Archives for posts with tag: kidnapping

10_cloverfield_lane

Nasty woman Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up chained to a cot in survivalist John Goodman’s basement in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a genre-bending experience in the tradition of Cabin in the Woods (2012) and The Signal (2014). Is Winstead, recalling Misery (1990), the prisoner of an obsessive loser who intends to possess her sexually – or is Goodman telling the truth when he claims that he only intends to keep her alive and that the world outside is uninhabitable, that everyone she knows and loves is dead, and that civilization has collapsed after a catastrophic apocalypse? Is it the Russians? The Martians? Or is it just a tall tale to dissuade his uncooperative guest from attempting to escape? Finding out is as frightening and fun as being held captive in John Goodman’s basement!

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 10 Cloverfield Lane is:

4. Alt-media-ambivalent. Goodman is “like a black belt in conspiracy theory”, a mixed bag of a man simultaneously tuned-in and misled as to a number of topics. The fact that, in addition to aliens and Russkies, he is also concerned about “Al Qaeda” seems to suggest that the film is condescendingly and disingenuously conflating neoconservative outlets and various conspiracy-oriented media of varying quality.

3. Anti-redneck. Goodman’s character represents a typical cosmopolitan millennial’s idea of a conservative Republican: a slovenly gun nut, “authoritarian personality”, and “no touching” prude scared of Martians and the prospect of a real-life Red Dawn scenario. He is stuck in a vanished American past, as evidenced by his Frankie Avalon records and VHS collection. The fact that major elements of his assertions turn out to be correct prompts the deliciously implied question at the heart of the film. Which would be more horrifying for a millennial woman – the prospect of an alien invasion that razes everything and everyone she knows, or the possibility that, for all of these years, those hateful, judgmental, beer-bellied, rifle-toting, misogynistic deplorables were right?

2. Disaster-alarmist. Turning viewer expectations upside-down, Goodman’s conspiracy-theory-fueled survivalism comes in handy when the shit really hits the fan. Rather than rejecting extreme preparedness outright, the movie suggests that liberals, rather than pointing and laughing at the conservatives, ought to appropriate such foresight and associated skill sets for themselves. The idea that fashion design could become a survival skill in a post-apocalyptic landscape is no doubt highly appealing to a number of young women and homosexuals with tacky, clashing heaps of student loan debt in the closet.

1. Feminist/anti-family. Goodman presents a negative patriarchal archetype (“I want us to be a happy family.”). Winstead also recounts a traumatic memory of seeing a man cruelly pulling his daughter by the arm and hitting her. Perhaps under the influence of such impressions of family life, she rejects the possibility of reuniting with her boyfriend in order to strike out on her own as a superheroine and save the planet – a choice about which the director, Dan Trachtenberg, expresses a cuckolded you-go-girl enthusiasm in his audio commentary.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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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.

Reclaim

Two rich white liberals pay $100,000 (!) for the dubious privilege of adopting a Haitian refugee girl (Briana Roy) on the black market – only to have her cruelly stolen from them by John Cusack! – in 2014’s Reclaim, which actually develops into a pretty decent thriller if viewers can overlook the epically poor taste of its protagonists, played by Ryan Phillippe and Rachelle Lefevre. Jacki Weaver, whom cinema slummers might remember as Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother in the dully dishonest Parkland (2013), plays another psycho bitch in this film as the ringmistress of the fraudulent adoption agency. Cusack capably extends his range as the scariest of the villains, playing a killer with altogether different mannerisms and background than the man he portrays in The Frozen Ground (2013). Some grimy Puerto Rican location shooting contributes production value, as well.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

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

5. Anti-war. Cusack is a mercenary and an Iraq war veteran whose nihilism, transposed from overseas war zones, draws attention to the unsavoriness of doing business with opaque entities like Blackwater.

4. Teetotaler. Phillippe’s drinking once led to a personal tragedy, so both he and the missus avoid the booze.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Cusack consorts with an icy Asiatic sphinx (Veronica Faye Foo), expressing a preference for Puerto Rican Chinese girls.

