Primal Fear (1996) Inside Richard Gere

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It’s been a while, all. Thanks for standing by. The Unappreciated crew had Mardi Gras and things got out of hand. That’s right, half of us are based out of New Orleans: a city highly lauded and still under-appreciated. You wanna know what the French Revolution was like? Come check out the R-Bar on Lunigras.

I wanted to come back to the blog strong, and that’s why we’re focusing on 1996’s Primal Fear. This film is a masterpiece and lodestone of mid-1990’s noir. Mid-1990’s noir? That’s right, it was a short-lived genre that was, un-fucking-fortunately, so badly badly eclipsed by blockbusters and psychological thrillers of the day, that it has gone pretty much unnoticed ever since. I first have to blame a lot of that oversight on the lasting influence of Brian Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. Released in 1991, this worldwide hit blended psychology with action for the first time for an entirely new generation of moviegoers. While Silence influenced films and filmmakers in a lot of ways, I would argue that its lasting potent influence is in regards how villains were portrayed in the 1990’s. And that is this: all your villains need to be crazy. The crazy villain was so consistently used in the 1990’s that I almost don’t know where to start. From Speed to Blown Away to In the Line of Fire to Demolition Man, all these villains were unnecessarily crazy. However, briefly in mid-1990’s a few Hollywood noir-films queefed through. Why? Stay with me here: I think it was the OJ trail. After the shocking not-guilty verdict, I think for the first time in a long time America’s collective barometer for right, wrong, justice, and injustice was shaken up for a bit. In a postmodern sense, I think people questioned the real motives of those around them, particularly with regards to the court system. While this national unease didn’t last long, a few films were made during this fleeting feeling, and Primal Fear was one.

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Primal Fear centers on characters getting things wrong by misjudging others and, ultimately, themselves. It’s an idea that seem maybe too thin to be effective, but when in capable hands, it leads to complex, rich payoffs. Speaking of queefs earlier, Richard Gere plays the main protagonist, a hotshot pay-for-play defendant’s lawyer whose main folly of misjudgment is the backbone of the entire story. It’s a folly rooted in hubris, mind you, and that’s important. Gere’s character, Martin Vail, is defending  a young Edward Norton, a indigent alter boy accused of murdering the Cardinal of the Catholic Church of Chicago. Norton’s Aaron Stambler is a hick who stutters, looks pathetic, and claims he was innocent of brutally stabbing the Cardinal despite having been chased down by police with a mountain of evidence on his person (an OJ amount of evidence). The ying to Vail’s yang Laura Linney plays state prosecutor Ms. Janet Venable who also acutely tunes into how pathetic Aaron Stambler appears to be. In the course of the film’s evidentiary discovery, it turns out that Aaron and a few other alter boys were ordered by the murdered Cardinal to pull a train on a half-way house girl for a sex tape, giving the young Aaron an OJ-amount of motive to kill the Cardinal.

However, that description is the narrative of the trail as seen in court only. Meanwhile, at the jail where Stampler is being detained during trial, Vail and a psychologist (played masterfully by Frances McDormand) discover that Stambler has a split personality disorder and shares his body with a psychopathic killer named Roy who proudly admits to killing the Cardinal. Vail feels for Stampler and goes out on a limb to defend the boy as if he was sane and just a victim of a sad disorder born out of familial and sexual neglect. Vail successfully defends Stampler after putting his disorder on display by making Venable putting baby-Aaron in a corner, in a sense. The boy is cleared of all charges and is sent to an hospital where he rightly belongs to seek treatment, says the sentencing. None of this is true, however, as it is revealed in the last scene in the film where Stambler admits to Vail that it is he who is ultimately pulling a mind-train on Vail himself: there was no Aaron. The kid was Roy the whole time and just performed a weak character to get Vail to believe and defend him. The shock resonates with Vail and the audience for several reasons. Here’s why this film rules the 1990’s noir underworld:

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Richard Gere’s arrogance – Gere’s power and arrogance draw from the fact that he is always right and he knows it. You get the immediate impression that Gere would easily defend someone guilty over someone he had doubts about. As a former state prosecutor himself, Vail admits several times throughout the movie that it is ultimately his innate ability to understand the underlying truth about people that places him almost above justice itself.

