Archives for posts with tag: Harvey Keitel

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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.

Part V of The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler in Ideological Content Analysis: A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective of the ICA Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

Unfairly trashed by the consensus critical apparatus on release, this ambitious outing from Adam Sandler goes where few previous comedies have gone with such earnestness of purpose, grappling with the eternal philosophical questions that have given mankind pause over millennia.  Why does evil exist in the universe?  Are there black people in Heaven?  And, most fundamentally, can white men jump – even when descended from the Prince of Darkness himself, and when the spiritual fate of the planet is being played out on the cosmic battlefield of the Harlem Globetrotters court?

Who but Adam Sandler – who, to his credit, manages to keep his face contorted in a comical grimace through every scene – could possibly have brought the heir to the throne of Hell to life in such edifyingly funny fashion while also essaying a bold theological meditation and commentary on the morals of fin-de-siecle America?  The answer – nobody!  Add a bevy of Sandler’s Saturday Night Live buddies including Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Ellen Cleghorne, Kevin Nealon, and Rob Schneider in cameos, stir with a pinch or two of tasty scatalogical humor and outright depravity, and Little Nicky makes for a strange but satisfying brew guaranteed not only to get the audience wasted, but lay their souls to waste as well.

4 out of 5 stars.  Actually a fairly heartwarming experience, Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Little Nicky is underrated, unholy, unashamed, and:

10. Corporate.  Bellicose product placement puts Popeye’s Chicken on the side of the angels.

9. Anti-South.  Nicky more than once jokes that he is from the “Deep South”, thus equating the region with Hell.

8. Pro-gay, at least from the standpoint that all publicity is good publicity.  Clint Howard portrays a grotesque but amusing transvestite.  Also, breasts are made to sprout from Kevin Nealon’s head, which later elicits a favorable remark from Rodney Dangerfield.

7. Multiculturalist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Validating the authenticity of kitsch pictures hanging in the homes of believers of color, Little Nicky depicts a flock of angels of different races.  Hitler receives special (and very unwelcome) attention from Satan in Hell.  A pro-wigger current finds expression in the line, “Popeye’s Chicken is the shiznit.”

6. Drug-ambivalent.  Central to Nicky’s task of taking his errant brothers back to Hell is trapping them in a magical liquor flask, which could be interpreted as suggesting that liquor is the gateway to eternal damnation.  A boy is depicted vomiting after the drinking age is lowered to 10.  Still, “I came for the beer and the bitches,” says a kid at a Globetrotters game, and marijuana-spiked pastries also receive an endorsement.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  Nicky is the spawn of Jewish Satan (Harvey Keitel) and an Anglo-Saxon angel (Reese Witherspoon) and has one black and one white brother (Tiny Lister and Rhys Ifans, respectively).  Carrying on the bestial tradition from Billy Madison, a giant bird vengefully humps pervert John Lovitz.  A demon (Kevin Nealon) and a gorilla also find themselves in the throes of jungle fever.  Dog Mr. Beefy and sewer rat Heather have “five of the ugliest children you’ve ever seen.”  Jew Sandler again goes for the blondes, in this case mousy Patricia Arquette.

4. Anti-Christian.  Quentin Tarantino represents the faithful as a stereotypical blind-eyed fanatical street preacher.  Angels are portrayed as ditzes.  (See also no. 2)

3. Family-ambivalent/anti-marriage/dysfunction-tolerant.  “I love my father very much,” Nicky says, attempting throughout the film to do his father’s bidding and save him from oblivion.  His family is majorly dysfunctional, however, with unmarried parents and abusive brothers constantly scheming against him.  (“Mom and Dad tried dating for awhile, but were unable to deal with a long distance relationship.”)  The sum effect is a normalization of dysfunction.  A churchgoer praises God for his wife’s pregnancy only to be informed that the child is not his.  A baby in a carriage is transformed into an evil midget that attacks its mother.  “You look like my first wife – only she had more hair,” Dangerfield tells the gorilla.  “I’m cheating on my husband with the weather man,” says a reporter.

2. Relativist.  At stake in the story is the balance of power between good and evil, with one no better than the other.  “Why don’t we all just have fun and do whatever we want?”  Most demons are basically decent folks.

1. Racist! – and specifically anti-Semitic, in spite of the thin pretenses of no. 7 above.  Hell is conspicuously inhabited and lorded over by Jews, with Rodney Dangerfield, Harvey Keitel, and Sandler playing three successive Princes of Darkness.  Jon Lovitz also winds up in Hell.  An Asian stereotypically resorts to kung fu against Nicky.  John Witherspoon plays a jive-talking black thief.

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