Archives for posts with tag: addiction

running

Slightly reminiscent of Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), but less self-important and with more of a sense of humor, Running with the Devil stars Laurence Fishburne as sleazy street-level coke dealer “The Man”, who decides to widen his margin of profit by experimentally cutting his product with what turns out to be a lethal cocktail of other drugs, and Nicolas Cage as “The Cook”, the restauranteur-trafficker tasked by “The Boss” (Barry Pepper) with ferreting out the fuckup in the supply chain. At times the movie feels like a bit of a joke, with a big-name actor like Fishburne, for instance, reduced to jerking off in a peep show booth and later indicating a prostitute’s strap-on and telling her, “I’m not payin’ extra for that.” With vignettes spanning all social strata and various geographical theaters of the drug trade, Running with the Devil does appear to want to bestow viewers with a somewhat nuanced picture of global implications, however – and it isn’t all that bad for an afternoon’s throwaway entertainment, either.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Running with the Devil is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS!]

Philanthropy-skeptical. Seemingly big-hearted, community-invested entrepreneur “The Cook” only uses a show of magnanimity as cover for his illegal activity.

Anti-capitalistic, with “The Cook” and “The Boss” standing for the dog-eat-dog nihilism of the big business mentality. Cage’s character, for example, speaks in bland terms of “administrative issues” while discussing his racket and is depicted reading a book about corporate leadership. In another scene, a credit card is used to chop lines of cocaine, equating usury and consumerism with coke addiction as America’s drugs of choice.

Anti-drug. Though the film features a somewhat sympathetic portrait of a Colombian coca farmer (Clifton Collins, Jr.) who only wants to provide for his family, Running with the Devil also emphasizes the street-level human toll of drug addiction, with Leslie Bibb’s DEA investigator character losing family members. “The Man” also suffers the loss of his family’s respect when his drugging and irresponsibility cause him to neglect them. The trade is ultimately destructive of the dealers and middle managers who perpetuate it.

Anti-Semitic! There is an undeniable racial charge to the scene in which the blonde “Agent in Charge” (Bibb) interrogates shifty Jew “The Snitch” (Adam Goldberg) who nervously asks to talk to his lawyer. For being uncooperative, he is taken to a black site for more thorough questioning.

Pro-vigilante, endorsing extrajudicial measures as the only way to conclude the drug war. Frustrated with the ineffectual and Sisyphean routine of law enforcement by the book, the “Agent in Charge” finally confronts the seemingly prosecution-proof “Cook” in his kitchen, telling him, “You know what’s funny? […] As long as we’ve been fighting it, nothing has changed. God knows I’ve tried. I lost my sister. I never had time for a relationship. And all for what? You can still get any drug you want, 24/7. There are still guys like you running around. You’re never gonna get caught, you know? Never. It’s like one giant, never-ending, self-licking ice cream cone,” she says before finally shooting him.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

vfw

Joe Begos’s VFW is a satisfying action-horror exploitation homage to the work of John Carpenter and bears an undisguised resemblance to that director’s excellent Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). In a similar siege scenario, the trouble starts when a girl named Lizard (Sierra McCormick) steals a backpack’s worth of dope from spikes-and-leather-clad local kingpin Boz (Travis Hammer) and takes refuge in a VFW post. Zombie-like addicts known as “hypers” soon descend on the unsuspecting veterans in the bar, throwing them back into action and forcing them to draw on their military experience in order to stave off the psychotic horde. (“An army of braindead animals is still an army,” one of the characters remarks – almost as if commenting on current events.) The cool “old but still runnin’” cast includes Stephen Lang as barman Fred; William Sadler as titty enthusiast Walter; Martin Kove as used car salesman Lou; David Patrick Kelly as Doug; and the always likable Fred Williamson as Abe. Cheers fans will also appreciate getting to see George Wendt perched at a bar again in his brief role as Zabriski. VFW’s pacing is brisk; the atmospheric look of the film is on point; and Steve Moore’s electronic score capably captures the Carpenterian evocation of the impending. The earthy screenplay, with its lines like “‘Sorry’ don’t feed the bulldog” and “What in the cocksucking fuck just went on in here?”, is nothing special; but admirers of the 80s action and horror genres and VHS culture will appreciate moments like the weapons preparation montage and the nocturnal excitement of it all.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that VFW is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

War-ambivalent or disingenuously antiwar. Fred has a serious moment in which he laments all the comrades he saw die in Indochinese mud, but some of the messaging as well as the mostly flippant ultraviolence of the proceedings – with guns, axes, bats, and a circular saw employed to dispatch disposable antagonists, not to mention the scene in which a musclebound brute uses a drug addict’s head as a battering ram – undermine earnest consideration of the human costs of war. There is arguably, too, a neoconservative content to the sequence in which Lou seeks to negotiate with the narco-terrorists and is killed for his trouble. The screenplay leaves it to a villain to describe soldiering as glorified “murder”.