2. Anti-gun. A scare comes at the end of the movie when the precious little refugee girl picks up a gun and points it at her adoptive parents. Rather than cautioning Caucasians as to the perils of parenting congoids, however, this scene is intended to vilify the pistol, associating it with the dangers posed to children by private gun ownership.

1. Pro-immigration. Reclaim was made for two reasons, neither of which is the film’s stated purpose of raising awareness about the human trafficking crime wave. The first, of course, is to make some shekels. The only other reason this movie was made is to get whites accustomed to the idea of leaving their civilization in the hands of a posterity that bears zero resemblance to them. Heaven forbid that Europeans procreate! Stupid viewers are invited to find inspiration in the idea of the good-hearted Americans swooping in to rescue the precious pickaninny from Third World squalor and whisk her off to Chicago, where she will no doubt enrich the neighborhood and grow up to energize the local economy. The selection of a French-speaking Haitian girl is deliberate, bestowing upon the character a deceptive veneer of Europeanness and class to convince the audience that blacks and other genetic undesirables can become whites through environmental osmosis.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY EIGHT

A-Walk-Among-the-Tombstones-Poster

As downbeat and depressing as its title suggests, A Walk Among the Tombstones has cop-turned-private-investigator Liam Neeson hired by drug dealer Dan Stevens to track down the sadistic kidnappers who took his money and dismembered his wife. In a development only a Jew could cook up, Neeson commissions a homeless but literate black teen computer whiz, vegetarian, and aspiring detective (Brian “Astro” Bradley) to help him with the case.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is one of those movies that thinks itself edgy for taking its protagonist down the dirty alleyways of the real and into America’s gritty heart of darkness – the netherworld of serial killers, drug dealers, and street-wise African-American youths with hearts of gold and brains bristling with fallow potential. Typical of the film’s pretension are the intercutting of a graveyard shootout with audio from an AA meeting, a pointless reveal of the still-standing World Trade Center at the end, and the closing credits choice of a goofily earnest female vocal rendition of Soundgarden’s grunge hit “Black Hole Sun”.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Walk Among the Tombstones is:

6. Anti-Christian. The drug dealer who hires Neeson is named Kenny Kristo (i.e., Christ) and another dealer (Sebastian Roché) has a cross tattoo on his hand, the subversive meaning of these two associations being that Christianity is like peddled dope.

5. Pro-miscegenation, featuring a relationship between a mestizo and a blonde. “I gather it was a mongrel,” one character says of a canine, adding, “So many of us are.”

4. Anti-gay. The killers, it is insinuated, may be homosexuals.

3. Anti-drug. Traffickers, while portrayed with some sympathy, nonetheless endanger their families with their work, which also brings them under the scrutiny of the DEA. Neeson gives up drinking and joins AA after making a terrible mistake under the influence of alcohol.

2. Anti-gun. Set in 1999, the film shows Neeson reading a newspaper with headline “Gun Sales Rise on News of Y2K”. The implication is that gun owners are doofuses moved by paranoid patriot propaganda and conspiracy theories. When Neeson’s sidekick finds a gun, the hero advises him that he might as well go ahead and blow his head off with it, since that will be the inevitable outcome of a life of amateur pistol-packing. Neeson quit the NYPD after accidentally shooting a girl.

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). In a prologue set in 1991, Neeson calls his partner a “spic”. Though the character never makes an explicit disavowal of racist bigotry, it is implied in the older, wiser Neeson’s tutelage and, it is suggested at the end, adoption of his black sidekick.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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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

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Captain Phillips

An exceptional naval thriller based on the actual 2009 kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips by Somalian pirates, Captain Phillips (2013) marks yet another career highlight for capable star Tom Hanks. Taut, exciting, and scary throughout, the film succeeds largely due to the presence of Hanks in the likable lead. Also contributing to its impact, however, is the presence of such ugly, menacing blacks in the roles of the antagonists, particularly Barkhad Abdi as pirate ringleader Abduwali Muse. Any self-respecting white person watching this movie will be terrified.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Captain Phillips is:

7. Ostensibly egalitarian. As a fig leaf to cover its obviously obscene racism, the film includes a line about how Somalian men have no economic opportunities apart from fishing and piracy, the former option being limited after western fishing vessels have depleted their waters’ stock of fish. The poor, disadvantaged chaps just happened to have the bad luck of growing up in a dangerous environment exacerbated by the West’s capitalist imperialism.

