A voiceover explains how, by 2012, the world has become a post-apocalyptic nightmare due to oil running out. The effects of this catastrophe are visually illustrated in eye-grabbing opening shots that echo both DAY OF THE DEAD and 28 DAYS LATER: silent streets, empty save for the odd corpse and occasional litter or abandoned vehicle.
Amongst this maelstrom walks survivor Ford (Rider Strong), searching for life and scavenging for supplies to take back to their hideout. He rescues the pretty young Neon (Rachel Miner) from an attack by the brutish Mongrel (Vinnie Jones) and carries her back to base - a disused hospital.
In the hospital, we meet the rest of Ford's group of close-knit survivors, led by the studious professor Darwin (Robert Carradine). We have Victoria (Beverly Hynds), Max (Kevin E Scott), Dakota (Nicola DuPort), Yukon (Zack Robidas), Nova (Emily Catherine Young), Torino (Alexandra Barreto) and Viper (Michael Kelly). Whatever happened to traditional names like Arthur and Percy?
Neon's given a bed to rest in while the rest of the clan gather to debate a way forward. They know they can't stay holed up there forever, and that eventually they will run out food and other supplies.
When Neon awakes, she's met with suspicion by some of the group. She observes silently as they cope without fuel by way of exercising, fucking, arguing and guarding their lot with heavy artillery. From whom? "Rovers", savage scavengers on the hunt to loot other survivors' belongings and - more disconcertingly - feast upon their flesh.
"The American dream became the American nightmare", the voiceover tells us. No shit!
Neon finally gets accepted by most of the group when she proves to be good at "fixing things" (specifically, their means to fresh water). But Viper still doesn't trust her and falls out with Darwin, eventually leaving the group in disgust.
Inevitably then, he is the prime suspect the following morning when Darwin's glasses are found in a pool of blood in the bathroom.
The remaining group begin to search for Darwin's body, hoping to find him still alive. But their concerns are soon shifted when the rovers turn up outside the hospital, in full MAD MAX-type garb, wanting in.
Come nightfall, the group designate Neon as their new leader and must fight tooth and nail (sorry) to protect what is theirs from Mongrel, his whistling leader Jackal (Michael Madsen) and their band of hungry flesh-munchers.
TOOTH AND NAIL borrows heavily from an astounding number of contemporary exploitation films to patch together an altogether unsurprising screenplay. 28 DAYS LATER, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, MAD MAX 2, Romero's LIVING DEAD films, DOOMSDAY, ASSUALT ON PRECINCT 13 - to name but a few - all get raped of key elements, in what is possibly the least original post-apocalyptic horror film ever made.
On top of this, there's a twist in the plot that I saw coming from within the first five minutes. It's good, I suppose, that the twist comes two-thirds into play, as had the entire film hinged on this "revelation" as it's finale, it surely would already be regarded as a prime turkey. But the liberal theft of other's ideas and the blatant failure of the attempt "twist" do suggest a terrible weakness in director Mark Young's screenwriting.
Which leaves his direction to save the day. Well, the film is certainly watchable enough and earns points with a solid muted look that delivers both style and grit. The opening scenes of barren streets are effective, even though we've seen it all before. And the pace, although slow for the first forty minutes, never falters in the final hour.
If you live for gory set-pieces, TOOTH AND NAIL delivers some nasty murder scenes. Unfortunately they're devoid of tension or excitement - everything seems to stop to allow the FX folk their moments in the sun.
Performances are generally good, certainly better than you'd expect from such a corny script. Only Madsen comes across as too cheesy for words, while Jones is wisely deprived of dialogue (again) and therefore manages to get by on simply looking mean. Well, if the cap fits.
TOOTH AND NAIL is too derivative by far, and too keen to let storyline fall to the wayside in the second half for an (admittedly enjoyable) episodic succession of hiding in darkened corridors punctuated by gory knifings. But it's not without merit and certainly worth a rent.
The film has a generally strong anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation here, with fresh colours and a fair amount of detail. Some night scenes exhibit grain but by and large this is a distraction-free transfer.
English audio is available in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, both of which offer an authentic and evenly balanced payback.
Static menus include a scene-selection menu which allows access to the film via 22 chapters.
The only extras related to the film are a 90-second anamorphic trailer and a 20-minute Making Of documentary entitled "Do Or Die".
The featurette begins with cast members individually musing over the film's themes and their own character's motivations. Then it moves into some interesting production and location insights. There's plenty of behind-the-scenes footage to enjoy, and Young offers some useful titbits along the way. Madsen and Jones also turn up in brief interview slots (Jones boasts that he favours Young's approach of capturing a performance in one or two takes. But to be honest, he could've done with a few more takes of one scene where he's required to laugh maniacally through a door window).
The highlight of the featurette is the insight into the shutting down of the Benjamin Franklin bridge for the film's striking opening shots.
The disc also contains trailers for DARK RIDE, DEAD MAN'S CARDS, THE 39TH BATTALION, FATAL CONTACT, OH IN OHIO and A DIFFERENT LOYALTY.
Drawing inspiration from too many sources, TOOTH AND NAIL lacks identity and consequently emerges as a goofy if fun B-movie. The gore is overly zealous at times, the lead performance is ripe and the pace is uneven. But it has a slick sheen to it that's easy on the eye, and if it's brain-switched-off gory action you're after, it serves its purpose.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Showbox Media Group|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|