Monday, May 28, 2012

Django is the villain in DJANGO!

DJANGO is the ultimate example of the word 'extreme' in the Italian western genre.  It is violent and shocking with it's use of gore   The body count is the highest in the genre too as far as I know.  Bad guys are blasted left and right flailing their arms in the air or clutching their bullet riddled stomachs as they spin dead face first into the muddy streets of the soon to be ghost town.  DJANGO is the reason why we watch Spaghetti Westerns. From what I understand both Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Leone both saw YOJIMBO and decided to make a western based off that movie.  While director Sergio Leone completely ripped off Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO with a nearly shot for shot remake titled A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, the other Sergio made a violent messy film that was merely inspired by the samurai classic.  Both Italian films have rival gangs pitted against each other by a mysterious gunman.  Both are stylish and violent with unique visuals like  Eastwood in the serape and Django pulling behind him a muddy coffin.  But what makes DJANGO a more interesting film is the character of Django himself.  Eastwood's character is clearly the hero who kills for money but has a heart of gold.  We have seen that character a billion times before.  Django on the other hand is the main villain of the story who cares for nothing but money.  He is one S.O.B. who happens to be a B.A.M.F.

So the movie starts out with some poor woman named Maria trying to cross a bridge but instead is tied up and bull whipped by a group of Mexican bandits.  Django dressed in a Union soldier uniform is watching from a nearby hill.  Then BANG! all four bandits drop dead.  Before you can say "Hey, I only heard one shot!" another group of villains emerge from another hill.  They shot the bandits at the same time.  Not to be outdone by their rivals in the mean department the new bad guys saved the woman just so they can tie her up to a cross and burn her alive.  These guys are part of a gang that is like the K.K.K. led by the dastardly Col. Jackson who apparently really hates Mexicans.  Django appears before them.  They all have a blah-blah-blah back and forth then suddenly Django blasts them all saving the woman from certain doomy-doom-doom.  If you were paying attention you would have seen your first clue as to the moral character of Django.  Django draws first.  Normally the hero waits for the bad guy to go for his gun first with the hero being so fast that he can draw, fire and kill in an instant.  Django is quick but he isn't interested in being good.  Don't let the fact that he just saved an innocent woman from death fool you.

After mowing down a hundred red hooded clans men in the muddy streets of the a run down town with a Gatling gun, Django strangely lets Col. Jackson escape.  We learn that Jackson killed Django's wife.  So when given the opportunity to kill Jackson twice Django abstains.  Why?  Hugo and his merry men of marauders shows up and reclaims the broken down town.  Hugo is a self appointed general who is planning a revolution in Mexico.  He and Django are good friends.  In times past Django saved his life in prison.  It is kind of a weird back story for Django.  He must have been gone from his wife for a very long time to be in prison and fight in the Civil War.  Jackson doesn't seem to even know who Django is.  They don't really have a back story together.  Jackson just killed Django's wife and that is it.  I guess that is a good thing because the movie doesn't get bogged down in boring flashbacks or long winded tales of who did what to who back in the day.  DJANGO just speeds along to the next violent set piece. 

Django reveals to Hugo that Jackson has a bunch of gold in a fort and with his mens' help they can all be rich.  I can only assume that is why Django did not kill Jackson.  He wanted to make sure Jackson put his gold in the fort.  Hugo is impressed with his old pal Django.  Not only did he wipe out Col. Jackson's gang he also returned Maria back to the flock.  That is right.  Django saved Maria to ensure that his standing with Hugo was solid.  This film should have been titled DJANGO THE BASTARD!  So Hugo, eager to fund his revolution, raids Jackson's fort and steals his gold.  That night Django betrays his old friend and steals all the gold for himself.

Every move he has made to this point in the film was simply to steal all the gold for himself.  Revenge was never in the equation.  That is pretty unique for a simple western.  This is why Django is the villain.  DJANGO is similar to a caper film.  Hugo maybe bad but he didn't betray Django.

Unfortunately for Django life is a bitch and he loses all the gold in quick sand and his former ally Hugo has his men run over his hands with horses.  With his hands pretty much destroyed the 'evil' Django is perished and replaced by the good Django who realizes that his destiny is to kill Jackson for the murder of his wife which he does in splendid unrealistic fashion.

DJANGO is a near perfect Euro-Western.  There is one really slow part where Django is sneaking out of his hotel room on his way to steal the newly acquired gold but other than that DJANGO moves quickly.  A ton of people die in this one and it gets a little gruesome from time to time.  At one point this guy gets his ear cut off and fed to him.  That is pretty graphic for a mainstream film.  This scene inspired the ear cutting off scene in RESERVOIR DOGS.  Many movies were called DJANGO after this but none lived up to the hype the name invokes including the official sequel DJANGO STRIKES AGAIN.  Hopefully DJANGO UNCHAINED does.  Probably won't though.  Most likely we will get another movie about people sitting at tables talking about stuff in a clever manner.  Stop going for the Oscar, QT!

I wonder if DJANGO inspired elements of TOMBSTONE.  Both have a second in command villain named Ringo and both have a gang that is identified by their red sashes.  Makes me think.  Watch DJANGO and THE GREAT SILENCE back to back.  Best double feature ever.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

THE RAID: REDEMPTION will kick the crap out of you!

