Archives for posts with tag: pro-police

Writer-director Scott Derrickson and his collaborators on Sinister clearly graduated summa cum laude from the Jump-Scare School of Hollywood Horror, because this is a movie that, if nothing else, could probably give even a healthly person a heart attack.  Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a debt-burdened true crime writer who, hoping to do some salacious research for a tacky comeback book, and without warning his family about their new home’s sordid history, has moved them into a creepy house where the last occupants were ritualistically murdered.  Oswalt’s life turns scary fast when he discovers a box of old snuff footage in the attic.

The murders documented in the home movies appear to be unrelated until Oswalt discovers that each reel contains a fleeting glimpse of a mysterious, pale-faced Insane Clown Posse reject – who, an expert professor informs him, is Bughuul, an ancient Babylonian deity and devourer of children’s souls who lives in his images and paraphernalia.  Before long the move into the new house has the children behaving bizarrely, with the boy popping shirtless out of a cardboard box like a little Anthony Kiedis and screaming, for instance, and the daughter hanging around with a troupe of ghostly junior juggaloes.

The house, which functions to satisfy Oswalt’s selfishness, is his unsavory headspace given architectural form, enveloping and victimizing his family, with all their demonic troubles directly traceable to his poor decisions, materialistic irreligion, and careless self-absorption.  In line with God’s commandment against graven images, Sinister acts (barely) subtextually as a morality tale and a warning to parents to consider their children’s cultural diet as carefully as the food they eat.  In other words, let them read too many comic books, listen to death metal and hip-hop, watch boob-jiggling music videos – or, in short, take them to see one too many gruesome horror movies like Sinister, and you might have a burgeoning brood of Beelzebub-worshipping serial killers on your hands.  Sinister, then, is that rare bat: the self-loathing horror film.

A strong Ethan Hawke performance anchors and energizes Sinister, which, if not for his convincing presence in the lead, would be a significantly less effective film.  The script is adequate; but, with the exception of Ellison Oswalt, offers few if any other fully developed characters.  Oswalt’s wife, played by Juliet Rylance, is less a human being than a personification of her moral position, and the children have no purpose apart from glaring, looking sickly, and trying their best to seem to be spooky instead of just cute kids.  The precocious Michael Hall D’Addario, who was so charming in People Like Us earlier this year, is particularly underutilized here.  Not a bad show overall, though, and commendable for helping to raise public awareness about the epidemic menace posed by Pennsylvania attic scorpions, Sinister gets 3.5 of 5 stars for Hawke and the jumps.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Sinister is:

4. Anti-drug.  Oswalt turns to whiskey, which can’t solve his problems.  The drink for edifying discussion is coffee – which, however, also proves ultimately deceptive.

3. Pro-police – or, in this case, the sheriff and his deputies.  The sheriff at first appears to play an antagonistic role when the Oswalts move into his town; but his unwelcoming demeanor and suggestion that they leave turns out to have been a piece of wisdom that could have prevented trouble.  The ostensibly naive “Deputy So-and-So” proves to be smarter and more adept than he at first appears.  He’s a neighborly, God-fearing man, though perhaps a little corny, and brings a reassuring light and warmth to his few scenes.

2. Christian/traditionalist.  Oswalt’s lack of faith has endangered his family.  Paganism, far from being something harmlessly trendy, contains demonic currents that put children at risk.  Oswalt’s condescending citified attitude toward what he expects will be the stereotypically ignorant and belligerent old rural sheriff and Fife-like deputy is ill-advised, and his sophisticated certainty and atheism are shaken and refuted by what he experiences.

1. Pro-family.  What families really require, Sinister argues, is responsible fathers more concerned with their children’s welfare than with satisfying their own selfish whims.

Though not the first film to draw the parallel between crime-infested Los Angeles and the Wild West of legend (high-rolling drug-runners are dubbed “cowboys” by the police), End of Watch is easily the most frightening and realistic of these and probably the most urgent and unsettling plea for drug legalization yet produced by Hollywood.  The film follows young beat cops Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as they patrol and try to protect the streets of South Central, with Taylor’s amateur video footage documenting their daily duties.

In his voice-over introduction, Taylor explains that, while he might not necessarily agree with the laws his job obligates him to enforce, he does, nonetheless, very forcefully enforce the laws.  He thus introduces the strong element of grayness and human complexity into what is an extremely sympathetic portrait of public servants who, while flawed and given to unprofessional and irrational behavior, are good men genuinely concerned with the safety of the citizenry.  Taylor and Zavala thrive on machismo and drive without fastening their safety belts – in more than one sense – so that the viewer is constantly in fear for their lives even when they themselves are not.

