Well ladies and gentlemen I would like to thank all of you who responded to my last column, letting me know about some of the Badass pictures and the Badasses of the world that I should study. That’s right I would like to personally thank each and every one of the two motherfuckers that helped me out. Jeff and Brian you know who you are.
Jeff gave me some tips on some more Lee Marvin, Billy Jack and Charles Bronson pictures to examine in the near future. Jeff I will definitely be on the lookout and keeping my ears peeled for Mr. Majestyk, Born Losers and etc. Brian didn’t go into the specifics about the pictures but he told me about a couple foreign language Badasses who he felt had bodies of work worthy of study.
First off hailing from Japan, Asia is Mr. Takeshi “Beat” Kitano. Beat is one of the category of artist I most admire, the Badass Laureate, or the action star who also directs his own pictures, like Clint Eastwood. The guy that can kick ass AND make the movie to prove it.
However, I will require further studies before I can truly understand the Way of Beat Takeshi. So far I have watched his second picture as a director, Boiling Point. What I figured was this – Hard Boiled is the greatest action picture of the ’90s. And the word “boiled” is in the title. You see where I’m going with this? That is why I thought Boiling Point would be the best Kitano piece.
Well, turns out Beat is only a supporting character in this, and a funny one too, so it is hard to scientifically gauge his level of Badass integrity and what not just based on this one piece. The direction here is very real and cinema verite as the French would call it, not sure what the Japanese would call it. But it kind of reminded me of The Reservoir Dogs and Tree’s Lounge, you hear the cars driving by on the next street over, you get a feel for the setting and you kind of think you are there. The humor is very dry and quiet. There are lots of jokes like when some guys crash into a parked car, and the owner of the car is standing on the side of the road taking a piss. (You know how it is.) What’s funny is the way he just stands there and looks at the accident, no emotion on his face, like he’s not sure how to react. Well, I mean, you’ll understand when you see it.
But Beat, I mean in this movie, this is one crazy motherfucker. Not just in the sense that he breaks bottles over people’s heads for no reason and what not. Also in the sense that he takes on a younger guy into his gang, tells him to fuck his girlfriend, then gets mad at both the young guy and the girlfriend.
“But you told me to!”
“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have done it.”
Or when he says, “Let me do it!” and pushes the girlfriend off the bed and starts cornholing the guy and smiling. He just pulls the craziest shit but the whole time with this attitude like there’s nothing unreasonable about it, so much so that everyone just seems to accept it.
In this movie, he is like the Hunter S. Thompson of film badasses. He is some kind of criminal but he spends most of the time partying in bars and hotels before he even gets around to the crime. Then he hides a gun in some flowers and blows some people away, but unlike the Terminator he doesn’t dump the flowers to reveal the gun. No, he is confident in his masculinity enough that he can hold the flowers the whole damn time.
The other Badass artist brian suggested was a chilean dude out of Mexico, North America by the name of Alexandro Jodorowsky. He is the director, writer and star of El Topo which is that fucked up cowboy movie all the hippies used to like. Well I don’t know about this one brian this might be stretching it a little. Sure this guy is evil as hell when he rides in in his black cowboy outfit,holding an umbrella and a naked kid, and then says, “Son, you are 7 years old. Today you are a man,” and then drags the kid around a just-massacred town to kill a bunch of rapists. I mean yeah, I’ll give you that, the dude is bad to the point of satanism.
And okay, I admit it, later on when his lover tells him that if he wants to prove he loves her, he will have to kill the four masters of the desert, this motherfucker doesn’t even hesitate! He accepts it as logical and says, “In order to find the four masters of the desert, we must travel in a spiral.” And then he actually goes and kills them!
Come to think of it, okay, El Topo is a Badass. But that does not mean Alejandro in general is a Badass, since this is not representative of his primary persona and what not. Being a true Badass is more than just one movie. It is more than an outfit, it is more than killing alot of people, it is something that comes from the soul. And in this dude’s soul, deep beneath the the grim face, the black hat, the shaggy beard and the whole cold-hearted killer thing, lies not a Badass, but an artist concerned with the mystical, the archetypical, the mythical, the psychedelic, the surreal. I mean don’t get me wrong, the man is a great artist, even a genius, but he is not a Badass in my opinion. He is some kind of skinny yoga dude.
