Archives for posts with tag: Deer Crossing

out_of_the_furnace_poster

Christian Bale racks up another career highlight performance as Russell Baze, a good but deeply flawed man at the end of his tether in Out of the Furnace, a strong, deeply American film from writer-director-to-watch Scott Cooper. Baze is an endearing dead-end ex-con and mill worker who, in a relationship reminiscent of that between Keitel and DeNiro in Mean Streets, attempts to look out for his war-damaged deadbeat brother Rodney (Casey Affleck). Rodney is in debt but uninterested in conventional employment, leading to his involving himself in the dangerous world of underground fighting.

Out of the Furnace stands as a stark statement that the American Dream is deceased. Its rust belt setting rings all too true, and a barroom television moment more subtle than a similar scene in 2012’s Killing Them Softly shows that Obama’s hope-and-change rhetoric has no reality for the typical working (or unemployed) stiff. Out of the Furnace is a film of its time and timely, its story enthralling, with each frame carrying fascination and a feeling of immediate importance.

Those who enjoy tense, earthy family dramas and character studies with gritty, realistic settings – movies like Sling Blade, Mud, or The Place Beyond the Pines – are certain to appreciate Out of the Furnace, which, in addition to the showcased character creation of Christian Bale, features sharp supporting performances from Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, and Willem Dafoe. Deserving special recognition, furthermore, is Woody Harrelson, frightening light-years from Cheers here as hillbilly drug kingpin Harlan DeGroat. Harrelson’s hot dog moment in the opening scene sets the grotesque, tenebrous tone of the film and constitutes the most shocking piece of fast food humiliation since the fried chicken scene in 2011’s Killer Joe.

5 stars. Highest recommendation.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Out of the Furnace is:

7. Diversity-skeptical. In one of his underground fights, Rodney is pitted against a black thug who taunts him, calling him “white boy” and mocking his military service. Pleasantly, Rodney makes a comeback and gives this rascal a vicious and racially charged beatdown.

6. Antiwar. Rodney comes back from Iraq as an angry and alienated man.

5. Protectionist. The mill is scheduled to be shut down, with American jobs exported to China.

4. Pro-miscegenation. Notwithstanding no. 7, Russell is in love with brown beauty Lena (Zoe Saldana), but loses her after his stint in the pen.

3. Anti-drug. Drunk driving lands Russell in prison. Harder stuff turns Harlan DeGroat into a maniac.

2. Anti-redneck. Harlan DeGroat is the scariest white trash bad guy since Deer Crossing‘s Lukas Walton.

1. Pro-family. Russell Baze is driven by his devotion to his family, caring as best he can for his sick father and brother while both are still alive, and diligently avenging them after they are gone.

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Skew, a low-budget POV horror that ought to satisfy viewers still hungry for more of what last year’s V/H/S had to offer, opens with a quotation from Balzac to the effect that photography, not limiting itself to documenting reality, actually takes something away, somehow diminishing the subject.

When Simon (Rob Scattergood), one of three twenty-or-thirtysomethings on a road trip en route to a wedding, finds that his camcorder makes unsettling revelations about the people around him, the question then becomes whether the camera is only conveying something invisible to the naked eye, or is actually creating the misfortunes that dog the trio on their trip.  The camera becomes an obsession for Simon, to the point that he is unable to tear himself away from it and feels compelled to film every moment of his day.  Companions Rich (Richard Olak) and Rich’s girlfriend Eva (Amber Lewis) are made increasingly uncomfortable by Simon’s fixation and claims of fleeting visions, a situation made more volatile by his ambiguous feelings toward Eva.

Skew is usually more engrossing than a moody, shakily photographed study of three foul-mouthed underachievers ought to be, and manages a mild, attention-sustaining eeriness.  3 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Skew is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3. Animal rights militant.  As in Deer Crossing, roadkill can only mean an albatross and trouble ahead.  Skew goes as far as to feature two albatrosses, a coyote and a deer, both hit by automobiles.  The occupants of the offending vehicle must pay.

2. Anti-family/anti-marriage.  Simon blames his parents for depriving him of his childhood memories by not taking any pictures of him.  Unmarried, childless cohabitation is the order of the day.  A tourist trap display of the world’s most humongous pot and dish represents articles of domesticity as absurdly imposing behemoths.  Traveling to a wedding becomes the occasion for the characters’ doom.  Rich, an atheist, says he only believes in the here and now and in family and friends before being murdered by his friend.

