Tag Archives: violence

Shoot Me Twice: Friday The 13th

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review spends the night with the four original Friday The 13th films and their 2009 remake

Gear up, campers! This week, we salute the ominous convergence of the summer holidays and a real live Friday the 13th. If you are striking out into the wild with your pack and lantern, don’t forget to throw in a snakebite kit, a guitar to ward off bad vibes, and a working knowledge of the following films. Knowing the paths to avoid may save your life. You’ll be fine, of course. Just count your tent stakes and pitchforks before going to bed. And if you were planning for a weekend of fooling around in the woods with someone special, you may want to reconsider. Abstinence and meditation might be better ways of keeping your head attached.

More prolific than Halloween or Hellraiser, or even A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th originated one of the longest-running film series in popular horror. Much credit is due to the creation of Jason Voorhees, an undisputed icon among movie killers. Another probable reason for its longevity is that among well-known movie franchises, its content is the cheapest and easiest kind to mass produce.

Friday The 13th (1980)
directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Kevin Bacon meets early doom in Friday the 13th
Six Degrees Of Mutilation! The Crystal Lake curse makes bacon of Kevin Bacon
© 1980 Paramount Pictures

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Movie Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

by Dan Fields

Iko Uwais brings more brutal justice in The Raid 2
© 2014 Merantau Films / XYZ Films

We Built This City On Pencak Silat

In 2011, Welsh director Gareth Huw Evans left scorched bootprints on international cinema with his third feature film, Serbuan Maut, also known as The Raid, released widely as The Raid: Redemption. Many of us had never before seen the elegant brutality of pencak silat, the martial arts of Indonesia. An action thriller chronicling a police raid on a crime-infested slum, The Raid transcended expectations with its deft juxtaposition of sustained, extreme violence and the satisfying rhythm and artistry of a well-staged ballet. True, it was a ballet of broken backs, split skulls, exit wounds and shattered glass, but the results were astounding. Now, with the running time nearly doubled and a full cast of bizarre characters lined up to scrap, The Raid 2 (subtitled Berandal, meaning “rogue” or “thug”) blows the storm of justice from an isolated fracas to the merciless cleansing of a city gone to hell.

The Raid 2 begins on the same day as the events of the previous film. Elite cop Rama (Iko Uwais), still battered from the catastrophic siege, has brought his corrupt superior officer and a cache of incriminating evidence to Chief Bunawar (Cok Simbara). Bunawar, the head of a task force to root out corruption in Jakarta’s police force, enlists Rama to infiltrate the highest ranks of the city’s criminal class.
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Movie Review: Only God Forgives

by Dan Fields

Ryan Gosling reunites with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for Only God Forgives
© 2013 Radius-TWC

Excuse Me, I Ordered The Muay Thai?

Nicolas Winding Refn continues to flay back the skin of the Hollywood action movie in much the same way that Sam Peckinpah turned the tables on the triumphant westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks. However, even Peckinpah took time to acknowledge the tragic humanity of his characters, even when exposing the ugliness of the world they have made for themselves. Most of Winding Refn’s humans inhabit a world that has bled them of all but the bare traces of humanity. This austerity typically polarizes his audience into those who simply find the characters too soulless and unsympathetic to care, and those who enjoy the cold prickly feeling of a world stripped of romance and hope to make room for extra style.

Only God Forgives does not strike the balance as well as Bronson or Drive. In fact, it is a crawling ordeal of a film, and yet patient viewers may glean a certain perverse satisfaction from its searing execution. This assumes you are willing to sacrifice any sense of emotional gratification in favor of a keen exercise in the unrelentingly bleak. Even with its gripping moodiness and striking design, this film is easy enough to appreciate on the level of any depraved and sordid artwork, but it is a grueling challenge to enjoy. Continue reading

Movie Review: The Purge

by Dan Fields

James DeMonaco satirizes American violence culture in his thriller The Purge
© 2013 Universal Pictures

Oh, Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

You will be pleased to know that by 2022, America has been fixed. Violent crime is nearly nonexistent, as is unemployment. The economy is back on a boom. A governing body called the New Founding Fathers – never fully described, but evidently a successful compromise between radical high church and totalitarian state – has issued a directive under which once a year, for a twelve-hour period, virtually no act is illegal. By allowing those so inclined to commit any theft, murder, torture or other atrocity upon fellow citizens during this period, “The Purge” dispenses with the stress, rage and violent tendencies of the entire nation in a single night.

As dystopian high concepts go, this is an especially promising one. It allows for a polarized society in which half the population spend the year preparing defenses, and the other half build deadly arsenals with the same eagerness as those who devote months to making the perfect Halloween costume. It operates on the chilling notion that you are never completely safe, even from those you think you know best. It sets the stage for a moral wrestling match between the common good and the indulgence of humanity’s darkest, sickest parts.

Variations on the key themes of The Purge have already worked for films as diverse as Soylent Green, They Live, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, The Running Man, and Series 7: The Contenders. Failing to break new ground is not a sin to be counted against The Purge. However, its scope is so narrow, and its message so shrill and forced, that it cannot measure up to its potential as a landmark thriller. Continue reading

Movie Review: Spring Breakers

by Dan Fields
First published March 23, 2013 by the California Literary Review

Bad Girls Go Everywhere

Harmony Korine’s work has never been, and may never be, easy to digest. The writer and director of such dreary, stomach-turning misfit dramas as Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy and Trash Humpers has now completed his most mainstream, accessible film to date, but that still gives Spring Breakers elbow room to assault the senses and values of an audience without mercy.

