Tag Archives: western

MORE DEAD MOBSTERS THAN I HAVE STICKS TO SHAKE AT (LAST MAN STANDING – 1996)

DENIZENS OF THE INTERNET, I AM NOT DEAD!  Contrary to popular opinions circulating through the tubes, I was not killed nor taken political prisoner by the head intelligence agency of Chile.  I repeat, I was "not" taken political prisoner by the central intelligence agency of Chile.  Okay, so maybe I was.  It wasn’t that bad.  Turns out they have Netflix.  (I don’t think they’re subscribed to Qwikster though.)  And so that’s what I’ve been doing for the last week or so.

What does that mean?  Well, that I was unable to see Moneyball last Friday.  However, barring any unforeseen complications (like foreign governments or my employers), I’ll likely see that and/or 50/50 this weekend.

So, with the very generous Chilean government’s Netflix account, I’ve been catching a bunch of B-movies or one that are about a decade or older.  Last Man Standing is a bit of both.  Well, it really is both of those things.  Still, I managed to watch it from beginning to end. 

Basically, this is your everyday mobster-western-detective-(color)noir-action film.  Nothing really new here.  Bruce Willis rolls into the dusty town of Jordan and proceeds to turn two rival gangs, the Americans and the Italians, against each other.  In the process, All but five characters die (two of which leave town) and we’re left with a bloodied Willis essentially leaving after having finished his business.  All together, the film is the cinematic version of pulp fiction (cheap books, not the movie).  Still, there are a few things to point out:

THE GOOD

Christopher Walken.  Let me start by saying that he is probably the greatest actor of all time.  Regardless of what role he plays, be it comedic or horrifying, my suspense of disbelief is negligible, allowing me to enjoy the spectacle as if it’s true.  In this particular role, Walken plays a sociopathic ginger, unseen in the first half of the film for which we only know what’s been said of him.  According to virtually every citizen of Jordan, he’s a monster.  In the second half of the film, we actually get to view this beast and recognize that a quiet exterior is broken by insanity which, in itself, is interspersed with moments of bright rationality.  Altogether, he is by far the most interesting character, entertaining even to his death.

THE BAD

The film starts out dry (it’s funny because it’s a western… yes, I’m ashamed of myself) with Willis driving through the desert and then getting into town where his car is broken by some thugs.  It’s pretty boring until he decides to return the favor and kills one of the American mobsters.  Then it’s ninety minutes of killing, shooting, and burning.  While it certainly eliminates the original dryness and provides for the action-seeking demographic, it grows stale rather quickly.

THE UGLY

Narration.  I get it.  It’s a staple of detective-noir films because it let’s the detective show off his wit and use of not-so-clever similes.  Still, there’s a limit to everything and this film certainly exceeds it.  It’s not an issue of poorly written monologues (I’d destroy a genre if I wanted to write about that).  The issue was that, much like our creative writing teachers told us, you want to show the audience instead of telling them.  While we certainly get a show in this film (enough fire and blood to fulfill any hunger for violence I had that night), the constant narration of the events that just transpired or the monotonous revelations of supposed emotions that pass behind the unchanging exterior.  (I secretly added that Willis’s acting was miserable, whether by writing or execution, he has no emotion.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

There’s not much to this film despite the genres it crosses.  It’s an interesting cast playing underdeveloped characters in a story that could have been far more entertaining had it not been executed so monotonously. 

Still, if you’re bored one evening and feel like watching a western town, whose sole existence is to house and fund the operations of two mobs, be torn to shreds by bullets uncountable, or if you’d like to see a sociopathic ginger Christopher Walken, this film might not be a terrible way to spend an hour and forty minutes.

