Archives for posts with tag: Asia

Phteven 0

Phteven Universe, for the uninitiated, is the musical project of Pilleater, one of the more individual and idiosyncratic racial thinkers to have carved out a niche for himself online. An original, challenging, confounding, and often obnoxious figure, Pilleater in his now substantial body of Alt-Leftish critical and creative work explores a wild frontier at the margin of the Alt-Right without ever really being of it, putting in occasional co-host appearances on Robert Stark’s Stark Truth podcast, writing books, and doing everything from comedic impressions of Alt-Right figures to music reviews on his frightening YouTube channel.

Pilleater

Pilleater

Musically, the oeuvre of Phteven Universe is not entirely separable from its creator’s perverted boutique ideology of “Asian Aryanism”. Even the name, referencing as it does a grotesque viral canine meme and a Japanese-influenced Cartoon Network TV series, is expressive of Pilleater’s interest in internet subcultures and Asiatic hybridism, conveying as well the sense of whimsy that characterizes much of Pilleater’s output.

The first, self-titled Phteven Universe album advertises itself as a vaporwave release – and there is certainly some memorable vaporwave on here – but to pigeonhole Phteven Universe as a vaporwave artist, while this perhaps is useful as a marketing niche, is to do a disservice to the eclecticism of the tracks. This one opens with effervescent waves of peace, melancholy, and inspiration wafting in with wetness and the sounds of birds – only then to plunge the listener into a morbid cityscape with soundbites expressing contempt for the soulless corporate mentality.

Phteven 1Then comes a sassy succession of late-80s-sounding Terminator-X-style hip-hop sounds and quaint computer noises. Keeping the scenery in flux, the album evokes a windswept expanse of blue desert followed by a slick retrofuturistic club beat, after which the listener is treated to a truly inspiring vapor track sampling the Commodores’ “Easy” over determined pulses of synth ascending into triumph. The vocal is spaced out – way out – so that the listener can believe it and feel it when told, “I wanna be high – so high.” This moment alone was so glorious that I actually felt a bit bad about having paid so little to own this awesome tape.

The second side of Phteven Universe is another eclectic nostalgia trip, launching from a disorienting opening into a sample of the once-ubiquitous “You’ve Got Mail” announcement and leading into an earnest, ballad-style piano number, followed by the inarticulate moan of a man ripped painfully out of a comfortable but no longer accessible past, both sad and soothing. Then the album gets crazy again and shifts into some oriental synth cutesiness followed in succession by slick, ritzy, high-rise vanilla elevator funk, a track with aggressive percussive elements resolving into a pastel chill session, and then “Fuck Off Melissa”, a nasty track evocative of a futuristic mutant sex club and reminiscent of Cabaret Voltaire of the era of The Crackdown.

Phteven 2

The second release, おさかなといっしょ – which, if Google Translate can be trusted, comes out as “With Fish and Lettuce” – consists of a first side inspired by primitive video game soundtracks and a second side that recreates what I have to imagine a night out at the gay disco must have sounded like in the early nineties. It had me thinking of C+C Music Factory, but Pilleater is very particular and autistic about his club music obsessions and probably has something else altogether in mind. The creepier and more interesting first side, which apart from nostalgia bears no immediately apparent relationship to the second, gives the haunted impression of bad AM radio reception and a lonely, neglected vintage Nintendo game that seems to ask with a touch of menace, “Hey, kid … why don’t you play me anymore?”

Illicit, the third Phteven Universe release, opens with some busy, hectic, alien-sounding material somewhat reminiscent of Prodigy or Ministry’s classic “Stigmata”, warning the listener, “There is no future.” This is followed by more distorted video game sounds in keeping with the material on おさかなといっしょ, but this time mining a more baroque melodic vein. From here Illicit turns dark again, with chaotic, repetitive cacophony evocative of a malevolent universe. As eclectic as Phteven Universe, however, Illicit never settles into a single style for very long and progresses through guitar discordance, African chanting, more homoerotic club music after the fashion of おさかなといっしょ’s second side, some funky programming and S&M percussion, industrial sounds, high-NRG dance, and a disjointed jumble of childhood memories, blips and beeps, gothic electronica, KMFDM-style angst, and – most hilariously – a sample of Jamie Stewart’s Stark Truth appearance in which the Xiu Xiu artist hissily unleashes on the Alt-Right.