6. Pro-drone. A “Scan Eagle” conducts surveillance as part of the mission to rescue the captain.

5. Pro-family. Phillips’s thoughts are with his family during what may be his last moments on earth.

4. Pro-gun. A valid complaint from the crew is that their ship has no weapons with which to repulse the invaders.

3. Pro-military. Navy SEALs enact the role of the proverbial cavalry coming to the rescue.

2. Neoconservative. Set in March of 2009, shortly after the inauguration of Obama, the film features an early scene in which Phillips exchanges nervous remarks with his wife about the changing nature of the times. In production during the presidential election year of 2012, Captain Phillips benefited from serendipitous onomastic circumstances of the historical Phillips narrative. The Navy dispatches the USS Bainbridge and USS Halyburton to intercept the hijackers and retrieve Captain Phillips. How perfect is that? Bain Capital and Halliburton speed to the rescue of white America, held hostage by African terrorist Muslims just like President Obama! Good thing the U.S. has so much world police man and materiel invested in the Middle East, as well, or else Captain Phillips might not have been saved so quickly – if it all!

1. Racist! Mainstream political discourse disallows Republicans from discussing race in any but the most mincing and counterproductive of terms. Suppressed neoconservative racism, consequently, can only express itself as hatred of foreign Muslims or else encrypt itself as is the case with the thinly veiled subtext of Captain Phillips. A ship is a world unto itself, and just as the prison vessel in Escape Plan (2013) works as a floating microcosm of the American police state, so the Maersk Alabama functions as a representation of an American polity subject to a demographic shit-hurricane. Just as Bull Connor, Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety during the 60s, tried to be civil and used restraint in only hosing revolting congoids who invaded his community, so the moderate captain of the Maersk Alabama hopes to stave off the pirate attack by holding their boat at bay with his ship’s several powerful hoses. As Montgomery fell to the blacks, however, the Alabama is boarded and occupied by the party of Africans.

“Is this how you do business?” Phillips asks as the invaders brandish their weapons. The pirates, like American blacks, take from others to further their parasitic mode of living. Like American blacks, too, they are never satisfied. After flash-mobbing the ship and being offered $30,000 to leave, they demand millions more and take a hostage to ensure that they receive it. (“When we get paid, everything gon be OK.”) Negotiation with the savages – in other words, more political moderation and compromise, disingenuous dialogue, hand-wringing, and flattery, as Phillips advises his men to “make them feel like they’re in charge” – is of course futile, and only results in the good-natured captain being kidnapped. A third vessel participating in the Phillips rescue mission along with the USS Bainbridge and USS Halyburton is the USS Boxer, significantly a “Wasp-class” amphibious assault ship, a designation further emphasizing the racially informed nature of the conflict. The Somalian pirates – again, like America’s blacks – are prone to self-pity and bickering, prompting Captain Phillips in a moment of candor to tell them, “Your problem is you.”

The lesson to be had from Captain Phillips? Communities, like ships, should be armed and ready to fight to keep out the undesirables.

Ride Along

Ice Cube plays straight man to clownish Kevin Hart in Ride Along, a decent urban action-comedy set in the mean streets of Atlanta, Georgia. School security guard and police force aspirant Ben (Hart) is in love and intends to marry his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter). Unfortunately for him, Angela’s hard-nosed top cop brother James (Cube) thinks Ben is a punk with no potential. Ben hopes that admission into the police academy will change his prospective brother-in-law’s opinion of him, but James is having none of it and decides to take Ben out for a ride along, a training day of sorts, with the intention of scaring the piss out of the weasel and getting him out of his life and away from his sister for good.