More than the usual regimen of danger and crisis awaits them when their beat duties intersect with shocking evidences of Mexican drug cartel strength and encroachments.  (One black thug voices real anxiety over demographic change and the supplanting or extinction of his kind from the Mexican influx.)  By not shying away from confronting what proves to be a larger and better-organized, more vicious and immediate menace than both men realize, they soon find themselves on the prey side of the street jungle equation and end up having to fight just to try to get out with their lives.  “Spent most of his time as a teenager on the most troubled streets of South Central Los Angeles,” reads the trivia section of writer-director David Ayer’s IMDb profile – of which End of Watch is an ample proof.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that End of Watch is:

7. Cristo-ambivalent.  Mike Zavala derives meaning and structure from faith, but the Christianity practiced by the cartel “cowboys” is devoid of morality and has its gaudy roots sunk in grotesque pagan ritual.

6. Pro-miscegenation.  Zavala suggests that Taylor should marry a nice Mexican girl.

5. Politically incorrect/arguably racist/anti-Negro.  Taylor and Zavala good-naturedly rib each other with race-based humor.  Ayer is careful to provide positive depictions of Hispanics to counterbalance the savagery of the Mexican cartel primitives, but blacks, also largely criminal, are more than once depicted as lacking parental competence.  A lazing black officer is also the butt of Taylor’s practical joke.

4. State-skeptical.  The drug war is a failure.  Federal agents are suspiciously secretive and mostly unseen players in the story, but more than once appear to be omnipresent.

3. Pro-marriage/pro-family.

2. Antiwar – in this case, the drug war.  The violence, the product of the gangster-empowerment resulting from prohibition, is always disorienting and unpleasant rather than cartoonishly entertaining.

1. Pro-police.

The Dark Knight Rises is flawed, but can hardly be faulted for not giving its all.  If anything, it feels like too much movie squeezed into too little time, so that nearly every scene in this long but fast-moving film feels abbreviated.  It probably would have needed to be at least twice its length to develop all of its ideas and tangents satisfactorily, and I wouldn’t have minded at all if that had been the case.  A gloomy, brooding opus with adult themes, this is by no means a superhero film for the kiddies, and it may not leave you with a smile on your face; it will, however, give you a lot to consider.  I give it 4.5 of 5 stars for its ambition, atmosphere, and awesomeness of vision.  So much power has never before been generated by the simple sight of an underdog climbing a wall in combination with rousing music.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Dark Knight Rises is:

7. Mildly pro-green.  Bruce Wayne looks forward to the day when a clean energy source can be safely unveiled for public consumption.

6. Feminist.  Catwoman repeatedly allows men to underestimate her and then takes advantage of them.

5. State-skeptical.  Authorities are too often given to self-aggrandizement and poor judgments.  The sinister Dent Act, meanwhile, has ushered in draconian measures to fight crime.

4. Pro-police.  Despite the above note, police are depicted as mostly admirable and self-sacrificing heroes.  They are, however, human, and some are prone to terrible errors.

3. Pro-vigilante.  Police aren’t always enough.

2. Persistent in perpetuating the idea that angry white males pose our scariest terrorist threat – with which many, after the recent massacre, would probably concur.

1. Capitalist.  Despite Michael Savage’s ignorant assertion that responsibility for the Aurora massacre belongs to this film and to Hollywood, “the ones who gave us Obama”, The Dark Knight Rises is actually a cautionary tale about the bankruptcy of class warfare politics and where it leads a society.  Despite the initial, naive flirtation of some characters with wealth redistribution of one sort or another – burglaress Catwoman has no sympathy for the rich, and some police are even reluctant to intervene when Bane targets Gotham’s stock exchange – the romantic illusions crumble when socialism shows its true colors in practice.

Bane, an eloquent fraud who poses as a messianic revolutionary but is actually a former mercenary and nihilistic madman, promises “hope” (with a capital H, perhaps?) to the people of Gotham while leading them over the brink and into moral anarchy and authoritarian red terror with his unquestioning lynch mob of slavish occupiers (capital O, perhaps?).  The only thing missing is the guillotine, with a punitive stretch of (metaphorically?) thin ice substituting.  The Dark Knight Rises favors redistribution, but only of the strictly voluntary variety.  Bruce Wayne, the film’s representative billionaire, is not only a hero and a formidable philanthropist, but also demonstrates the fluid membership of the 1% when his fortune is dashed in one fell swoop.  There are other hues and complexities to the class question as treated in this story, but the general tendency of the film’s sympathies is clear.


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