THE RAID: REDEMPTION just doesn't stop.  It kicks butt in so many ways.  Fight after fight the film never fails to impress.  There are tons of wonderful moments of tension like a horror movie but mixed with a lot of punching and getting shot in the face.  It has a very simple premise.  A bunch of police guys storm an apartment complex looking for a big time crime lord who runs the whole joint.  Unfortunately the whole raid is one big trap and most of the cops are gunned down leaving just a few to survive through the body covered hallways and rooms.

I think a lot of direct-to-video action movies need to take a hard look at THE RAID.  How much did THE RAID accomplish visually with it's budget?  Was it really that much more expensive to make this movie than the latest Segal embarrassment?  Keep things simple and develop the characters by the actions they take not how many boring flashbacks and boring fill-in-the-background-of-the-characters talk.  You get all you need to know by some simple visuals at the beginning with a hint of mystery.  As the film moves forward secrets are revealed and characters change or not change by the bloody events they take part in.  THE RAID does just about everything right.  This movie even has shaky-cam and it does that right.  You can tell what is going on and not be distracted by the camera veering off to shake at something off screen.  Best of all this movie has no car chases.

I really don't have much to say about this one (because I am a terrible writer and have no buisness expressing my opinion on a blog *cough*cough*) except go see it whenever possible.  THE RAID is one of those movies that has a lot of cool and extremely painful moments to watch.  There is so much kung-fu and flippidy-do-da's going on that you might experience sensory overload resulting in the delusion that you start feeling every punch, kick, and face smash happening in the movie.  It's that good.  There is a really long but cool as heck fight scene at the end between two good guys and a badass henchman who is apparently extremely allergic to florescent light bulbs being broken and shoved into his throat.  You will be amazed at the athleticism of these actors.  They very physical actors that are good at fighting, acting and not getting killed on set.  Hey, this movie even has a token white dude in it as well!  You just know he is going to be the bad guy.  The only negative gripe I have is the title.  Do we really need the word "REDEMPTION" tagged at the end?  Is that how we are going to "Americanize" it?  Can we expect the titles to the sequels to be THE RAID: RISES, THE RAID: RESURRECTION, or THE RAID: RETURN OF THE?  Its just silly if you ask me.  But you didn't so I will just shut up now.



Monday, May 7, 2012

VAMP! Grace Jones is the scariest vampire ever.

People often ask me why I don't go to strip clubs.  I always answer the same.  I grab them by the collar and pull them real close and give them my own Clint Eastwood gleaming stare and matter of factly say "Vampires".  If Hollywood has taught us one thing its that most strip clubs are ran by vampires that want to suck blood and tear peoples' faces off.  It is just a simple fact.  I have seen it happen time and time again.  FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, THE DEVIL'S DEN, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2, DEADCERT, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3 and VAMP are all classic examples of vampires dabbling in the skin trade to suck peoples' blood.  No, thanks.  I like to keep my blood on the inside of my body.  That is where I keep most of my organs.

Anyhoo Keith and A.J. are a couple of college students who are trying to get into a fraternity.  After making the fraternity they were pledging to look bad they promise to get the fraternity anything they want.  That anything turns out to be a stripper.  So they decide to drive hundreds of miles away to a big city where they find a club called AFTER DARK.  I think its called AFTER DARK.  I could be wrong.  I don't quite remember.  You get the point though.  The club's name is some kind of vampire joke. Hilarious I'm sure if I was undead.  There they find Grace Jones performing.........Yea, its kind of weird.  I will leave it at that.  This is the eighties though and our two heroes for some odd reason find Grace to be the hottest woman alive.  A.J. goes back to see if she will be their stripper where he is immediately sucked dry.  I could have warned him but I was like ten back then.  My G.I. Joes weren't going to play by themselves.  (Though that would be awesome.)  The rest of the movie is Keith and this girl who knows him from back in the day running around being chased by vampires,  I guess they decided not to follow up on the whole getting a stripper for the college party.  That is a shame.  I say why can't they do both?

Remember that kid from MEATBALLS that looked like he could be a boy or a girl but we couldn't tell because we were like ten when that movie came out?  Well he is Keith and he was actually a boy.  Now he looks like the son of Mel Gibson.  The actors name is Chris Makepeace and he does a good job playing the film's lead.  He is not too dorky but he is not too handsome either.  I can relate to him.  Actually now that I think about it, Mel Gibson is a pretty good looking fellow.  I can't relate to that.  Now I don't like him.  His friend A.J. is played by that guy from NIGHTMARE OF ELM ST.  part 2 FREDDY DOESN'T LIKE GAY PEOPLE who gets killed in his tighty-whiteys.  He is a good personality.  Hip and charming he steals the show tricking you into thinking he is the main lead.  But then he dies.  Now usually when this happens the movie would become less interesting but it doesn't.  MEATBALLS BOY takes the reins and guides us through the green and pink lighted back alleys and sewers of vampire central.  Don't worry folks, ol' A.J. comes back as a vampire.  The good kind I assure you.  Well, not at first but A.J. is too cool to dine on the blood of his best friend.  What a great guy.  We could all take a lesson in friendship from A.J.  Not me though.  If I was a vampire your ass is grass.

VAMP is surprisingly good.  It has a lot of interesting scenes and characters and the film doesn't slow or get boring.  Plus a lot of vampires die too.  That is very important in a vampire film.  Kill more vampires.  Two best characters are of course the non talking Grace Jones that freaks out into vampire form and an albino gang leader played by the awesome Billy Drago.  If anything see it for them.