Phteven 3

Side B continues with the eclecticism, getting underway with some pleasant hypnotica before launching into machine-gun-like percussion followed by more throbbing homo nightclub shenanigans. Next some breezy synth washes over an unobtrusive beat – one of the few soothing moments in Phteven Universe’s oeuvre – but the respite is brief, as the horizon darkens and gloomier tones return, followed by hip-hop and trance-like obsessions. It must be noted, too, that some of the ambient explorations and the disquieting ruminations on Illicit’s second side would seem to belie Pilleater’s cultivation of a clownish persona, so that the album is far from a mere hodgepodge of carnival weirdness. This is an album that at times expects and receives a listener’s serious attention. The creepy voice comes back again before Pilleater apostrophizes a “dream girl”, and ends on a bit of a Wendy Carlos note, with some classical synthesis.

Getting off to a fun start with some Moonman and dis rap samples and some soulful, moaning retard scat, Asian Girlfriend further develops the styles established on the previous Phteven Universe releases, with more naughty club thumping, baroque video-gamey electronica, discordant lo-fi dystopian cuteness, atmospheric electro-percussion worthy of old-school New Order, and more dark and whimsically primitive gaming, some of it sounding almost sentimental – or it would, at least, without the mutated robotic muttering over it. As with the previous albums’ smatterings of vocal passages, Pilleater seems not to be too concerned with whether or not the words are heard – except when it comes to needing help with his algebra homework; that bit gets the proper enunciation it deserves. The highlight of Asian Girlfriend, however, is easily the nasty dance number “Consent”. If you don’t like this one, it’s probably just because Pilleater can do, as he puts it, so many things – “and you’re just jealous!” The artwork alone would make Asian Girlfriend worth owning.

Phteven 4

Phteven Universe, again, is much more than a vaporwave fad-follower; but Pilleater’s commentary on the sociopolitical significance of vaporwave is key to understanding what he is attempting with his music and new Apocalypse Culture. “At its core, the vaporwave genre nostalgically admires the past: VHS tapes, electronic synthesizers, retro-futuristic cars, vector grids, vintage arcade games, bad consumer products, Japanese culture, etc.,” he writes in his essay “Fashwave Sectarianism vs. Vaporwave Hegemony”. At the same time, he concludes, vaporwave is “the music of the future.”

If vaporwave is inherently reactionary, nostalgic, and retro-futurist, it is already Right-wing. The whole thing is Right-wing. Not just the fashwave secession. What I would like to see is a critical discourse that accompanies and interprets the vaporwave genre as an essentially anti-liberal art form sprung from a sincere longing for the future we were promised but denied, without cutting itself on edgy National Socialist and Evola memes. Sure, people will try to trot out Capitalism and Schizophrenia, but it’s up to us to call out such errors in thinking. It is up to us to construct a dominant anti-liberal paradigm to eventually turn vaporwave discourse, and the music itself, against the globalist nihilism and transhumanist philosophy of Eccojams and Floral Shoppe.

Fashwave is dead! Long live fashwave!

Do Pilleater’s Phteven Universe project and Apocalypse Culture revivalism lend themselves to the construction of this anti-liberal paradigm? As Varg might suggest … let’s find out!

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

 

 

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Brad's Status

(((Ben Stiller))) plays Brad Sloan, a disenchanted white [sic] liberal who feels “real pain” at the thought that he, as an idealist running a charity-oriented NGO, seems to have accomplished so little in life as compared with his college buddies who have gone on to become wealthy entrepreneurs. “The world hated me, and the feeling was mutual,” the protagonist helplessly kvetches. This and his talented musician son’s process of selecting a university plunges Sloan into a midlife crisis that brings him into confrontation with his own progressive ideals. (((Austin Abrams))) appears as the son, Troy, who just wants to get through the ordeal without being endlessly humiliated by his father’s displays of insecurity. Brad’s Status is nothing special, but may be fun for Stiller fans.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Brad’s Status is HIV+ and that the film is:

8. Anti-gun. Brad’s wife expresses her anxiety about mass shootings.

7. Drug-ambivalent. A little blond boy is shown snorting cocaine. (cf. Office Christmas Party) He is described as a “spoiled little monster”, but the moment is supposed to be humorous.

