Archive for the 00’s Category

R’XMAS – Abel Ferrara – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by bookofdread

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Christmastime is a peculiar context for a kidnapping story, but in the hands of New York provocateur Abel Ferrara it’s not really that big a surprise. No stranger to the juxtaposition of religious atmosphere and illicit dealings, (Ms. 45, Mary, The Funeral), Ferrara uses these settings as a way to humanize his criminals. In a Ferrara picture someone is always looking for salvation.

Real life thug Lillo Brancato Jr. plays a drug-dealing husband who lives with his family in a Penthouse. He’s a bit dim witted, but clearly knows his game. Drea DeMateo plays his wife, clearly the brains and balls in the family business. They have a daughter and seem to live with two older ladies, maybe her mother and aunt. This Dominican family is very like any family at Christmas time, dancing, eating laughing.

The film begins at a kid’s school performance of A Christmas Carol. A little boy in a Lincoln beard plays Scrooge and walks by the homeless giving them money. I think we can read this as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Husband, (as he is referred to in the credits), got into the drug game most likely because he didn’t speak much English and he wanted to help his family back home. We hear his wife frequently refer to the money they send back to the Dominican Republic.

He films the play with a camcorder, as human a figure as you could ask for, we see him with his family, he seems normal until he tries to bribe a toy store employee with a wad of cash to get a doll for his daughter.

Come to find out, he’s a big time cocaine dealer. He visits a separate apartment where he meets associates who give him his cut of money. Another associate meets him, and leaves his cash with him over Christmas, because he thinks he’s being followed. This gentleman is the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He represents the paranoia and the walls closing in. If husband doesn’t quit the game, something bad is going to happen.

Something bad happens. The husband is kidnapped. Wife meets with Ice-T to discuss release. He demands all the money she has and she even finds the hidden money in the separate apartment and gives it to him. He demands that if he releases her husband that she do everything in her power to get him to quit selling drugs. She agrees. This guy is the Ghost Of Christmas Future. He’s showing her what will happen if they stay on this path.

But then comes the Abel Ferarra twist. Husband and wife discuss quitting the business. Finding a new way to earn. But she says she doesn’t want to take their daughter out of private school, and he says he wont live with her mother. Then, on TV she sees the man, arrested as part of a sting on corrupt NYD officers.

Finally, we see them at a fancy party. Some associates call the husband away to the alley. In the trunk of a car we see Ice-T with a bloody plastic bag around his head. The Ghost of Christmas future is dead.
What is Ferarra saying here? Who are the most identifiable or moral characters? The crooked cop? The immigrant drug-dealers? I’m supposed to be glad the lying cop is dead, but his argument about selling drugs to kids is also sound. Ferarra provides no easy answers. There is a card at the end about Rudolph Giuliani being elected Mayor and that the story would be continued, but I’m not sure it ever was. Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes the film feels a little light/incomplete, but still a unique effort.

Despite the normalcy the family strives for, it seems that Ferrara’s New York won’t be affording them it anytime soon. At least they all end up together, and that’s as close to a Merry X-Mas in this film as you are going to get.

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The Passion Of The Christ – Mel Gibson – 2004

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2013 by bookofdread

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Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ might well be subtitled a visual essay in suffering. The first two thirds of the film actually have some narrative thrust, and offer some surreal, incredibly frightening depictions of evil. The final third of the picture, however, is filled with scenes that have not only been done and redone throughout the history of cinema, but it also lacks the strange affectations that make the first hour and a half so fascinating.

It is my intent not to examine this film from a historical perspective or even a theological one, but basically a narrative deconstruction where we examine exactly what is or isn’t in the film. The film is controversial for a number of reasons, and a woman reportedly had a heart-attack viewing the film and later died in the hospital. The violence in the film is as bloody as money can buy and the film has, to its’ detriment, a fairly anti-Semitic bent.

The film begins with Jesus in the garden. The music and colors clearly evoke horror. This man is terrified. A crazy, androgynous, Satan creature confronts him, and Jesus flees. This whole scene is blue and black and it’s a damn creepy scene.

We see Judas being paid thirty pieces of silver. Director of Photography Caleb Deschanel said they shot the film above 27 frames per second, giving many moments a true looking slow motion. When they actually slow the footage down, it’s downright breathtaking to look at. Caiphas gives Judas the silver and Judas leaves with some cops.

