Thinking about trying to write a synopsis of Mad Cowgirl makes your head hurt just a bit. It is a messy fusion of revenge thriller, exploitation gore-fest, kung-fu nostalgia love-in and a document to the anxiety born out of our modern culture of fear. Even more than that, what is perhaps most striking and unusual is that the film is also a straight up drama in the middle of ten too many tangential meanderings. That the drama works so much better than the experimental brouhaha of the film (which includes amoungst other things a bovine overture and extended scene of female masturbation to a religious infomercial) it is bound to leave more than one devourer of underground film scratching their head. Mad Cowgirl is a film that is slightly punishing to watch in an insipid sort of way for much of its run time; most especially when the filmmakers try to turn up the heat. Against all odds, it nonetheless earns more than a bit of admiration upon reflection. It is one of those few films which is more satisfying to think about afterwards than it is to actually watch.
Therese is a woman with an identity crisis so large enough, without the added confusion of one, maybe two terminal diseases. She bounces from man to man over the course of the run-time of the film only to be shed of any remaining dignity with each subsequent failed relationship. Outside of her humiliation, her ‘free’ hours are spent either inspecting meat (her day job), consuming it (her passion) or worshiping at the alter of a poorly framed, and badly dubbed chopsocky potboiler with the impressive title of “The Girl With The Thunderbolt Kick.” C-Span footage relating the ongoing BSE (mad cow disease) crisis between Canada and the US border and the playful title of the film are the least subtle things about the sticky metaphor concerning a disease caused by a species fed on its own dead. This is first called out by a carnal relationship between a member of a religious congregation and her spiritual leader, then by an incestuous fling with a sibling. Therese’s relationships range from dating the far too intimate to a random stranger in a porno theater. A theatre, it should be mentioned, that is simultaneously showing films of hard core pornography literally side-by-side with a violent kung-fu flick. The patrons not having sex with total strangers can pick their poison: sex or violence (or even attempt to take both in at once.) Kiss Kiss or Bang Bang (or both), either way, you - the audience of Mad Cow Girl - are feeding the reptile brain with basically its own stuff (shades of S&Man?). The fact that the film makes stabs to condemn this, and then follows up with a final act wallowing in it, well, speaks volumes on the human condition.
Sarah Lassez, looking like she got the best physical attributes of Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman turns in a performance that makes the film more watch able than it ought to be without heavy drug use. Her dramatic scenes in the film are played with such a high level of confidence that I’m at a loss as to why this actress isn’t climbing to the top of the Hollywood A-List. Seriously. The French Canadian actress has over 20 credits on the IMDb (including listed just under Christina Applegate in Greg Araki’s Nowhere), and hopefully gets a well deserved break soon because she almost holds together the crazy handful of springs that is Mad Cowgirl (a film after all that casts James Duval aka the 6 foot bunny in Donnie Darko, as well as Walter Koenig aka Commander Chekov in Star Trek TOS. And if Peter Jackson can go from Derek in Bad Taste to Academy Award winning director of one of the most successful pieces of blockbuster cinema, why can’t Sarah Lassez go from Mad Cowgirl to Scarlett Johansson territory?