Archives for posts with tag: marriage-ambivalent

Assault-On-Wall-Street-Dominic-Purcell

Prolific writer-producer-director Uwe Boll, best known for notoriously reviled horror films like House of the Dead (2003) and Alone in the Dark (2005), now taps into understandable populist rage at the crony capitalist establishment with the depressing Assault on Wall Street. Powerfully built Dominic Purcell, something of a poor man’s Clive Owen, stars as down-on-his-luck security guard Jim Baxford, who, after losing his job and his wife (Erin Karpluk) following her protracted illness and financial anxiety suicide, decides to diversify his portfolio with a little vigilante vengeance directed at the seemingly untouchable high-rollers and bankster exploiters he holds collectively responsible for his personal tragedy.

Purcell is adequately tough and earnest, if not particularly interesting, in the lead; but it is in two key supporting roles that Assault on Wall Street shows true inspiration in casting. An aging John Heard is the perfect choice to play number one on Baxford’s hit list: selfish, nihilistic toxic investment CEO Jeremy Stancroft. Even greasier, however, in a role one wishes had been expanded, is uber-oily Eric Roberts as money-grubbing attorney Patterson. Roberts has aged, if not quite gracefully, then fascinatingly, with a uniquely silverfish-like screen presence that ideally lends itself to high villainy. Other familiar faces in the cast include Keith David, Edward Furlong, and Michael Pare as Baxford’s buddies Freddy, Sean, and Frank.

Assault on Wall Street is a decent rental, but may disappoint vigilante fans by spending too much time (nearly an hour) on the humiliating build-up and not enough on the retribution so temptingly advertised in the title. Consequently, it earns a modest 3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Assault on Wall Street is:

11. Pro-police. Cops are depicted as human types who share in the general plight and sympathize with Baxford’s mission.

10. Anti-slut. “I’m gonna get an STD from this sandwich,” Frank teases a waitress. Corporate bigwigs consort with whores.

9. Christ-ambivalent. While a preacher attempts consolation, mouthing, “God visits us with many mysteries in life,” Baxford rather takes to heart more militant Biblical passages such as, “He trains my hands for war” (cf. nos. 1 and 7)

8. Marriage-ambivalent. Baxford’s marriage is a devoted one and would, if not for her illness and his financial worries, be happy. Friend Frank’s wife, however, is a cheater.

7. Antiwar. Baxford is a veteran forgotten in his time of need by the country that used him. In reply to the idea that violence is not a solution, a caller to a radio program asks, “Isn’t violence the official solution in Iraq and Afghanistan?” (cf. nos. 1 and 9)

6. Postracial, with blacks and whites interacting as friends irrespective of racial differences. And to demonstrate that his is an equal opportunity beef, Baxford even liquidates a few blacks along with the many white guys in suits and ties.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Baxford smokes philosophically and his friends are enthusiastic drinkers. “Let’s go get some alcohol, make the pain go away.” Baxford, in the wake of his personal ruin, is invited to “watch the game and do some serious drinkin'” for therapeutic purposes. But a man is claimed in a news report to have died in a “drunken accident”.

4. Anti-state. The cronyist statist quo, or the “plutocratic capturing of American politics”, transcends Republican vs. Democrat squabbles, with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Chris Dodd, and Alan Greenspan getting name-dropped as culpable players. At a lower level of weaselliness, Assistant D.A. Marwood (Barclay Hope) insensitively brushes off Baxford’s concerns. That Baxford is able to purchase military wares from a black market gun dealer (Clint Howard) militates against the notion that government-mandated gun control is effective or enforceable. Betraying the movie’s mixed messages about the place of government, however, is the fact that deregulation is also blamed for the ’08 collapse.

3. Anti-corporate. “The real fuckin’ criminals –  they’re downtown [i.e., on Wall Street].” Goldman Sachs, MF Global, Cerberus Capital, JP Morgan, and Lehman Brothers are among the outfits that receive negative product placement.

2. Anti-capitalistic. “System’s rigged, motherfucker.” Told “Fuck you,” a banker calmly replies, “That’s a fair response, I suppose.” Free market talk conceals an “anything goes mentality”. “The rich still get richer and the poor get poorer.” Stancroft justifies his misdeeds with a social Darwinist outlook. “That’s the free trade system, my friend,” he says. “That’s capitalism.” “There’s not a person on this earth who’s worth over a hundred million dollars that came by that money honestly.” The film also evinces a naive sympathy for the homeless, juxtaposing their plight with the ease of the leisure class.