6. Pro-gay. Brad is upset at not having been invited to an old college friend’s gay wedding.

5. SJW-ambivalent. The apprehension that children today may become “entitled and pretentious” is accompanied by a vignette of a little girl chastising her father for being “so cisgender”. (cf. no. 1)

4. Pro-miscegenation. Brad’s vision of his son’s future successes includes a black love interest. His wealthy friend Billy (Jemaine Clement) is shown cavorting on a beach with two Polynesian women. A later fantasy sequence echoes this moment when Troy is seen frolicking with a pair of Asian girls (one East and one South).

3. Class-conscious. “You don’t get rich like that by being an eagle scout.”

2. Pro-family. “Isn’t it crazy,” Brad muses to his wife (Jenna Fischer), “how we made this kid and he’s this brilliant, amazing person?”

1.Anti-white. The movie’s representative hedge fund manager is not too surprisingly not a Jew, but a legally embattled white man (Luke Wilson) with the quintessentially WASPy surname Hatfield. “You’re a white kid from the suburbs without a sob story and you’re not even a legacy,” Brad admonishes his son about his chances of getting into Harvard. “We’re the underdogs here.” White viewers may be inclined to sympathize with what Brad is saying, but one suspects that the screenwriter’s intent is to make the character seem unreasonably self-pitying. Indian coed Ananya (Shazi Raja) later scoffs at his “white privilege” and “male privilege” problems. To her, his petty concerns evoke “the history of colonialism […] and the oppression of women and the fucking-up of the environment.” In a seeming endorsement of this character’s perspective, the movie concludes with Brad being moved by her performance of a violin solo from Dvorak’s “Humoresque”. The entitled white guy, by being obliged to shut up and listen to minority brilliance, is moved to a tearful emotion.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

Pound of Flesh

Still-kicking Jean-Claude Van Damme is Deacon, a cynical but bighearted mercenary and counter-kidnap specialist who travels to the Philippines to donate a kidney to his dying niece (Adele Baughan). Following what appears to be a simple one-night stand with local expat floozy Ana (Charlotte Peters), Deacon wakes up in an ice bath with a huge gash on his back where his kidney has been prematurely removed, harvested by a black market dealer.

Complicating things is the tension between Deacon and his wimpy, conservative Christian brother George (John Ralston), with whom Deacon has little choice but to forge a temporary posse. Will Deacon and his estranged brother be able to set aside their differences and find the kidney’s unlawful recipient in time to retrieve it and save the little girl? Pound of Flesh quickly gets down to business in answering that question and others more philosophical.

Some of the action sequences, particularly during the first half of the movie, lack sufficient coverage, and one particular fight scene in a nightclub is too darkly lit to be able to follow the choppy fight choreography in its specifics; but Pound of Flesh improves as it goes along, becoming quite suspenseful toward the conclusion, and packs a few powerful twists. A moderate recommendation for Van Damme fans.

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

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3. Anti-slut. Loose women are devious. Reassuring the audience that there is hope for every soul, however, Charlotte Peters plays the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold.

2. Class-conscious and anti-war. The privileged pay to watch the poor beat each other senseless in an underground fight club in Manila. The culprit in the theft turns out to be Simon Rants III (David P. Booth), a high-powered purveyor of mercenaries and a stereotypically frigid crumb of the British upper crust. Sadly, anti-Semites will be disappointed to discover that Pound of Flesh, despite the Shylock reference in its title, is not at all concerned with the Jewish Question, with usury, or with any Hebraic villainy whatsoever.

1. Christ-ambivalent. Blood, Pound of Flesh would seem to suggest, is thicker than scripture, with milquetoast George finally abandoning his principles and learning how easy it is to kill when his daughter’s life is at stake. Deacon, who literally beats people up with a Bible, comes to symbolize a new vision of Christ as a man of brutal action driven by profound compassion with his climactic act of self-sacrifice. This tension and antagonism between the West’s traditional Christianity and the exigencies, often ugly, of a bloodline’s survival, feel especially timely in this age of cuckservative toleration of ongoing white genocide.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Have shopping to do and want to support icareviews? The author receives a small commission for purchases made through this link: http://amzn.to/1LC1SEz

Badges-of-Fury

Jet Li headlines this action comedy as “vintage” cop Huang, who, along with young comic relief partner Wang (Zhang Wen), is tasked with investigating an odd series of “smile murders”, in which each victim wears a mysterious grin at the time of his death. Moderately funny, Badges of Fury would have been strengthened by more shared screen time and bickering/bonding between mismatched partners Huang and Wang, who spend much of the film acting independently; but scenes between the comical Wang and sassy but insecure sergeant Angela (Michelle Chen) are also highly rewarding. The silly, CGI-facilitated action sequences, complete with crazy cartoon sound effects, will probably be too goofy for fight fans accustomed to western sensibilities, so these scenes are best judged by the standards of slapstick.