Ride Along benefits immensely from stone-faced, masculine Cube’s presence in the driver’s seat, while his smoldering, in-yo-face attitude makes the perfect foil for Hart’s lightweight ridiculousness. The latter’s antics grow on the viewer over the course of the film; but Hart still comes across as something like a poor man’s Chris Tucker, so that one wishes a livelier, more monkey-like, and facially animated performer like Tucker or Marlon Wayans had been cast in the key comic role. Laurence Fishburne collects a paycheck in a smallish part as crime kingpin Omar, while third-billed John Leguizamo (thankfully) has even less screen time.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ride Along gets extra brownie points for including an Action Jackson reference and that it is:

7. Pro-family. James is fond of his sister and puts Ben through hell only out of a sense of protectiveness.

6. Drug-ambivalent. The morphine pumped into Ben to treat his gunshot wound is played for laughs, and Cheech and Chong are visible on a television screen in another scene. Alcohol, however, is bad news and could prevent a brother from playing basketball.

5. Feminist. Damsel-in-distress Angela frees herself from her bonds and gives some assistance to the boys with her frying pan. She also proves to be a natural at Ben’s first-person shooter game.

4. Neoconservative and anti-Slav. Ben does his part for the War on Terror by fighting the Taliban in his favorite video game. James is out to stop some Serbian gunrunners from providing Omar with the firepower he needs to take over Atlanta.

3. Statist/anti-gun. Ben, demonstrating Hollywood’s contention that the average Joe has no business with a gun in his hand, makes a fool of himself with a shotgun, giving the lie to the pro-gun poster behind him at the firing range. Security at the range is overly lax and Ben walks out with one of their guns. James, presumably the sort of government agent who, in Ride Along‘s view, should have the benevolently despotic monopoly on firearms, does his badge proud by engaging in a bit of glorified police brutality, slamming a shopkeeper’s head into a counter for no good reason.

2. Anti-police. Half the Atlanta police force is crooked, which would seem to conflict with the message intimated in no. 3.

1. Black supremacist. “I’m the brains. You’re the brawns,” James informs two fellow officers. White kids are a bad influence on an impressionable black youth, who could easily grow up to be a wino just by hanging out with them, Ben admonishes.

Homefront

Viewers are encouraged to do what they can to endure a disorienting first five minutes or so of prologue material shot in spazvision, as Homefront quickly shapes up to be an exciting suspense vehicle for leading limey Jason Statham. Screenwriter-producer Sylvester Stallone has written a human and involving winner for his fellow Expendables  alumnus, who profits in presence by playing something more substantial than Rambo’s globe-trotting sidekick.

Statham is quietly tough in his role of recent widower Phil Broker, a veteran of Interpol and the DEA who tries to make a new life for himself and his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) in a rural Louisiana community. Unfortunately for them, a schoolyard incident escalates into a dangerous situation involving meth manufacturer Gator (James Franco) and one vengeful ghost from Broker’s past.

At stake throughout and uppermost in the audience’s apprehensions is the safety of the innocent Maddy, so that portions of Homefront recall Cape Fear or Taken with its story of a loving but serious-minded and violently protective father. As in Taken, the hero is rather too impervious – getting shot, beaten up, nearly drowned, and car-wrecked are only momentary setbacks for the formidable Broker – but Homefront‘s momentum is such that its excesses might just as well be the sparks of its incendiary potential.

James Franco is as scary as Gator as he was as Alien in Spring Breakers, while Kate Bosworth fumes with bitchy toxicity as Cassie, the meth-head Lady Macbeth of the piece. Izabela Vidovic is a sophisticated young actress and deserves credit for making the little girl at the heart of the story an interesting character. Also in the cast is Winona Horowitz (alias Ryder), who appears to skanky effect as Gator’s main squeeze Sheryl.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Homefront is:

7. Racist! Sacrificial Negro rules of survival are clearly in effect.

6. Feminist. Maddy handily dispatches a big boy bully at school.

5. Anti-police. A corrupt sheriff (Clancy Brown) turns a blind eye to Gator’s business.

4. Pro-gun. A solid stock of firepower comes in handy when a man has to defend his castle.

3. Anti-redneck/pro-N.W.O. The locals are throwbacks to hillbilly days, complete with feuding clans. What they need is a good dose of civilized one-world-government whoop-ass from somebody with a foreign accent!