1. Pro-vigilante. Baxford is his own law, but also a people’s fury, and wears an Anonymous-reminiscent white mask for the final killing spree.

gut poster

Gut is a study of two friends, nondescript Tom (Jason Vail) and nerdy Dan (Nicholas Wilder), who have known each other from adolescence and now work together in stultifying office jobs.  Tom has graduated to conventional domesticity, with an attractive wife (Sarah Schoofs) and child, while Dan appears to be charmingly stuck in goofy immaturity, more interested in consuming horror movies and junk food than in making anything identifiably adult out of his life.  When Tom develops an enigmatic case of ennui that threatens to drive a further wedge between the two men, who have clearly lost a previous closeness, Dan makes the seemingly harmless but actually momentous suggestion that Tom should visit his home to watch an unusual DVD he has received in the mail.

Is the content of the disc, with what appears to be footage of an actual murder, real or merely a simulated snuff film?  Whatever its source, the (disturbingly graphic) imagery haunts and fascinates Tom, who has nightmares and is uncomfortable with what he and Dan have discovered, both on the internet and in themselves as more films arrive in the mail.  The stakes and danger, furthermore, are more than simply psychological when it becomes apparent that the party responsible for the snuff DVDs is active where they live.  Gut is not torture porn itself, but ponders the genre’s sources and ramifications; squeamish viewers are, however, advised to approach Gut with extreme caution.

Gut demonstrates an intimate knowledge of cubicle-bound despair and succeeds in giving the horror genre its Office Space, with perhaps a bitter tincture of In the Company of Men.  As is true of the music for the latter, Chvad SB’s minimalist score for Gut, which builds from subtle, bare, and repetitive to unnervingly abrasive as the film progresses, forms a compelling and integral component of Gut‘s personality and is indispensible to its storytelling.  The story told, tastefully if tenebrously lensed, is not an uplifting one, and if Gut can be called a horror film, it is, like last year’s Sinister, something of an odd, self-loathing example, with horror and porn the gateway drugs that lead to other, darker preoccupations and initiations.

Gut earns 4.5 stars and is highly recommended, with Nicholas Wilder one of the year’s most interesting faces and “Elias” a definite directorial talent to watch.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this film is:

3. Un-p.c./state-skeptical.  Dan claims his regular mail carrier has been replaced by a mentally retarded man – affirmative action gone postal and run utterly amuck!

2. Family/marriage-ambivalent.  With emotional and genetic investment in humanity comes not just affection, but responsibility, insecurity, boredom, and, for men, diminished home entertainment sovereignty.

1. Effectively anti-feminist.  Tom and especially Dan are representative of the catastrophe wrought in American society by women’s liberation.  Dan personifies the national epidemic of unmanned men more interested in pop culture distraction, nostalgia, and mischievous male camaraderie than in honest work or mature relationships with women.  He finds, therefore, a less grim sociological cousin in Ed, Nick Frost’s character in Shaun of the Dead.

Dan dwells on the drawbacks of Tom’s family life and calls him a “pussy-whipped motherfucker”.  Lending potential credence to this assessment and to his characterization of Tom’s balls as AWOL is a scene of an inwardly smoldering Tom doing the woman’s work of washing dishes.  Tom approvingly describes his wife as “old-fashioned”; but later, when he becomes rough with her, she straddles and slaps him until he relents and apologizes to her, indicating that their relationship is not as “old-fashioned” as he has perhaps convinced himself.  Earlier, he is irritated when his wife takes the sexual initiative.  “So, what, I’m supposed to flip whenever you want me to?” he objects.  Television, as in Poltergeist, serves as an occasional babysitter.

Torture porn appears to be Dan’s principal sexual outlet.  The snuff films that captivate him are meaningfully misogynistic, with women’s bellies – the center of traditional womanhood in its reproductive capacity – targeted for mutilation and vivisection.  Motherhood is incompatible with women’s chosen roles as professionals and/or shamelessly pierced and tattooed fornicators.  Although a friendly waitress, Sally (Angie Bullaro), obviously likes him, a brief exchange with a chilly coworker suggests how women are probably more likely to respond to Dan.  The typical unavailability of the women he desires has fostered in him a deep resentment that sublimates as horror fandom but finds a more direct expression in his enjoyment of torture porn and snuff films.

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