The Postman

I seriously have been meaning to see THE POSTMAN ever since 1997 when it came out. I thought it sounded like a cool idea, and I seem to remember first hearing of it as an upcoming George Romero movie in a Fangoria Terror Teletype. But then Kevin Costner made it and I guess everybody saying such bad things about it kept pushing it down my list.

Well, I would like to thank everybody for that, because 19 years was exactly the right amount of time to wait – all the sudden there is upheaval in our country that makes this particular dystopia weirdly appropriate. Yes, it’s very corny, with slow motion images of triumph made all the more syrupy by a James Newton Howard score. And yes, it is three hours long, but still seems rushed at times, with odd time-passage issues and major scenes that fade in and out like a “previously on THE POSTMAN” highlight reel. But it has a uniquely optimistic spin on post-apocalyptic fiction, and man does it speak to me right now.

Kevin Costner (who directed from a script by Eric Roth [MUNICH, ALI], then rewritten by Brian Helgeland [PAYBACK, BLOOD WORK, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, LEGEND]) plays a nameless wanderer in post-Doomwar 2013. The oceans have dried up (reverse WATERWORLD), civilization has collapsed and you gotta do a chemical test on water before you drink it. He’s traveling the Utah salt flats with his load-carrying mule Bill, looking for settlements where he can perform Shakespeare scenes in exchange for food. But he’s in one of these towns when the Negan-from-The-Walking-Dead-esque tyrannical warlord General Bethlehem (Will Patton, BROOKLYN’S FINEST, ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL) comes through with an army on horseback conscripting ten men from each town. And they choose him.

The new slaves are brought to a mine/fortress to be tormented, degraded and turned into soldiers (if they manage not to be executed for some bullshit). Bethlehem and his men are especially fond of musical chairs type games: if you’re the last person in line for food, you don’t eat. If you don’t sit down in time, you get hung upside down and chopped with a sword.

They have a movie projector, so they do at least get some entertainment at night. I don’t really get what Costner is trying to say with this, but of course I have to love the random scene where UNIVERSAL SOLDIER comes on. The men are outraged and throw rocks at the projection booth until the projectionist puts on their preferred movie, THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

I wonder what their problem is with Dolph? Personally I like both movies. (They later allow him to show his print of SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON.)

When forced to go on a lion hunt (!), “Shakespeare” (as Bethlehem calls him) makes his daring escape, and once he’s in the clear he takes shelter in a crashed mail truck. For laughs he reads some of the leftover letters.

This gives him the idea for a new hustle. Wearing a uniform stolen from the skeleton inside the mail truck, he goes to the gates of a town called Pineview and scams his way in with lies about representing a new postal service authorized by a “Restored Congress.” The town treats him like a hero when he actually delivers one of the 15 year old letters to its intended recipient (Roberta Maxwell, PSYCHO III, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN). In fact, beautiful Pineviewian Abby (Olivia Williams, just as crushworthy in her movie before RUSHMORE) makes him an indecent proposal to impregnate her, with the full blessing of her infertile husband Michael (Charles Esten, THIRTEEN DAYS). And the self-named Ford Lincoln Mercury (Larenz Tate, MENACE II SOCIETY, in his only blockbuster type movie) begs him for a job in the postal service.

But the sheriff (Daniel von Bargen, G.I. JANE, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN) knows this Postman is full of shit and sends him packing shortly before General Bethlehem shows up. That visit is disastrous for the town, in part because the general is outraged by Ford having raised the American flag above the old post office. (Also because he kills Michael for telling him not to rape Abby.)

A phony, but not a total asshole, the Postman really does take letters from Pineview to Benning, Oregon. When Bethlehem shows up there too the Postman tries to surrender. Weirdly the movie hasn’t indicated much time passing, but for some reason Bethlehem doesn’t recognize “Shakespeare” in face-to-face conversation. Maybe because he shaved. The town is attacked, the Postman is injured, but he escapes with Abby to a mountain cabin to recuperate over the winter.

Abby is a little more layered than the bland love interest character I’d expect in a movie like this. She has kind of a lovable psycho streak. Not just her aggressive sexuality earlier, or her beating an attacker to death with a rock, or her lack of hesitation when shooting their horse for food. When the pass is clear she knows he won’t want to leave, so she packs what they’ll need and sets the cabin on fire. I guess you could call it “lighting a fire under his ass.”

“You’re really weird, you know that?” he says.

While the Postman was holed up, Ford (in a hand-stitched uniform) went out and actually created a postal service. Ford still believes the Postman’s lies about a Restored United States, but writes his own fake letters from “President Richard Starkey” (not a Donald Westlake reference, I guess – it’s Ringo Starr’s birth name) to rally his troops. They’ve created routes, post offices, sorting systems and more American flags. They are enemies of Bethlehem, risking their lives to deliver letters. They become a symbol of hope, but also soldiers in a guerrilla war against tyranny.

