Tag: badass (page 2 of 5)

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Machete

Logo courtesy Netflix. No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

{No audio this week. We apologize for the inconvenience.}

Like many movie-goers, my first taste of Robert Rodriguez came in the form of Desperado. I wasn’t plugged into the indy film scene when I was a lad so El Mariachi kind of passed me by. The follow-up, however, grabbed me by the collar, fed me a shot of tequila and kicked me square in the ass, and I liked it. Now while I was blown away by the action, to say nothing of the always-appealing Salma Hayek, one of the things that stuck out in my mind was the silent knife-throwing assassin sent by the absentee drug lords. He was played by an absolute mountain of a Mexican, a man they call Danny Trejo. He’s been in character roles since then, but here we have his first starring role: Machete.

Courtesy Troublemaker

Think of Machete as a Mexican ‘Dirty Harry’. A dedicated supercop (that’s ‘Federale’ south of the border) who runs afoul of a drug lord and pays the price in family, Machete is forced to leave his country and heads into America. Down on his luck and working as an illegal day laborer like many of his unfortunate countrymen in Texas, he is offered a shady deal by a shady businessman. There’s a certain State Senator with a very hard stance against immigrant workers, and Machete is offered a large sum of money to kill the guy. Machete reluctantly accepts, but discovers too late that it’s a set-up. This betrayal and subsequent surge in the senator’s polls spells doom for Mexicans looking for a better life in America, unless Machete can focus his quest for heroic vengeance into the sort of inspirational spark that kindles the fires of revolution.

If this seems a little over the top or gratuitous in either message or execution, you win an award for spotting the bleeding obvious. Machete began as a gag trailer in the Rodriguez-Tarantino tag-team project Grindhouse, which has also spawned Hobo With A Shotgun and Werewolf Women of the SS. A tounge-in-cheek send-up of old-school schlock cinema with exploitative roles and themes aimed at the nigh-forgotten X rating, films like this in our day and age tend to get slapped with the ‘post-modern deconstruction’ label. And to an extent, that’s true here. There’s stunt casting, gratuity in terms of both sex and violence, and some very intentional tongue in cheek moments. That doesn’t make the underlying theme of Machete any less obvious or any less sincere.

Courtesy Troublemaker
“I got my green card right here, pendejo.”

It’s clear that the makers of Machete have little love for the American policy regarding immigration in its current state. Considering it can take someone pursuing a legitimate means to reside and work in the United States years of bureaucratic runaround and thousands of dollars in government fees, it’s no wonder there are people looking to cut corners and hop through loopholes. Rather than streamline the process to get these folks into the workforce in a legal way more quickly, many Americans prefer to lock down the borders entirely as if every single person crossing it is a member of that rather vocal minority of people who think blowing something up is a great way to promote the peaceful teachings of their prophet. The people caught in the middle with no means to support themselves and no recourse against the frustrating and obfuscatory ways and means of the government have done quite a bit to make things right, but they’ve never risen up in arms quite the way they do in Machete.

Racism has been tackled in many films before this one, from the dead serious dramatic portrayal in In the Heat of the Night to the side-splitting comedy of Blazing Saddles. While Machete‘s action and situations may be a bit too contrived to take seriously, its thematic material is just as sincere here as it is when it comes to immigration. It really is like taking a big, deep drink of something alcoholic to put you in a euphoric state of mind right before you get into a fight. It’s violent, painful and extremely real, but you’re laughing your way through it because of how the events are framed. Despite the toungue in cheek nature of its larger than life characters’ delivery, there are really people like this in America and they really are this ignorant, manipulative, power-hungry and indecent. And Machete killing his way throuugh their ranks is every bit as cathartic as the actions of the Punisher or the Boondock Saints.

Courtesy Troublemaker
All this and brains, too.

Normally I’d harp on a movie using contrivance or spectacle for its own sake, but the truth is a good movie that includes such things make them part of the point. While being hilariously over the top is par for the course when it comes to grindhouse fodder, Rodriguiez cannily uses these familiar, schlocky tropes the same way a stage magician uses pyrotechnics or a scantily-clad assistant. It’s all about distraction. You might not have realized it the first time you saw Machete, but while you were seeing Danny Trejo slice and dice his way through the bad guys, he was also delivering a B-52’s worth of dropped anvils regarding the shoddy state of the immigration issue in the US. As they say on that infamous page, though, some anvils need to be dropped.

