Extreme Prejudice (1987)
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My favorite modern day western!!, 8 August 1999
Walter Hill is one of the most underrated directors, and this is his most underrated movie. A masterpiece, not just of action but dialog, filled with great character actors.
When I first saw this movie, I hated it. Absolutely thought it was the most boring thing I’ve ever seen. But I wasn’t watching it, I was on CQ (you military people will know what that is) and was getting up every five minutes to sign people in. Later on I put the movie in again, and actually sat down and watched it, and listened to it, and it just opened up for me. The dialog makes this movie, it has lines in it that I feel, that have become part of me. It is really a beautifully written movie, beautifully directed, and littered with some of the finest character actors since RESERVOIR DOGS.
Nick Nolte delivering one of his finest performances, in a career littered with great performances. My favorite modern day western! “Hell, you can buy me Cash, you always could. But you can’t buy the badge, and one without the other ain’t no damn good!” Highly recommended.
A film of devastating power , and aching beauty, 19 June 2005
I went into this movie, half doubting I’d like it.
My doubts were unfounded, this is not a “Slavery” movie in the Hollywood sense. It is a moving allegory about people, who found themselves… enslaved.
And it is so much more than that. It is a movie about brainwashing, about religious dogma, about the use of religion to maintain an otherwise unsupportable system. About group dynamics, and about music, and about culture, and surprisingly, for a movie of such virulent subject matter… it is about beauty.
It is one of the most lushly, and beautifully filmed movies you’ll ever see. It is filled with iconic, magical images. Because it is about magic… the magical, the wondrous, the spiritual.
And it will leave you alternately stunned, horrified, and amazed. It is a film of great… compassion, and great hope. If you haven’t seen it, or been avoiding it because of the subject matter, I completely understand. I did the same.
I’m not a big fan of films about falling down, I think looking at one’s feet can become a habit, rehashing abuse can be… its own abuse. Especially when all that is portrayed… is the abuse.
It can be something of a self indulgence.
Look at our talk show society, victims happily paused, recounting endlessly their victimization, unable to move beyond it. I’m even less of a fan of films that marginalize the past, make it into this cookie cutter one size fits all experience.
Alex Hailey’s roots comes to mind, or Gone with the Wind, or any number of Hollywood films about the west that typically just discount the true meltingpot, sumptuous and magical founding of this still very much troubled nation.
Discount truths, marvels, such as…
-Early inventors, inventions that launched the Industrial revolution, from Elevator to Traffic Light to Gas Mask to Telegaph came from this mass of wronged people. Early architecture, music. -The first cowboys were Black, odd how that’s completely forgotten. -The founders of Chicago and LA, these Black scouts, these renaissance mountain men who spoke multiple languages, these pioneers, who went where so-called civilized men feared to tread, and made cities in the wild. -Fighters in the revolutionary war… Black. -Fighters in the civil war… on both sides… Black, yep… the south’s answer to the North’s military ploy, the Emancipation Proclamation… was to promise freedom for any Black and his family who put on the uniform… and fought for the grey. Many did. Many died wearing the grey.
Can you imagine it, that moment, a Black man wearing the Blue, and a Black man wearing the grey, looking across their rifles at each other, two sides of a war they never made, but that they would have to end. Truly a war of Brother vs. Brother.
That is the type of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction magic, that imbues every second of the early days of this nation. And it is a wonder, and an irony that very few films have ever captured that magic.
SANKOFA is one of those few.
There is a horror in the founding of this nation, this hemisphere, but there is a magic there. And there is ugliness in the founding of this nation, but there is great beauty there too.
They were magical people, these men and women and children, who American history still would demeaningly classify as slaves, rather than people who were enslaved, a seemingly minor distinction, but in that distinction rests acknowledging the wrong done, and the people, the people, not slaves, the people… it was done to.
This film is about beauty. And it’s about people, farmers, seamstresses, griots, idlers, princes, paupers, masons, painters, singers, cooks, who one day found themselves… enslaved.
Sankofa is about the people we would call slaves, and their bloody fights… for humanity and freedom, under an inhuman system. For freedom, in a time of Holocaust. And it was a freedom no Emancipation proclamation gave, but a freedom they won, the only way anything is ever won, by making the days of slavery a bloody hell for slaver and enslaved.
By making the cost of blood… blood.
It is a film that remembers their… struggle. In a time when Black children are taught by a euro-centric curriculum only enough to despise their history, and themselves, and groomed to be only guard dog or guarded, this film is an essential thing.
It is about looking back to go forward. And honoring with every breath you take, those who died by the millions, that you can have the liberty… to live better, with more liberty, than they did. It is a film that passionately… in a time where media, and environment,and education have all betrayed these children… needs to be seen.
When so many have bought into the lie of their limitations, it is a film , deeply beautiful, about living beyond… labels.
And it is a film not everyone will get, the bigots won’t get it, and the apologists won’t get it, and the supporters of the status quo, and the soulless won’t get it… but we few, we happy few, children of the Holocaust, we White children and Black and Native American, formed by the mixing blood of our unruly ancestors, we children of their promise and pain… for us the film is an ode and a debt… for what was done, and what remains to do.