The tone is pretty melodramatic, but there’s a couple weird jokes I got a kick out of. He starts a postal station in a town that is said not to be named yet, then the next time he’s there an onscreen title says “ELVIS, OREGON.” The mayor of a place called Bridgetown is played by Tom Petty, and it’s implied that he’s playing himself. Why wouldn’t Tom Petty become the leader of a post-apocalyptic settlement?

If I’d have seen THE POSTMAN even a year ago I probly would’ve enjoyed it, but it wouldn’t have felt as true as it does now. With the recent change of leadership in the United States, it feels very timely. Warning: I gotta talk about Trump now.

Bethlehem is not a buffoon like Trump, but he’s kind of how Trump probly sees himself. He prides himself on allegedly being more knowledgeable and cultured than others – he paints, he quotes Shakespeare, he references history constantly. But much like Trump he’s a cruel bully with a petty need to dominate and to be praised. When he finds out the Postman performs Shakespeare he has a quote-off with him, frequently looking over at his men to make sure they applaud his recitations and mock the Postman’s, much like the studio audience goons that Trump bizarrely brings to press conferences and speeches now.

Bethlehem calls people names and belittles them. He gets angry at a cartoon making fun of him and calls it “slander.” He has men who are sniveling sycophants (Giovanni Ribisi), but others fear him. They have been defeated and humiliated by him; one guy got his tongue and balls removed “and he’s followed him like a dog ever since.” (see: Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, et al). He is racist, demanding only men “of suitable ethnic foundation,” but leaves it to his grunts to enforce it and use racial slurs. He thinks because of his position he has the right to force women to have sex with him. (It does not specify what he grabs them by.)

The parallels are obvious even before the scene where Bethlehem says, “We had a great nation once” and “I’m going to make us strong again.” Of course his way of doing that is destroying the helpful, inspirational institution of government that the guy he doesn’t like created. For Trump that’s the Affordable Care Act (among many other things), and for Bethlehem it’s the quasi-postal service started by the Postman. Bethlehem doesn’t care about letters. Why should the poors get letters?

There’s also something deplorably alt-right about his group. They’re called Holnists, named after “famed motivational speaker Nathan Holn.” Bethlehem likes to read quotes from a hardcover Revised Edition of Holn’s Seizing the Way To Win, and quote his macho Art of War style “laws.” A pre-apocalyptic radio broadcast on the opening credits adds the helpful information that “Church leaders blame the rise of hate crimes and racially motivated attacks on a militia-like group calling themselves ‘The Holnists.'”

Of course these assholes are dumb bigots, but that’s not even the primary danger of Holnists or Trumpists. In my view, Trump’s administration is deliberately dismantling the institutions of government in part to prove an extremist theory that government doesn’t really do anything but get in the way of freedom for the super duper rich. Almost across the board his cabinet picks (I read that the first 17 added together have more wealth than a third of American households combined!) are intentionally people with very little knowledge or experience in – and in many cases have openly expressed contempt for – the fields they’re being put in charge of. Today they just barely confirmed one of the GOP’s biggest donors as education secretary despite widespread opposition from teachers, a humiliatingly bad confirmation hearing and an opposition to public schools, which she did not attend, teach at or have kids go to. Their EPA pick is a climate change denier. Their HUD head just a month or two ago admitted that he wasn’t qualified for any cabinet positions. Their energy secretary is best known for having to drop out of the presidential race after saying in a debate that he wanted to shut down the energy department, but not remembering what it was called. He now says that at the time he didn’t know what the department did, so he regrets saying that. Oops.

While dumping our resources into enormous tax cuts for the rich and building a stupid fucking wall, they’re cutting aid to women’s health providers around the world, arts and humanities. They’re silencing scientists, hiding their research, removing their conclusions from public view. And I’m sure that’s the very, very beginning of the important, sometimes life-saving programs they want to metaphorically hire Russian hookers to pee on while they jerk off nearby and mumble angrily about Obama.

On one hand, Trump and his people obviously didn’t think they would win, so you can understand why they never bothered to look into what the government actually does, or make plans for how the fuck they and their knucklehead friends from corporations and racist websights would be able to handle it if they had to. That, combined with no reasonable professional wanting to have anything to do with these hateful fucking lunatics, is why hundreds of important positions are still unfilled. But since they accidentally conquered us they’re trying to prove their anarchistic theory. As long as they and all their friends can get even richer at our expense, while dooming our entire planet by doubling down on reckless pollution, it’s okay to just put a brick on the gas pedal of government and jump out, hoping the country can make it home and park safely. Or not. Who gives a shit. Not them.

I say all this not just to get it off my chest, but to explain why at this moment I am so ready to understand THE POSTMAN’s post-apocalyptic citizens getting so teary-eyed-patriotic about a dude delivering some letters. This communication brings the people hope and unites them. Not just because they can hear from their relatives that they thought might be dead, but because they see a system being put into place, a group of people collaborating to make something work for everyone’s shared benefit. And what they achieve together makes them patriotic! It makes them want to put on uniforms with pride, and even raise the American flag above their post offices.