We begin on the grounds of a nearly empty college campus. Faith (Selena Gomez), embodying the struggle between strong traditional values and a restless teenage spirit, has elected to set out on a classic Florida spring break trip with her wild-side friends Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine, wife of the director). Faith ostensibly has a benign and constructive wish to broaden her horizons, even as her church friends warn her about the dangers of falling in with the wrong people far from home. Whatever heights of liberty and abandon she expects from spring break, she appears to operate under the optimistic illusion that good clean fun will win out, or at least that four friends sticking together could not possibly let any harm come to one another.

Faith is soon to learn that her chosen companions have a more reckless agenda in mind. Surely she must have wondered at their inclination to practice making out with one another, for when boys will inevitably ask them to do so. If not, then alarm bells ought to have sounded within once the group decided to stage an armed heist in order to supplement their vacation fund. Surely. No? Okay, we are criminals now. But it’s Spring Break! Kids are expected to overcome inhibitions and push boundaries. How much further, Faith must suppose, could things really go? Continue reading

Movie Review: Killing Them Softly

by Dan Fields
First published September 22, 2012 by the California Literary Review

Everything is Rotten in the Parish of Orleans

Australian writer and director Andrew Dominik built himself a respectable filmmaking foundation with Chopper and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. His dour outlook and unflinching presentation are pleasantly comparable to the rise of contemporary Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, of Bronson and Pusher fame. However, Dominik’s latest foray into the semi-mainstream, Killing Them Softly, is no counterpart to Drive. In fact, the only award-worthy member of the Killing Them Softly crew is the one who cut the trailer.

There is an intriguing story hidden in away somewhere inside Killing Them Softly, and perhaps the source novel – Cogan’s Trade by George Higgins – made its point better. It is a meditation on the impact of a tanked economy on the criminal class. At best, it could be a thinking man’s bloodbath on the level of the original 1972 version of The Mechanic. However, despite a high-profile cast and several well-staged scenes of violence, this movie is largely toxic and indigestible. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Battle Royale: The Complete Collection

by Dan Fields
First published March 26, 2012 by the California Literary Review
Battle Royale: The Complete Collection on Blu-Ray

Despite never having been officially banned in North America, Battle Royale suffered de facto censorship through non-distribution, despite its popularity in Japan and among lucky film festival crowds who caught it in rare runs abroad. Over the last decade or so, bootlegs and other mysterious video editions of the film began seeping into Western markets until, clearly, demand won out, and now Kinji Fukasaku’s visionary epitaph (his sixtieth feature film) takes its rightful place in international film history. This is no longer a film you should acquire in whatever third-hand, semi-legal format you can arrange. Battle Royale is yours for the asking in a handy-dandy, thoroughly excellent Blu-Ray package. Continue reading

Movie Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

by Dan Fields
First published February 09, 2012 by the California Literary Review

Yes, Academy, That’s What We Should Be Talking About

Discussion of what the Academy Awards overlooked has been unusually lively this year. This seems curious with such a respectable list of confirmed nominees, but as it turns out the list of contenders from 2011 could be (and should be) far more impressive. After all the fuss over Steven Spielberg, Michael Fassbender, and Drive, there’s been one collective snub to rule them all this year.

At the inducement of lavish critical praise, I made a special trip to see Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, adapted from Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name. The film stars Tilda Swinton as Eva, a mother dealing with the fallout of her firstborn child’s unspeakable crime. Okay… it’s not an outrageous SPOILER, since heavy hints begin dropping early on, to reveal that Continue reading

Movie Review: Final Destination 5

by Dan Fields
First published August 13, 2011 by the California Literary Review

A Big Pot of Honey

To begin with, the makers of Final Destination 5 want to impress upon you the advantages of seeing the film in 3D. The opening titles feature a series of large objects hurled through plate glass directly at the screen — lumber, fire extinguishers, iron poles — as if to tell us “last chance for 3D glasses!” The sequence runs on to an absurd length, dispelling illusions that this film will be about anything besides flying objects and the nasty things they can do to people. Just as we begin to enjoy the credits as free-standing abstract art, the actual movie begins.

A young man on a crowded bus witnesses a horrifying chain of accidents, in which he and many others die violently on a collapsing bridge. But thank goodness! It was all a premonition, and he has time to save a handful of his friends and co-workers before the disaster happens in real life. Which it does.
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Movie Review: The Expendables

by Dan Fields
First published August 14, 2010 by the California Literary Review

You Don’t Mess Around With Sly

Pardon the expression, but the simplest and most adequate term for a production like The Expendables is “balls-out.” Overkill is the name of the game in this gleeful throwback to the shoot-em-up favorites of the 1980s. Director, star, and co-writer Sylvester Stallone gathers action stars old and new, wrestlers, professional fighters and football players in the dueling ring. Wind them up and watch them go!

The Expendables are a hardened squad of mercenaries, accustomed to high-risk, impossible-odds scenarios. We first see them (half a dozen or so in number) shredding a desperate crew of Somalian pirates without putting more than a scratch or two on their cargo of hostages. It is immediately clear that this is no sobering military drama. It is, instead, a celebration of the Ultimate Badass. If this sounds entertaining to you, then by all means stick around. For the rest of you… well, you’ve been warned.
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