2. Pro-family. Notwithstanding no. 6, Homefront does showcase a touching father-daughter relationship.

1. Anti-drug. Drug dealers appear as deplorable people. Gator, the dastard, has even turned his own sister into an addict.

Public Ransom

A psychological quasi-thriller for the Clerks crowd, A Public Ransom stars Carlyle Edwards as Steven, an unemployed fiction writer, self-described “twat”, and moocher who gets an idea for a story when he spots an unusual, crayon-scrawled notice about a missing child. Hoping to do some research for his fiction, Steven calls the number on the poster and gets into contact with a mysterious man named Bryant (Goodloe Byron). It never occurs to Steven, a bored and callous intellectual, that a real person might actually have been kidnapped, but that is exactly what Bryant nonchalantly admits to doing. Steven is informed that he has two weeks to produce $2,000, or else the little girl is going to be killed. Steven, preferring to believe that the whole affair is a prank – and yet perturbed by what seems to be Bryant’s story’s authenticity – sets to composing “A Public Ransom”, selfishly hoping for the best. The premise is a bit outlandish, but after all requires only the viewer’s belief in an individual of extreme eccentricity and sadistic inspiration, of which history offers more than a few examples.

A Public Ransom is as dark a film as one is likely to see this year. The viewer must endure the uncomfortable tactile presence of waste and moral grime and spend time with unappealing characters. The film makes other demands of its audience, as well: to be patient, enjoy joylessness, and find entertainment and tension in such sights as a guy in a t-shirt sitting alone and talking to somebody on the phone; a guy in a plaid shirt sitting alone and talking to somebody on the phone; and a guy who, to the untrained eye, appears to be sitting at a table, doing absolutely nothing. Fortunately, Carlyle Edwards is an actor who can make such moments not only tolerable but interesting. The strongest, most haunting scene in A Public Ransom has solitary Steven waiting at a bus stop in the middle of the night, with nothing but the sound of the void around him.

A Public Ransom advertises the influence of Jim Jarmusch, with the poster for Stranger than Paradise visible on Steven’s wall. Like Jarmusch, director Pablo D’Stair’s film shows a fondness for static shots and the intermingling of the strange and mundane; but it is not nearly as outsized or as affected in its weirdness. The sharp, icy exchanges between Steven and Bryant are highlights and filled with the loudest silence. Elsewhere, music is superfluous and annoying and hurts scenes that would have been better served without adornment. One crucial dialogue at the end of the film is damaged by the less-than-convincing performance of Helen Bonaparte, who plays Steven’s platonic friend Rene. These failings, however, temporarily mitigate rather than sabotage the story’s overall effectiveness. Never in recent memory has the disclaimer that “The preceding film is a work of fiction” been so reassuring. Or is it?

4 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Public Ransom is:

3. Tobacco-ambivalent. A cigarette serves as the death-teasing prop of a vulgar and frustrated ne’er-do-well who nevertheless cuts a sophisticated figure while smoking and gesticulating with it.

2. Un-p.c. Steven makes liberal use of words like “cunt”, “bitch”, and “slut”, and says that Bryant looks “retarded”.

1. Anti-feminist. Rene’s “militant feminism”, Steven informs her, “keeps the elusive gentleman caller from the doorknocker – that, you know, long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.” The fact that the creepy Bryant is apparently representative of the sort of men who make themselves available to Rene would seem to corroborate Steven’s claim. Even more devastatingly, Steven himself, in his worthlessness, illustrates the undying crime done to this civilization by feminism. In the absence of actual ladies (i.e., women of decent behavior, moral merit, and femininity), men have much less motivation and warrant to be polite, to advance themselves (“Work is a cunt,” Steven gripes), or to give the weaker sex the respect they have come to demand instead of earn. Women no longer inspire in men (as Jack Nicholson’s character puts it in As Good as It Gets) the necessary desire to become better men. The result, of course, is suggested by the working title of Steven’s story: “A Society of Fiends”.