Trump wraps himself in the flag (sometimes literally), but really his administration are General Bethlehem here. They’re threatened by the real patriots who are actually standing up for American values like welcoming immigrants, the free press, the independent judiciary, fair elections, and all men being created equal. I hope the left, as well as the right who didn’t support Trump, mercilessly dress down these fuckin posers the next time they pull out that dog-eared red white and blue “real Americans” card they love so much. You can’t back a guy running on an “America isn’t great anymore because of that black guy and the immigrants” platform, elected using propaganda and stolen emails provided by a foreign government, and enthusiastically supported by the ideologies defeated by America in the Civil War and World War II, then entering office in flagrant violation of the Constitution by not divesting from his businesses, and within the first few weeks bad-mouthing judges and defending Putin’s murder of journalists because “you think we’re so innocent?”… and then tell us that we’re not American enough.

Fuck you. You don’t get to use that one anymore. You’re not proud to be an American ’cause at least you know you’re free. You don’t believe in shit. You just want your team to dominate everybody else. Get out of the way, assholes. We’re trying to make shit work. We’re delivering the mail.

Additional reading: The author of the novel, David Brin, wrote about how he ended up proud of the movie despite its unpopularity and very loose adaptation.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 at 11:22 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

75 Responses to “The Postman”

  1. I’ve always held a candle for this picture. I loved it when I first saw it theatrically and I love it now. All these post-apocalyptic films are becoming more and more prescient now.

  2. Yay! So happy to read this review. I didn’t think about it before but yeah, Tom Petty as himself!

    There are lots of things going on at once these days, but the postman matters. Opposing DeVos made a difference, even though she was confirmed today (I saw that it was the first time a vice president ever had to break a tie for a cabinet position vote, and during the confirmation process multiple congress members have staked out positions opposing her voucher ideas among others). Contacting our elected officials and getting more involved in local groups is how we get to put on our post-apocalyptic postman hats today. Consensually impregnating a local, not so much, that I’m aware of.

  3. Crushinator Jones

    February 7th, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    There’s a General Bethlehem in every town, on every street, in every business. Hell most of you know a Bethlehem in your family, probably. Hateful tribalists that believe that if we would only “take the gloves off” and stop coddling the weak, we would be able to get back our mythical greatness. That greatness will involve them, of course. They want to be the boot, not the face it’s stomping on. If they’re a nicer Bethlehem they’ll allow the Good Ones – the ones that completely acquiesce to their cultural and ethical demands – to assume the position of lackey and come along for the ride. If not, well…

    Unfortunately the Holnists are never going to be gotten rid of. Because Bethlehem is everywhere, he’s too many of our neighbors, and a little bit rides around in all of us. All you can do it keep him at bay. Anti-immigrant sentiment isn’t new:

    The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
    The Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1901
    Immigration Act of 1917
    Japanese-American Internment by good ole FDR
    Mexican Repatriation in the 30s as well
    etc. etc. etc.

    My own state tried to keep immigrants from owning property by passing the California Alien Land Act of 1913.

    So unfortunately anti-immigrant sentiment has been around a long time and successfully implemented a bunch. Luckily we always seem to come to our senses and beat the General Bethlehems, but not before they ruin a bunch of lives in the process.

    …which is what happens in the Postman, now that I think about it. Huh. Well, I don’t think nice speeches are going to work this time. I hope I’m wrong.

  4. I am one of the defenders of this movie as well! Sure, it’s a little long and syrupy (we didn’t need the repeated scene of him picking up the little girl’s mail at the end of the movie, we have a statue to remind us) but I always found it fascinating, and I was never bored.

    And I loved that Tom Petty played himself. This was another movie I saw with my dad, and that Tom Petty moment still resonates with us today. And I was equally happy when I got to see Universal Soldier again projected on a big screen, if only for a moment.

    Anyway, surprised to see the modern day relevance, but not really. Thanks Vern.

  5. I always defended this too. It worked for me because Shakespeare wasn’t trying to be patriotic as the trailers suggest. He was just trying to survive and the people took it up and made it real.

    20 years ago I thought the only way to fight Bethlehem was through reason or brute force. Fortunately in my maturity I learned there are more options. Reason isn’t gonna get through and brute force is just going to beget more violence.

    Thanks for the pleasant surprise of this review.

  6. This movie made me fall in love with Olivia Williams.

  7. Testify, brother. I’ll have to add this to my list of depressingly prescient post-apocalyptic movies.

  8. I have never seen the movie, but I love this review.

    Thanks, Vern. I needed this today.

