Hot Tamale (2006) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality, nudity, and drug content
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Randy Spelling, Diora Baird, Mike Starr, Matt Cedeno, Sean Blakemore, Jon Huertas, Carmen Electra, Jason Priestley, Beth Grant, Christopher Goodwin, James Best, Richard Riehle, Harland Williams
Director: Michael Damian
Screenplay: Janeen Damian, Michael Damian
Review published July 16, 2006

Hot Tamale is a derivative but mostly fun straight-to-video action-comedy which combines several standard genres to make for a pleasant escapist diversion for those that like small indie comedies.  The plot elements combine Hitchockian plotting (complete with MacGuffin), garrulous Tarantino-esque bantering villains, and the naive small town boy looking to make it big in an urban setting.  None of these elements taken on their own would be enough to make for great entertainment, but writer-director Damian (former regular on "The Young and the Restless") mixes enough humor and action to constantly divert our attention from the constant contrivances necessary to push the plot along.

Randy Spelling (Held for Ransom, Hoboken Hollow) stars as Harlan, a Wyoming-raised young man that decides to drive out to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams of playing timbales in a Salsa band.  His dreams take a bit of a detour when he stops at a greasy-spoon diner en route to LA, where he meets a mysterious guy (Priestley, Cherish) that is being pursued by two hitmen.  The guy is caught, but not before he stashes his handbag in Harlan's truck, which apparently contains an item that the two murderous thugs so desperately want. 

Harlan arrives in Venice to stay at his Puerto Rican buddy Caesar's (Cedeno, Romancing the Bride) apartment only to find him about to leave to go on a NYC trip.  Harlan would feel more like a fish out of water, but one of Caesar's lady friends, Tuesday (Baird, Brain Blockers), is commissioned to stay behind and water his "indoor plants" of questionable nature.  While Harlan gets geared up to audition for a local band, the thugs remain in hot pursuit, while a cell phone in the bag continues to get calls from an unknown woman wanting something that Harlan doesn't seem to have.

Hot Tamale's salsa music hook provides just enough of a unique angle to keep the vibe lively and plot from becoming too stale, as we are taken out of the predictable formula to enjoy some amusing moments and excellent music at just the right interims.  The cast is full of likeable actors, with Randy Spelling (son of mega-producer Aaron) playing the naive guy role perfectly, while Guess-model Diora Baird steals most of her scenes as the effervescent sex kitten.  "Days of Our Lives" star Matt Cedeno, "90210" alum Jason Priestley, and quintessential starlet Carmen Electra (Scary Movie 4, Date Movie) round out the colorful cast of comedic personalities.

While it may not be crucial to go out of your way to see this, if you're in the mood for a pleasant, sexy comedy, some action and thrills, and plenty of feel-good music, Hot Tamale delivers the modest goods when you're tired of seeing the same-old stuff on the video store shelves. 

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo