Archives for posts with tag: Fargo

bone-tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is the real deal: a gritty, unapologetic – or, anyway, not overly apologetic – portrait of a time when western civilization’s future was secured with sacrifice and with blood and when subhuman savagery met with the requisite repercussions. Patrick Wilson, in a winning and physically demanding role, plays Arthur O’Dwyer, an injured cowboy whose broken leg is the last thing on his mind when wife Samantha (Lili Simmons) is abducted by “troglodytes” – a pack of cannibalistic cave-dwelling Indians straight out of a horror movie.

Joining O’Dwyer on the ride into savage territory to rescue Samantha are rock-solid Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell, more mature but just as badass as in Tombstone), gentleman Indian killer Mr. Brooder (Matthew Fox, who thankfully has a more dignified role than as the honky serial killer hunted by Madea in Alex Cross), and elderly, slow-witted backup deputy Chicory (Killing Them Softly’s Richard Jenkins, filling the Walter Brennan type sidekick role). Kurt Russell is Bone Tomahawk’s star power, but Jenkins practically steals the movie with his endearingly goofy interpretation of Chicory. Lili Simmons is perhaps never entirely convincing as a woman of the nineteenth century; but every member of the ensemble cast is entitled to ample applause.

Bone Tomahawk is as fine a contribution to the western genre as the present century has made; but viewers hoping for something as wholesome as Shane or even The Searchers are likely to find that Bone Tomahawk makes some fairly extreme demands on audience stomachs with its graphic and gory depictions of the troglodytes’ atrocities. This astounding outing was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, a man whose slim résumé would hardly suggest that his first movie as a director would be such an undisputable masterpiece. “I believe those fleas are alive – and talented,” Chicory says in fond remembrance of a flea circus he once attended; and similar words could characterize this grumpy reviewer’s experience of watching Bone Tomahawk – which, if nothing else, demonstrates that the perverted parasites of the movie industry can from time to time still create a thing of actual beauty and earn the money they grab from the goyim.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Bone Tomahawk is well worth seeing and:

4. Flat-Earther! The flatness of the terrain crossed by the posse causes Chicory to give voice to his doubt about the roundness of the planet.

3. Pro-marriage. Bone Tomahawk presents multiple touching examples of loving marriages. It is O’Dwyer’s devotion to his wife that drives him to drag himself to the end of his adventure.

2. Christian. Characters dismissive of faith are disproportionately the ones who meet with unpleasant ends. “You can always sell ‘em to some idiot,” doomed thief David Arquette says in defense of the Bible. The likable Chicory is a Christian, as is O’Dwyer, who calls on God for strength as he drags his tired body toward what threatens to be a suicidal raid on the troglodytes’ lair. “This is what I prayed my whole life for – for help right now.” He crosses himself on finding his wife still alive, his faith in God’s existence seeming to have been confirmed. Sid Haig’s bandit, who hypocritically demands that the Bible be treated with respect while he goes about cutting sleeping men’s throats and steals their possessions, does, however, illustrate that mere profession of Christianity is no definite indication of merit.

1. Racist! The only advantage the “four doomed men” of the posse have against the troglodytes, Sheriff Hunt announces, is that they are smarter than the subhumans. The cave-dwellers are grotesque, with animal bone piercings, and, in addition to being cannibals, blind and incapacitate their females, using them only for reproduction. This is implicitly contrasted with the comparatively high standing women have enjoyed in western civilization. The men of the frontier town of Bright Hope are respectful toward Mrs. O’Dwyer, who has even been able to study medicine and doctor the locals. Women of the twenty-first century, Bone Tomahawk would seem to suggest, would probably not be wise in welcoming white men’s eclipse in the world. Perhaps to mitigate the white-vs.-brown premise, the troglodytes appear smeared in a whitish clay pigment; while, in another ass-covering gesture, the movie includes a distinguished Indian character called “The Professor” (Fargo Season 2’s Zahn McClarnon) who explains that the troglodytes are inbred and “something else entirely” from typical Native Americans.