[A Public Ransom can be seen at Vimeo, and more information is available here.]

bullet_to_the_head

Action specialist Walter Hill has always had a fondness for hero odd couples, a formula the director exploited with memorably entertaining results in 48 Hrs., Red Heat, and Another 48 Hrs.; and now Hill returns to the genre in triumph with Bullet to the Head, the director’s first feature film in many years, but a worthy addition to his impressive filmography and well worth the protracted wait.

Bullet to the Head is a near-perfect showcase for the haggard and frightening gravitas of over-the-hill Sylvester Stallone, who as cynical but likable hit man Jimmy “Bobo” Bonomo looks as chiseled, sleepy-eyed, and casually homicidal as ever, his voice so inhumanly deep and guttural that it sounds as if he has a football-sized phlegm wad and a few shell fragments lodged behind his chest. Veins protrude from his arms like earthworms writhing under the flesh of this man so old he seems just as likely to keel over dead from petrifaction as lash out and take off an enemy head.

But fortunately for action fans, Bobo makes it through the flick and takes out the trash in classic style, gunning for the gangsters and dirty cops who double-crossed him and killed his partner and teaming up for the purpose with D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), whose own investigation of a fellow officer’s murder has led him to Bobo’s own New Orleans. Sung Kang packs about as much charisma as stale tofu, but his presence allows for politically incorrect fun-poking from Stallone along the sarcastic lines of, “Nice goin’, Oddjob” and “Why don’t you go read some fuckin’ tea leaves?” The generational-technological gap between the two is also effective, recalling the dynamic between Bruce Willis and Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard.

The culprits turn out to be high-rollers Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a cane-pimping African emigre with a knowledge of classical literature (of course!), and his sleazy associate Marcus Baptiste, played by Christian Slater, who seems to have transitioned gracefully enough from weaselly 80s alt-heartthrob roles to weaselly middle-aged bad guys. Bobo himself, meanwhile, is also being hunted by mercenary Keegan (Jason Momoa), a mean-eyed menace whose constant scowling is reminiscent of Ed O’Ross’s turn in Red Heat.

Bullet to the Head makes a decent (if perhaps too-obvious) effort to give its story a bit of the spice and flavor of its New Orleans setting, and a sassy blues score by Steve Mazzaro sets the unpretty tone of the film, with Sarah Shahi furnishing skank appeal as Bobo’s bastard tattoo artist daughter. But the main attraction here is always Sylvester Stallone. In addition to getting into a brutal Turkish bath fight, Stallone has a climactic, adrenaline-pumping axe duel with Momoa that earned the movie an extra half-star from this reviewer. Truly an experience to elicit affirmative Tim Allen chimp grunts from seasoned remote control warriors everywhere, Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head is aggressively recommended to proud dick owners only.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Bullet to the Head is:

11. Sexist! One of Bobo’s rules as a hit man is “no women, no children”. A modern, sexually enlightened, and gender-blind gentleman would be just as eager to kill marked women as men. The climactic confrontation involves a damsel in distress.

10. Anti-Christian. A foul-mouthed, coke-and-booze-binging jerk (Holt McCallany) wears a crucifix. One of the villains is named Baptiste.

9. Anti-redneck. “I don’t trust that redneck prick.”

8. Pro-gay. Lesbians tango at a costume ball.

7. Anti-Slav. As in Pain and Gain, The Heat, and A Good Day to Die Hard, the Slavic woman is defined by sleaze.

6. Pro-torture. Sadism is an asset in interrogating a captive.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Bobo is a heavy drinker, but is no less effective for it. His daughter’s mother is a dead junkie hooker. (see also no. 10)

4. Un-p.c. Bobo calls Kwon “Confucius”, etc.

3. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Kwon hooks up with Bobo’s daughter. New Orleans appears as a happy (albeit catastrophically corrupt) multiracial city, with blacks and whites mingling to hear some jazz.

2. Anti-police. Wooed by graft, cops become killers.

1. Anti-state/anti-cronyism. Motivating much of the killing is Morel’s plan to knock down poor (presumably black) people’s housing and throw up condominiums. “This goes way up, man. We’re talkin’ ’bout Washington.”

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