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Francis McDormand – It is by and through the strength of her performance as a subject matter expert that lends credence to both Gere’s and -most importantly – the audiences assumptions about Stampler being an innocent diddled hick. She is what baits us to being wrong.

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Edward Norton – this is the performance that broke the young man into Hollywood, and every bit of it was deserved. And I have to admit, there’s always something about saving the best for last. See this movie.

Brian – Contributor

Cage Match: Drive Angry vs. Ghostrider -Spirit of Vengeance

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The word mimesis is Greek meaning “to imitate”. Plato wrote a lot about mimesis and its role within art, and so did Aristotle, who famously stated that “art imitates life” in his work Physics (322 BC). Much later in his work Intentions (1891), Oscar Wilde called bullshit on this idea and argued that more often it is life that imitates art. The debate continues to this day. What is not debated, however, is how perfectly the decline of Nic Cage’s film and acting career mirrored the downfall of his personal life. From 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas to 2011’s leaving a 150 million dollar fortune, Nic Cage has gone from bad to worse to Ghostrider. In short, Nice Cage is a tragic american hero. Here at Unappreciated, we feel the downfall of Nic Cage’s career deserves another look. What is the nadir of Cage’s career? How low does it go? Let’s pit flop against flop and find out. Welcome to Cage Match. 

Drive Angry (2011)

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It was after I saw Cage kill a henceman who busted through his hotel door by shooting the business-edge of the henceman’s swinging machete blade, propelling the blade back into the henceman’s skull bisceting it, which Cage did one-handed, by the way, becuase he was still gripping a half-drank bottle of Jack Daniels in his other hand, all while he was missionary-style fucking a milfy-waitress on the floor of a Howard Johnson’s, that I began to think this movie was a piece of shit. It may have even been conscious of its own badness. The plot, if you’re being charitable, is a cross between Carpenter’s Vampries, Stallone’s Over the Top, the script from an episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter, and the lyrics from Bob Seager’s Turn the Page. Cage delivers with the enthusiasm and agility of inmate highway trash pick up. The movie gets a slight nod for excessive nudity – Brian.

Rating: 2 out of 4 Cage Freak-Outs

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

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Nic Cage must have a serious obsession with the occult – and a deal with Beelzebub that allows him to keep making films.  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is at least the third movie by my count where his character claws his way back from hell to wreak havoc on the world of the living.  Not only does Cage’s face look like a digested potato in the film, the entire cast seems as confused about the plot as I was.  Of course, that doesn’t stop Cage from ranting – bug-eyed – about some nonsense to Idris Elba.  I’m not even going to delve into the plot here because I couldn’t follow it, but rest assured that there is a scene with Cage popping wheelies with a young boy draped over his lap.  That really sums up this film for me.  It has a way of reaching out and touching you like that creepy uncle at your family reunion.  Bonus points for having the Highlander in a movie for the first time since 1993 though – Joe.
Rating: 1 out of 4 Cage Fondles
And the  loser is….Ghostrider. We will continue with two new duds. What shall they be? Any suggestions?

The Punisher (1989) – I bet you didn’t know there was a Punisher film made in the 80’s

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Yes, Marvel’s original version of The Punisher was made in 1989 and it stars Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago from Rocky IV aka the best Rocky) as Frank Castle.  What’s more is this film blows away the other two Punisher films (2004 & 2008) by a grenade or two.  There are several problems with the big budget Marvel films of the past decade or so including overblown budgets, a lack of graphic violence, and, most importantly, a lack of Dolph Lundgren.  This film is gritty.  The way a film about a guy who lives in the sewer and spends his time murdering scumbags, or meditating about how to murder scumbags, should be.  

Another problem with so many modern Marvel superhero films is that they feel the need to spend most of the movie on the main character’s origin story (for further commentary see the post on Dredd).  Lundgren’s Punisher doesn’t have time for lengthy explanations.  We do see in a flashback that his wife and kid were blown up by a car bomb that was meant for him and that he’s real upset about that but that’s about it.  In fact, when the film starts The Punisher has already accumulated a body count of 125.  Rest assured he doesn’t slow down as the movie crescendos with massacres aplenty.

