Archives for posts with tag: Clint Eastwood

Boss Nigger

Boss Nigger aka Boss (1975) ****  Or “Mr. Nigger to you,” as Black Man with No Name Fred “The Hammer” Williamson tells outlaw William Smith.  Terrible Tom’s earnest delivery of the rousing theme song (familiar to any devotee of Synapse’s 42nd Street Forever series) would alone be worth the price of admission, but Boss Nigger offers other pleasant diversions for fans of westerns and blaxploitation, of which this film is a capable hybrid.  Williamson and the comical D’Urville Martin, his sidekick from previous outings, are bounty hunters who set up shop as sheriff and deputy in a lawless western town and proceed to implement “Black Law”, under which such infractions as saying “nigger” in public incur a fine of $20.  Williamson is a large, commanding presence onscreen, but William Smith is more than equal to the task of providing him with a sufficiently scary opponent and can be believed when he threatens the hero, “Your death is gonna be slow and painful, nigger.”  R.G. Armstrong, reliable as the face of country corruption and pusillanimity in the 70s, lends Boss Nigger an added credibility as the town’s crooked mayor, who until now has let Smith and his gang run roughshod over the citizenry.  Mostly lighthearted, harmless fun, Boss Nigger sobers as vengeance is necessitated and ends on a somewhat bitter note.  An indispensable artifact of 70s exploitation cinema, the film was directed by genre veteran Jack Arnold, who had previously collaborated with Williamson on Black Eye but is more famously associated with such 1950s science fiction films as Tarantula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.  4 out of 5 stars.

Adios Amigo

Adios Amigo (1975) ***1/2  Williamson is back in action in this sequel, which finds trailwise hustler Richard Pryor (who appears to be drunk or high much of the time) replacing D’Urville Martin as the comic relief companion.  The Hammer not only writes, but takes over in the director’s chair for Adios Amigo, a looser, lesser effort than its predecessor.  Episodic, anarchic, and hardly structured, Adios Amigo lacks both a principal antagonist and the expected narrative thread to pull the viewer neatly along, feeling consequently more like a succession of half-baked sketches than a finished cinematic product.  What plot there is amounts to Williamson’s repeated frustration with all the trouble that comes his way whenever ridiculous con man Pryor crosses his path.  Less serious and less preoccupied with race than Boss Nigger, Adios Amigo is an easygoing, casual, friendly film whose principal draw is the sense of wacky, uninhibited fun it generates.  Pryor in particular is fun to watch, with his best line being, “What’s it look like I’m doin’ here?  I’m stealin’ rocks.”  His funniest scene, however, is probably his card game with Blacula‘s Thalmus Rasulala, here bearded as an eccentric desert peddler with two horny daughters.  Adios Amigo‘s music may lack the funk power of Boss Nigger‘s, but Blue Infernal Machine’s theme song is an appropriately fun encapsulation of the movie’s attitude.  3.5 of 5 stars.

Joshua

Joshua (1976) ****1/2  One of the best films in which Fred Williamson has appeared, Joshua was directed by Larry Spangler, whose previous teamings with the star were The Legend of Nigger Charley and The Soul of Nigger Charley.  Dispensing with the comedy of Boss Nigger and Adios Amigo, thisis a straightforward revenge western with Civil War veteran Williamson tracking the outlaws who murdered his mother.  With fine cinematography making impressive use of majestic Monument Valley locations, and a distinctive, sometimes hypnotic score (credited to unknown Mike Irwin) that mixes acoustic and synthesized elements, unusual for a western, Joshua more than distinguishes itself within the genre.  The snowy expanses that eventually fill the screen recall another offbeat western, The Great Silence; and Williamson, who rides alone for most of his vengeance trail, establishes himself for all time as the black counterpart to Clint Eastwood, channeling something of the ghostly, single-minded revengefulness of High Plains Drifter or The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Apart from the hero’s committed performance, Brenda Venus and Isela Vega are noteworthy as eye candy, and Ralph Willingham, in his only known screen credit, creates one of westerndom’s great raspy old rascal characters in cowardly, constantly giggling second fiddle bad guy Weasle.  Recommended.  4.5 stars.

