Last week in my pornographical critiquery of the works of Radley Metzger, I offered the theory that all america needs is alittle bit of god damned ELBOW GREASE for crying out loud.
But you know what, in the week that has past since I wrote those words, I feel that I have really grown up alot, due to some experiences I had in a movie theater watching Shanghai Noon and the Mission Impossible Part 2. And that is why I now believe that last week’s column was superficial and immature.
The truth is, everybody needs a little elbow grease but it goes deeper than that. If you want to use elbow grease you first have to have two things. You have to be in it for two things. The two Ps. And I’m not talking about paper and pussy, sorry guys. I am talking about passion and perfectionism. Although pussy is also a worthwhile goal it should not be your number one priority in my opinion.
And I really do believe, at least this week, that that’s what it all boils down to, is the passion. There are alot of individuals that have ambition, or even talent, but they don’t have passion. And that is why their art works is lacking. I am talking about individuals like Michael Bay, etc. People who could hook up a digital editing contraption blindfolded on top of a tree in a windstorm but couldn’t shed a tear to save their lives.
You can have all the technique in the world, all the know how and make do. You can have the special effects, the big stars and the $300 million budget. But if you don’t have passion you have jack squat in my opinion. You don’t have a legitimate work of Cinema.
Then the second step is the perfectionism. This is what marks the true masters of the form. Yours truly, I am an individual with passion, but not perfectionism. For example, read my column, I am obviously not a perfectionist. 90% of my writings are garbage. I don’t have what it takes to be a master.
But when you get an individual with both of the Ps coming out the wazoo, that is when you have a true master. An individual like Jackie Chan and John Woo, the two Chinese gentlemen who created the two pictures I saw this week.
Now what we have on display here is what happens when you trap two true masters within the hollywood system. These are two poets of the physical Cinema who are putting their Passion and Perfectionism up against a system designed to squeeze every bit of life and creativity out of them. The system wants to show the poets who is boss.
SYSTEM: You can’t spend a week on this scene, motherfucker. We’re on a schedule here. We’re on a budget. We gotta deliver.
JOHN WOO: But sir, I know I ca–
SYSTEM: Shut up bitch! We got Memorial Day weekend!
JOHN WOO: Yes bu–
SYSTEM: Ha ha, don’t get so worked up. No one will notice. It’s only a movie. We’ll put in some music. It’ll be super!
JOHN WOO: Yeah but when I did Hard Boi–
Now as true poets and masters, John and Jackie aren’t completely confined by the Hollywood cage. They are able to squirt a few drops of inspiration between the bars. In Shanghai Noon, Jackie does some funny shit. He fights some indians and what not. There is a white guy who is also cracking wise all the time. Not bad.
Same deal with Mission Impossible. The actor Tom Cruise is flipping all over the place. There is a flying motorcycle deal. The cars spin around and there is also a gun fight although not a good one in my opinion. There is a bird who is Tom Cruise’s friend, he is a young dove perhaps the same dove who starred in the other John Woo pictures. I think I heard somewhere he is John Woo’s pet dove. His name is Dovey.
So what I am saying is these are not bad pictures. But they are not the works of Passion and Perfectionism these individuals are capable of. Because in the US the two Ps are illegal.
Back in Hong Kong, these motherfuckers would’ve cut off their balls to make a better movie. I mean if they thought it would work – I’m not sure why that would make a better movie but it’s just one example. Anyway they would spend weeks or months to choreograph one shootout or karate scene. They knew these were the heart and soul of a John or Jackie picture, and they wanted to do them right. They wanted to challenge themselves and do something new and top anything that anyone else had ever done. They didn’t even think about delivering on schedule. In fact that would have been an insult to the art of Cinema to deliver it on schedule. They purposely didn’t deliver it on schedule. FUCK the schedule and FUCK YOU for even bringing it up. Asshole.
Not you, I’m talking to Hollywood.
In Hong Kong, Jackie and his buddies couldn’t afford air cushions, so they jumped off of buildings onto cardboard boxes and matresses. They couldn’t get insured, so they said “Fuck it.” (But in Chinese.) They ran over cars and jumped off of buildings and ran up walls and jumped motorcycles onto moving trains and jumped through windows and also kicked each other I suppose and although they must have thought a little bit about safety because they never died, that wasn’t the number one priority. They wanted to do the best stunts. There is the story about how Jackie jumped off a building and broke his back and as soon as he got healed, he went back and did the same stunt again and got it right.
You see, passion. That is something nobody in america would consider. No passion. We suck.
In John Woo’s classic film Hard Boiled, you got stunt men skidding around on motorcycles, rolling around on gurneys, shooting ten hundred thousand million bullets while holding a baby. All the important stuff you don’t ever see in american pictures because it’s not safe. These are stuntmen that do crazy shit, shit that nobody in their right mind would do, and no American union would allow. And you know why they do it?
The passion. The perfectionism.
And you know what else, Hard Boiled is about as violent as any movie could ever be and that is why it could not possibly be released with a rating in America, because its passion is too big for our rules.
So what I am saying to all you artists and stunt people out there, is let’s see some god damn passion for cryin out loud. Let’s forget about the rules, the schedules, and the systems. Let’s see some guys who are willing to die for the Cinema. I think it is appropriate that I am asking you this on Memorial Day, a day that honors the individuals who got shot or blown up for what they believed in.
Well you and I, we believe in something else, and that is Cinema. Let’s do it guys. God bless the Cinema. My home sweet home.
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.