Jesus rouses Peter and gives him some shit. “You couldn’t stay awake?” The soldiers arrive and a fight ensues after Judas betrays Christ with a kiss. Peter cuts off a soldiers’ ear and Jesus puts it back on. Jesus tells Peter to drop the sword, for those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. His acolytes make good their escape but Jesus is arrested and put in chains. Really, he doesn’t even try to get away.

The next scene is much maligned for being one of the most anti-Jew scenes but I find it to be as anti-cop as anti-Jew. There are plenty of other scenes to be mad at later. Anyway, the cops kick the shit out of Jesus on top of a bridge. They knock him over the bridge and he falls just short of the ground, his chains catching on the bridge. If anything, this scene realistically shows what many cops do, which is needlessly beat detainees. 

At the bottom of the hollow is Judas, seeing again his betrayed master. Jesus is ratcheted back up into the night and before the terrified Judas can walk away the blackness behind him reveals a snarling demonic visage that torments him into retreat. This is precisely the type of visual detail that I actually like about this film. It’s a look into the mind of a wildly insane individual who has enough intelligence and clout to make a visionary film like this. This demon and the crazy Satan are compelling genre devices that make the film satisfying on an absurd and terrifying level.

Why are these things there? I’m guessing Gibson believes in evil personified. We are meant to take every note of this film literally, and if that is true, these crazy supernatural beings and events place the film in the realm of Horror-Fantasy. R-Rated horror fantasy is fairly small grouping of films, and this is certainly one of the more interesting of the bunch.

Back to the story. Christ is at the temple and Caiphas tries to get everyone to explain what crimes Jesus has committed. After many allegations Caiphas says that these people are under Jesus’ spell. Only after Jesus has declared himself the son of God does Caiphas rip his robe and call him a blasphemer.

I have to note here, to Gibson’s small credit, a Priest in the temple does call the kangaroo court out as a travesty but he is quickly escorted away. So there was one Jew who spoke out against the goings on. One. The rest of the crowd is ghoulishly played as over the top villains from a cartoon. One really wonders why these guys even give a crap about Jesus, you wouldn’t know from the movie why their even mad at him, but boy do they hate him.

Meanwhile, demon-faced children chase Judas out of town. They bite him and yell that he is cursed. These strange scenes culminate with the kids chasing him down a hill and then disappearing. He kneels beneath a tree where a rotting donkey lies and he sees Satan before him. He takes the rope from the ass and hangs himself. This scene is masterful and would easily be a standout scene in any horror film. Here, Mel Gibson asserts again that this film is designed to evoke terror and polarize. His mastery of technique clashes beautifully with the strange and controversial nature of the material.

Because it’s against Jewish law to condemn a man to death, the second act of the film is kind of a dog and pony show where they go around showing Jesus to Pilate, Herod, then Pilate again who ultimately orders the man scourged.

No one wants to condemn the man, cause he’s really just this harmless sect leader who basically teaches we should treat each other with kindness. No one in any position of real power sees him as any threat at all. But, even when Pilate asks Jesus what he should do, Jesus tells him, “You have no power over me, save that which is given from above.” It’s not like Jesus wants to escape. He wants to be this example for the world. He so truly believes in what he’s doing that he’s willing to overcome and endure anything to prove his point. Sound like anyone you know? Like maybe the guy making the film?

The film does portray Jesus as pretty radical and his cryptic messages mystify Pilate. He thinks a brutal punishment will quell the sour hearts of the rabble in his district. (There is a scene with Pilate and his wife where he tells here that Caesar has threatened his neck if there are any more uprisings.) So, he’s protecting his own butt, so sayeth this film.

The scourging is pretty much the high-water mark for the film, (high-blood mark?). It is probably the most brutal sequence of torture I have ever scene in a film and the Roman soldiers tasked with hurting Jesus are portrayed with every-bit as much snarling goof-ball horror show villain as the Jewish priests. These guys are mad-dogs but the performance is pure melodrama.

Satan shows up again, this time carrying and an old man baby. Yeah, what is it? Perhaps Satan carries a proxy for man, youth and old age wrapped in one body, a representation of what Christ is suffering for. If Satan retains this creature, man will arrest his development and regress in to sinful iniquity. Mel Gibson, what a nut.

This sequence, though never boring, and perhaps even effective at the desired goal of portraying the insane suffering Mel Gibson sees in his head, has a two-fold effect. 1. It puts Mel Gibson up there with Lucio Fulci and Peter Jackson when it comes to gore, no question. 2. Nothing in the movie will be as intense or hit with as emotional resonance after this scene. A big problem, cause you still have forty minutes left.