  9. Vern, why do you hate America?

    (totally kidding. Thanks for continuing to tell it like it is, and fight the good fight. When the nukes inevitably drop on us because Trump said the one douchey thing an insecure foreign nation won’t tolerate, at least you were one of the sane ones trying to beg for reason. And that’s not just my depression talking, I legit believe this isn’t going to truly get fixed until something catastrophic involving mass death happens first, to finally rock the spineless left and right into action to undo this mess. Breaks my heart, but The Dark Knight said it best: “The night is always darkest just before the dawn” and “Things were always going to get worse before they got better”)

  10. Back in ’97 I always got the feeling that the hatred of this movie came from the fact that people saw postmen mostly as Newman and Cliff Clavin types. And that they didn’t understand the political aspect of the story, of course. Nice to see that it gets the love it deserves here.

  11. I only remember it being boring and sluggish, and that WATERWORLD was my go-to Costner-epic everybody hates. Maybe it is time for a revisit twenty years later post-POSTMAN.

  12. It never occurred to me that this one was worth watching as, over the years, I foolishly went along with the critical drubbing this one got, and that’s my bad.

    I will check this one out now. Thanks, Vern.

    I’m guessing the huge failure of this one was, beyond the sentimentality, a fair bit of perceived ego puncturing: Costner gets to make another epic film? Clearly, the man needed taking down a peg or two.

    (BTW, can anyone tell me if the longer cut of WATERWORLD ever got a commercial release?)

  13. So, you’re telling me this isn’t a sequel to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE?

  14. Vern, dude…you are gonna need to pump brakes on the Trump outrage. It’s going to be a long four years. I fear for your mental heath.


  16. Crushinator Jones

    February 8th, 2017 at 9:32 am

    “Vern, dude…you are gonna need to pump brakes on the Trump outrage. It’s going to be a long four years. I fear for your mental heath.”

    Dude are you really telling him to just lay back and accept it?

  17. Mr Subtlety, it’s the movie version of POSTMAN PAT.

  18. They made a Roadhouse 2???

  19. karlos:

    Look for the 2-Disc Extended Edition DVD of Waterworld. That one has the longer ABC/TV cut. I’ve heard mixed reactions to the AV-quality of the disc though. I don’t *think* the Blu-ray has the extended edition.

    As for The Postman, remember it not being as bad as everyone said it was but couldn’t really muster the energy to defend it as I remember being bored by it. Really loved the review though, so I’m reserving it at the library.

  20. Thanks a million, Geoffreyjar – will do!

  21. Magnus – It already feels like it’s been a long four years, but I honestly can’t imagine Trump lasting for a full term. So get ready for Pence outrage.

    Hallsy – DTV, starring Jonathan Schaech as Dalton’s son.

  22. Hated this movie when it came out.

    I’m a TREMENDOUS fan of D w/WOLVES, and this was the next movie Costner directed afterwards. I believe. So when it turned out to be a bunch of sappy shit I was really heart-broken. And bored out of my skull and was just covering my eyes and laughing in the theater by the end.

    Years later he made the flawed – but better-than-Postman – OPEN RANGE.

    VERN, what do you think of the celebrities (including Obama) urging us to “give Trump a chance” and do you think this “resistance” ever crosses a line?

  23. Christof – I think with Trump’s refusal to divest from his companies, the horrendous targeting of Muslims, the propagandistic way he communicates with the country and the reckless incompetence that he’s handled everything with (plus terrifying reports like the one about him calling Michael Flynn at 3 am to ask him if it’s the strong dollar or the weak dollar that’s good for the economy), and the ridiculous way he’s dealt with the press, the courts, our allies, comedy TV shows and clothing stores it is delusional to pretend like this is a normal situation that will be okay if everybody is just nice and gets along. So, although I know people like McConaughey, etc. are just trying to be mellow and reasonable I think those kind of comments are foolish and they do make it hard for me to respect them.

    Obama is exempt because it was his responsibility to transfer power and it would not have helped anybody for him to seem like he was trying to interfere with the success of the next administration.

    I’m not sure I know what you mean with the crossing the line question. Obviously there are tactics I don’t agree with, but I am not sad that a Nazi got punched if that’s what you’re asking. And I think we’re going to need to invent new ways to make it a pain in the ass to do the wrong thing.

    I have not seen OPEN RANGE but I should, shouldn’t I? Does DANCES hold up? Are there other great Kevin Costner works I have been neglecting?

  24. Are you a fan of 3000 Miles To Graceland, Vern?

  25. The most important thing to remember when you’re country is being overtaken by someone like Trump, is to stop him before he starts posting troops around. That’s usually the next step. Historically it starts with a “terror attack” and then it’s “necessary to react” with soldiers in the street, curfew, censorship and “taking control” of everything.

    Vern, you should see OPEN RANGE. It’s really good. And the 4 hour version of DANCES is still impressive. FANDANGO’s also worth a look, if you haven’t seen it.