3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Badges of Fury is:

4. Pro-gay, from the standpoint that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Wang has a run-in with two camp homosexuals who criticize his attire.

3. Asian supremacist. A coroner, citing the superior findings of western medicine, claims there is no such thing as an acupuncture point controlling smiling; but Wang, standing up for Eastern traditions, proves him wrong and makes a major breakthrough in the case by demonstrating that each of the victims died by strategically inserted needles.

2. Pro-family. “Cherish those closest to you,” Badges of Fury advises viewers.

1. Feminism-ambivalent. In the tradition of Hong Kong action, women cops are tough and scrappy; but a telling look on Angela’s face during an interrogation scene suggests that a woman, even an emancipated professional, needs a man in her life to make her happy. Angela is also insecure about her weight and looks. Huang injects further political incorrectness when he reacts to a suspect’s appearance. “You know why we see so many harassment cases? Look at what she’s wearing.”

 

kinopoisk.ru

Nothing epitomizes the summer movie season like a big, blustering, CGI-saturated blockbuster about giant, battling, alien robots. This installment stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a down-on-his-luck robotics engineer and single father living in “Texas, U.S.A.” (as a caption conveniently informs those viewers uncertain which country Texas occupies). Cade and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), get swept up in military-industrial machinations and even intergalactic warfare when he discovers the wreck of a truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime.

Inconveniently, CIA eminence grise Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is secretly rounding up all the Transformers he can find and delivering these to military contractor KSI, headed by arrogant weenie Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the idea being to corner the technology and create a totally automated U.S. military. Meanwhile, Attinger’s robot co-conspirator Lockdown, along with new creation Galvatron, may not be the controllable assets Joyce and Attinger confidently believe these to be.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly the explosion-packed, lightning-paced action extravaganza fans are expecting, with quite a few close shaves, noisy weapons exotica, nasty, slime-spewing creatures, and one particularly suspenseful moment with characters inching their way along cables suspended high in the air while harried by Lockdown’s robotic hell-hounds. Younger audiences are sure to be in awe. The film’s themes are, however, more adult than juvenile, and parents may be concerned to know that Age of Extinction contains several frightening incidents and one especially noteworthy death scene, that of comic relief slacker Lucas (T.J. Miller), that is too graphically disturbing to be appropriate for children. The film runs a little overlong, and the ending, reminiscent of Prometheus (2012), has Optimus Prime setting out on a new adventure and so setting up the inevitable next installment of the popular toy adaptation franchise.

4 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Transformers: Age of Extinction is:

8. Anti-torture. “This is worse than waterboarding,” robot Brains complains at being shocked by an electric jolt.

7. Pro-serfdom. Tessa aspires to do her part to inflate the American college bubble by applying for financial aid to go to university. The film attempts to milk sympathy from a rejection letter.

6. New age, lending credence to the idea that Earth was once visited by ancient aliens.

5. Corporate, featuring prominent product placement for Victoria’s Secret, Oreo, Giorgio Armani, and Red Bull.

4. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Negroid-voiced Transformer Brains exults at being “free at last!” Lucas, objecting to partner Cade’s cutthroat business practices, also alludes to slavery.

3. Capitalist, offering a sympathetic portrait of the struggling small business owner in Cade. Early scenes of the hero’s domestic existence convey a definite impression of an America in economic decline.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Joyce falls for the head executive of his company’s China branch (Bingbing Li).

1. Antiwar, anti-state, and anti-cronyism. Attinger, head of CIA black ops and military contractor KSI’s best customer, expects to take a seven-figure salary with the company after leaving government “service”. Since the Battle of Chicago, a cataclysmic 9/11-like event in which America was attacked by Decepticons and defended by the Autobots, a paranoid police state has taken hold, with Decepticons and Autobots alike being hunted down and neutralized by the fearmongering CIA. Transformers: Age of Extinction also gives a timely illustration of federal authoritarian overreach when CIA agents, with no warrant and no regard for human dignity or life, raid Cade’s property and threaten to murder his daughter. The movie expresses Americans’ discomfort over the advent of drones, as well.