After Jesus is beaten the mob demands Christ’s crucifixion. Pilate washes his hands. And here, the film grinds to a crawl. The viewer has just been subjected to what is arguably the most intense and bloody scene of suffering in the history of cinema and now we’re supposed to watch this guy walk up a hill for twenty minutes. It’s agonizing, and not in the way it is supposed to be, it’s just, nothing happening for twenty minutes, sure he falls and a guy helps him and a lady brings him water, but man is it slow.

Once atop the hill, we move again through the motions so many films have covered before, with only a few small remnants of Gibson’s signature. I especially like the moment where the crow pecks at the hysterical criminal being crucified along with Jesus, and the “God’s Teardrop” shot is pretty novel even if it totally pulls you out of the story.

But that’s one of the big problems with this movie as a story. It expects the viewer to know many things without contextualizing anything. Several times in the film we flash back to familiar Bible scenes, but a non-Christian might not really understand these scenes. We flash back to the last supper and Palm Sunday, there’s even a completely queer scene where Gibson attests that Jesus invented the tall table! These scenes are weak attempt at characterization that pulls you out of the mostly engaging melodrama of the story. The film would be stronger without them.

The film is beautifully designed and photographed. The sets and costumes are top-notch. The mostly immersive style and decision to use Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic keep the viewer glued to the scene, well, until the third act.

Jesus is given little to do but take a beating and his brown CG eyes weirded me out for most of the movie. It looks strange. They couldn’t have gotten a Jewish actor? I’m joking, but seriously Mel, you suck, but you are an amazing artist.

I think the film is an amazing, passionately made project that echoes both the vision and neurosis of it’s creator. Essentially the text of the film suggests it is greater to sacrifice your all than to compromise your values. Only briefly in the beginning does Jesus discuss taking this on so others don’t have to. That doesn’t seem like a core value of the film. The film is more an adamant statement against compromise. It is also a declaration that there is manifest evil in the world, with unknowable supernatural power.

For a movie to be those things is a pretty wild thing, and yet this film is that. It works decently as a narrative until the final third, and the text is full of wild and strange devices that often work as titillating pieces of genre fodder and according to the box office galvanizing religious ideology.

Is this film dangerous? Is fine art dangerous? Yes. I don’t agree with all the ideas or values presented in this film, but I have a hard time not seeing it as a masterful effort.

Happy Easter.

Eastern Promises – David Cronenberg – 2007

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , , , on January 25, 2013 by bookofdread

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Cronenberg is one of my top, top most favorite guys working, and Eastern Promises ranks very high on a list masterful pictures. Naomi Watts is a maternity nurse who is working when a fourteen-year-old Russian girl is brought in hemorrhaging horribly. The girl dies in childbirth but her daughter survives. Watts, in hopes of finding the name of a relative or a form of contact, takes a diary from the dead girl. She hopes to have her Russian uncle translate the text. Inside that diary is hell.

He tells her to forget such things, that the diary is dangerous. This is the same guy who earlier told her, her baby died insider her because her lover was black. He’s old school and a bid gnarly. So Nursey goes to a club she finds a card from in the diary. There she meets the creepiest most soft-spoken gangster ever, Semyon, portrayed with masterful restraint by Armin Mueller-Stahl. Semyon exudes implied threat with his every word, his every stance. When he asks Watts if she always works at the hospital, it gives me chills every time.

Soon we meet Viggo Mortensen’s Nikolai, a driver and bodyguard for “prince” Kirill, Semyon’s drunk and possibly homosexual son. Kirill has had a Vor killed for spreading rumors of his queerness and Nikolai helps him cover up the crime. The dynamic of these two characters is complex. On one hand Kirill actually feels a genuine love for Nikolai while simultaneously resenting the way his father responds to him. On the other hand, Nikolai is never playing anyone straight. Even at the picture’s end it is hard to decipher his motives.

Tatiana’s diary reveals the dark secrets of Semyon’s world, and Cronenberg gives us through this tale an eye-opening look at the world of human trafficking. It’s done behind closed doors, and often with the initial participation of the girls. The diary says, “My friend tells me of a club in London where girls can go to sing. They can make more in a night than here in a week.” These clubs are forced prostitution rings. Once the girls are in town they are no longer human beings. They are a good to be sold or used by the king.

What’s brilliant is the way that Cronenberg uses these details as background instead of as the main focus of the plot. Essentially, after ingratiating himself to Semyon, Semyon has Nikolai made, just so he can serve him up to the Chechens who want his son dead.