Brooder, who remains an arrogant but nonetheless likable character throughout the film, shoots two Mexicans who approach the posse’s camp, suspecting them of being the scouts for a raid. “Mr. Brooder just educated two Mexicans on the meaning of Manifest Destiny,” Chicory explains to O’Dwyer, who asks if they deserved it. “I don’t know,” Chicory answers with meaningful ambiguity. An ethnomasochist in the audience at a question-and-answer session with the cast and crew (included on the DVD as an extra) refers to Brooder as a psychopath; but nothing whatsoever in the film suggests this. Brooder is a good and ultimately selfless man in spite of what Chicory anachronistically characterizes as his “bigotry”. There is an awareness and an appreciation in Bone Tomahawk that in the construction of civilizations, unpleasant actions must sometimes be taken so that the greater good can be secured.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

killer joe

Whereas 2006’s Bug was an interestingly novel but frustrating film, this second collaboration between playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts and director William Friedkin is an essentially perfect work of art and probably the greatest product of Friedkin’s career – which, in view of the fact that said career also includes The French Connection and The Exorcist, is praise of an unusually high magnitude.  An ironical study of human folly and avarice in the mode of the Coens’ Fargo, but resembling Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, Sling Blade, or No Country for Old Men more in its climate and milieu, Killer Joe is an elegantly and wickedly realized adaptation of a crime story in the pulpy and noirish tradition, and is brought to wonderful, vibrant life by the year’s finest assemblage of actors.

A stylized black comedy focusing on a Texas white trash family, Killer Joe surprises in not approaching its subjects with the expected Hollywood condescension, but in allowing even the dumbest and sleaziest characters their due degree of human dignity and consideration.  Emile Hirsch plays Chris Smith, a loser and gambler deep in debt to loan shark Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay).  His not-so-bright solution is to hire a hitman, policeman Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), to kill his divorced good-for-nothing mother and collect on her life insurance policy.  Chris’s dimwitted father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), childish, enigmatic sister Dottie (Juno Temple), and whorish step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) are willing to go along with the plan; but when Chris and Ansel are unable to meet the killer’s condition of pay up front, Joe decides to take Dottie as his “retainer”.  This being a noir world, nothing goes as planned.

In The Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) explains that, “the human race is divided into two distinct and irreconcilable groups: those that walk into rooms and automatically turn television sets on, and those that walk into rooms and automatically turn them off.”  Joe Cooper, in Shaw’s paradigm, is the serious man, the one who always walks into a room and switches off (or smashes) the television.  “I’m real,” he says to Dottie.  Joe is also an increasingly threatening and problematic figure for the Smith family, particularly after he shows himself content to keep his “retainer” indefinitely.

Killer Joe is insightfully cast.  Emile Hirsch is an obviously foredoomed man from the moment he first appears, while Matthew McConaughey displays a surprisingly icy, intimidating side.  Thomas Haden Church is both hilarious and melancholic, and quirky Juno Temple may have the prettiest, sweetest face and voice on the planet, the perfect sexual foil for scarily masculine Joe.  Gina Gershon is a national treasure and has the potential in coming years to become something approximating her generation’s Karen Black.  One of the great sexpots of the 1990s, her charisma and animal appeal remain undiminished; her age, if anything, has enhanced her capacity for juicy character parts, so that one can only look forward to the roles of her further maturity.

Gershon’s instantaneously immortal and deservedly notorious fried chicken moment is only one of many evidences of Killer Joe‘s unwillingness to pull its punches or compromise.  A violent film that in no way glorifies violence, Killer Joe‘s view of the human condition is a sophisticatedly absurdist one, with the chicken scene being the most grotesquely brilliant depiction of proxy object fellatio since Roger Watkins’s Last House on Dead End Street.   Whether the scene is gratuitously cruel and intended for mere shock value, or whether it rather has some thematic relevance and meaning is something viewers should enjoy contemplating for themselves, and will probably (or at least ought to) be a point of reference for film fans in perpetuity, much in the same way that the backwoods rape in Deliverance or the nuclear bomb ride in Dr. Strangelove have entered the cultural psyche.

One of the best films of 2012, Killer Joe receives five stars and the highest possible recommendation.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that the film is:

5. Pro-drug.  Use and trade in illegal drugs is a reality of average Americans’ lives and as casual a recreational comfort as beer.

4. Neurosis-critical.  Obsessive health consciousness and the ubiquity of empty sexual imagery have turned America into a basket case, with fast food, consequently, becoming the new pornography.

3. Anti-Christian.  The unthinking invocations of Jesus and God; the crucifixes decorating Ansel and Sharla’s trailer; the rote and meaningless funeral ceremony for a woman whose death was welcomed by the attendees – all are representative only of the obviously ineffectual superficiality of these people’s beliefs.

2. Anti-slut.  Sharla is in for some major pain and hideous humiliation.

1. Anti-state/anti-police.  Dallas police officer Joe moonlights as a hitman and says he likes vicious loan shark Digger.  The ease with which Chris acquires a gun illegally serves as a reminder of the futility of gun control legislation.

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