 

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Cannibal Mercenary

Mercenary aka Cannibal Mercenary (1983) ****

This Thai film, titled to capitalize on the success of then-recent Italian gut-munching horrors Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), finds a ragtag team of sleazy and mentally damaged mercenaries venturing into VC-infested territory to assassinate a drug kingpin who commands an army of “Draculas”, cannibal tribesmen sort of like Indochinese hillbillies.

Clearly inspired by Apocalypse Now (1979), Mercenary opens with post-traumatic battle flashbacks intermingled with a shot of a ceiling fan like the one that transfixes Martin Sheen. After a little hokey, English-dubbed melodrama to set the plot in motion, Mercenary gets down to business – and brutal, nasty business it is, with the outnumbered protagonists encountering the Viet Cong, quicksand, booby traps, and (speaking of booby traps) a treacherous, manipulative jungle bitch who threatens the cohesiveness of the group.

Idiosyncratically edited, Mercenary has scenes of high-stress, noisy, tension-ratcheting quick cuts that appear to be designed to strain the viewer’s nerves to the breaking point, such as when a henchman threatens to waste a whining kid and initiates a death countdown. Standout imagery includes a beheading, eye-gouging, maggot-eating, face-urinating, a skull being split open by a spike, and subsequent hungry brain-gobbling. Horror watchers will also enjoy the tacky, uncredited appropriation of Goblin’s music from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Recommended to cannibal movie videovores and other perverts, who, however, should not get their hopes up about seeing the pictured Aryan super soldier spring into battle, as no such figure appears in Mercenary, an all-Asian affair, alas.

4 out of 5 stars.

Devastator

The Devastator (1986) ****

Directed by low-budget action specialist Cirio H. Santiago, a master of what Joe Bob Briggs has termed the “exploding bamboo” subgenre, The Devastator is yet another generic 80s ‘Nam vet vigilante movie – or, in other words, a classic! Richard Hill, better known for playing the title part in Deathstalker (1983), stars as Deacon Porter, a vet who just wants to get on with his life, but finds himself thrust back into the fray when his old commanding officer is murdered. In the rural California community of King’s Ransom, drug lord Carey (Crofton Hardester) rules his roost with a hell-raising paramilitary force and even has the sheriff (Kaz Garas) on his payroll. When Deacon and a few of his ex-soldier buddies assemble in town, however, Carey’s days of 80s drug tyranny are numbered.

Not much in the way of plot, The Devastator is primarily wall-to-wall action – largely set to chintzy synthesizer music – with some truly impressive stunt work along the way. The most fun, however, is probably to be had from Deacon’s burly compatriot Ox (Jack Daniels!), a growling party animal who greets his old teammate by punching a hole through his door (!) and who clearly delights in over-the-top mayhem for the kicks. The villain has a healthy, thriving marijuana field, which, when Ox assaults it and sets it on fire, results in an even more humongous marijuana holocaust than the one in Up in Smoke (1978) – that, and a funny variation on Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now (1979), with Ox taking big, deep breaths of the stuff and exulting like some victorious barbarian.

Rock-jawed Hill is only so-so in the charisma department, but with his muscular build the actor definitely has the look of the all-American action hero. Jack Daniels, as noted, is quite the hoot as Ox, while foxy item Katt Shea, who co-stars as Hill’s love interest, spunky gas pump attendant Audrey, would go on shortly after The Devastator to become a director of some note, creating stylish thrillers like Stripped to Kill (1987) and Streets (1990). The Devastator would make a perfect double feature with funky Gary Busey actioner Eye of the Tiger (1986), an entry to which this programmer bears a thematic resemblance. 

4 stars. Check it out!

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Till Death Do We Scare

Till Death Do We Scare (1982) ****

Poor Irene (Olivia Cheng) – every man she marries dies as soon as they tie the knot! Fortunately (?), her three dead husbands, who loiter around the house as ghosts, want Irene to be happy, so they determine to locate another, hopefully more durable husband for her and pick incompetent radio horror show host Alan (Alan Tam). What follows is essentially a series of slapstick shenanigans as the ghosts, invisible to Irene and Alan, pull various stunts to bring the couple together. Complicating matters are the machinations of evil spirits who would prefer to see Alan dead. 