But oh no! Nikolai is a bad-ass deep-cover agent working with Scotland Yard. He survives a brutal attack in a bath house and tells his contact that he is going to replace Semyon.

I remember seeing this film opening night in a theater full of fancy folks, (older ladies really), who had heard about the nude Viggo Mortensen scene and come for that. What they got was a brainfull of subversive ideas about class and Eastern and Western culture. So different, yet so gangster.

The film is full of characters meeting an extreme to fulfill their convictions. Kirill killed a man for calling him queer because he was afraid that the idea, true or not, might diminish him in the eyes of his father. Anna enters a dangerous world in hopes to secure a future for child with no prospect. She may represent the naivety of western hope. Semyon is the Eastern Promise, a powerful king who will help you once you arrive in his kingdom. But his palace is built of lies. He is not only is guilty of proliferating prostitution, he’s a pederast and a rapist. But he would risk fraud in front of his gangster peers to keep his son out of harms way.  Finally, there is Nikolai, in deep-cover , building a lie he created so he could dismantle the evil from within.

Even though the baby is saved at the end of the film, and Semyon jailed, the film feels overtly movie like in these final moments, calling attention to itself with a visual cliché, such as Anna tending to the baby. You know this is a movie. You know this is a happy ending. But you know for the real Tatiana’s and Christine’s out there, there is no happy ending. “Slaves are born to slaves.”, Nikolai tells Anna. There’s the root of it. These people are slaves. Intimidation, money and power can enslave. But that’s not necessary. All you need is one good promise.

 

The Man Who Wasn’t There – Joel & Ethan Coen – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by bookofdread

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I think The Man Who Wasn’t There is riotously funny. I watched this film at the Dobie Theater when it came out with a few friends and nobody in the theater was laughing but me. Was I being cruel? Was this film not absurd? With each turn of the knife I found myself chuckling at the fate of the barber. Was it not his wife who was cheating on him?

Billy Bob Thornton gives what might be an all time great performance. He is so dry and removed it kills me. At one point he says he’s going to take the hair from the floor and mingle it with common house dirt. Brilliant.

Ed married into his profession and lives a carbon copy life on a suburban street, content to have a driveway, a roof and a hot wife who asks him to shave her legs. The barber is a man who lets life happen to him, he never takes matters into his own hands until he meets the dry cleaning man. Seems like a good deal to him. So why not blackmail the doofus banging your wife?

Gandolfini as the doofus is great. He’s an all talk goofball later outed as a clerk during the war. He’s not in the picture much but he’s good. His wife, Anne Nerdlinger, she has one of the best scenes. She confronts Ed at his home and reveals the intimate details of how Big Dave had been abducted by aliens. Ed’s non-reaction is priceless.

Similarly, a county morgue official tells Ed Doris was pregnant when she died and Ed tells the man he and his wife had not performed the sex act in many years. He truly isn’t rattled. And I find that the Coens choose to flaunt this grotesquerie in the face of the viewer funny.

The film is dark and tragic, serious and sober. All the while it continues to provide a sleek cautionary tale about not being in control of your life. Ed has all he has because of his wife and he lives and dies by his attachment to her. If he had found a woman who liked him for more than the fact that he didn’t talk much, then maybe he’d not have been a cuckold.

When Ed does try to make a difference, he takes a short path, blackmail Big Dave and give the pansy Dry Cleaning cash. He’d make money as a silent partner, no work involved. Nothing ventured, nothing gained Mr. Crane.

Frances McDormand is typically excellent. Doris is a fairly awful woman who treats Ed as little more than a grooming cigarette lighter. She is an alcoholic and a cheater. Ultimately she hangs herself a resignation to both her own infidelity and the death of the dream.

This film is a true tragedy in that whenever the characters reach out and try to achieve for themselves they are only met with failure. The Pansy never starts his business. Big Dave is stabbed in the neck. Doris fails at her affair. Riedenschnieder never gets to win the unwinnable case. Birdy fails not only at her piano audition but also in road fellatio. And poor Ed, stares up out an open prison door into the night sky to see the UFO hovering above. Ed gives the spinning craft a knowing nod. The universe is much larger than one little Barber and his little problems. Crane sighs and turns inward to face his demise.

