You remember that guy in high school? He was maybe a little older. A little older yet still in your grade. He was mysterious. Dangerous. A genuine badass. He was cool. And if by some miracle he excepted you as a friend, you’d be cool too. The younger kids would find you mysterious. Girls would dig you, too.
But you soon found out it didn’t take a miracle to be this guy’s friend. All it took was stroking his ego with your male-crush adoration for him. In fact, he’d keep showing up even when you didn’t want him to. He’d keep calling for you long after you realized you made a big mistake ever pursuing his friendship. When you realize that your life and criminal record may be more important than being mysterious and cool. The day you realize you’re not a badass. But okay, so what, you accept that, now how do you get rid of this guy and his alcohol and drugs. And his weapons and vandalism.
You remember that guy? Well, if there ever were a movie equivalent to that guy, it’s 'Deadbeat At Dawn'. The film takes you into an exciting and dangerous world. Jim Van Bebber took his senior year college loan and instead of going to school, he made this movie. It is the definition of DIY with Van Bebber starring in the movie and doing all his own stunts and gore effects, but it is by no means toned down as a result. On the contrary, it is all the more effective. It is obvious there are no tricks of editing at work here and no stunt doubles either. You can clearly see Van Bebber in each shot, putting his life in danger as he pulls off some of the most violent and exciting action scenes of any budget level, giving the film a strong sense of reality.
So when the suit up scene comes, just before the climax, we find ourselves tingling with that old sense of danger. Our hearts pound with voyeuristic excitement as we realize Van Bebber is going to take us on a tour of that world we were too gutless to enter ourselves. With no threat to our freedom or safety, we are finally going to hang with the badasses. The scene itself is shot pretty standard, containing all the essentials of the typical suit up scene (close ups of weapons, weapons being concealed, final moments of composure), but it is the scenes placement in the film and promise of things to come that works so well. At this point in the film we have already seen Van Bebber do kung-fu, use nunchukas, slide down a rope from the top of a parking garage and jump onto the hood of a moving car as well as other life threatening stunts and we are only just now entering the climax scene. One feels giddy thinking about the possible uses of those knives and Chinese stars in the hand of Van Bebber.
Although the strength of the scene lies in its intent, it is not completely devoid of style. There is a really nice editing choice at work in this suit up scene. At this point in the film, two rival gangs who have called a truce to pull an armored car job are meeting up to split up the money. Van Bebber’s character, Goose, does not trust the rival gang and has an old score to settle with some of its members. He plans to use this meet up as an opportunity to carry out vengeance. So as Goose suits up for the coming 25 minute climax of insane stunts and bloody violence, we hear his gang leader’s speech in a voice-over telling the gang members, "Remember, we’re going on their turf for business. Nobody packs anything. Nothing. Understand?" This suit up scene is like the ringing doorbell, but unlike the guy in high school, we’re not hiding behind the curtains pretending we’re not home. With "Deadbeat At Dawn", we’re opening the door and gladly stepping into a world of trouble.