can he overcome his demons and the shocking truth of who the sleazy serial killer is or will the hookers on the Strip have to permanently trade in their their bustiers for the special steel threaded top he gives to the hooker he uses as bait to lure the killer out of hiding? All of us horny dudes, except for the geeks at Renaissance fairs who don’t mind their wenches dressed in chain mail armor, are certainly rooting for Detective Jake!

It’s just another day for Jake, a city homicide detective, killing time at his favorite strip club and drowning his sorrows in shots of whiskey and overflowing D cups! As he helpfully whines to the bored barkeep, it was ten years ago that his wife and kid were killed when they were knocked through a plate glass window by a liquor store robber on the run! His wife was carrying the baby on her back like a papoose and there was just too much blood loss! Now the days are just boobs and booze in an effort to forget! And the nights, too! Because that’s when he’s at his partner’s house drinking and screwing the crap out of her! We all grieve in our own ways, right?

But his fragile world of grief and nude massages is shattered when a bum stumbles in with his tongue cut out! Jake searches the alley nearby and finds the body of a working gal and immediately speeds off to his favorite hooker to question her and make sure she’s safe. After beating up her john, he attempts to explain why cops have such a hard on, I mean, heart of gold for hookers, using a mangled quote from Kafka about some tree of life. Clearly Jake is almost as dangerous as the guy he’s hunting!

But Danny Fontana has just been murdered, too! And a witness says he saw his associate Johnny Malone in the area that night! And he’s not lying because Johnny was there banging Danny’s wife, Marissa! But incredibly, when Jake and his partner Brenda track him down, he says he was with actress Candy Johnson that night! Even more incredibly, it’s the same Candy Johnson that Jake had a relationship with years ago! Candy backs up Johnny’s story though Jake knows her well enough to know when she’s lying to facilitate a plot twist!

Maybe it has something to do with the information Brenda managed to get from Candy’s sleazy agent! Candy has a child! Confronted again, Candy owns up that she was lying for Johnny and that he has their child and is threatening to kill the child if she doesn’t alibi him up for that night! Jake and Brenda are a bit dubious that Johnny is threatening to murder his own child to force the mother to lie for him, but that doesn’t stop Jake from searching a house for the child and getting blow up for his troubles!

But how does any of this bring us closer to saving Los Angeles’ prostitution industry? It doesn’t! For awhile I was wondering if my cat had stepped on the remote control and changed the channel to some other movie when I wasn’t looking! But then Jake and Brenda actually comment on how they need to back burner the hooker killer case because they don’t have any leads and I realized that this was simply a case of a terrible script and not some pet-related technical malfunction.

If only some lucky break would fall into their lap like a coked up exotic dancer at the end of her shift! Enter Wanda, one of the only people to survive an attack by the killer. Brought into the station on an indecency charge, she notices that the killer is standing around in the next room joking around with the cops! It’s Collins from the Rampart Division!

For those of us tired of movies glorifying serial killers as evil geniuses, this is a breath of fresh air! Destined to appear on one of those World’s Dumbest Criminals programs, Collins is stalking and murdering hookers in the same neighborhood as the police station where busted hookers are booked and where he apparently hangs out in between killings!

One of the reasons that Roots of Evil‘s story of a cop after a guy knocking off hookers failed as badly as it did was because for much of the movie, that story was merely an afterthought. There were a few scenes of Collins attacking hookers to varying degrees of success, but other than the silly sting operation set up to catch him (wait for him to leave work, park hooker bait on street corner and wait for him to try and knife her there and then drive up and arrest him), the rest of the movie focused on the completely unrelated Fontana murder, which also made little sense. (Wife kills husband and frames lover so she can indulge in lesbian affair with actress who gave wife’s lover an alibi for said murder. Huh?)

Characters were equally insipid as Jake started the movie with his laughably delivered monologue about the death of his family only to spend the rest of the film having a great time with his girlfriend partner, his girlfriend laughably pretended to want to screw Johnny near the end of the film to get information from him in an effort even more transparent than a stripper’s costume and the guy killing hookers laughably screamed obscenities, trashed his apartment and called his mom to get her help only to have her berate him for being a loser, her antipathy to her son, never explained.

Silly touches like the extended strip show Johnny watches, followed by him playing grab ass with the stripper that night in slow motion, the dubbed rantings of Collins as he stumbles around on fire, Jake’s visit to Movie Tech Studios and wandering into scene being shot for a monster movie with naked women, the way Jake solved the Fontana murder case by just breaking into the suspect’s house as she’s playing with the murder weapon, and the meaningless shock ending of a guy pulling a knife on a hooker cements Roots of Evil as much worse viewing experience than ever imagined, but perversely, much more memorable.

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