I’m going to get off of my soapbox, now, and tell you that beyond this possibly overblown interpretation of the events of Machete, it’s still a movie that’s plenty entertaining in its own right. Like Desperado, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and Sin City, Rodriguez tempers the breakneck pace of his shooting and cutting with funny character beats and smoldering sex appeal, this time around by Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and a surprisingly effective self-parody from Linsday Lohan. You get your recommended dose of Cheech Marin, Robert DeNiro’s just having a ball, Jeff Fahey nibbles on some scenery in a way you can’t help but appreciate, and Steven Segal… well, you can’t win ’em all. There a misstep here or there, the occasional stumble that never brings the production to a screeching halt, but that is actually part of the appeal of Robert Rodriguez, in this reviewer’s humble opinion. He isn’t afraid to run with something that might not seem 100% clean if it keeps the story and action going or speeds us along to the next good-looking dame. If you saw Grindhouse or caught sight of Machete’s special Cinco de Mayo message for Arizona on YouTube, and cracked a smile at the scenario or narration, definitely queue this one up. That’s pretty much what got me to see it – that image of Danny Trejo, airborne on a motorcycle with a mounted gatling gun, while a deep, extremely sincere voice intoned: MACHETE. RATED X.

Courtesy Troublemaker
“Look at those bite marks on the scenery! Who in tarnation’s gonna clean that up?”

Yeah. Definitely not for the kids. But if you’re a fan of action, hot girls or criticisms of the United States government in the form of guns, blades and disembowlings? Machete‘s for you.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The A-Team

Logo courtesy Netflix. No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/ateam.mp3]

10 years ago a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from maximum security stockades. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.

‘Keep it simple’. It’s a cardinal rule of most creative productions, and the 2009 big-screen adaptation of this 80s television staple is no exception. The basis, stated plainly in the show’s opening narration, remains completely intact. You have four paramilitary guys who are very, very good at what they do, using brains as well as brawn to pull off daring plans and always ending up on the wrong side of the establishment. However, the TV show never really went in-depth as to how these men met and learned to trust one another so completely, hence Joe Carnahan’s take on the A-Team.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Liam Neeson steps into the role of Colonel Hannibal Smith. We’ve seen him play both a mentor and a badass, and this role has him undertaking elements of both, but it also shows him truly enjoying what he does. Hannibal’s a guy who loves getting one over on the competition, being at least three steps ahead of his enemy, always having a plan and when they come together? Man. He LOVES that. Every smile Liam cracks is infectious, and every cigar a reminder of just how iconic both the character and the actor have become.

Fresh from encounters with Mike Tyson, tigers and midget gangsters, Bradley Cooper brings us a rendition of Lt. ‘Faceman’ Peck, the team’s infiltration specialist. He doesn’t hesitate to use his looks to gain a better position with the ladies (insert waggling of eyebrows here) and he loves a good time just as much as he loves his fellow Rangers. Something touched on here is, as someone considered to be Hannibal’s number 2, he’s learning all he can from the Colonel and seeks his approval perhaps more than the others do. It’s an interesting nuance to the character that keeps him fresh.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Believe it or not, even the mohawk has a story.

While he’s no Miser T, Quinton “Rampage’ Jackson steps out of the Octagon and directly into the mohawk and fists of Corporal B.A. Baracus. Gearhead, bruiser and sucker for a coconut curry tapenade, B.A. is also fleshed out beyond ‘pitying da foo”. Oh, he kicks quite a bit of ass, but he also inhabits what could have been a straightforward driving brick of a character with some legitimate pathos. While his neuroses are played for laughs more often than not, it’s nice to see a burly young man express emotions other than anger, lechery and/or stoic emotional distance in a modern action flick.

Last but by no means least, ascended fanboy Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame reminds us why Captain Murdock is called “Howling Mad.” Of course, the ‘howling’ might also describe the audience reaction to some of his antics. A daring, brilliant and fearless pilot, H.M. is also completely batshit insane. Or is he? There are moments in the movie when he shows an almost frightening amount of clarity and lucidity. While his bonkers behavior’s a riot, we also see a man who just might be pulling a fast one on everybody around him, even those he considers brothers. He rounds out the ensemble excellently and the team as a whole is a delight to see in action.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking, your nuclear steaks will be delivered just as soon as they’re done on the wing, which by the way is kind of on fire right now.

