Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Minor League Post

But better than nothing at all, I suppose. I was watching A History of Violence--a B- film, even if it is a Cronenberg, and even if Mario Bello does get naked therein--and it occurred to me, watching it, that movie-makers have got to just...stop having people chat when there's killing to be done. One of the greatest lines--indeed, one of the greatest scenes in all of cinema is in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, in which a gunslinger earlier maimed by "The Ugly"--Tuco, played brilliantly by Eli Wallach--it's almost enough to make you forgive him for being in Godfather III, only not quite--anyway--the maimed gunslinger has Tuco dead to rights--the ugly little bandito is taking a bubble bath, seemingly helpless. And the gunslinger, who's come all this way and hunted for so long in order to find the man responsible for crippling him--and whom he now has dead in his sights--decides to chat: "I've been looking for you for 8 months. Whenever I should have had a gun in my right hand, I thought of you. Now I find you in exactly the position that suits me. I had lots of time to learn to shoot with my left."

Nice speech, except that at the end of it, with a blank expression, Tuco pulls a gun out from under the bubbles and blows the guy away. He then stands and, with an expression of bemused contempt, tells the dying man, "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." At which point moviegoers around the world leapt out of their seats with a chorus of THANK you!!! (And for those of you who prefer Pixar to Sergio Leone, yes, there was a running discussion of the similar phenomenon of 'monologuing' among supervillains. Yet another sign that some people get why this behavior is foolish, and why the villain in that particularly clever film makes a point of not doing it.)

Screenwriters need to wise up to the fact that when you're going to kill someone, that's what you do, isn't it? I mean, the smart killers know not to talk and the dumb ones can't think of anything clever to say. So just...shoot. Please. And I won't have to roll my eyes when villains played by Ed Harris--playing a professional killer, for God's sake--take the time out to have a little colloquy with their intended victims, thus allowing for the inevitable moment of "suprise!"

Please. I ask for so little, really.


Blogger medieval woman said...

I have to agree with the whole chatting when there's wet work to be done. I thought this movie was horrible and I couldn't even sit through the whole thing. I thought it started out good - the way he reacted and that led the killers to him. But there was absolutely no chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello to make the "passion" (if so it may be called) real. The worst was the whole "rape/sex" scene on the stairs - what the hell? I didn't find it offensive or anything, just stupid. And then finally when William Hurt came in (usually great in movies) it just got too awful for me. I don't know whether to blame the actors (who do very well in other films), the director (whose also done better) or the script - but it was definitely a bad movie in my book...

8:28 AM  
Blogger Yr. Hmbl. & Obdt. said...

Yeah--some moments were so...awkwardly bad that I actually went back and listened to the commentary by Cronenberg.

First--gotta say--he's low-key and smart and funny and shockingly *normal* (given the deliberate weirdness of his films) and really just a pleasure to 'spend time with' so to speak--one also sees in the Making Of sections of the DVD that his favorite subject of humor is himself. Seems like a cool guy, in short--and he's responsible for some of my favorite films--THE FLY is one of the few Horror films that actually achieves genuine Horror, not at the grossness but at the terrible inevitability of the outcome--it's actually quite a brilliant tragedy. Likewise DEAD RINGERS. And THE DEAD ZONE is only of the King adaptations that even *touches* the book. And--OK, I've kissed up to him enough. Point is--

Scenes that drove me nuts--like the "rape/sex" scene on the stairs--forced me to go back and say, "What were you *thinking*, David?!" And while his explanations were calm and reasonable and prompted a grudging, "OK, I can kind of see that," they didn't wholly make me agree that the scene worked. Merely that I saw what he was trying to do. (By the way, he's adamant that it's *not* a rape scene--that it's lust born of the violent impulse on *both parties*--and I kind of liked that reasoning, since it's in keeping with the film. But no, it didn't work on the screen.) And William Hurt...who got nominated for that 'performance'...oh, the hell with it.

Some of it shows just why Cronenberg is a genuis--that low, slow quiet tracking shot in the beginning (4 minutes long without a break, as he points out) where you know something's really horribly wrong, but you can't put your finger on it...OK, granted, it's a *total* theft from TOUCH OF EVIL, but everyone steals from everyone, and by God, it was *well-stolen*.

And there's that brilliant, brilliant moment when 'Tom Stall' lashes out the second time, killing men in swift and eager movements, and then turns to his son, for whom he has nothing but love, and for a long moment there's this...look that says that he might kill the kid, too, just because violence is just so much damn *fun.* And then he realizes this, and his face crumples into self-loathing and love and tenderness--good scene.

But the parts do not justify the whole, not by a long shot.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next time you've waited 10 years to get revenge, let me know if you don't want a little cathartic exposition before wasting the slimy bugger that's caused you so much pain. It's one thing for a supervillain to stroke his ego by exclaiming with pride how wonderful he is. It's quite another when you want to complete the circle of revenge. Isn't that why they let victim's families get in the last word at sentencings?

4:51 PM  
Blogger medieval woman said...

Holy cats! What award did William Hurt get nominated for for that one? I maybe should have watched the commentary because, as you said, it might have explained a little of the reasoning behind the stair scene. But the lust born of violence thing might work for Viggo's character, but Maria's? Hmmmmm...

I DO agree with you about the first scene, though - the car in the foreground and then "driving up" to the office, which is only a few feet away so that the older guy can go inside is a great scene.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many years did Inigo Montoya practice his speach? Of course, he was in a world of swords, not firearms.


3:42 PM  

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