Till Death Do We Scare is typical fare for the Chinese ghost comedy genre, but with the odd, added attraction of stretchy Beetlejuice-style special effects by none other than Tom Savini. The best comic set piece in the movie is probably the haunted chair that refuses to let fat guy Eric Tsang sit in it; but other highlights include a deflatable ghost face, an animated pig’s head on buffet table, a decomposing princess with amorous intentions, and an unfortunate sucker who rolls down a hill and gets flattened by a steamroller. Till Death Do We Scare has the madcap energy viewers have come to expect of the Hong Kong film industry in the eighties, and should please devotees of the Chinese horror comedy.

4 out of 5 stars.

Breakfast

Vampire’s Breakfast (1987) ***1/2

Fat Piao (Kent Cheng) is a portly Hong Kong photojournalist investigating a series of what appear to be vampire murders, but police refuse to believe his stories, and only a sleazy thief (Keith Kwan) is willing to help him. Vampire’s Breakfast, like The Haunted Cop Shop (1987), is not a typical indigenous Chinese hopping vampire movie, but a horror hybrid featuring a rotten-looking blond Caucasian bloodsucker (Simon Willson) with the usual western susceptibilities to crucifixes and wooden stakes – or, as the subtitles would have it, a “mahogany nail”. Pretty, pouty Emily Chu, whom action enthusiasts may remember from John Woo’s classic A Better Tomorrow (1986), adds a deal of grace as Piao’s love interest, Angie, while Parkman Wong contributes irksome antagonism as skeptical Inspector Chen.

The movie drags a bit in the middle, but does feature a handful of suspenseful sequences, generally drenched in creepy blue moonlight and city shadows. A clandestine visit to a morgue makes for one of the more memorable scenes, while a spurting decapitation at the end should please gorehounds. One does wish, however, that the nastiness of one early scene in a strip club had been sustained throughout the film. Veteran viewers of Hong Kong horror will probably enjoy Vampire’s Breakfast, but prissier audiences accustomed to Criterion disc production standards are hereby warned that the subtitles on the Fortune Star DVD release are more than usually sloppy, resulting in lines of dialogue like, “Tow big eyes were ataring at me”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Vampire’s Breakfast trailer

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling, fresh off of a revelatory turn in the excellent Place Beyond the Pines, unfortunately chooses to squander his talent in Only God Forgives, playing Julian, an American expatriate in Thailand whose boxing club fronts for a narcotics ring. When his immoral brother Billy (Tom Burke) kills a girl and is murdered in turn, Julian’s disgusting mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from the States and insists that Julian seek revenge – even if this means eliminating a formidable police detective, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).

In a pretentious feat of style-over-substance showboating, director Nicolas Refn and his collaborators place so much emphasis on their ostentatious color schemes, self-conscious compositions, and generally gratuitous visual flourishes that they very nearly succeed in ruining what, in less limp-wristed hands, could have been a solidly gritty story of a family vendetta. Worst is that most of the actors in this nearly dialogueless drama appear to have been instructed to behave as robotically as possible, never smiling, as if every movement of every muscle is meant to convey existential angst, every second of every moment an endless Holocaust of the soul which, rather, screens as overly deliberate soullessness. The copious music of Cliff Martinez, a mixture of organic and synthesized sound, is both a blessing and a curse, as some lackluster scenes receive energy from these contributions, while others seem overly noisy where silence would be preferable.

The film does contain some very good scenes and in places achieves an adequate level of suspense. Those looking for action or for any kind of hero will be disappointed, however. An odd performance notwithstanding, the compulsively watchable presence of Ryan Gosling is, ultimately, at least half of what makes this idiosyncratic effort work to the modest extent that it does.

3.5 grudging stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Only God Forgives is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

6. Drug-ambivalent. The film passes no apparent judgment on the brothers’ drug trafficking. Different characters smoke in an indifferent manner, though Julian’s mother’s exhalations at a restaurant table would seem to be intended to parallel her disrespectful words.

5. Slut-ambivalent. While the film shows the physical danger that goes with a prostitute’s lifestyle, the representative whores are graceful and beautiful creatures who conduct themselves with elegant composure.

4. Pro-miscegenation. Julian engages in voyeurism and limited sexual contact with whores, not from any apparent apprehensions of disease, but out of a misplaced reverence for oriental pussy. His mother enjoys ogling Thai musclemen.