Ed’s failure to act is the failure of the 1950’s, a decade of resting on laurels and sitting back, trying to make the easy money. But deceit and troubles live as easily in the squarest of ages, in the depths of suburbia as they do a world away at war. Man always finds some way to let his own ambivalence destroy him, but that wasn’t really what killed Ed Crane. It wasn’t his Zen-like commitment to nothing in particular. No, it was greed and spite. He did not have to blackmail big Dave, he just wanted money and a wrong righted. And in trying to take justice into his own hands, he sealed his own demise.

Like I said at the beginning, this film is hilarious!

Crocodile – Tobe Hooper – 2000

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , , , on October 26, 2012 by bookofdread

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One of my favorite things about most Tobe Hooper films is he tends to cast interesting looking people and makes stories about growly folks doing growly things. Imagine my surprise when a bunch of slick faced young actors populate the film Crocodile. Now, they aren’t bad actors, they just really, really look like actors.

The film has a decent plot, kids go down the river on a party boat. Giant Crocodile eats kids. Not too complicated right? Except I cant really remember any of the characters. There’s fat dude, skinny dude, slutty girl and less slutty girl. Who knows? I know I was ready to watch a giant Crocodile eat these kids. Some of them eventually get eaten and it is in these moments that the film really shines, well, glimmers?

The problem is, as lame as these kids are the film champions them instead of the beast. I wanted to be rooting for the monster the whole time, cause these kids suck big time. But instead the screenplay pushes for some sort of romantic redemption between the jackoff protagonist and his girlfriend and even his boyfriend.

See, Tobe Hooper films, like TCM, Lifeforce and Eaten Alive are all incredibly bleak and cynical horror films. There is no redemption, only horror. Those characters in those films were ten times more interesting than these college crocodile bait jerks. But still 3(three) of these kids survive the film. What the heck? In a great horror film you might have no survivors or one survivor with impending doom. Give me a break with this happy ending horseshit.

Harrison Young and Terrence Evans give good relief to the homogenized blandness of the twenty somethings with their fun if all too brief portrayal of the sheriff and Shurkin the Croc-Master. These actors provide the only pathos and humor in the film.

The star of the film is Flat-Dog the Crocodile. The effects are pretty great. There were lots of giant models built so that the creature could actually eat the kids, so what this film has going for it are the bar none best close up shots of college kids being eaten by a giant crocodile. Simply the best.

The gore is also top notch. The problem is too few attacks, too little gore. At the end of the film after the best friend has been eaten and he start getting into some love story melodrama, the croc vomits up the friend and exits, leaving us with 3(three) survivors. Geez. What a kick in the face. It’s like taking back a kill.

I’m a big fan of Hooper’s and I really only recommend this to fans of Killer Crocodile movies. 

The Mist – Frank Darabont – 2007

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by bookofdread

Frank Darabont’s The Mist may very well be my favorite horror film of the double-aughts. From it’s iconic Lovecraftian imagery to the amazing and empathetic characters that populate its’ story, each scene is both deeply emotional and harrowing, while still being a zany creature feature, the likes of which were most popular during a Saturday morning matinee during the 1950s.

Let’s think of these concepts in terms I’ll return to: The Artist and the Grocery Store. The artist has taken his son; let’s call him, generations to come, to the store to get supplies. The grocery store here under Ms. Carmodys’ influence becomes a circle of closed thought. The artists’ goal throughout the film is to get generations to come out of a circle of closed thought.

Now that we have that out of the way, a storm comes to a small town. A blinding white mist fills the town and many residents are forced to band together in a grocery store to fend off demons of fearsome viciousness, while a fanatical Christian creates an attitude of dangerous piety from within.

Each scene illuminates with truth the way that many branches of thought would respond to the situation. When David Drayton tells the hicks he suspects something awful outside, they meet his attitude with difference. This stubborn behavior gets them into a pretty serious mess with some tentacles and a kid dies. Simple minds want problems to be simple and would rush blindly into the fog, but for the artist who tries to warn them and keep them safe.

When the locals go back into the Grocery Store, they attempt to tell David’s neighbor, a judge, the truth about what they have seen. Distrusting, and disgruntled, the neighbor sees nothing but personal politics and avoids recognizing the problem. Here again the Artist is presented as leading the mind away from politics and toward truth.

As more attacks come and more people are killed, Ms. Carmody acquires acolytes, even one of the simple minds from the tentacle attack, convinced that God’s absolution is the only escape from the impending Hell. Carmody is presented not as convincing but as opportunistic, seizing control of the chaos around her and placing herself in the middle, using the frightened nature of souls against them and making them a same-thinking weapon. Near the end of the film a young enlisted military man is slain for only the loosest of associations with the mist. Fanatics will have blood, they are the rot from inside the Grocery Store.