You might have noticed I haven’t said much about the plot of the A-Team. Well, other than updating the origins of the team to Iraq and involving shady CIA agents and Blackwater-style PMCs, there’s not a whole lot here in terms of plot. The A-Team isn’t interested in weaving deeply intricate strains of narrative into a broader message about brotherhood, military interventionism or anything like that. It is, however, looking to take both its cast and its audience on a wild ride. It also maintains that a wild ride need not be a stupid one.

In reality, we know that even the lowest-tier police officer needs to fill out mountains of paperwork when he or she discharges a firearm while on duty. On the other end of the extreme, some action movies have the heroes blazing away at the bad guys without a second thought regarding the cost of their firepower, in collateral damage or loss of innocent life. The A-Team places itself firmly between the two extremes. Our heroes do make use of assault rifles, rocket launchers, vehicles and even construction cranes to pull off their gambits, but their goal is almost never the direct death of a foe. The TV show was almost completely bloodless, and while the movie doesn’t quite take things that far, it also doesn’t perpetuate violence for its own sake. To a man, these Rangers are trained in the judicious and intelligent use of firepower, and it’s refreshing to see this portrayal of canny and clever men of action.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Acting or not, isn’t it nice to see Liam smile like that?

In the execution of that action, the portrayal of just about all of its characters and updating a beloved 80s franchise into a viable 21st-century storytelling framework, The A-Team delivers in a very smart, very fun way. As I said, there’s not a great deal of narrative nuance here and most savvy watchers will see the big plot twist coming, but it’s forgivable in this case because these are smart, real characters thinking their way out of things just as much as they shoot their way out. It’s all wrapped up very nearly and presented with the professional aplomb and slightly crazed abandon that made Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces such a delight. There are plenty of action flicks out there. But if you want your action delivered with brains as well as bullets, if you’re a fan of any member of this excellent cast, and if you can find it on your Netflix queue, maybe you should watch… The A-Team.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Kingdom of Heaven

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/kingdom.mp3]

A cynic is likely to look at the release of the Director’s Cut of a movie, scoff openly and accuse the studio or the director of trying to milk a few additional coins out of the movie regardless of its overall merit. And really, I can’t blame them. I like most sane people fear the prospect of an In The Name Of The King: Uwe Boll’s Vision Extended Edition hitting Wal*Mart shelves because John Q. Buynlarge will see Jason Statham on the cover and think it’s going to be Crank with swords and dragons. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a little thing dubbed executive meddling takes a director’s vision for a film, carves it up from a delicious roast into processed lunch meat and passes it off to the unwashed masses. That’s what happened to Kingdom of Heaven. Having seen both versions, I can understand why Ridley Scott wanted to get his cut into our hands. It completely and totally changes the movie.

Courtesy Scott Free Films

The plot is relatively unchanged. The year is 1184 and a young French man named Balian has recently lost his wife and child. A crusader appears at his smithy and claims to be Balian’s birth father, offering to take him to Jerusalem to leave his sorrow behind and find redemption for his sins. The journey is a perilous one, but Balian survives to become baron of Ibelin and a prominent member of Jerusalem’s nobility. An ill-advised war erupts between the Christians who hold the city and the Muslims under the command of Saladin, with Balian caught in the middle.

This being a Ridley Scott film, you can expect some liberties being taken with history and its figures. Some characters are composites of historical figures and some events turn out a bit differently than they actually did. However, this is definitely a different film from Gladiator in that Balian doesn’t challenge Saladin to single combat or anything like that. The events happen in the right order at the right time and are mostly unchanged despite the fictionalization. Also being a Ridley Scott film, there’s plenty of enjoyment for the eyeballs in terms of scenery, costuming and brutal swordplay. While Kingdom of Heaven follows the traditions of Gladiator and Black Hawk Down in humanizing grand events by giving us the point of view of a few key individuals, it breaks from Scott’s previous work in the message it’s delivering. And this message is etched into the bottom of the anvils dropped throughout the movie.