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The Punisher starts out with Frank Castle 86’ing a mobster who’s just gotten out of prison.  Murdering them apparently isn’t enough, so with the press congregating outside, he sets the house on fire and creepily stands in the doorway with his face obscured.  The house quickly explodes, probably killing a few of the more eager reporters who were trying to get a glimpse of the shadowy figure.  It then turns out that Gianni Franco, the guy who actually killed Frank’s family, is back in town to get the mob together again after all of the murders by The Punisher.  

Before Frank can get his boot on Franco’s neck, the Yakuza, smelling weakness among the Italians, start to muscle in on the mob’s territory.  A mob war ensues pitting Lady Tanaka, the Yakuza boss, against Franco and his Italian thugs.  There’s also a black cop named Berkowitz (Louis Gossett, Jr.), a homeless alcoholic thespian who speaks in iambic pentameter named Shake, and an adopted white daughter of Lady Tanaka who is deaf but deadly.  

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Really, this film has it all.  Yakuza, people getting riddled with bullets, the mafia, explosions, kidnapping, ultra-violence, but there are some other important reasons why you should skip the latest Avengers piece of crap and check out The Punisher on YouTube:

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Dolph – The man is certainly near the top of the list for underrated actors.  The lengths that this Swedish chemist-blackbelt will go to for a role are unprecedented.  He literally dyed his hair black and had stubble painted on his face to really get into the Punisher role.  I can’t think of any other actors who would sit butt naked in a sewer meditating by candlelight.  Can you?

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Big Guns – If the rule of inverse proportionality holds between the size of a man’s gun and the size of his penis, then Dolph Lundgren must be sporting a micro-wang.  Pretty much every scene has Dolph blowing some bad guy away with a machine gun or RPG like his wife just left him or he found out that the hair in the bathroom sink isn’t growing back.

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A Roomful of Ninjas – This movie has it all including, yes, a roomful of ninjas.  The Yakuza apparently keep assassinatin’ motherfuckas on retainer.  From what I can tell, their sole purpose in the plot is to greet the Yakuza leader when she comes home.  Whatever.  When the judge, jury and executioner comes to Yakuza town, watching them all get blown away reminds you of why the motion picture was invented.

Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) – All the actors you like in one movie

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Slums of Beverly Hills defies all easy categorization.  That’s probably why it has gone largely unappreciated until this point.  It’s smarter than your typical teenage comedy, deals with female sexuality more honestly than most American films, and so darkly funny that you aren’t quite sure if the awkwardness, self-loathing, and general strangeness of the characters is laughable or cringe inducing or both.  Basically the film is a semi-autobiographical account of writer-director Tamara Jenkins’ salad days in 1970s Los Angeles and it should be known as a classic.  

When most films about working class Jews would dwell on the difficulties of being poor or Jewish, this film treats these aspects of its characters as a feature but not the driver of the plot.  Yes, the Abromowitz family doesn’t have a lot of money and their patriarch, Murray (played by the genius Alan Arkin), is one ponzi scheme short of being the poor man’s Bernie Madoff, but that isn’t really the point.  He wants to keep his family in the zip code for the good schools for chrissakes.  Yes, the Abromowitz family is also a clan of Jews, but the plot doesn’t revolve exclusively around this.  Being Jewish is part of what makes them quirky, but this isn’t Fiddler on the Roof either.

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Vivian Abromowitz (Natasha Lyonne) is stacked we find out early in the movie.  As much as she wishes otherwise, she has been thrust into the world of adult sexuality at the age of fourteen without much warning and without any female guidance.  You see, Vivian lives an itinerant life with her father and two brothers, going from slum to slum just to keep ahead of landlords.  Without a strong female to guide her through puberty, Vivian is left to her own devices, and seems to want to return to childhood more than anything else.  At the same time her father concocts a scheme with her drug addled cousin Rita (Marisa Tomei) to siphon money off of Rita’s wealthy father who wants more than anything for his daughter to go to school or do something other than drugs.  Murray says he’s going to look after Rita while she’s in school, and, besides, Vivian needs a female role model.

