This is one of those mysterious movies that suddenly appeared out of nowhere one Friday night, then disappeared again a week later without so much as a puff of smoke. It straddles that blurry line between mainstream studio movie advertised on national television and straight to video thriller nobody’s ever heard of.
I actually saw an ad for it that week and I gotta admit I was a little intrigued. You just saw some dude falling down a fire escape and maybe a car flipping or something, and I thought maybe it was some gritty low budget late ’70s early ’80s style down and dirty revenge thriller. I mean there were no stars in it, it looked like the main character was that sleazeball Tom Sizemore (actually it’s Cole Hauser, some guy who looks kind of like Christian Bale but sounds kind of like Willem Dafoe). The only way they tried to make it sound like a Real Hollywood Movie was to brag that it was produced by Mel Gibson. (the guy from MAD MAX.)
It turns out Mel Gibson is some kind of paranoid freak. I heard something about how he thinks the jews are out to kill jesus, now he thinks the paparazzi are out to put his son in a coma and the only way he can stop them is with a little frontier justice with a wink wink and a nudge nudge from the cops. The cops love Mel Gibson because they agree that they would do anything, ANYTHING to protect their family, and so would he, and also because they enjoyed the LETHAL WEAPONS series of films. This movie presents a very interesting idea for America, home of the moral values: the idea that it would be okay for Mel Gibson to commit a series of murders to avenge a non-fatal car accident.
That’s what I assume this is about anyway because this is an obviously autobiographical work about some dude named Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser, mentioned him earlier I believe) who suddenly becomes a big star in the movie ADRENALINE FORCE and now sleazy photographers take pictures of his son at soccer practice. I mean he’s just a regular guy with a family, just like you or me, only women love him the world over and every day he flosses his god damn teeth with more money than our entire family will see in generations. Other than that though he is a regular guy so we should relate to him.
Well wouldn’t you fuckin know it, the paparazzi not only fuck with him and get him mad enough to punch them out, they also start endangering the life of him and his family. There is a high speed chase that is filmed like a drive-by shooting – two cars full of photographers (wearing headsets!) drive by and shower his car in camera flashes, blinding him, tearing him apart, causing him to crash. (Don’t worry though, this movie is not hardcore. It is not dark. There is not alot at stake. The wife is fine after a day in the hospital and the son is in one of those comas that you come out of at the end of a movie. This is not THE PUNISHER.)
(Why do they even bother using comas in movies, anyway? You know the fuckin kid is not gonna die. If the kid was gonna die in the movie he woulda died in the wreck. We know this. But they act like we don’t know this. They act like putting him in a coma is gonna tear us apart. We’re not stupid, movie. We know the kid is fine, and he’s even still gonna have the same spiky hairdo when he wakes up. That’s how comas work in movies.)
So nobody died, but still, the whole car crash thing was a pain in the ass, so this guy’s gotta get his revenge, he’s gotta get his payback. Which reminds me of the reason why I watched this movie in the first place. See, the director is a guy named Paul Abascal, who according to the IMDB web sight is the director of many fine television programs (America’s Most Wanted, Nash Bridges) and documentaries ( Mel Gibson’s Video Diary 2: Lethal Weapon 3 ).
Now let’s flash back exactly 5 years from this very night. Or at least, from this year. That was the year Mel Gibson starred in the Outlaw Award winning picture PAYBACK. PAYBACK was directed by Brian Helgeland, based on Richard Stark’s first Parker novel. So it was about a bad motherfuckin criminal who gets crossed, comes back, and kills many people to get his money back. Unfortunately after it was done, Mel Gibson started getting cold feet. Now you have to remember, Mel Gibson is a very religious guy, and at that time he was no longer Mad Max. He did not believe in doing good movies anymore, that’s just not what Mel Gibson is about. So he was understandably nervous about releasing a pretty good movie like PAYBACK. He wanted to change the movie to make the Parker character “more heroic.” The story was that Helgeland said “fuck you Mel Gibson, I’m done with this movie” or something along those lines so Mel Gibson wanted to take over as director and reshoot a bunch of it. But he was the producer of the movie, and the director’s guild rules don’t let a producer take over as director. So supposedly he got his hairstylist to “direct” the movie. And then he just called the shots for anything not hair related.
But now is where I’m gonna BLOW YOUR FUCKIN MIND. What if Mel Gibson’s hairstylist really DID direct the movie? What if Mel Gibson’s hairstylist was no ordinary hairstylist, what if he was also the veteran director of such action packed television programs as Viper and The Sentinel and Night Man?
The reason I ask you these questions is because according to IMDB, Paul Abascal IS Mel Gibson’s hairstylist. He did the first 3 LETHAL WEAPONS anyway, which are the ones where MG had the most hair if I remember right. Abascal is NOT the credited hairstylist for PAYBACK, but the two who are credited are women, and therefore could not be the male hairdresser that was supposedly Mel Gibson’s stooge director for the movie.
Shit man, i’m gonna come right out and say it. PAUL ABASCAL DIRECTED THE LAST PART OF PAYBACK WHERE HE GETS HIS TOES CRUSHED BY A HAMMER, ETC. And the scenes with Kris Kristofferson. I can’t prove it, I can’t back it up, but I know it in my heart. And that’s why I watched PAPARAZZI.