  26. I’ve been dong an on-again-off-again Kevin Costner-a-thon. DANCES totally holds up. Plus it continues to NOT be the white savior movie people keep accusing it of being. I don’t know if we’re not allowed to like FIELD OF DREAMS anymore but I still really dig it. I don’t have the love for BULL DURHAM that a lot of people have but I really enjoy it, same goes for THE BODYGUARD which is kind of made fun now but I think it might be at least a little up your ally still (I enjoy it). 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND continues to an under-appreciated crazy little movie. SILVERADO and THE UNTOUCHABLES is still awesome. I echo everyone here about OPEN RANGE’s greatness.

    Couldn’t really get into TIN CUP and ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES I still don’t think is that good outside Alan Rickman and Morgan Freeman. JFK is an excellent movie with a take-away I can both not agree with and in today’s day and age cannot condone even humoring (sorry I don’t find truther-ism (I’m sorry alternative facts) funny/amusing anymore). MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE isn’t bad but not for me (I’m not against sappy romance).

    I don’t know if you know this but Costner has a few really great small movie-stealing scenes in two totally non-controversial movies called MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.

  27. Open range is slow but excellent. The gunfights are visceral.

  28. If you only get to see one movie called THE BODYGUARD in your lifetime, then Shoot recommends the Sonny Chiba one. If you don’t want to see the Costner one, you can always watch CRIMINAL again.

  29. Never saw this. I prefer Costner in traditional westerns like OPEN RANGE or SILVERADO (WATERWORLD rules though). So was he like an actual postman before the world went to shit? Or did he just go “fuck it!” and just assumed that responsibility?

  30. I did? When? I don´t remember actively spoken out on its behalf for mankind to seek out. In fact I don´t really remember the film that much except for the crazy opening credits when everyone is shouting Chiba! Chiba!

  31. There’s also a Hong Kong remake (by that I mean shameless knockoff by Wong Jing) starring Jet Li call BODYGUARD FROM BEIJING (Weinstein version THE DEFENDER).

  32. Wong JIng usually sets off a silent alarm inside of me to stay away. I think I´ve seen THE DEFENDER or whatever it is called and I don´t remembe rit being that terrible. A lot of these throwaway HK-movies kind of seeps out of memory

  33. Wong Jing is definitely hit or miss, but he made some that I really enjoy like NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN (aka LEGEND OF THE RED DRAGON) and one Jackie Chan’s least favorite movies he made: CITY HUNTER. Let us definitely not forget GOD OF GAMBLERS and, to a lesser degree, NAKED KILLER. Also he’s the one who mostly assisted in Stephen Chow making the jump from Children’s Show entertainer to full-blown movie star which led to him being one of the best directors alive today. So I can’t hate him too much even if his output is 90/99% quickly produced unfunny crap.

  34. Yes, VERN:

    OPEN RANGE is a weird, I-feel-like-taking-my-time-with-the-story Western that was surprisingly moving during the build-up to the climax. And the climax itself was stunning to watch in the theater. Those gunshots were just INCREDIBLY loud. It’s a good movie . . . but with some serious pacing flaws. But Costner and Duvall (and Benning) are terrific in it and you should see it.

    DANCES holds up. I love it. But I have to say that I prefer the THEATRICAL version of the film. I don’t care to see what happened with the Union soldiers who abandoned the fort, and although there are a couple interesting scenes in the extended version, I feel that the Director’s cut is a little too boring and self indulgent.

    Also, see JFK (if you haven’t seen it, he carries the movie) and . . . I dunno. What other Costner movies haven’t you seen?

  35. Also:

    Trump lost me when he complained about Alec Baldwin’s portrayal on SNL. But I don’t blame him for defending his daughter, and don’t personally like that NORDSTROM’s dropped her products. I also DON’T lose respect for the celebrities who want to give him a chance (including, I believe, Thomas Hanks).

    It’ll be an interesting four years, won’t it?

  36. Trump talk: to the people still saying “give him a chance,” he’s literally done the things we were worried he’d do, and faster than even doomsdayers thought. He created a travel ban that literally killed people who couldn’t get home to see their doctors. Thank God a judge overturned it but that won’t bring people back from the dead. He’s shut down legitimate press like CNN. He’s put someone in charge of education who wants to privatize it. What exactly are we supposed to be waiting for?

    Costner talk: no one’s mentioned No Way Out. That was a big one. I’m a big Mr. Brooks fan myself.

  37. You guys have mentioned a bunch that I’ve never seen. Seems like a Costnerpalooza is in order.

  38. I’ve also spoken many times of my love for MR. BROOKS and its stylishly off-kilter, JOHN WICK-esque world where everybody is either a serial killer or serial killer adjacent. It ingeniously uses Costner’s unique blend of everyman stolidness and eerie opaqueness to chilling effect and completely changed my tune on William Hurt, whose scene-stealing, scenery-chewing performance ensured that I’d never again mistake him for John Heard.

  39. I’m recent convert of MR. BROOKS. It was kind of the beginning of my Costner-thon after reading so much praise for it. I didn’t mention that one because it is a more recent one and I had it in my mind we were talking about his 80s/90s output. Anyways, I am with the BROOKS love, an amazing little movie that should be seen and talked about more.