Midly anti-capitalistic. Lou, as a used car dealer, stands as an unflattering avatar of the business mindset.

Drug-ambivalent. An info-blurb at the front of the movie mentions the current opioid epidemic, and early on a dead-ender jumps to her death. Other substances receive more favorable or at least ambiguous treatment, however. Fred drinks and drives without comment during the exposition, though later Lizard snatches a bottle from his hand, telling him, “This is bullshit” and calling him a “pussy” for boozing when things get tough. Sadler smokes “shitty cigarettes” while Doug smokes “science weed”. Abe calls marijuana “poison” and sticks to liquor until, just before the final battle, he snorts a fistful of the bad guys’ dope to give himself a martial edge.

Civic nationalist. Veterans in the film regard each other as worthy comrades regardless of race. “They gonna feel the might of the American military!” Williamson declares, and one of the hypers even gets a flagpole shoved down the gullet.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Redlands Poster

Vienna (Nicole Fox) is a Midwestern transplant to Southern California who dreams of immortalizing herself through art as a model. Allan (Clifford Morts) is the “fat pervert” and amateur Irving Klaw who entertains her vanity. The pair’s initial collaboration sets Redlands into deliberate motion.

An uneasy study of the creative process and of the artist-model relationship as an “energy transfer”, or a form of vampirism, John Brian King’s debut directorial effort is shot almost entirely in static master shots, a choice that screams “art house” (and low budget) and will automatically alienate the easily distracted. Potential viewers are warned that this is not a film for the faint of heart and that it contains one appalling scene of physical violence in addition to multiple instances of emotional cruelty.

Redlands, owing to a shared subject matter and sensibility, would make for a complementary double feature with Gut (2012) or 24 Exposures (2013) – not that most people would want to sit through two such films in a single sitting. Those sufficiently bold to be interested, however, can screen this gross and engrossing movie via Vimeo.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Redlands is:

9. Anti-miscegenation. A freakish, infatuated Asian sidler (Connie Shin) haunts a camera shop to be near its clerk (Leland Montgomery), but he wants nothing to do with her.

8. Anti-Christian. Vienna sports a kitschy “Have Faith” t-shirt as she rambles inanely about Falco.

7. Anti-vegan. Vegans are depicted as somewhat shallow. Hitler is more than once referenced as having been a vegetarian, presumably so as to discredit the lifestyle.

6. Populist, Luddite, anti-corporate, and protectionist. Allan becomes frustrated with a credit card company’s user-unfriendly robot phone system and finally snaps when he gets through to a human customer service representative, who turns out to be an African named Chiwamba. He calls her a “black bitch” after she informs him that her predatory bankster organization has lowered his credit limit without informing him and is charging him penalty fees for exceeding his newly decapitated limit. Allan’s anger is that of the disenfranchised white male and the American who has seen his countrymen’s jobs either shipped overseas or given to cheap wetbacks and other undesirables. In a fit of impotence, he smashes his phone.

5. Un-p.c. Characters use words like “bitch” and “retard”.

4. Anti-drug. Vienna’s father was an addict.

3. Anti-Semitic! Zack (Sam Brittan) is a parasitic Jew and quasi-pimp, an abusive easy rider who leeches off of his gentile girlfriend’s earnings. “Somebody’s gotta mind the store,” he says. “Might as well be me.”

2. Anti-porn. Parallel scenes of photography sessions evoke a powerful metaphor: pornography as a body of autopsy photos of western woman.

1. Anti-feminist/anti-slut. The misogynistic behavior of the men in Redlands is unpleasant to witness and not at all condoned in the tone of the film. What is impossible to deny, however, is that the unenviable treatment of the women in Redlands results from feminism and its destabilizing effect on the family and the moral fabric of society. The importance of the father as the central figure in a woman’s life comes across very clearly.

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