One of these days, the film community is going to recognize Walter Hill’s movie The Warriors as the classic that it is.
I think it gets short shrift because of the controversy it generated when it came out in the late-1970s owing to its depiction of New York City gangs and associated violence. But the truth is, it’s an exceptionally well-made film, with brilliant direction, strong performances, sharp editing and terrific cinematography … including some great slow-motion camerawork during the myriad fight scenes.
Surprisingly, it also has a sensitive script that calls attention to class discrepancies, most notably in a sequence set on a subway car. Not your average action flick, methinks.
So this is more than a guilty pleasure. It’s a quality picture, one that I can watch over and over again. I don’t really get tired of it. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in The Big Apple, and I have an affinity for the film’s depiction of my city. Or maybe it’s just because I like good movies.
Of course, it could be both. Still, one thing’s for certain: It should be in better cinematic standing. And that’s something I’ll advocate with all my heart.
David Cronenberg’s movies will rub you one way or another, there’s no doubt about that. I think his latest opus, Maps to the Stars, will be in that category, too.
The question is, will it be as strong as his previous efforts, from Scanners to Eastern Promises? I’m not so sure. In general, this director has been one of the strongest (and in my opinion, one of the most underrated) in the industry, with a talent for generating oodles of interesting plots amid creatively yucky violence, biological horror and strong performances. It’s hard to say whether he has been a favorite of mine, but his body of work is unique, and his talent is always apparent. Plus, he’s quite consistent, even when working with subpar material; you can generally find some kind of inspiration there, no matter what.
So why am I so skeptical about Maps to the Stars?
I guess the main reason is because it has one of my least-favorite actors in it: John Cusack. That, to me, is not a lure; I generally don’t care for Cusack’s performances and find most of the vehicles I’ve seen him in to be maudlin. Though his presence in the movie isn’t a deal-breaker, it doesn’t bode well for the picture. It’s not the type of casting that’ll make me want to see it.
Still, Cronenberg’s direction brings with it the possibility of surmounting any obstacles, and it’s possible that Maps to the Stars could offer quite a bit. If it’s anything like the filmmaker’s vintage movies, that would be a triumph.
Hopefully, that’ll be the case.
Sometimes being away from a movie for a long time inspires nostalgia. Sometimes it makes you like the movie more.
I kinda felt that way about Commando, the ridiculous, absurdly high-body-count 1985 “action” film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as human tank John Matrix. This is a junky picture, with all-too-quick editing, poor cinematography and a script that can euphemistically be said to need work. Plus, it’s bloody as all hell, with a ludicrous amount of violence as Matrix kills baddies while searching for his daughter.
Yet for some reason, despite all of these faults, I dig the movie. It’s a guilty pleasure. You can watch it while using your smartphone or doing the dishes. You can go to the bathroom without stopping it and not feel like you’ve missed anything. It’s the perfect thing to put on when you’re just casually viewing.
Which I was doing last night. I didn’t feel like seeing a quality picture. I wanted something crummy. And I hadn’t seen Commando in a long time, so yesterday was a good day to watch it. I know: This is coming from someone who loves Kurosawa and all kinds of high-falutin’ pictures, so what gives? All I can say is that sometimes I have to slum a little. I don’t do it all the time. It’s reserved for special occasions.
This was one of them. So Commando, thanks for the evening. And as John Matrix might say: “Grunt.”