Courtesy Scott Free Films
“Our God can kick their god’s ass!”
“Um… they’re the same god, sir…”
“Blasphemy! Our God will prevail! GOD WILLS IT!”
*facepalm*

The protagonists who are pious have a significantly modern and humanistic stance on their faith while the bad guys mostly use religion as an excuse to wage war and earn booty. The rallying cry of “GOD WILLS IT!” is used on both sides of the conflict. Clearly, there’s a lesson on tolerance to be learned here, one that works quite well on the individual level but is harder to spread to a large group. There’s a scene towards the end where Saladin, entering a temple to pray, comes across a golden crucifix that was knocked the ground. He very carefully and respectfully picks it up and puts it back where it belongs. From what I understand, this scene was met with cheers and applause in Middle Eastern theaters. So much for all Muslims hating the West.

As much truth as there is in the actions and events we see, the movie isn’t perfect. It runs longer than Gladiator, especially in the Director’s Cut, but you might not necessarily notice… I’ll come back to that. Balian can come off at times as something of a Mary Sue, being that he’s a blacksmith and a swordsman and a seige-crafter and a man of virtue and looks like Orlando Bloom. That doesn’t make the mass knighting in Jerusalem (another real-life event) any less awesome. Speaking of which, some history buffs may not be able to accept the depiction of events, or the lack of detail given on one of the biggest battles of the Crusades. These are minor flaws, in my opinion, and they apply to both the theatrical release and the Director’s Cut of the movie.

Courtesy Scott Free Films
Admit it. You wish Liam Neeson was your dad, too.

The original release, which I saw a few years ago, felt disjointed and badly paced. While we get a great deal of detail on Balian, his father, Saladin, Guy de Lusignan and King Baldwin IV (Edward Norton behind a very stylish mask),one of the key players, Sibylla, is given very little screen time and characterization. It’s like she’s introduced, gets into Balian’s life and then is swept aside in favor of fluttering banners and the siege of Jerusalem. Her role in the events that unfold in the Holy Land is rendered nearly to non-existence. I never thought it was bad, per se, but I definitely ranked it below Gladiator.

In the Director’s Cut, Sibylla’s role is expanded and deepened, and her son, which wasn’t even mentioned in the theatrical release, also has a pretty significant part to play in the plot. Balian feels a bit more real and less of a Mary Sue, there’s some good payoff in his relationship with Guy, and everything I liked about my first viewing – the scenery, the shot composition, the brutal realistic fights and the message of tolerance in the face of a holy war – remained intact, if it wasn’t enhanced. This is no cash-grab. This is no pandering re-release. This is an entirely different movie, and it’s one of Ridley Scott’s best. Put the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven on your Netflix queue for any one of the following reasons: It’s a period drama, a tale of adventure, an interesting romance and climaxes in a battle that feels taken right out of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. It feels shorter than its three hour running time and it’s worth every minute.

Except for that Overture and Entr’acte bits at the beginning of each disk. I really didn’t like the idea of Saladin suddenly breaking into song.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Ladyhawke

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/ladyhawke.mp3]

Ah, the 80s. A time of big hair, big money and big ambitions. It was a time when actors could be presidents, MTV actually played music, and a young writer wrapped his hands around the joystick of an Atari 2600 for the first time. Many an afternoon in my house was spent with my sisters and me navigating digital corridors and writing down maps and passwords. Good times.

Okay, the nostalgia’s out of the way. Let’s take a look at a movie born of the 80s – Ladyhawke.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

We are introduced to the medieval fortress city of Aquila, France through the eyes of young thief Phillipe Gastone, called the Mouse. Aquila is ruled by her corrupt and powerful bishop, and nobody has ever escaped from her hellish prison until the Mouse wiggles his way out at the very beginning at the movie. The captain of the guard catches up with the loquacious pickpocket only to have the arrest interrupted by a mysterious man, dressed in black and accompanied by a majestic hawk. The man’s name is Navarre, and he takes Phillpe with him to learn of a way into Aquila for a personal vendetta. By night, however, Navarre is nowhere to be found, and Phillpe instead encounters a vicious black wolf and a hauntingly beautiful woman named Isabeau.

With its setting and sparing use of magic, this is a story that could be taking place in the world of George RR Martin. Along with the trappings of the setting is a very strong ensemble cast of well-developed characters. Among other things, the movie does a good job of capturing the attitudes of the hawk and the wolf. The hawk is a spirited, beautiful creature, refusing to be bound and returning to whom she chooses. The wolf is a skilled and deadly hunter whose rage is only abated in the presence of Isabeau. I’m sure those of you who haven’t seen the film have already gotten an inkling of what’s going on, but I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the entire story. Which I do recommend you see, by the way.

