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Posts Tagged ‘vigilantes’

Harry Brown

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

tn_harrybrownMICHAEL CAINE IS… HARRY BROWN, a pensioner with two things left in the world: his wife (but then she dies) and one friend (who is murdered after complaining that he wants to stab the dumb assholes who keep dropping dog shit through his mail slot). So it’s about an old dude becoming lonely and deciding to hammer down on the hooligans that are ruining his neighborhood (not soccer/football hooligans, just regular unaffiliated hooligans. In fact an interest in sports or arts of some kind, such as graffiti or beatboxing, might be good for these particular hooligans, give them more of a productive focal point for their hooligannery).

Harry is one of the very best categories of badass: the type with a PHd in killing but who chose to go into another field. The war was a long time ago and he doesn’t even like to talk about it. But he told his friend to go to the police, he already had, and they were no help. And Harry is an old man in the same neighborhood, he has to walk past these fuckers too, and he’s always taking the scenic route to avoid them which wastes his time and causes him to miss out on opportunities (little things like being there with his wife when she died). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Gladiator

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

tn_thegladiatorTHE GLADIATOR is another movie I found on VHS by accident while browsing the video store. It’s a car vigilante TV movie, so I was surprised to find it with the Abel Ferrara movies. Yes, the director of KING OF NEW YORK and BAD LIEUTENANT also did a TV movie starring Ken Wahl and guest starring cheeseball ’80s top 40 DJ Rick Dees as his obnoxious boss. From about ’85 until ’88 Ferrara mostly worked in TV, doing some episodes of MIAMI VICE and CRIME STORY, plus this one in ’86. Seemed like something I should investigate.

Wahl plays Rick Benton, a stoic car mechanic working for Dees’s specialty car business. The only people in his life are his kid brother who he raised (Brian Robbins, director of NORBIT), his Vietnam buddy who works at the junkyard, and a customer he’s starting to date, talk radio host Nancy Allen. He works for rich people but chugs along in the kind of lower middle class existence not usually depicted casually in a TV movie. A couple nice touches I noticed: they eat on paper plates, and they wrap gifts with the Sunday funnies. You ever notice how presents on TV and movies are usually perfectly wrapped with shiny bows and sometimes even lids that just lift off? I could never pull that off. The Sunday funnies is more relatable. Good one Ferrara. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sudden Impact

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I’m not sure what the title means on this one, but if it were up to me it would be called A DIRTY HARRY SALUTE TO DEATH WISH II. The three before this all felt like “DIRTY HARRY” but in this one he goes to San Paolo and all the sudden he’s in Charles Bronson’s jurisdiction.

Let me point out a few connections: The score is by Lalo Schifrin, but the opening credits are still DEATH WISH sequel style cheeseball drum machine and keyboard rockafire explosion over establishing shot of the city (Lalo’s revenge for not getting to score part 3, I bet). Kevyn Major Howard, the gang rapist Stomper in DEATH WISH II, plays a criminal who gets off due to improper police work by Callahan. And like most DEATH WISH movies the lead villains are maniacally overacting gang rapists. In DEATH WISH and DEATH WISH II Bronson is getting revenge after (among other things) his daughter was gang-raped into a state of catatonia. In this one Sondra Locke is getting revenge because she and her sister were gang raped and her sister is in a state of catatonia. Speaking of which, Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland was in DEATH WISH II, and here we have Clint’s live-in lady friend at the time starring in this one. It ends a little more like the first DEATH WISH with the police (in this case Harry) knowing about the vigilante actions and letting it go because they sympathize. (read the rest of this shit…)

Death Wish V: The Face of Death

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

This one finishes off the series, it’s a goodbye to Paul Kersey and to Charles Bronson for those who aren’t gonna watch the three FAMILY OF COPS movies (the only thing he made after this). I’ve read that Bronson had Alzheimer’s, but he seems completely with it and in good shape.

The year is 1994, Paul has another girlfriend with another daughter. Like part 4 they don’t get mugged or raped, but like all DEATH WISH movies they’re in serious danger. This time Paul runs afoul of the Irish mafia, specifically his girlfriend’s crazy ex-husband Tommy O’Shea (Michael Parks, aka Sherriff Earl McGraw from FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, KILL BILL and both GRINDHOUSE movies). We find out Paul is in witness protection now, not on the run, and he calls an old friend at the D.A.’s office (Saul Rubinek) to help him with O’Shea. But of course that makes things worse, so Paul finds himself sneaking around picking off mobsters. It occurs to me that makes it kind of like a slasher movie where you root for the slasher. Oh well. (read the rest of this shit…)

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

Friday, March 28th, 2008

For part 3 Michael Winner stripped DEATH WISH down to its crudest elements. There was nowhere further to go within. So for THE CRACKDOWN new director J. Lee Thompson (GUNS OF THE NAVARONE, the last two PLANET OF THE APES movies, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, tons of other shit) dresses it back up again. You know this right away from the opening which contains suspense, mood, atmosphere, build, surprise, and symbolism, all forbidden by part 3’s strict DOGME style rules.

