9 posts categorized "Cult Film"

October 12, 2011

LA FEMME NIKITA

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ColeSmithey.comBefore it spawned a cornucopia of television series knock-offs, writer/director Luc Besson's stylized 1990 French crime thriller set a new standard for the girl-with-a-gun movie trope.

We meet Anne Parillaud's junkie character Nikita walking with three thugs on their way to rob a pharmacy owned by the father of one of the group. One of the thugs carries a red axe. Dressed butch, Nikita is far from glamorous.

The robbery escalates epically out of control when police arrive. Nikita comes away from the bloodbath as the sole survivor (after killing a cop point blank). In court she gets a life sentence without parole for 30 years. In guttural tones wild child Nikita promises to kill everyone in the courtroom.

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Still, Nikita's wanton disregard for authority and devastating ability to dole out and endure physical punishment earns her a top-secret place in an elite squad of government assassins. Officially, she is registered as deceased subsequent to suicide. Under the tutelage of her personal keeper Bob (Tchéky Karyo) and etiquette maven Amande (Jeanne Moreau), Nikita transforms from a primal punk monster into an elegant femme fatal.

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The film scores heavily by sidestepping clichés in favor of ever-refreshing shifts in tone and atmosphere. Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast has a field day with Dutch angles and reflective surfaces. Television and computer monitors play a part. Posh hotel rooms segue into florescent-lit industrial kitchens. Eric Serra's infectious techno musical score adds an undercurrent of propulsion to the story.

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There's a fetishistic look to the film supported by Anne Parillaud's sinewy frame, sexy attitude, and pixie hairdo. The film takes on a pro-working class tenor when Nikita enters into a romantic relationship with a grocery store clerk who dreams of building boats.

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Nikita is called upon to perform her grisly duties during expensive dinners or when she's away on holiday with her boyfriend in Vienna — a gift from “uncle” Bob. The dichotomy between Nikita’s personal life and her covert killing assignments give rise to the film's primary source of dramatic tension.

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"La Femme Nikita" paved the way for Besson's 1994 equally groundbreaking crime thriller "Leon: The Professional," which introduced audiences to the young but talented Natalie Portman.

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“Nikita” also shined a light for a burgeoning brand of hyper-stylized crime thrillers that included Reservoir Dogs (1992), Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), and The Last Seduction (1994). Jean-Luc Godard’s famous quote that, “all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl” may be an oversimplification, but Luc Besson proved the theorem very nicely with “La Femme Nikita.”

Rated R. 117 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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September 01, 2010

MACHETE

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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Taste the Fury
Mexpliotation Comes to Town
By Cole Smithey


ColeSmithey.comRobert Rodriguez's co-directed grindhouse fun-fest "Machete" is loaded with laughs, gore, and sly '70s-styled social commentary about America's current immigration crack-down.

Rodriguez has coined the phrase "Mexpliotation" to describe his ironic reversal on vigilante films, such as "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish," that were considered by some at the time of their release to represent a fascistic rightwing mentality.

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Extrapolated from the faux movie trailer Rodriguez created for the Quentin Tarantino-partnered "Grindhouse," "Machete" follows former Mexican Federale Machete (played with gusto by Danny Trejo), whose wife was brutally murdered before his eyes when he worked as an agent, by a vicious drug lord played by Steven Segal.

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While looking for day labor work a few years later in Texas, the illegal immigrant Machete is propositioned by Booth (Jeff Fahey), a wily local millionaire, to assassinate Austin Senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) during an election rally in exchange for $150,000. In his off-hours, McLaughlin has a penchant for videotaping himself riding around with his redneck border patrol buddy Lieutenant Stillman (Don Johnson) to mercilessly shoot Mexican immigrants attempting to cross the border. Needless to say, Machete soon becomes public enemy numero uno, and wages a one-man war against the bigoted powers that oppress and kill his people. You can easily guess at his weapon of choice.

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As hilarious as "Machete" is, and it is an especially uproarious movie, it's funnier still that there's an internet buzz about the film's potential to set off a race war in places like Texas or Arizona. Evidently, the film's tagline, "If you're going to hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn't you!" has struck a nerve. It can't go unmentioned that "Machete" is a 20th Century Fox film, so its paradoxical proximity to Fox News is exceptionally amusing.

ColeSmithey.com

The genius of the picture is that Rodriguez has found a way to hitch the film's thematic wagon to a real issue in the same way that B-movies of the '60s and '70s did for their subjects. It's fascinating to see the grindhouse visual and narrative dialectic retrofitted with such energy and attentiveness to detail. There's a looseness to the hyperbolic way violence occurs that sets the tone for the corruption that underlies all aspects of border life. It's a given that all politicians and corporate figures on both sides of the perimeter are in bed with one another. For his part, Danny Trejo is so unattractive that, like "Have Gun - Will Travel's" Richard Boone (on television 1957-1963), he's positively perfect.

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Jumping in the sack with Michelle Rodriguez's revolutionary leader Luz, comes across as a match made in cult movie heaven. Soul-kisses with Jessica Alba's smokin' hot U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Sartana drives home the message that Machete is a superhuman rebel who exists so far beyond the law that such a romantic union is inevitable. Obligatory nudity also comes with the territory as Machete proves he's just as much a lover as a fighter when he frolics with Booth's naughty wife and daughter (Lindsay Lohan).