  40. I guess this might be the right time to pull MR BROOKS finally off my long shelf of unwatched movies. From what I’ve heard over the years, it’s one of these movies, that “serious” critics and snarky assholes (who often are the same) sneer at, but are loved by the kind of people, who can enjoy more risky and weirder movies. (Basically most of us.)

  41. I agree with Fred on NO WAY OUT. That is a great thriller. I also really liked THE UPSIDE OF ANGER. Costner’s performance in that is excellent. It’s been a while but I recall it having some really good dialogue and characters too. Sadly I didn’t like BLACK OR WHITE, Mike Binder’s other film with Costner, as much.

  42. I used to absolutely love FANDANGO. Haven’t seen it in a hot minute though and would have absolutely no idea if it held up in any way at all. SILVERADO is fantastic of course but that one isn’t really slept on as such, although I don’t really hear it mentioned very often these days for some reason.

  43. FANDANGO’s a young mans movie, sentimental as hell and way too sad, but it’s absolutely a classic.

  44. Has anybody seen The Gunrunner? It looks like it was a made for TV movie starring Kevin Costner.

    Roadhouse 2 can go fuck itself. Jobbing out Dalton the way they do is just unforgivable.

    I recently watched a good portion of The Untouchables and that might be one of the best movies ever made, imo.

  45. And with THE UNTOUCHABLES you get the added joy of it being directed by the master De Palma. Sean Connery’s great in it also. Racist as hell. He doesn’t like wops and dagos, but he’s pretty badass.

  46. And no one questions why an Irishman speaks Scottish…

  47. Just like no one questioned why an Egyptian Spaniard spoke Scottish to a French-speaking Scotsman.

  48. The HIGHLANDER mythos is… very complex… and deep. Always gotta throw a ‘deep’ in there.

  49. I would love, LOVE, for Vern to tackle the Highlander franchise. At least the four theatrical movies. The syfy channel one is unwatchable and even I haven’t watched the series. It actually ran 9 seasons!

    Perhaps since Chad Stahelski is attached to the remake it would be worth the research? I actually think the John Wick of sword fighting movies sounds like a great idea.

  50. 6 Seasons actually. The HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN spinoff with Elizabeth Gracen only lasted one.

  51. Ah yes, HIGHLANDER. The series that did reboots, before that even was a word that was used on movies! Ever single sequel is some kind of a reboot! The least rebooty is the 4th, but only because it’s kind of the final episode of the TV show. But if I remember right, even this one didn’t take its continuity too seriously.

  52. This does sound like some pretty prescient stuff for a movie from 1997, back when most Americans were too busy shopping for Beanie Babies and so convinced the “new millennium” was going to be a wonderful age of peace and prosperity to think otherwise, no wonder it flopped.

    Unfortunately I do believe we’re headed for some type of apocalyptic scenario and it’s probably going to start soon, I’m just enjoying the ride for as long as I can and not really counting on living a very long life.

  53. The best part of the HIGHLANDER (film) series, is each sequel is really bad and even though you’d think they couldn’t get worse, each sequel is much, much worse than the one that proceeds it.

  54. That crossover movie with Adrian Paul ( From the series) and Lambert was the one sequel I found watchable. The action was directed by Donnie Yen which might hav ehelpned.

  55. HIGHLANDER II is great.

    Easily THE most wrong-headed and poorly made on an utterly fundamental level sequel ever made. But damn, it’s fun and really fantastic to look at.

    And man, there’s, what, four different versions of it?

  56. I’ve a soft spot for HIGHLANDER III: THE SORCERER. Great locales (Japan, Scotland) and it stars Mako.

  57. Honestly ,HIGHLANDER-series is at least not as shitty as the HELLRAISER-series became, because …Jesus…that is some horrid rancid shit.

  58. karlos: FINALLY! A fellow Highlander II kinda defender. If there was a wrong decision to make and/or have, that one did it but the film-making is so good (other than trying really hard to be like Ridley Scott), the actors are having fun and the action is much better executed than the original. I find it a lot fun even though yeah, it was a really bad idea. To clarify you comment, yes there are four official versions:
    -Original US Theatrical Cut: Version taken away from the filmmakers by the bank and is the editing makes this silly movie even crazier (this is my favorite version and unfortunately is not available on any DVD (at least US-Domestic)
    -UK Theatrical Cut: Closer to the what the filmmakers intended
    -Renegade Version: Complete re-edit with a newly filmed scene that adds absoluetly nothing to the plot and they re-looped dialogue to say that the immortals are not aliens but rather from an advanced past which helps make the movie even stupider even though I do not believe that was the intent
    -Special Edition: Same as Renegade Edition but with much better AV quality and they changed the color of the shield from red to blue so now the movies lighting and some dialogue makes more sense
    To make it even sadder, watching the interviews on the DVDs, the filmmakers are so proud of the part 2 and honestly believe the Renegade and Special Edition versions redeem the movie. They are so proud that you’d have to be a pretty big asshole to tell them otherwise.