Kersey is an architect again, and has a family again – another reporter girlfriend with a teenage daughter he regards as his own daughter (we know this because he says “I regard her as if she were my own daughter.”) Oh jesus, not more gang rape, right? (read the rest of this shit…)

Death Wish 3

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Well, L.A. didn’t work out too hot for Paul Kersey. Might as well head home. So Part 3’s opening credits show Kersey taking a bus back into New York City, looking out the window to the tune of the most in-your–face, half cheesy/half cool blast of white-man’s-keyboard-rock meets jazz-fusion-’80s-cop-movie-establishing-shot-of-the-city theme this side of HARD BOILED. Jimmy Page is back in the composer’s chair and comes up with a pretty weird and experimental sound more often than he comes up with the crappy guitar noodling you usually got after LETHAL WEAPON came out. He’s still no Herbie Hancock, but he’ll do.

Director Michael Winner returns for his last at-bat in the DEATH WISH series, but you immediately gotta wonder what the hell’s up because this feels nothing like his other DEATH WISHes. I’m honestly not sure if it’s a deliberate artistic choice or a sudden case of not giving a shit, but he has completely removed whatever traces there were of subtlety, thoughtfulness, ambiguity, class or elegance, not to mention realism. It looks cheaper, plays out more clunky and seems to have been made all in a week or so with no time to prepare or to stop to take a breath. And that’s exactly why it’s the most popular of the sequels. This movie is pretty fuckin nuts. (read the rest of this shit…)

Death Wish II

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

For the first DEATH WISH sequel we trade down from Dino DiLaurentiis to Golan and Globus producing. Apparently Menahem Golan almost directed, but Bronson wouldn’t do it unless they got Michael Winner back. I bet he said “why get a loser when you can get a Winner?” Anyway we caught a lucky break there. I guess Winner must’ve broken up with Maria from SESAME STREET by this time so Herbie Hancock was out. Instead he got one of his neighbors to score, a neighbor who happened to be Jimmy Page. I was worried but there’s only guitar soloing on the beginning and end credits, the rest is standard old school score, not cheesy ’80s keyboards and rockin guitars and shit. So I’m not gonna complain.

It’s 1982 now, 8 years later, but they say it’s 4 years later. (The magic of cinema.) Paul Kersey lives in L.A. now. His adventures in Chicago (portrayed in the book Death Sentence) are ignored. He’s still an architect, h has a new girlfriend (Jill Ireland) and he’s moved his daughter to a hospital in California. She’s still so traumatized she doesn’t speak. (read the rest of this shit…)

Death Wish

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

After enjoying recent DEATH WISH ripoffs and spinoffs like DEATH SENTENCE and THE BRAVE ONE, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the source, and to see those sequels I never got around to watching. (By the source I mean the first Charles Bronson movie and not the book by Brian Garfield, which is apparently similar but clearly anti-vigilante in the end – that’s why he wrote the sequel Death Sentence, because he was so mad about the DEATH WISH movie.)

Charles Bronson plays Paul Kersey, New York architect, happily married father, “bleeding heart liberal,” Korean War veteran with conscientious objector status. A cool guy. Then one day a gang of hoodlums (including Jeff Goldblum in his first movie role) follow Paul’s wife and daughter home from the grocery store and rape them. Mrs. Kersey dies and the daughter is so traumatized she’s hospitalized in a near catatonic state. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Brave One

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

I’m not totally sure why she’s The Brave One, but Jodie Foster plays a public radio host who gets attacked in Central Park one night by some assholes. They steal her dog, beat her fiancee to death and leave her in a coma. All of which I’m against. Then she tries to get revenge. Good stuff.

Since the director is Neil Jordan, and especially since it stars Jodie Foster, I kind of thought it was gonna be a pretentious “serious” take on the vigilante genre, maybe even condescending toward it, looking down on these types of movies and trying to do the respectable version of them. But thankfully the movie doesn’t have that feel, and if you check the publicity interviews on the DVD they all check out. Foster states that it is in fact a genre movie, and Neil Jordan drops names like Don Siegel and Sam Fuller. I guess I forgot Joel Silver was the producer, he’s not gonna get all fancy pants on us. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Exterminator

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

THE EXTERMINATOR is a crude but enjoyable vigilante action movie from 1980. It’s kind of in the vein of ROLLING THUNDER but closer to the quality level of THE PARK IS MINE. Robert Ginty plays a troubled Vietnam vet whose best friend (Steve James, more on him later) gets paralyzed by a gang so he kills them in revenge, then decides to declare himself The Exterminator and go murder various criminals. Now that I think about it this is actually in the vein of THE PUNISHER (either version), but it came before those movies.

You know this movie means business when the very first shot is the main character being tossed through the air by a huge explosion. There’s not even a studio logo before that, that is the very first shot. It starts out with a gruesome battle in Vietnam that explains why a dude would be troubled enough to become The Exterminator. There’s a very realistic and disturbing beheading in this scene. Stan Winston was one of the effects guys. It’s one of those action movie paradoxes because on one hand these things are what torments the main character, they are what cause him to go crazy and what he flashes back to when he’s murdering criminals. But on the other hand we think they are awesome. We want to see explosions and beheadings. As viewers, what’s worst for him is best for us. We are cruel gods. (read the rest of this shit…)