3. Pro-police. Chang, a karaoke singer, exemplifies the law enforcer as fetishized performance artist.

2. Anti-white/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). Several scenes juxtapose white characters’ rudeness, vulgarity, and presumption with Asians’ dignity, good manners, or superior fighting ability. Americans and Europeans, from a sense of their own superiority and Asians’ expendability, go to Thailand to exploit its people, causing them to prostitute themselves or hire themselves out as killers. Making no secret of her feelings, Julian’s mother refers to a “yellow nigger”. The film’s perpetrators also give clear expression to their European inferiority complex and belief in the awesomeness of things Asian by giving the title and credits in Thai, with subtitle-style English credits in smaller type beneath, so that no belching American privileged to enjoy Only God Forgives will get the mistaken impression that his entertainment is any more important than some Thai guy’s.

1. Anti-family. Grotesque family relationships abound in Only God Forgives. Julian, his lascivious mother relates, was envious of her sexual relationship with his brother Billy, and lives in exile after having murdered his father at her behest. A Thai man prostitutes his daughters and may be more aggrieved by the loss of revenue than the loss of his child after one of them is killed. The sight of a retarded boy, meanwhile, reminds viewers of the potential perils of unchecked procreation. Chang appears to have a loving relationship with his daughter, but the brief screen time devoted to this is too little to counterbalance the overwhelming abundance of family dysfunction. Julian acquiesces in his mother’s call for revenge only reluctantly, and with good reason, as his acknowledgment of a pointless blood obligation precipitates his downfall.

Java Heat poster

This innocuous fix of action exotica has renegade American counterterrorism agent Jake Wilde (obnoxiously handsome model type Kellan Lutz) sojourning in Indonesia in his hunt for the culprit in a string of international terrorist bombings. In a scenario reminiscent of Red Heat and The Kingdom, the irreverent, charmingly ugly American is teamed as an action odd couple with totally serious Indonesian counterpart Lieutenant Hashim (Ario Bayu). Naturally, this far-fetched pairing allows for corny intercultural bonding and mutual respect to develop as the two must set aside their differences if they are to rescue an abducted sultana (Atiqah Hosiholan) and save Lieutenant Hashim’s family from capitalo-terrorist Malik (Mickey Rourke, who tops himself for sleazy weirdness). Java Heat milks its colorful Indonesian locations to pleasing effect, lending to every scene a degree of novelty, and never slows down long enough to be less than amusing.

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

10. Antiwar. Wilde’s younger brother, who joined the military to follow admiringly in his footsteps, is a casualty of the War on Terror.

9. Feminist. A female university student suggests that the sultana’s accession to the throne has been sabotaged for sexist reasons.

8. Anti-slut. Hookers are untrustworthy creatures. Their lifestyle is one of degradation, torture, and personal ruin.

7. Anti-drug. A nightclub slut slips a mickey into Wilde’s drink.

6. Anti-gay. Malik is a pederast. Wilde rebuffs the offer of ladyboy companionship.

5. State-skeptical/media-critical. A self-aggrandizing general plays to the media and stages a raid for publicity. News reports unjustly vilify Lieutenant Hashim.

4. Anti-capitalistic. Behind the highly publicized bogeymen of the War on Terror lies a cynical profit motive for conflict. Malik is the personification of western exploitation of Third World countries.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Wilde is initially a suspect in what is believed to have been the sultana’s death because he flirted with her at a royal soiree. He also has encounters with Indonesian hooker/masseuse types.

2. Pro-family. Wilde and Hashim, a model father, are both motivated by family-oriented grievances.

1. Multiculturalist. “We’re not all terrorists.” Like The Kingdom, Java Heat is at great pains to persuade western viewers that not all Muslims are evil and violent. Toward this end, the film presents an idyllic portrait of Lieutenant Hashim’s happy domestic existence and and his family’s hospitality. As always, the multicultural experience is a humbling one for the Caucasian and particularly for the American, who discovers that he is not so exceptional. “Americans. You are like children.” To Indonesians, an American is only a “bule dog”, or stupid white person. “From now on, we play by my rules. Java rules,” Hashim informs Wilde after getting the best of him in a physical altercation. Hashim embodies the film’s attempt to show that, along with the legendary corruption, the Third World also boasts truly devoted civil servants, dispelling Wilde’s colleague’s assertion that, “They’re all dirty in that country.” Indonesia, though plagued by terrorism, is depicted as representing a potentially peaceful realization of a multicultural society, with Hashim and a Christian colleague on the police force interacting as cultural equals.

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