“Wait,” I hear you ask. “Didn’t you recently review another fantasy movie from the 80s? And didn’t you hate its guts?” Yes and yes. Let me explain the difference.

Courtesy Warner Bros.
Navarre is French for ‘badass’.

Here we have an example of how good storytelling can compensate for things that might not age or work all that well. Rutger Hauer, Leo MacKern and John Wood were already veterans of the stage and screen before Ladyhawke, and Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer went on to become household names. Not every line is a complete winner, but lines good and bad are delivered with just enough sincerity and concrete emotion that we are drawn completely into the story. Nevarre is a strong and resolute man, but he’s also a man of deep emotion. Phillipe may seem a vain and somewhat cowardly thief, but he’s also a pious and generous one. The Bishop is all the more menacing for the rigid control he maintains over his emotions, rarely speaking above an cold and edgy rasp. There’s nuance and presence to pretty much every major character we meet, and they damn near carry the entire movie on their own.

It’s a good thing, too, as the story may have suffered at the hands of some of the 80s trappings. The music is permeated by the syths of the Alan Parsons Project, orchestral sequences underscored or outright interuppted by rock riffs influenced by early digitization. It shines in places and plummets in others, causing some major distraction from the story. Some of the special effects haven’t really held up, though one sequence in particular still chokes me up. You’ll know it when you see it. Lastly, while the fights in the movie are pretty gritty and lean more towards the realistic than the flamboyant or fanastical, some of the swords used in the action shots aree clearly not the sturdy ‘hero’ blades. I know steel is meant to bend before it breaks, but the degree to which some of these blades curl had me scratching my head a little.

Courtesy Warner Bros.
The Mouse, having an argument with the Lord.

All of this fails to matter, though, when the story is this good and told this well by actors this skilled. This is the difference between a movie like Ladyhawke and one like Masters of the Universe, or Revenge of the Fallen or Attack of the Clones. At its core, Ladyhawke is all about the stories, the lives of its characters. It takes time to develop its players and weaves connections between all of them in a very deep way. Combine this compelling storytelling with good cinematography, well-done fight scenes and some moments of both geniune levity and heart-wrenching emotion, and you have a great movie. Without that story, it’d be just so much sound and fury.

The soundtrack dissonance is overcome in a few key places. The somewhat lackluster level of special effects fails to matter in the moments the story is at its best. Things like magic and curses work as framing devices for the drama, rather than shouldering the story out of its way. This is what sets Ladyhawke apart from those other attempts at film-making. This is why it succeeds and they fail. This is why, while it shows its age in places, the core of the movie is pretty close to timeless. Ladyhawke absolutely belongs on your Netflix queue, because it is one of those movies that tells its tale well no matter what the year is. In other words, it’s a classic. And classics never go out of style.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Falling Down

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/fallingdown.mp3]

I’m going to go out on a limb and make an assumption about you, the person about to experience this review. If you’re above the age of university graduation, you’re working a job you don’t particularly like. Chances are, instead of being in a place where you do something that not only pays your bills but fuels your passion, you’re in a position where one need is getting fulfilled while another is getting neglected. I know it’s not going to be true for everybody, but for the majority of people interested in seeing Falling Down, the miasma of soul-crushing modern urban life coupled with negative daily experiences like a commute and estranged family are elements that are familiar, painful and a means to forge immediate empathy with a man who, despite his politeness and intelligence, isn’t necessarily a very good person.

And yet, he’s our protagonist.

Courtesy Alcor Films

His name is William Foster, but most people will come to know him as “D-FENS”, the vanity plate on his 1979 Chevelle. Said car has a busted air conditioner and we find Foster sitting in the car, stuck in Los Angeles traffic on the hottest day of the year. For reasons not immediately explained but revealed bit by bit throughout the story, D-FENS abandons his car and declares he’s going home. He walks from one part of the city to another, encountering little annoyances that most people deal with or accept with at least some measure of restraint. It’s quickly clear, however, that D-FENS is unrestrained. Something has snapped deep within this man, and he is lashing out at whomever gets in his way. Store owners, gang members, by-standers, anybody. He begins his walk unarmed and seemingly harmless. As time goes on, the stakes get higher, his arsenal grows and a legacy of battered individuals and urban legends spring up in his wake. He doesn’t care. He just wants to go home.