Sin City (2005)
There is something, very… very… wrong here, 21 June 2005
Not specifically with the movie,though there is much wrong with that as well. No what disturbs me is this laudatory praise for a film, that even adjusting for varying degrees of taste, and standards, and mores… is by construction an empty, soulless movie.
Don’t get me wrong, my issue isn’t comics, or violence, or brutality or sex. My issue isn’t with these things in a film, it’s with these things in lieu of a film.
I have an issue with violence, and idiocy, misanthropy, and misogyny when these things fail to advance a story or a morality. It’s the problem I have with Natural Born Killers, or Kill Bill, or… WWE wrestling or most reality television.
Don’t get me wrong, I like good horror and action films as much as the next guy. But I ask of them to be films, to have a story, a plot, a moral center, a morality.
The negative, hateful aspects of our nature, the brutality, the hatred, the torture, the violence, when done for no other reason than to revel in these traits, is what I consider true pornography. I think films like this, as one excellent reviewer stated, are soft substitutes for snuff films.
I’m not a comic-book hater or snob, I know there are several people in the Comic medium… making riveting, admirable work. Names like Moore, Priest, Bendis, come to mind. And Frank Miller.
I’m a fan of Miller, but his work has never translated well to the big screen. His work, often uncredited, was the inspiration for most of the comic book movies of the last 20 years. And most of them are really, really bad.
And people are usually content to blame the director for making changes to the source. Here Rodriguez… to headoff any such comments, crams all the Sin City stories into one Miller inspired red, black and white screen sized comic book panel. A commendable idea that unfortunately fails horribly in the execution.
Here’s a very brief outline of why:
-look, the look that has been praised for being garishly comic booky, is also its flaw. Page and screen are different mediums. What seems serious or haunting in one, comes off as campy and ludicrous in the other. Rourke’s makeup, the band aids, the blood, the cheesy blown off limbs… it comes off as cheep and stupid.
-casting- casting name actors, stars, was a mistake, Because you’re always distinctly aware it’s rourke, and hauer, and willis, and madsen, play-acting these characters. There’s no “acting” here. The film is really with few exceptions, full of poor, cartoony performances that left me bored out of my mind in the theater.
-structure- it was a mistake to make SinCity a melding of four different stories, rather than pick one book and flesh it out into a real story.
The reason is… Frank Miller repeats himself… a lot.
And the repetition that goes overlooked when there are months between these stories on the page, becomes glaringly obvious when followed one after the other on the big screen. Around the 3rd head in the toilet, or castration by gun riff, or Black evil henchmen slavish stereotype, and I was not only seriously bored, but also more than a little disappointed.
You begin to see Miller has some reoccurring issues going on here, and he really has not had anything new to say in the last 20 years, but keeps reworking his same old fetishes of big butts, big lips, toilet humor, and castration over and over again.
It came as something as a surprise to me, a Frank Miller fan, to realize just what a bloody hack he has become.
I wonder if looking at his work compressed… if it has become obvious to him as well.
A real director would have caught the failings of this structure, the repetition, the substitution of toilet humor, parody, and violence for anything resembling character. But like Miller himself, this film is directed by two others who have for the last few years simply been repeating themselves.
Rodriguez, who while competent at staging action scenes, is exceedingly incompetent at creating characters… situations, that we remotely care about.
And an action scene where you don’t care if the character ducks a bullet or not, where there is no suspense, or fear or love for the character, is one of the most boring things in the world. Rodriguez has not made a good movie since his first one, and as his budgets have grown bigger he’s grown equally better at crafting movies, filled with boring scenes… of action. Action drained of everything that makes it … action.
Tarantino, off his equally bankrupt and boring Kill Bill series, has proved himself an equally flawed director. 2 once promising directors, 1 once great minimalist writer, add up to a film that is about noise over substance, laziness over character, and attitude over intellect.
In short they have given us a film for an age and a generation that no longer has any idea what quality is. A generation of monkeys who know neither beauty or brilliance, but simply flashing colors, loud noises, and broad photography of balls or breasts. And of course violence.
This… WWE, Rush Limbaugh, Fear Factor, nightly news, bomb them all, Black men villains, Black women hors… generation knows violence. Maybe because it’s all they’re being shown these days.
You want to check out some good Comic Book inspired flicks try:
The first Crow, First Two Superman movies, 2nd Spiderman, The first Punisher-with Dolph Lundgren, and Louis Gosett Jr., First Robocop, 1st Matrix, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 1st and 2nd Blade films
Any of the above is better than Sin City, a film that ultimately has too many sins to recommend it.
hey, I tracked you down from imdb.com to tell you: your 2005 review of Sankofa is one of the best movie reviews I have ever read.. your point about “enslaved” versus “slave” is extremely important. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Thank You! That comment is greatly appreciated, and I’m glad people are still gravitating to that review! Keep reading and commenting!