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Rating: R or Unrated (Unrated Reviewed)
Release Date: September 3, 2002
Running Time: approximately 87 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A party clown gains fame as a TV show host, haunted by the night he got gang-raped.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Cast and Crew commentary with Kevin Smith
  • Dogma documentary
  • trailers

    Choice Scene:Oh, so many to choose…just none of them reprintable.

    Tech Specs: Wide Screen (1.85:1), English Dolby DTS 5.1 surround sound, English subtitles
    Type of disc: Dual Layer Format

    What could be scarier than a clown? How about a clown in drag getting passed around sexually by a family right out of an early Wes Craven film? For those who have been waiting for such a thrill, Vulgar will satisfy your need. Just please don't tell us who you are.

    Actually, the title might be familiar to Howard Stern fans as a movie that even he found too disgusting to watch. Such news, of course, guaranteed that its limited theatrical release would have a sell-out opening weekend. What remains unclear, however, is if it was the subject matter or the technical merits of the movie which bothered Stern. On either count, he was too harsh.

    One of the highest-profile non-Kevin Smith movies to come out of View Askew, Vulgar plays as a throwback to 70's underground cinema. Some of it might have made a young John Waters jealous. Certainly the strange father/son dynamic has a grotesque charm.

    As you might expect, Bryan Johnson's writing/directing debut has all the talkiness of his mentor's work. And with references to characters like Walt Flanagan's dog, Vulgar acts as a companion piece to the other Askewniverse films. A minor piece, maybe, but it still fits. However, Johnson does have his own rhythm, and proves himself to be a writer to watch.

    But is Vulgar all that shocking?

    Who hasn't felt like this some mornings?
    Surprisingly, no. Johnson populates his movie with lowlifes and the expected gross humor, but it all feels faked. We never believe that Will Carlson a.k.a. Flappy/Vulgar The Clown (Bryan O'Halloran) could have these things happen to him. He may not be a great clown, but he clearly has a good heart. It's just that Johnson stacks the deck so highly against him that even before he suffers "the incident," it's become cartoonish. Homeless guys sleep (and crap) in his car. Stuck in a resthome, his mother drifts in and out of senility, but never hostility. And even before becoming Vulgar, Will's client list seems too white trash.

    For all the hullabaloo, the supposedly shocking centerpiece plays out rather tamely. Perhaps people imagine more than they actually see, because it's not graphic, and certainly less violent than many more "acceptable" films. Johnson films it as tastefully as one can film a clown violations, I guess. Critics (and Stern) must have been more offended by the idea than the actual execution.

    As for the acting, well, since Clerks, O'Halloran hasn't really gotten much better. But everyone in this movie affects an overdone style (or maybe it's not affectation), so the lead looks well-supported. Surprisingly, the actor who makes the best impression is Smith himself, as a sleazy New Jersey TV producer. The only person underplaying, Smith makes an unbelievable character almost believable, giving energy to every scene he's in.

    In the DVD extras, too, Smith dominates. Though he gives over most of the commentary to Johnson and O'Halloran, the major inclusion here is a 30 minute or so featurette about Dogma.

    Specifically, it covers the religious furor touched off by that flawed but fascinating movie. Vulgar may not make you want to hear the commentary (and yes, it sometimes comes off as way too self-congratulating), but for Smith fans, you have to get this disc for the Dogma documentary. Deemed too controversial for the Columbia/Tri-Star release of the DVD, only a small company like Lion's Gate could get away with its conclusion. (Columbia feared it insulted Disney and Michael Eisner, as once upon a time, they were to distribute the film.)

    While not the Citizen Kane of clown movies (a space reserved for Shakes The Clown), Vulgar might qualify as the genre's The Magnificent Ambersons. If that hasn't gotten too pretentious for you right there, check it out.

    Vulgar (Unrated Edition)

    Derek McCaw


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