Intense cops-and-robbers movie bouncing between long Tarantino hangout scenes and grossly brutal action, connected by a plot that throws typical movie morals out the window. Zahler’s Haneke-like trolling of his audience is revealed when the climactic bank robbery begins and a new mother who just returned to work is graphically murdered. But most of the movie is spent sympathizing with cops Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, suspended for being caught taunting and brutalizing a suspect, slowly justifying their turn to crime. These guys are underpaid and oversupervised by paper-pushing weenies, and they’re just stealing from other criminals, so what’s the problem? At least Zahler doesn’t let them get away with it, instead rewarding a younger criminal (Tory Kittles of True Detective and Colony) with a family in need, who is maybe less evil than his compatriots.
“I don’t politic, and I don’t change with the times, and it turns out that shit’s more important than good, honest work.” I still can’t believe they made a racist-cop film and cast Mel Gibson. For all the bad morals and outrage, it’s a hell of a good movie, with better suspense and action than the last two, and at least as good dialogue as Puppet Master 12.
Michael Jai White (above, being dragged across concrete) is Tory’s partner, Udo Kier hooks up the cops with info on the heist crew, Vaughn’s wife from Brawl in Cell Block 99 plays the banker, Fred Melamed her boss, Tattiawna Jones (Keyhole) as Vince’s girl, and Mel’s wife is Laurie Holden, the mom in Pyewacket.
Vince Vaughn’s measured descent from tow-truck driver to drug runner, into a police shootout, to prison, to max-security prison, to “the prison within the prison,” to ultimate revenge and death. Heads get stomped, but in grimy low-light, so not even as graphically as in Dead Man – overall this was less brutal than I expected from the reviews (which may have been written by people who missed Bone Tomahawk), and funnier too. Vaughn plays an intriguing mix of characters we’ve seen before: smart and smartass, the extreme badass who will do anything to protect his family, willing to turn on his own colleagues to protect police but later destroying any prison guard who gets in his way, always calm and patient.
Don and the gang:
Somehow this is the first Vince Vaughn movie I’ve seen since Made in 2001. I didn’t recognize Don Johnson as the Gary Oldman-looking warden, or most of the other actors. Geno Segers (a cannibal in Bone Tomahawk) is one of the idiots working for the big bad (Dion Mucciacito). Jennifer Carpenter (the lead’s sister in Dexter) is Vince’s wife, kidnapped by the big bad and threatened with an evil abortionist if Vince doesn’t cooperate. Messages are delivered by a calm Udo Kier, who gets killed by family friend Marc Blucas (Buffy’s boyfriend in season 4-5). Tom Guiry (Smalls in The Sandlot) is a torturer guard killed by Vince. Mustafa Shakir (Big Mike in The Deuce) is a decent guard who Vince attacks when trying to act dangerous to escalate his sentence, and Clark Johnson (news editor in The Wire season 5) was in there somewhere, probably dead or at least badly hurt. Just missed the top-ten in this year’s Skandies (The Salesman is the last of the top twenty that I haven’t seen).
Just another business day for Udo Kier:
Opens with violence and chatty criminals and I’m suspicious because Tarantino-influenced movies are never good. But hey, there’s Sid Haig, and the dialogue is really quite good, so I sat back and enjoyed.
Sid is killed straight away, then his fellow cannibal-graveyard-defiler David Arquette (also of cannibal western Ravenous) is taken from the nearby town along with the doctor (Lili Simmons, star of TV’s Banshee, which is somehow not X-Men-related) and young Deputy Nick. So a four-man team heads out to track and rescue them from evil. It’s a variation on a John Ford-type story, with a few modern twists (woman doctor, cave-dwelling troglodytes distinct from the more reasonable natives).
It adds up to approximately nothing, and never seems to make the most of its accomplishments (the business of dealing with the bad guys is more than a little shrugged off), but 4 men — the right 4 men — shuffling through the frontier in search of god knows what… works for me.
3 of the right 4 men:
The four men: Sheriff Kurt Russell (this makes a nice Hateful Eight companion), the doctor’s injured but determined husband Patrick Wilson, pro Indian-killer Matthew “Racer X” Fox, and the primary reason to keep watching, Assistant Deputy Richard Jenkins as Stumpy. They don’t seem especially optimistic about their chances, and this is justified when they reach the caves – Fox is killed but takes down a handful of cannibals with him, and the others are imprisoned, where they witness this movie’s big gory reason to exist: Deputy Nick being split clear in half by the titular tomahawk. Fortunately they’ve left Wilson behind, and he mounts a last-minute rescue.
Zahler does reasonably well by the genre visually, given his budget, but flavorful Old West dialogue (“You been squirtin’ lemon juice in my eye since I came in here” — this in response to Kurt Russell’s priceless delivery of the line “You’re pretty angry for a guy named Buddy”) and amusing riffs on stock characters are the main attraction here.