Every step Foster takes not only takes him closer to home, but further down a very dark and disturbing path and brings us closer to a full understand of what made him the way he is. Thanks to a tour-de-force performance by Michael Douglas, we see Foster not as any sort of hero and, by the end, he barely qualifies as a decent human being. What’s chilling about him is his single-mindedness, his ironclad determination to complete his journey and his deep resentment for anyone who tries to belittle or downplay his rights or his ambitions. This could literally be any one of a million people who work a job for most of their adult lives only to be told their position is no longer economically viable, are rejected by the people they love and get confronted by personal irritants at every turn. It may feel at times like D-FENS is being set up by some mischievous god, but the fact is that none of the people he encounters, with one exception, are better or worse by a large degree than he is. They’re all selfish, self-involved and angry about something.

He just has more guns than they do.

Courtesy Alcor Films

This film was marketed, for the most part, as a revenge flick in the vein of Charles Bronson’s many stabs at the action genre. But many stories in that style, from the ongoing urban reclamation of The Punisher to the faith-fueled rampages of the Boondock Saints, have an atmosphere of fantasy about them, the sort of juvenile wish-fulfillment that still exists deep in the heart of movie-goers like myself who remember and, in some cases, cling to the frustrations of growing up in a hostile environment and longing for ways to fight back. Falling Down does show us what could happen when an ordinary man indulges in that wish-fulfillment, but it plays the results 100% straight and never, ever lets us forget that what D-FENS is doing is wrong. The police get involved right away, and it’s in this that the blurbs and posters fail, as the movie only gains its true depth and examination with the addition of Sergeant Prendergrast, played excellently by Robert Duvall.

Courtesy Alcor Films

The differences between Foster and Prendergrast may at first seem jarring. Foster is a cold, driven, frighteningly intelligent and very bitter man, while Prendergrast is kind, considerate, quietly looking forward to retirement and seems a bit like everybody’s dad. However, these two men are separated only by the thinnest of lines. Both deal with frustrating situations and inconsiderate people, but while Foster is acting out at all times against all comers, Prendergrast takes what he can on the chin. He doesn’t lash out unless it’s necessary. When it is necessary, he doesn’t hold back. But his restraint, in stark contrast with Foster’s lack of it, underscores the utter depravity of D-FENS’ actions.

At one point, Prendergrast points out that everybody makes choices. In dealing with a spouse, in pursuing a goal, in facing a situation that drives us up the wall with anger, we make choices. Some choose to deal with the situation as best they can, rolling with the punch and looking for an opening to push through to something better. Some fold completely under pressure and harbor resentment for later. And some pull out a gun at the fast food counter when they ask for breakfast at 11:34 AM when restaurant policy says breakfast stops getting served at 11:30. Most reasonable people would take a deep breath and order from the lunch menu instead.

Courtesy Alcor Films
“I don’t want lunch. I want breakfast.”

And yet, as unhinged and wrong as Foster’s actions are, we cheer for him. We delight in the revenge he takes on the cold, unfeeling world around him. We might even picture ourselves doing the same thing in the same situation. We would likely even consider ourselves in the right, as Foster does. Yet as the weight of his actions hurtles towards him, and Prendergast tracks him down, he comes to a chilling realization that’s been clear to us as outside observers practically from the start. “I’m the bad guy,” D-FENS says. “How did that happen?”

From writing to direction, from acting to shot composition, this is an excellent film. The downward spiral of Foster and the mounting aggravation of Prendergast mirror one another perfectly, the motivations of Foster are revealed at a great pace and the action never feels unrealistic or contrived, with one or two exceptions. It’s fun to watch and deeply engrossing at the same time. While we chuckle at D-FENS struggling with a rocket launcher, we also may see ourselves in his sullen, grim and bitter demeanor. Falling Down holds a mirror up to our lives and asks us how much we see in the reflection. It’s less a revenge flick or action thriller than it is one of the most badass exercises in self-examination I’ve seen in quite some time. It definitely belongs on your Netflix queue if you haven’t seen it before.

Here we have evidence that Joel Schumacher can, in fact, make a damn fine thriller. I still want to take a bat to his knees for Batman & Robin though. And then I’m going after the idiots who don’t give subtitle options on certain Netflix Instant selections. Now I have to wait a week or two to review Oldboy. Would a hammer be more appropriate than a bat? Or maybe a chainsaw. Wait, is that a sword hanging over…?

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

Older posts Newer posts

© 2021 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