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"Machete" comes closer to "House of the Devil" as a retro-homage picture than a throwback action film like "The Expendables." Jagged quick edits and cracked film stock lend an intentional feel of disintegration. An apocalyptic impression of social collapse lingers over the movie like the smell of butane lighter fluid in a freshly filled Zippo lighter.

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Blaxploitation films of the '70s like "Shaft," or the lesser-seen but more incendiary "The Spook Who Sat By the Door," served an important function of giving minority audiences an outlet for their day-to-day problems. Clearly, the time is ripe for Mexican audiences to have flaws in the American immigration system put on the big screen in an explosive and funny way. An NRA member would say, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people."

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In the case of Machete, his very name is the blade that decapitates an entire system of calculated prejudice. There's a defiant expressiveness here that is easily more sophisticated than any argument a news pundit could articulate about America's confusion over immigration. Machete doesn't need no stinking card to prove his citizenship, and neither does anyone else. You can taste the fury.

Rated R. 105 mins.5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

March 01, 2009

FIGHT CLUB — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

LA GRANDE BOUFFE (THE BIG FEAST

ColeSmithey.comFor episode #64 Cole pulled out the big guns with FLYING DOG BREWERY'S DOUBLE DOG IPA to go along with our discussion of David Fincher's mind-blowing adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's classic if prescient novel of post-modern satire. Pull a chair up to the banquet table and join us for one hell of a feast for one hell of a movie! 

Bon appétit Bouffers!ColeSmithey.com

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Fincher Does Palahniuk
Blood, Sweat, and Emotional Bankruptcy Follow    
By Cole Smithey

ColeSmithey.comMisogynist, anti-capitalist, and class-conscious, novelist Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” takes a "Trainspotting" brand of glee in dismissing lifestyle mores and status quo materialist limitations of American social existence.

This black comedy plays like a boys-only video game where male audience members encouraged to kick over the machine that ate their quarters.

For all of the controversy surrounding the movie for fear that young males will begin setting up fight clubs of their own all around the world, the theory is countered directly in the movie as Ed Norton’s nameless character comes to view his dimwitted, class-conscious Fight Club cohorts as complete morons. — These are people who, in Lou Reed's words, follow the first thing that comes along that allows them the right to be; you know it's called bad luck.

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Indeed the Fight Club cult that Norton sets up under the tutelage of his brutal disenfranchised alter ego/evil-twin, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), digresses into a flesh-chewing tombstone that gets dumped on the floor like so much bloody brain matter.

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From David Fincher's hyper sci-fi juiced credit sequence — underscored by searing punk music — to its "Blade Runner"/"Mean Streets" ending, the visionary filmmaker pulls out every stop in his arsenal of cinematic tricks to deliver walloping visual blows. Fincher’s visual approach is aggressive, and packed to the surface with such a high sperm count that you can almost see the microscopic swimmers bursting to get free. There’s never a gesture, vocal quality, intention, or motivation from any character (with the exception of Meat Loaf's hormone challenged character Bob) that isn’t full-bore masculine.

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If that means that more than a few tons of fury are coming along for the ride, so be it.

In Palahniuk’s cold satire, if you’re a consumer then you’re a pussy. The post-modern author presses you to see through the culture of housewife-behavior where free time is spent imagining and buying things to complete your vacuous identity.

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A greater social repercussion from "Fight Club" would be a trend where American males ceased spending money and began hoarding every dime as if they were collecting names on a petition to embargo our snotty soul-crushing corporate run government.

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However heavily "Fight Club" relies on extraneous voice-over narration from Norton's unreliable character, the grist of the story lies in his need to follow something. Even as it becomes glaringly clear over the course of the movie that he's pulling his own strings, rather than acting on the suggestions of Pitt’s rock-star-perfect persona, it’s the human inclination to be lead that troubles us.

Chuck Palahniuk seems to be saying that males have such a strong urge to follow another person’s lead that it’s only through pain that a man can fully realize his own responsibility to himself and to the world around him. It’s a coming-of-age stratagem that fits perfectly within Fincher’s previous films and taps into films like "Taxi Driver," "The Graduate," and "A Clockwork Orange."

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Like the insomniac Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," Ed Norton gravitates to his true nature by exploring society in a heightened state of sleep-deprived accessibility. That Norton’s job as a car company recall analyst demands that he fly into different time zones in cities where he can buy all the same stuff, magnifies his disassociation to other people. Just when he’s finally is able to quell his insomnia by crying at support groups for people with terminal ailments, he becomes stalked by a woman named Marla (Bonham Carter). Marla shows up at every meeting he goes to, and her very presence mocks his ability to find refuge in fringe social enclaves. Jammed, embarrassed, and exasperated, Norton’s character makes a self-enabling breakthrough.

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By becoming free of all of his worldly possessions, and donning the badges of physical abuse, he attains a sainthood status that he can’t help but abuse by encouraging males around him to join his cult of social terrorists. The performances, direction, and themes are thickly woven in scratchy narrative wool, and David Fincher never lets you forget what the social loom looks like. "Fight Club" is Fincher's cinematic Hail-Mary pass that the audience desperately wants to catch.

ColeSmithey.com

Rated R. 139 mins. 

5 Stars SF SHOCKTOBER!

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

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