1. Neo-Luddite.  Technology is evil and haunted.  Cameras kill, buses crash, and cars slaughter wildlife.  Reality television, by filtering life through an electronic lens, is in fact a paradoxical proposition in that it skews reality in the act of documentation.

deer crossing

A scabrous, wilfully unpleasant film, Deer Crossing wallows in the worst that humanity has to offer.  Perhaps best described as Bad Day at Black Rock meets I Spit on Your Grave, Christian Jude Grillo’s paranoid death trip into the redneck post-apocalypse that constitutes the U.S.A. outside New York, L.A., and Chicago (at least in the minds of those who live in New York, L.A., and Chicago) is a marginally recommendable film for one outstanding reason: K.J. Linhein’s Zeus-like portrayal of the granddaddy of all sadistic white trash antagonists, Santa-bearded superhick Lukas Walton.

So over-the-top it has to be seen by any admirer of things ludicrously compelling, the characterization dares to evoke what foul thing might have been spawned the night Dan Haggerty got drunk, hogtied Wilford Brimley, pumped him full of heroin, and had himself a high old time.  Lukas is basically Democrats’ idea of the typical Republican: a hulking, hairy, overalls-clad figure from distant antiquity who licks his chops at the thought of oppressing women and children and runs amuck in benighted cultural wastelands like Texas and Alabama; a gun-toting rapist and hater of all humanity, but especially African-Americans, and who will destroy us all if he/it is not stopped.

Deer Crossing takes up with old Lukas after he captures and reconditions city mother Maggie Chancelor (Laura L. Cottrel) and her young son Cole (Kevin Fennell) as the playthings of his inscrutable, primitive whims after they hit a deer on the highway and fatefully crash their car in Lukas’s neck of Deliveranceland.  Eight years will pass before the father, Dr. Chancelor (Warren Hemenway), receives evidence that his missing wife and child may still be alive.  If they are, does he want to know?  If so, his son will have lived more than half of his life in a milieu altogether removed that of Dr. Chancelor.

Is Deer Crossing a contribution to the environment vs. genetics debate or just a greasy middle finger directed at every cowboy hat in sight?  At times the film seems deadly serious; but then Lukas Walton will lope into view and elicit a laugh with his hillbilly hijinks.  The exaggerated quality of the characters and situations is constantly at odds with what seems to be Deer Crossing‘s desire to be taken in earnest.  Sunless, despairing, and silly, but also entertaining, the film is a kind of One-Eyed Jack whose belches and mumbled obscenities invite interpretation.

Christopher Mann, who stars as Detective Derrick Stanswood, seems comfortable in the role of the black man hated because he thrives.  Pinhead himself, Hellraiser‘s Doug Bradley, appears as Sheriff Lock, who – odd for a rural Pennsylvania lawman – sports a futilely wrestled British accent.  Among the other locals are callous cowboy-hat-and-eyepatch-wearing homosexual racketeer Randy (Tom Detrik) and drug-peddling madam and hairdresser Gail (Jennifer Butler).  Ernie Hudson, meanwhile, collects a paycheck by showing up in a couple of scenes as Captain Bailey.

3.5 probably overly generous stars of a possible 5.  Only the most tenebrous sense of humor is likely to endure, let alone enjoy, Grillo’s study.  Ideological Content Analysis, meanwhile, indicates that Deer Crossing is:

7. Anti-Christian.  A cross is visible on a sweaty redneck’s tacky shirt as he sodomizes a male prostitute.

6. Anti-drug.  Lukas keeps Maggie doped so he can have fun with her.  Sheriff Lock is an addict.

5. Anti-marriage.  If your spouse becomes a vegetable, it’s just a depressing hassle.  Better is when they go missing, particularly if there’s a mistress waiting in the hospital wings to become wife #2.

4. Anti-gay.  Because sodomy in the world of this film is the province of sexually inadequate white males and self-loathing backwoods hicks, it is evil and a symptom of moral rot.

3. Black supremacist.  If not for competent cops like Detective Stanswood and Captain Bailey, police departments across the country would be run by goofy, giggly white imbeciles like Detective Kushman (Phil Eichinger).

2. Animal rights militant.  Maggie should have watched the road and never hit that deer.  Her ordeal is her punishment, nature’s manifest wrath in hillbilly form for the sacrificial albatross.  Rural hunting traditions are transformed into the pointless stabbing of a rabbit trapped in a box.

1. Anti-white male/anti-redneck.  Deer Crossing admonishes city-dwellers that, not far outside their small pockets of civilization are seas of woods infested with “inbred, mullet-wearing motherfuckers”.

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