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COWBOYS & ALIENS: AN INVASION ALMOST INCONSEQUENTIAL

Like every Thursday night, I went out last night to catch a midnight movie.  Unlike most weekends though, I had three choices: Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Smurfs, or Cowboys & Aliens.  While the first didn’t seem a bad choice, my companion didn’t feel like watching a Steve Carell picture.  The second, however, seemed terrible from the first trailer I viewed.  So, I’ll be boycotting the annoying film and its atrocious use of 3D graphics.  Ergo, my friend and I went to see Cowboys & Aliens last night.  (This seems like an awkward case of the game Clue.  It was Tom and his friend, at the AMC, with the Sci-Fi Western.)

THE GOOD

To start, this is an action film.  So we should expect a fair number of explosions, guns and knives aplenty, and enough jaw punches to pulp Jay Leno’s epic mandible.  In these respects, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and the aliens certainly deliver.  From the opening scene in which Craig kills three riding bandits/bounty hunters, to the first invasion sequence as the town explodes and its citizens are captured, and finally with the concluding battle against the invading aliens as the town’s forces war with the entire invasionary force in a canyon, the action scenes stand up to today’s standards.

As a fan of westerns, I enjoyed the historic elements present in this film.  I enjoyed the costuming, seeing that the characters were well dressed without coming off as pretentious, up until the end when everybody’s living off the new gold market.  Aside from the costumes, I also enjoyed the set design.  Classic western town elements were present, from the local saloon, to the town jail.  While I felt that a bit too little time was spent in these areas so as to recognize the detailing, it seemed well put together at first glance.

THE BAD

Like I said before, this is an action film.  So, while we’re expecting gratuitous violence and accompanying one-liners, we should not expect impressive character growth or any real depth to this film.  Like before, the film delivers here as well.  

Craig plays the stereotypical western badass.  He is Jake Lonergan, an ex-bandit amnesiac who begins the film working only to repair his memories but eventually sides with the townsfolk to return their abducted kin.  Ford portrays the crotchety, old bastard bigot and corrupted cattle owner, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde.  Like all main cast seemingly misanthropes, he eventually comes to forget his racism and show compassion for his ignored son. 

On the other side of these awfully shallow or predictable characters, we have the confusing and unpredictable.  Most notably, Olivia Wilde portrays a young woman, Ella Swenson, who follows Craig throughout the first seventy-five percent of the film.  Her reasoning is that the aliens had abducted her people long before the film began and she believes that he can locate them.  Then she’s struck by one of the aliens, dies, is cremated, and then comes out of the fire.  She then informs everybody that she’s an alien who has taken a human form so as to work alongside Lonergan and the town to destroy the aliens that have no sanctity for life (caring only for the local gold).  She ends up sacrificing herself to destroy the alien ship in a large explosion before it can return to the alien home-world.

THE UGLY

The biggest issue of this film, aside from Wilde’s phoenix return and subsequent trans-species romance with Lonergan, was that deaths were almost completely ignored in this film.  The preacher’s death seemed to be the one to which the characters showed the most emotion for, but that took place in the first half of the film.  Wilde’s death was a brief, “He’s dead, Jim”, but she comes back, and then proceeds to die again, with the latter death being unspoken as all the characters simply disburse.  Lonergan’s wife/lady-friend from before the film’s beginning, who we later discover was disintegrated upon the alien ship, similarly was left without feeling.  Craig walks into their old house, sets down some flowers, sees a hummingbird, and then walks out smiling.  Even in the final moments of the film, when the quiet town is seen to be growing and changing because of the new gold, everyone is grinning without any lamentation over their fallen comrades and lovers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At this point, I’ve said it several times: this is an action film.  Therefore, it will be viewed by an audience who want action.  They’ll not be looking for character development or historical accuracy or any real emotion.  They’ll be looking for gun shots, haymakers, and explosions.  For that reason, this film will definitely satisfy them.  It does the western genre justice while simultaneously developing a new type of alien (large, green, neck-less beast things with superior technology and multiple sets of arms) for the general public to mull over. 

So, while I doubt that this movie will be a huge success (though I could be wrong with their advertising pushes), I’m sure it will be enjoyed by many.  And, if you ever wanted to see Daniel Craig ride off into the sunset atop a horse, this movie will not leave you disappointed.

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