    HIGHLANDER THE FINAL DIMENSION SORCERER: I think is a boring retread of the original. None of the style that helped the very flawed original movie. At least we get Mario Van Peebles hamming it up and Mako’s talking decapitated head.

    HIGHLANDER ENDGAME: The Workprint Version on the DVD helps make this one better but I still don’t think it’s any good. The action is pretty decent thanks to Donnie Yen. This one especially suffers from having the absolute worst villain of the series. We are constantly TOLD Bruce Payne is an unstoppable badass but we never see a single shred of visual proof of this. Still don’t buy in ANY version of this one that Payne could take out Yen.

    HIGHLANDER THE SOURCE: It’s bad but at least there are some unintentionally funny things in it. They managed to come up an origin for the immortals that is even stupider and more anti-climatic than aliens and advanced-past-people.

    HIGHLANDER THE SEARCH OF VENGEANCE: An anime version that is shockingly good and the only one, one could make a case for being good outside the flawed-original. In fact, one could even make a very good argument that it is best thing to carry the HIGHLANDER name.

    Fred: You forgot to mention the cartoon series..

    Shoot: I agree, not many film series had such a drastic dip in quality as HELLRAISER and just kept chugging along getting worse and worse.

    Back on the Kevin Costner topic: Not a movie but HATFIELD & MCCOYS is excellent.

  59. Geoffreyjar – oh yeah, I really dig the first two HIGHLANDERS.

    I only recently re-watched the 2nd one – which, thanks to your post, I can now identify as the special edition – and I always dig it. It’s so wrong headed it’s quite astonishing but damn, it’s fun stuff.

    Mulcahy really went for it with the look of the second one: like you say, very Ridley Scott-esque.

    I have only ever seen parts 3-5 once and I recall not liking them at all, but maybe it’s time for a re-evaluation?

  60. I also think there’s enough visual razzle-dazzle and cool elements to HIGHLANDER II to just barely overcome the fact that it makes no fucking sense at all in any form, either in relation to the other films in the series or to itself.

    geoff: My favorite part of that commentary is how the producers are like “We did it! Now the movie is 100% perfect!” and Mulcahy is just laying back in the cut, embarrassed but trying to be polite, like, “Uh huh, yeah, sure, whatever you say, boss.”

  61. No, you’re good. Your memory serves you well (I re-watched them about one and half/two years ago, don’t make the same mistake I did). If you don’t mind animation, as stated in the post above, I recommend the anime movie SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE. It’s from the guy who directed NINJA SCROLL and VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (if that even means anything to you). It’s the only HIGHLANDER sequel/reboot/remake/whatever that is ‘actually’ good. I mean please note: it follows the conventions of the series and first movie pretty close still and it continues this series odd fascination with crappy-almost-post-apocalyptic-futures, but it has a FIST OF THE NORTH STAR-vibe (aka a MAD MAX-vibe) going for it that I really dig. I also argue it has the best non-Clancy Brown (and non-Michael Ironside dammit, I love his mega-performance in 2) villain of the series.

  62. That’s exactly why I love it. Each sequel tries to make sense of this mythology but only ends up making it make less sense. It’s magnificent. Also, they keep saying there can be only one but there were five plus three TV series and an anime.

    Karlos, I also find Highlander II the most watchable despite making the least sense in any version. Something about ’90s sci-fi version of the future, Sean Connery fish out of water and flying hover boards make it fun. If only there was a proper widescreen version of the theatrical cut, but I may have to break out the VHS pan and scan. For some reason, Highlander II hasn’t gotten the Blade Runner treatment where they put all five versions out on Blu-ray.

    Geoffrey, thank you for the recap. I never watched the anime one but isn’t it yet another Macleod descendent? They said there can be only one and now there are three!

    So glad this turned into a Highlander thread, but I hope we haven’t inadvertently talked Vern out of it.

  63. Mr M: Haha you know exactly what I’m talking about.

    Fred: The filmmakers had nothing to do with the US Theatrical Cut and in their minds, they just keep making the movie better so that’s why we will likely never see a big ‘ol Every Version of HIGHLANDER II Ever Edition. I think there is a LaserDisc somewhere that has a widescreen version of the US Theatrical Cut. The anime is actually a complete reboot/remake/whatever-it-is-called-now. Anime Macleod is the only one in that universe.

    Forgot to mention my biggest pet peeve with part 3: They constantly bring up plot-holes but then refuse to give an explanation for them. Also they build up a subplot about an NYPD officer investigating Macleod and it disappears half way through, why didn’t they drop the subplot completely from the movie (both cuts)?

  64. NINJA SCROLL and VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST are absolute masterpieces of badassery and anyone who refuses to watch them because they’re anime is doing themselves a disservice (If it really bothers you know they’re very atypical of most anime, with for starters character designs that skew more towards realism)

    And the HIGHLANDER anime movie is solid, not as good as those other two but worth watching.

