One thing that job did teach me, however, was what an incredible library of films there were out there waiting to be discovered.
In college, I pretty much fashioned my own degree in Film Criticism (in an institute that didn’t have a Film Studies program), and I became fairly well versed in the classics and some contemporary flicks. I’ve forgotten more than any person should ever have to learn about such picture as Citizen Kane, Rear Window, and Platoon; so you can imagine how a stint in the business of home video opened the door for me into a world populated by such titles as Re-Animator, Critters, and Killer Klowns From Outer Space. In all honesty, there was a whole universe out there that lived and died by these somewhat obtuse and obscure storytellers, so it was a fascinating time to find yourself with a VHS player, a couple of bucks, and in your corner video store.
These were, largely, Troma’s breakout days as viewers hungry for something just a little bit different were perfectly OK with taking a chance on a 99 cent rental as opposed to plunking down $50 at the cineplex for four tickets, sodas, and popcorn. And – dare I say? – at 99 cents most of those early efforts delivered more lines and laughs than any flick should’ve, certainly enough to put that ‘little engine that could’ on the map in the consciousness of America. Sure, they may’ve courted a bit of controversy, but who really cared about that stuff when all viewers really wanted was to be entertained?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“Meanwhile in Tromaville, three women warriors find themselves on the run and kicking in the teeth of every misogynist that dares to cross their path.”
For the record, folks: as I always warn, art comes in all shapes and sizes.
And the hard, hard truth about art is that it isn’t always meant to ‘impress.’ Some art carries with it messages – warnings about our culture, metaphors for how one’s live can be lived, loved, or ruined – but if you’re looking for a good time then maybe you need to make a stop in Tromaville, a place where dreams may not come true but asses will be kicked (if not bared), humor might be tasteless (if not tasty), and trash might be tokenism.
It’s all a bit farcical to be sure, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a lesson for the uniformed along the way.
As can happen in your standard Troma fare, there’s an almost inhuman fascination with bodily functions – the studio makes its bones off of somewhat shocking exploitation – but I’ve long argued it isn’t so much done in bad taste as it is to kinda/sorta flash the Establishment the middle finger. How else does one reconcile moments of revenge porn also delivering female empowerment messages such as is the case when are trio of bad-asses descend on ‘Harvey Weinstein’ with a well-placed mop? Think what you may of producer Lloyd Kaufman and his band of pranksters, but they still have enough respect for their audience to make ‘The Knights Of White’ and an aging Adolf Hitler to be the film’s central source of evil. Plus the girls manage to turn the tables against their Socialist-loving Uber driver … or should I say ‘Uber Alles?’
Again, it’s all meant to be taken with not so much as a grain of salt as it is a full handful; and – in the proper context – it’s occasionally entertaining. Peach, Divine, and Mercedes make for a heroic trio – the film ends with a warning that they’re still out there – and they look great together, too. Set aside your fixation of taboos. Believe again in the magic that is the female body. With the right motivation, you can teach a dog new tricks.
And maybe someone can explain to me why when Frank Miller dresses women like this (in comic books) it’s considered art … but when Troma does it it’s called trash?
Divide & Conquer (2021) was produced by Troma Entertainment. Troma’s film library is available for streaming on the Troma Now website. As for the technical specifications? The film is actually shot on some very high def digital (I’m assuming), and it looks quite good, though there are some issues of dubbing in post that have sounds levels going up and down. Also, there’s a fair amount of post-production special effects trickery one can expect.
Recommended but … well, to know Troma is to love Troma … or to know Troma is to hate Troma (depending upon your tastes) but dare I say you’ve never seen anything like Troma anywhere else? Divide & Conquer (2021) is clearly not going to be to everyone’s sensibilities. There are some – ahem – darkly inappropriate jokes in there; but if you’re willing to endure one hour of subversiveness just to get to its thirty minutes of substance then you might find a few nuggets of truth spaced throughout. No, I’m not fond of potty humor (there’s plenty of Number 1 and Number 2, folks), but any film that denounces white supremacy, Nazi Socialism, and the still-breathing corpse of Adolf Hitler can’t be all that bad, can it?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Troma Entertainment provided me with a complimentary streaming link of Divide & Conquer (2021) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.