Slums of Beverly Hills is fairly loose so that it almost plays like a series of vignettes, however, Vivian holds the threads together enough that there is a narrative arc.  She gets involved with the next door neighbor Eliot (Kevin Corrigan) who sells pot to her brother and perpetually wears a Charlie Manson t-shirt.  Murray is also trying to court a widow named Doris (Jessica Walter) but it’s not clear whether he is scamming her or really wants a relationship.  He brings his family over to her house for dinner but they quickly embarrass him.  Rita finds out she’s pregnant and wants to tell the father but he’s nowhere to be found.  While these disparate themes could all have probably been several different movies, Slums of Beverly Hills plays it close to the chest and never shows its hand.  The mix of the subtle, profane, sublime, and just plain sad make this a movie worth checking out.  Here are a few other reasons why this film is worth your time:

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Alan Arkin – He’s got a je ne sais quoi about him that most actors don’t have.  There’s something that speaks to you like he’s a real guy with real problems.  Arkin’s probably most famous for his Academy Award winning role in little Miss Sunshine, but this movie is where he created the template.  Check out the flashback where he is telling the family about when he used to be a bigshot for the perfect mix of humor, sadness and quirk.

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A Straight Dime  – Marisa Tomei plays the older fuck up cousin in this film who is scamming her father and is sort of a mother figure to Vivian.  She’s a great actress but also a solid ten in the schwing department.  Tomei bares it all, literally and figuratively, to make Rita sympathetic while leaving us questioning how much she’s really playing everyone else.

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Class Act Slums of Beverly Hills has so many great actors in it that this film certainly deserves to be better known.  It boasts two Academy Award winners: Alan Arkin and Marisa Tomei.  Natasha Lyonne is now known for her role on Orange is the New Black, but got her start doing this film.  Jessica Walter plays it straight here, but has had classic comedy turns on Arrested Development and Archer.  Even the bit players in this film are great.  You will recognize Carl Reiner, Rita Moreno, David Krumholtz and Kevin Corrigan all from other roles that you probably liked from one film or another.

Judgment Night (1993) is a 1990s Suburban Nightmare

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Back in 1993, Emilio Estevez, Dennis Leary, Cuba Gooding Jr., Stephen Dorff, and Jeremy Piven starred in Judgment Night, one of the most poignant and telling movies about the fears of suburban America in the 1990s. Under the radar and from out of nowhere, this films casts a curious modern-day suspicion about the dangers of the civilized world. The message of the film was clear: our cities are lawless. Not Moscow, not Rio de Janeiro, but American cities are lawless. Lead by visionary director Stephen Hopkins (Underappreciated Blog royalty for his film Predator 2 [see below]), Judgment Night so clearly mimics the collective suburban fear held by white America at the time that it should be required viewing in sociology. My only explanation for why this movie was – and subsequently has – gone under unappreciated is that it got lost in the shuffle of blockbuster hits that year including Jurassic Park, Tombstone, Rudy, Philadelphia and the undisputed crown jewel of Sly Stallone’s career, Demolition Man.

As weird as it sounds, Straight Outta Compton, Public Enemy, Dennis Leary as a bad guy, these things were all feared in the early 1990s. That is, they registered with America’s youth as being “cool” and registered with the Baby Boomer generation as “dangerous”. How? Well, think about how America was spatially organized in the 1980s and 1990s. This is a time where, other than the metropolises of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the majority of America, specifically white America, still lived in the suburbs. And the only snorkel surbanites had into urban life was through entertainment. Suburban audiences were – in effect – foreign to urban America. Hollywood knew this.  So did Hopkins. So, in a stroke of pure genius, who else should lead the audience through this film, a film that chronicles the completely plausible and innocent journey of four friends into the city  which turns into journey into hell? Who you say? The fucking coach from Mighty Ducks. The whole reason this movie works is that it is predicated on one simple little thing: a wrong turn. A mistake, that’s it. A mistake by Piven, the asshole, but a simple mistake nonetheless. We all make mistakes and this could all happen to any of us. That’s what baits us into the plot.