Still, I can learn from his Ways, and although I will not take yoga classes I will indeed study his movements on film which he learned from marcel marceau by the way, a famous mime.
Anyway, to change the subject, this week I would also like to talk about Mr. George Clooney who I would like to congratulate for his live black and white production of Fail Safe on the tv last sunday. Clooney was very good in a small but important role. I am giving him the credit because it was him that convinced CBS to do a live, black and white version of this story, set in the ’50s. I know CBS doesn’t count as a real TV network but still, I mean who the fuck ever does anything like that anymore? I would like to point out that this dude deserves praise for using his clout to do something unusual and interesting instead of, say, doing some serious drama where he plays a retarded guy who teaches kids from the ghetto how to drive race cars or that kind of thing.
Fail Safe for those that don’t know is the classic book and movie about how soldiers and politicians deal with it when they have accidentally started a nuclear war that will destroy the world. Whoops. Unfortunately Fail Safe is not half as funny as Dr. Strangelove, or How I blah blah blah etc. by Stan Kubrick. Still, it is gripping, suspenseful, dramatic and all that business. This version was done completely old fashioned, with an introduction by Walter Cronkite, scratchy stock footage of planes, and even a narrator saying the names of the actors at the end.
And need I mention again, this thing was 2 hours and LIVE ON THE AIR. Does that take balls or what? It’s like doing a play in front of the whole damn world. I don’t know HOW the hell they know all their lines. Plus you never know when some naked guy is gonna run onto the set or something, and then they would have had to improvise a reason for it, like, “Oh, Lieutenant Nicholson has snapped from the pressure, he’s gone nuts! Take him out of here!” I mean you never know, you just have to be prepared.
There was an all star cast including Harvey Keitel from Taxi Driver and The Reservoir Dogs. His performance was a little awkward but you know who really stood out was Richard Dreyfuss as the president.
And I can’t tell you how good it is to see this motherfucker back again. He has been out of the picture longer than I have. I mean he does an occasional movie but it’s pretty much always unwatchable crap where he plays some high strung prick that blows up whenever the other characters do something wacky and then you laugh at him and go, “Ha ha, he is so uptight, that Richard Dreyfuss, what a fucking prick! Ha ha!”
But lest we forget this dude used to be a major player. Most of the kids now probaly don’t know this but he was one of the stars of Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s best film to date. And let me mention something about Spielberg. You may not know this but Spielberg used to be a different dude. This was before he was some slick sentimentalist CEO executive producer type who represents the height of artistry for middle of the road mainstream feel good movies. This was not the Spielberg who has to push buttons to make powerful movies. I mean he didn’t even know where the World War 2 button was located. This was a kid so full of energy and Cinematic prowess that he could make a movie about a giant shark and it comes off like a god damned epic. This was a dude who felt, why make some Oscar bait historical drama when you can make a movie about a guy being chased by a truck?
And that’s what Jaws was. Not a movie about a guy being chased by a truck, that’s what Duel was. But Jaws was a crisp, vibrating epic. It had great characters, great suspense, great atmosphere. And Dreyfuss was a Spielberg regular who gave great performances in this and the UFO movie. Here he plays a whiny scientifical shark expert who comes along with the sheriff and professional shark hunter to slay this motherfucker, Jaws the giant shark. It is a great, three dimensional type character because he’s kind of annoying, but he obviously knows what he’s talking about. And throughout this boat trip, you see that he desperately wants to fit in, and he has a macho side where he shows off his scars and sings drinking songs and all. And by the end you really feel like he’s your buddy. I mean what better way to bond than this? Like that scene when they’ve blown the shark to smithereens as they used to call it in the cartoons, and there are pieces of shark meat scattered all over, and their boat is destroyed and they’re floating in the middle of the ocean on little shards of wood and they’re tired and exhausted and their friend was killed and they just look at each other and start laughing.
It’s like when some friend of a friend goes on a trip with you, and you hate him, but at the end you’ve been through so much with him that you feel like what the hell he’s my friend anyway, the fucker.
President Dreyfuss in Fail Safe isn’t THAT good of a character, but it’s a dignified, dramatic role and it is entertaining to see him deal with the moral conflicts and great pressure of what the hell he’s gonna do about all these nuclear bombs about to kill everybody. The prick.
Anyway welcome back Rich good to see you.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.