  65. Griff, glad your here. A bit ago I argued with you that NINJA SCROLL didn’t hold up. Not long ago I rewatched it yet again and want to recant my statement. I must have been in real foul/snobby mood to not acknowledge how well it it does what it does (being awesome (and also politically un-correct).

    We already agreed VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST is great, hopefully the TV show will be more memorable than the NINJA SCROLL TV show.

  66. I saw NINJA SCROLL for the first time in 2014 and VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST for the first time just last year, so it’s not just nostalgia talking with either film.

    My only problem with NINJA SCROLL is I wish it was longer, it’s not quite feature length which would have given the action scenes more room to breath, but I believe it was an OVA and not a theatrical movie, right?

  67. Nope it was a theatrical release in Japan. I double-checked and it doesn’t seem to have been a double-feature with anything so I’m guessing it was released by itself. The length doesn’t bother me, I see so many movies now-a-days with a ton of fat, that it’s always refreshing to see one that comes in and gets it’s job done and leaves.

    Back on topic: Inspired by this review I re-watched THE POSTMAN for the first time since ’98 or so and Vern is right, “recent on-going events” have helped this one quite a bit. I used to think this was boring but I was much more engaged this time, despite the movie still having some pacing/forward-moving issues. It could be streamlined a bit but what was once eye-rolling in-your-face commentary is now pretty on-point (I used to have the same issue with THE TRUMAN SHOW before the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Juilian Asange).

  68. I never saw myself as a “defender” of THE POSTMAN, I enthusiastically supported it upon seeing it in the theater. Nothing like the book which at times reads like a “paid by the word” exercise, it is melodrama, I suppose, as it is structured and executed at a scale and swath of time rarely seen in movies. You could spend a lot of time breaking down motivations behind choices Costner made, but I think this is where critics bogged down the effort as a whole while looking for ways, as mentioned above, to “take Costner down a peg”.

    THE POSTMAN is long. “The Postman” isn’t an anti-hero, but his journey is often looked at as selfishness where others might see “hustler and do-nothing”, and I think this unnuanced “quick take” on the character that colors the reaction of many. Ultimately both THE POSTMAN and “The Postman” are tall tales that perhaps executed in broad strokes and “corny” but have heart and desire to celebrate character and community.

    I don’t want to spend a lot of time here, I’m far too old and lazy, and many of the comments reveal people are willing to give the movie a chance where they might not have before, but I did want to touch on a few things. I think there is some excellent world building that is particularly subtle compared to other “near future” “post-apocalyptic” films regardless of budget. I think that while much of the emotional button-pushing is heavy-handed it fits the style of story the filmmakers were trying to tell. I think the use of small victories is handled well in the build-up to the more important large victory needed to end the picture on the transformative note most people expect from an “epic”.

    I finally wanted to note the strong performance of Will Patton, a character actor I first took note of in his work with Costner previously in NO WAY OUT (a solid movie like THE PACKAGE I’ve suggested to Vern many times over the years lol). Patton isn’t a big guy, but he can be magnetic or sink into the background as the role requires. With his thinning hair and capability of “wild eyes” he’s both what you’d expect and more. In town there’s a scene where he’s going over the loot on offer and at first he’s quietly dismissive in tone after the bold entrance. Then he’s chin-up and fiery as something challenges him, which he both secretly wants as another way to prove himself internally and to his men and “the world”. It’s in this state of mind that he later pulls off his awesome, “So much for your POST MAN” line that adds the little bit extra piece of comeuppance desire for the audience on top of what is just inherent to the character. As opposed to Hopper in WATERWORLD Patton uses over-the-top for a flourish and the movie is lifted up by this performance which lacks the action set-pieces of that other bit of Costner post-apocalypse fair.

    THE POSTMAN isn’t one I watch every year, but it’s one I recommend and go back to when the mood strikes.

  69. HIGHLANDER THE FINAL DIMENSION SORCERER: I think is a boring retread of the original. None of the style that helped the very flawed original movie. At least we get Mario Van Peebles hamming it up and Mako’s talking decapitated head.

  70. My favorite part of that commentary is how the producers are like “We did it! Now the movie is 100% perfect!” and Mulcahy is just laying back in the cut, embarrassed but trying to be polite, like, “Uh huh, yeah, sure, whatever you say, boss.”

  71. The Japanese locales and Deborah Kara Unger looked so beautiful to me when i was a kid. Still do today.

  72. I’d do anything to convince Trump try to ride a horse like Bethlehem. He’s pudding soft, probably couldn’t even get his heels in the stirrups, it would be hilarious.

  73. Big fan of OPEN RANGE, which I’ve seen several times, and also of MR. BROOKS, which I’ve only seen once but did quite enjoy.

  74. I liked him and Woody Harrelson’s chemistry in THE HIGHWAYMEN. Still have yet to see YELLOWSTONE but have heard good things.

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