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Judgment Night is the story of Estevez, his two childhood buddies (Piven and Gooding), and his little brother (Dorff), getting lost in the Chicago ghetto as they take a shortcut on their way to attend a boxing match in the city. As innocuous as it starts, the shortcut proves fatal and the boys end up in hell – that is, being chased through the ghetto by Dennis Leary. The boys, in their rented RV, run across a shooting victim of Leary’s gang and wind up as witnesses that need to be silenced. Estevez the family man, Gooding the playboy, Piven the shyster, and Dorff the fuck-up, each bring a different skill to the table as they play cat and mouse and try to out-wit or out-maneuver Leary. This movie plays like 1994’s Surviving the Game, the last showdown scene in the chemical plant from Robocop, and the on-foot chase scene by Reeves and Swayze from Point Break all fucked while blasting Onxy’s Slam. Judgment Night is on-foot chase scene elite in a decade that did it the best. The 1990s produced the best on-foot chase scenes ever in the history of cinema and it’s absence today is probably the single biggest missing ingredient in post-millennial movies (see the above still shot. God damn!). This movie is amazing for a lot of reasons. There are a few of them:

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Jeremy Piven, the asshole – What happened to Piven? Honestly? He made a great asshole: PCU, One Crazy Summer, Singles. Not a likable asshole, like  his dumbass role in Entourage, but an asshole. A man’s asshole. These types of characters, those who self-sabotage and create often irrevocable damage that drive plots, are so lacking in film these days. Watch Piven, who is the first to die by Leary’s hands, try to shyst’ his away out of the chase in the rooftop ladder scene.

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Dennis Leary and Peter Greene – An interesting choice for antagonists given the climate of suburban American audiences in the 1990s. The director could have easily have chosen black gangsters but, somehow, this plays better. Leary is excellent in his role as the gang leader. Leary is backed by Peter Greene (aka Zed from Pulp Fiction), bad-guy elite, who completes the cast while smoking 100s. Soft packs, I’m sure.

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Emilio Estavez – The second best role of the young man’s career. Estavez plays the archetypal disillusioned young father and family man, fraught with conflict over a boring suburban life. During the flick, Estavez is about the only character fighting not only to survive the night, but to return to something, his family. I don’t know what happened to Emilio or why anybody paid more attention to Charlie Sheen outside of his role in Major League, but his aborted career will remain a mystery and tragedy to me and his performance in Repo Man – my favorite movie of all time – a high-water rank for abstract cinema and the inspiration for this blog. However, watch Emilio in this movie, probably the last good movie of his short career.

Brian – Contributor

Strange Days (1995) – Or what it would be like if hookers used GoPros

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A lot of the films that we write about here at The Unappreciated are ahead of their time.  Only in hindsight can we reflect on the fact that the filmmakers were right about the way that things would end up.  Strange Days is one of those films.  Somewhat maligned and generally overlooked in 1995, this film turned out to take a prescient look at some of the issues that it tackled.  From the voyeurism of Facebook and YouTube to the horrific violence of police shootings caught on tape, Strange Days got there first.  If you told me in 1995 if we could have access to every image, video, sound bite, or post that we have now, I wouldn’t have believed you.  But in this movie we are able to see someone’s visual and auditory experience as they experienced it but as if it is our own memory.  What’s more, we can also feel what the recorder felt while they recorded their experience because SQUID devices tap into the user’s cerebral cortex, thus recording all sensory experience.  While only part of this scenario has yet come to pass, I guarantee you it won’t be too long before we can download pleasurable experiences directly into our brains.

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The genius of Strange Days extends beyond its futuristic technology.  Half of the brilliancy of this film is that it couples this voyeuristic technology with sex and violence.  It turns out that in the future (which in this movie is 1999), once humans have this technology they start using it for snuff films and sexual simulations.  Anyone who’s looked at news footage on Twitter or read a 4Chan message board knows that this type of perversion is out there (even if it might be fake).  What is it about humans that whenever we invent a new technology our first impulse is atavism?  There seems to be a paradox at the heart of the human drive for technology that always leads us down a dark road.  Strange Days took us down that road to where we are now and still has a lot to say about where we are going.  It may be in our interest to listen.