In Shoot ‘Em Up, Hollywood gave audiences a new, health-conscious kind of action hero in Clive Owen’s gunman who chooses to gnaw on carrots rather than Clint Eastwood’s cigars.  Now Premium Rush continues and develops the healthy hero trend, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s courier Wilee riding a bike instead of tooling around in a pollution-and-noise-producing auto like the Batmobile or Mad Max‘s Main Force Patrol Interceptor.  The bicycle messengers of New York City, it turns out, actually lead perilously exciting lives and emerge as unsung heroes of sport and private enterprise while also menacing mainstream traffic.

Gordon-Levitt, who against the odds has left behind TV sitcom cutedom to break into mature, masculine lead roles in a major way this summer, stands a chance to become one of the action heroes of Generation Y based on his likeable turns in Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, and – we’re hoping – in his upcoming pairing with Bruce Willis in Looper, hitting screens in September.  Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee is a new kind of hero, a far cry from the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers of yesteryear; he’s philosophical, triumphing through (mostly) non-violent athleticism, split-second risk-taking, and hypothetical physics-informed bicycling strategy.

He needs everything in his physical and mental arsenal when he finds himself pursued across NYC by a bike cop and a crooked police detective villainously named Monday (Michael Shannon, who resembles a young Malcolm McDowell both facially and in intensity) in a feature-length chase setup that recalls Night of the Juggler‘s use of the city’s streets.  Like that film, Premium Rush never lets up and, in short, delivers what the title advertises.  5 stars.  Highly recommended entertainment.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Premium Rush is:

5. Multiculturalist.  Wilee receives much-needed aid from a multiracial horde of his bike messenger colleagues.

4. Pro-immigration.  Wilee’s “premium rush” delivery will help a Chinese mother bring her son to the U.S.

3. Multiply pro-miscegenation.

2. Anti-police.  Detective Monday is a vicious, corrupt murderer who abuses his authority.  Other police, even while well-meaning and simply trying to do their jobs, act as pesky antagonists toward the hero throughout the film.

1. Green.  Apart from the glorification of Wilee’s choice of transportation, NYC’s hybrid mass transit system also puts in a cameo.

Reuniting Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel with Meryl Streep, whose performance here is equally good but occupies the opposite end of the female assertiveness scale, Hope Springs is a quality custom vehicle for two veteran actors, the other being a convincingly cynical, pestered, and sour-pussed Tommy Lee Jones as her husband of 31 years.  Can counseling sessions with sensitivity maven Steve Carell put the spice back into what’s left of their dwindling lives?

The trailer is definitely lighter in tone than the actual experience of watching Hope Springs, with many moments of marital mediocrity and sexual despair being genuinely painful to endure.  What’s most remarkable about Hope Springs, though, is that Streep and Jones come through it all with so much dignity intact.  Even as the two are prodded into revealing their intimate foibles and failings and are directed to engage in sexual experimentation by a Daily Show alumnus wearing a series of odd tie choices, they never lose the respect or the intense interest of the viewer.  Commendably, in view of the fact that this is primarily a women’s film, both husband and wife are allowed an equal humanity, and the screenplay, which takes unexpected turns more than once, is as judiciously neutral as can be expected.

Chick flick rules, however, are in effect, which means that men less secure in their masculinity than your reviewer will be embarrassed to enter and exit theaters exhibiting Hope Springs.  Chick flick conventions also dictate occasionally reprehensible music, with the most wince-inducing sequence probably being a montage in which Streep and Jones, having returned from counseling with lingering uncertainties, separately ruminate over whether to give their marriage another chance – a montage, mind you, set to Annie Lennox’s “Why”, which is there to let the women in the audience know that this is serious.

Meryl Streep, even at 63, is an amazingly gorgeous old lady, and her costuming here always captures her at her best, even when she’s supposed to look frumpy and humble.  The bulldog features of Jones, meanwhile, only serve to underscore the depth of Streep’s character’s undying love for her husband, as little else would explain her lust for such a phlegmatic bore.  All that remains to be asked is, now that she’s tamed Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones, which geriatric stud is next on her hit list?  Maybe next time she can reach Stacy Keach or break through Chuck Norris’s emotional blockage and get him to talk and not just kick about his feelings.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Hope Springs is:

3. Pro-gay.  Streep consults a sex manual written by a gay man for straight women – gay men naturally knowing more than women about how to please straight men.

2. Moderately pro-castration.  It’s not enough for men to be men anymore.  They have to go to counseling to discuss intimacy, etc.  The effeminized, empathetic Steve Carell character represents sex role buddhahood in the Hope Springs universe.

1. Pro-marriage, though not without unsettling caveats.

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