Which brings us back to Cole Hauser getting payback on the paparazzi. It happens slowly. He tries a little court prescribed anger management. But the more these sleazoids fuck with him, the more he has to get that revenge. First by half-accident, then by complicated scheming, he starts to kill the fuckers involved in the car accident that did not kill his family.
The complicated scheming coulda been more clever in my opinion. The most fanciest one relies on one detail so ridiculous it could’ve fit into SEED OF CHUCKY. In order to pull off this caper he has to make a 911 call without being traced. So as he’s driving along he looks to the passenger seat, where there is a cell phone with “DISPOSABLE CELL PHONE” written on it in large black letters. In case that is not enough, it is sitting next to the DISPOSABLE CELL PHONE instruction booklet! I didn’t pause it but I bet the small print said “not for revenge purposes.” (I googled “disposable cell phone” to find out if there is such a thing, and apparently there is. They are not made by the Acme Corporation, but by some people whose logo is a cartoon kangaroo and they have the message “Congratulations President Bush: We Support You and Our Troops” at the top. Just the type of class and complex understanding of the world you’d expect from a company that sells a disposable cell phone. [update: my bud Josh R. points out that these companies are well aware that their products are favorites among drug dealers. More of those famous Bush supporter moral values.])
He did do another trick that was kind of cool. To leave his home undetected, he orders a pizza, then hides in the pizza man’s trunk. (Don’t ask me how he opened the trunk.) The cool part is the way they reveal he is inside. The car backs up toward the camera until you see his eyes through the slit of the not-quite-closed trunk.
Okay, well I thought it was kind of cool anyway. You didn’t, but I did.
This story obviously means alot to Mel Gibson. We should probaly check the police files, see if any tabloid photographers went missing during the filming of LETHAL WEAPON 2. Seriously, somebody should look into this. The movie does an okay job of depicting the world of the celebrity. Everywhere this guy goes there are camera flashes that KCHOOOOSSSSSHHHHH like he is being sprayed with lasergun fire. Everybody calls him “Bo,” like they are his buddy. Everyone from the cameramen he punches out to the cop (Dennis Farina, of course) investigating him.
And it’s kind of nice how it’s a world of celebrities where NOBODY is a real celebrity. Just Cole Hauser. At least, they do that for a while. But then they pussy out, they gotta throw a couple celebrity cameos in there to throw you off. Matthew McConaughey appears as himself, just comes on and shakes Bo’s hand. But for some reason Chris Rock, a much bigger star in real life, has to play “Pizza Delivery Guy.” Way to go Mel Gibson’s production company.
I guess Mel Gibson has a cameo too, but I must’ve been taking a piss during that scene or something, I totally missed it. There’s a picture on the box for the screener, it shows Mel Gibson holding a pile of scripts and lowering his glasses on his nose. My guess is he plays an agent. I got a strong feeling about this, I really bet his cameo sticks it to the Hollywood agents. ‘Cause that’s something all of us can relate to. Fuckin agents man, ha ha ha you gotta laugh just thinking about their antics.
In some ways it’s disappointing how competent this movie is. Not good or great but not as ridiculous as I wish. But there are some funny parts though. The biggest mistake in this movie is trying to exaggerate how sleazy the paparazzi are. I mean come on, America hates paparazzi more than they hate terrorists. Still, they gotta sleaze ’em up, so they cast Tom Sizemore and Daniel Baldwin. Sizemore actually has a line where he says to himself, “Laramie, I will destroy your life and eat your soul, and I can’t wait to do it.” I forget if this is before or after frantically shuffling through the bag of Bo Laramie garbage he paid two mexicans to bring him. Unfortunately Daniel Baldwin (a good sleazeball character in both VAMPIRES and KING OF THE ANTS) doesn’t have much to do other than one speech where he says, “Celebrities getting approval over paparazzi’s photos – that’s bullshit! The public wants raw and real, and that’s what we give them. Let me tell you something my friends: we’re the last of the real hunters.”
After the photographers cause Bo’s traffic accident, they only hesitate for a moment before they all go back and take pictures of the unconscious bodies. That was actually kind of a disturbing scene because as low as it is, I thought it was kind of believable.
But still, I wish it wasn’t such a phoney depiction. It would actually be interesting to see how these guys do their job, how they justify it to themselves, what their parents think of them, etc. I know that’s asking for a different movie, but what I’m suggesting here is that these guys are actually more interesting than the bland Regular Guy Family Man/Action Hero. And they didn’t quite kill his family, and he’s not all that good at getting revenge, but still he murders a bunch of people and gets away with it and the movie seems to be arguing that he did the right thing and justice has been served. Because he is Bo. He is Mel. And if Mel says don’t take a picture, you don’t take a picture. If you do, you will be beat to death with a baseball bat.
I mean look, I said it before, paparazzi are by definition horrible people. But does that mean they deserve to die? This is taking the “red tape” shit a little too far when you justify executing people who invade your privacy.
Anyway, there is a moral to this movie: paparazzi, don’t take pictures of Mel Gibson’s son. Mel Gibson highly determined to strike paparazzi targets. You’ve been warned.
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.