Strange Days, written by Jimmy Cameron and directed by his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow (of Point Break fame), follows the exploits of Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) as an ex-cop turned illegal SQUID case dealer on the streets of LA.  The first scene we see in the movie is a point-of-view shot of two guys robbing a restaurant.  When the cops show up the two guys make a break for it by running up to the roof.  The first thief makes the leap from one building to the next, but the second thief, the one wearing the SQUID deck, jumps and doesn’t stick the landing.  We see him plunge to his death from his POV.  Next thing we know, Lenny is pulling off his SQUID deck and saying he hates the shock he gets when they die.  A dealer in SQUID cases wants Lenny to buy the scene, but you see, Lenny has ethics and claims he doesn’t deal in snuff.  He quickly discards any scruples though and haggles the price down before he buys it.

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As we move deeper into Lenny’s world we see that he uses the SQUID decks like a drug addict uses heroin.  He has become increasingly paranoid and reliant on the cases for pleasure.  Much like the discussion of phone or internet addiction today, the SQUID recordings offer an even more immersive experience that allow you to step out of your shitty reality and into your past or into someone else’s.  It turns out that the videos Lenny fetishizes are of his ex-girlfriend Faith Justin (Juliette Lewis doing her best Shirley Manson from Garbage impression) who left him for a skeezy record producer who seems to not know what the buttons on the front of a shirt are for.  Faith’s new paramour produces a political rapper named Jeriko One who has just been killed.  This is where the elements of film noir start to seep into the story.  Ultimately this is a mystery, but our anti-hero must wade through the sludge of futuristic LA and human consciousness to solve it.

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Thrown into this morass is the brutal rape and murder of a prostitute who may have known too much viewed on on a SQUID recording.  Her attacker even puts a SQUID deck onto her head and blindfolds her while routing her deck through his.  This means that she actually views her own death.  Fucked up?  It certainly is, but this movie plums the depths of what humans will do with technology.  Psychopaths have access to everything that you and I do of course.  This snuff film is the catalyst that puts Lenny and his friend Mace (Angela Bassett) on the case.  As they sift through LA’s cast of lowlifes, alcoholics, SQUID dealers, businessmen, private detectives, gangstas, and cops, they discover that once you see something horrific through SQUID you may never be the same again.  So for a taste of what’s to come in the future, Strange Days is worth another look:

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Lenny Nero Lenny is the quintessential street hustler.  He lives day-to-day without any direction but he can get you want you need when you need it.  Equal parts William Gibson’s Henry Case and Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie, Lenny isn’t a bad guy really.  He’s just a cynic who trades in scum.  While hard to like, he’s fairly funny, and for this flick he is our guide to LA’s future underworld.

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Mace Mason – Angela Bassett’s Mace is real badass in this movie.  Props to Cameron and Bigelow for casting a strong black female in this role and making her have a complicated relationship with Lenny, a white guy.  Nowadays, for most people, the idea of a black woman and white man getting together may seem like nothing to bat an eye at, but not that long ago, in 1995, that would have been a bit more shocking.  The only complaint I have about her character is that she has a bit of the magical negro complex that Hollywood loves to use black characters for.  She is the one who jumps in and saves Lenny from all kinds of shit.  Even with that flaw, I think that the creators were trying to make her a strong co-lead.

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SQUID Decks – They’re like GoPros that you can’t see plus a bed with magic fingers all rolled into one.  Once you “trip” with one, your life will never be the same.  This would be enough of a mind fuck to make this movie speak to us today, but the fact that it also deals with the effects of filming police brutality of black people makes it incredibly forward looking.  How many times a week do we see a video of an unarmed black guy getting gunned down on camera?  Too many.  Strange Days pointed this out long before it was on CNN or in the New York Times.

Predator 2 (1990) – An Action Movie Off the Visible Spectrum

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I’m not going to claim that Predator 2 is a better action movie than the original.  As far as straight up action goes, Predator is fairly hard to beat.  With Arnie as the prey, that movie pits an alien of superior strength, agility, and technology against an (Austrian) American with a gun in the jungles of Val Verde to fight to the death.  You can’t get more badass than that really.  But, what if I told you that Predator 2 is not an action movie in the strict sense, but, in fact, a parody of the action film genre?   The number one sign that this film is a parody?  Camp.  It seems like this fact went over the heads of most critics and filmgoers at the time, with Predator 2 generally receiving negative reviews upon its release.  