What is the Mist? We hear only that military scientists were working on creating doorways to other dimensions. We are to assume then that this backfired and not only were they successful, but only the worst possible things were on the other side. Is this a criticism, of military, science or of military science? Is it simply a riff on Shelly’s “do not play in Gods’ domain”, by way of HP Lovecraft? It’s hard to say where this film comes down on the military considering their role in the films dramatic conclusion.

And what a finale it is! After Ollie kills Carmody, David and company make a break for his truck and make it with a few deaths on the way. No one ever said following the Artist was safe. Those souls who do make it drive into the unknown as far as the gas will take them. The car stops for a creature to pass, massive, weird, tentacled, six-legged, the beast could stomp on or devour the car, but lumbers by in careless abandon, all the strangest thoughts one could ever have manifest.

When the gas runs out and the final decision left to the Artist to save everyone from being chewed up nightmare food, the Artist takes the short way out. In a way, the truck has become a new closed circle of thought. David slays his family, slays even generations to come, his son. A surrogate family to be sure, but the only family he has. The mistaken sounds of horror are revealed to be the sounds of military rescue. It’s an obvious moral, but still one that should not be taken lightly. Never give up. Never take the short path. It is always darkest before the dawn.

A History Of Violence – David Cronenberg – 2005

Posted in 00's with tags , , , on September 8, 2012 by bookofdread

Tom Stalls, the hero of Cronenberg’s film is a façade. He is a carefully nurtured and constructed image designed to soften the truth of his past. This performance is at least as old as his son Jack, who appears to be around 16. This kid is doomed to fall prey to the sins of his father. A son who has never know anything but a lie.

When two criminals try to bully Jack in his family restaurant, Tom kills the men and saves his employees and patrons. This event garners national media attention and Tom’s face is on the news. Soon, thugs from Philadelphia arrive accusing Tom of being a former acquaintance/mobster.

Why Philadelphia? The evils of Tom’s past are rooted in Philadelphia just as the violent history of the United States was. It is considered, “The Birthplace Of America”. This is the place the declaration of Independence was signed. We are meant to parallel Joey Cusacks’ transition from the eastern cities to the heartland of America with the general population shift from those cities to the central USA. You can leave the city, but some roots are too deep to cut.

It is frightening to think that in any small town, someone who behaves as gently and as personably as Tom Stall could be associated with these men, these east coast ties. Cronenberg objectively handles the story as it plays out, never offering a morality beyond Toms’. When Jack kills Ed Harris to save Tom, we know that he is now drawn in to this world of death. Even though Tom goes and destroys his brother, I feel it is understood that Ritchie is connected enough that more men will be coming. There is no leaving.

This is not even the most disquieting thing about the film, the fact that some ex-mafia Jack-off in your little town is bringing gangster shit to your back porch. The most troubling element is that you might be married to one. Maria Bello plays the wife perfectly never giving an ounce when she finds out the truth. Even in the end she is acting out of inevitability, not because she has forgiven Tom.

This deception is a devastating revelation for anyone, that the person they have chosen to love and create a life with has by association alone endangered them and their family. To have it further revealed that the man you are fucking is a cold-hearted killer must be doubly troubling.

Or worse, that man is your father. After Tom’s initial act of heroism, Jack beats a bully down at school. Would Jack have acted out that way without he celebration of his fathers’ violent action?  Are future generations of bullies, physical and financial, Wall Street gangsters and white trash, Neanderthals, are we then to repeat the tactics of our fathers? Is it that simple to pass down? If the tree is rotten is there no hope fore the apple?

Through television broadcasts the thugs identified the lying sack of shit, Joey Cusack. So, literally the media is the avenue through which the truth about Tom Stalls is actually revealed.  This truth proves to be quite dangerous, and yet the film begs the question, is it better to be unknowingly in danger or knowingly?

Tom is a son of a bitch no doubt. Once he is compromised, so is his family. As his young daughter sets him a plate, smiling in naiveté, the rest of his family know their fate is sealed. Cronenberg asks the viewer to be that child, looking up at the sins of her father with objectivity. He asks us as we set the plate there, empty will we learn from the mistakes of the past, consider their ramifications and act selflessly? Or will we steal away what we can and lie to ourselves about what we are and what we have been, only to have those lies poison our family and our heart.

This film is a punch in the gut and an eye opener. Hopefully those who see it consider this work more than a slight gangster tale. It is micro-thesis on the dangers of duplicity.

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