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Once you watch this movie with that in mind you’ll start to see the camp oozing from the gutters of the City of Angels.  Where Predator was minimal to the point of a primate death match, Predator 2 is its exact opposite.  The setting is LA after all and what city is more over the top than that?  I’ll admit, there’s a fine line between just being bad (e.g. Batman & Robin) and being campy (e.g. any John Waters’ film).  I think that with camp there has to be the intention of irony on the filmmaker’s part, possibly with some satire thrown in.  For instance, check out reporter Tony Pope, who only covers the most gruesome murders on a show called Hard Core.  He’s way over the top and, if you ask me, an elbow nudge of social commentary.

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Predator 2 opens with Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) stamping out a street battle between the police and a Colombian drug cartel.  Harrigan rides up on the crew in a car packed with bullet proof vests and lays some of them down for the count.  Him and his crew pursue the remaining Colombians into a warehouse where they have a stash of weapons and copious amounts of cocaine, but by the time they get up there the predator has done their work for them.  The Colombians are cut open and one is even hanging from the ceiling like a piece of meat waiting to be butchered.  Apparently the predator is attracted to zones of conflict on the planet and they have shown up in Cambodia, Vietnam, Val Verde, and now, LA.  If you get up while watching you might miss it, but the implication here is that LA is a war zone just as bad as any of the aforementioned conflicts.  A little heavy handed? Perhaps, but the movie gets its point across.

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After the dust up with the Colombians, Harrigan goes back to the police station where we get to meet his crew of streetwise LA cops.  There’s Danny (Ruben Blades) as the loyal cop who came up with Harrigan from back in the day.  We also see Leona (Maria Conchita Alonso), the sexy hard as a rock female cop who takes no shit (you may also remember her as Arnie’s co-star in Running Man).  Finally there’s Jerry (Bill Paxton), the fresh fish who hasn’t learned the rules of the street yet and needs to be shown the ropes.  As we soon learn, Harrigan doesn’t play by the rules and keeps butting heads with Captain Heinemann (Robert Davi, of Die Hard fame), leading to a lot of threats about Harrigan getting fired or something too prosaic for a man of this caliber to worry about.  While all of these characters are built from familiar archetypes, it is the job of the camp film to use them as a critique of films in the genre.  Of course the sassy ball breaker female cop is ridiculous, it’s supposed to be.

As the film progresses we see the Feds and a Jamacian voodoo gang get mixed up in a game of cat and mouse.  Agent Keyes (Gary Busey) operates in the shadows trying to catch the predator so that he can harness his advanced alien technology, but keeps running into Harrigan.  Eventually their relationship proves fruitful with the predator shanking all of Keyes’ crew and leaving Harrigan to clean up the mess, which he of course does.  The Jamacian voodoo gang doesn’t really have that much to do with the plot but they are certainly over the top and make this film worth another look.  Here are a few more reasons why you should catch this film:

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Love the Glove – DG takes it to the rim.  Probably the only actor in this film who isn’t stuck in a wet paper bag is DG.  You may ask yourself, what is humanitarian and all around good human DG doing in a film like this?  Well, I ask you to look at Lethal Weapon 4 for evidence that he does in fact have the capacity to lower himself for a solid payday.  

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Voodoo – Usually, I think that voodoo in movies is kind of dumb.  James Bond fought Baron Samedi in New Orleans.  Steven Seagal fought a Jamaican drug posse that has reincarnation voodoo in Marked for Death.  The list goes on.  I feel like this film is the most ridiculous of all when it comes to voodoo, but, again, I think that it is making fun of these other films and their fascination with the Caribbean dark arts.

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Trophies – Who doesn’t like winning?  And who doesn’t like getting something when they win so that they can let everyone else know they are a winner?  Really, the plot of the film boils down to that.  Winners and losers.  Ultimately that’s what every action movies is about.  Going mano-a-mano or mano-a-alien and having the best man or creature win.  Predator 2 is no different and is all the better for it.