Visually and performatively stylized melodrama, slangy and retro and dreamily lit, like a much better Grease, or a nonmusical West Side Story. Rusty James (Matt Dillon in his third S.E. Hinton movie in a row) mopes around with his tough friend Smokey (Nicolas Cage, his second year in the movies) and his nerdy David Cronenberg-looking friend Steve (Vincent Spano of City of Hope) and Nice Guy Eddie, speaking wistfully about Rusty’s long-missing older brother, local-legend gangster The Motorcycle Boy. Rusty James has a hot girlfriend Patty (Diane Lane) who’s into him, but he cheats and disappears and flakes around. Rusty James is trying to keep alive the gang wars he barely remembers from his brother’s day, and just as he’s losing a fight, The Motorcycle Boy dramatically reappears. This is the earliest I’ve seen Mickey Rourke, four years before Angel Heart, doing his gentle/tough handsome-zen thing – everyone in town agrees he’s crazy, but we don’t see him acting crazy, except maybe when he liberates every animal in the pet store.
It’s clear from the tone of the thing that somebody is doomed – probably Rourke (and yup, sure enough). The cops aren’t happy to see him back, but a heroin-addict substitute teacher starts hanging around, and old rivalries start simmering. It’s kind of a hangout movie where not much happens, but it feels tense most of the time. Dillon’s character is kind of an idiot, and his idol brother’s return blows up his worldview that things were better in the tough old days. In the end Rourke has died, Cage has stolen the girl and said he’d take over the gang if there even was a gang, Rusty James rides his brother’s motorcycle to the ocean, and it sounds like Wall of Voodoo over the credits but I guess it was that guy from The Police.
I keep meaning to watch the four hours of extras on the Criterion disc, but haven’t found the time. The Outsiders was also a Coppola-shot S.E. Hinton-written gang movie made the same year, and I should have double-featured these. The cast in this film is impressive – the brothers’ shitty alcoholic dad is Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne is a gang go-between, Tom Waits a bartender. William Smith, who starred in the real David Cronenberg’s Fast Company, is the mustache cop who uses inappropriate force to kill Rourke after the pet store incident.
Rumble brothers with grudge cop:
After sitting through two stiff early horrors, this was more like it – the voodoo-magic of White Zombie and satanism of The Devil Rides Out thrown into a noir-blender. Unlike The Fly its style and music can’t quite transcend its 1980’s origins, but it’s a good try.
Angel is Mickey Rourke, and I’m not used to seeing him pre-Sin City – he looks more like Mathieu Amalric here. He’s hired by the devil Robert De Niro (“Louis Cyphre… Lucifer… even your name is a dime-store joke”) in 1955 to track down devil-dealing singer Johnny Favorite who disappeared without paying his debts (reminiscent of Hellraiser from the same year). Angel follows the leads to New Orleans, meets Favorite’s ex Charlotte Rampling, Favorite’s daughter Lisa Bonet, and Favorite’s bandmate Brownie McGhee, all of whom end up murdered. But Angel himself is the missing Johnny, and after he tracks down all his old friends and family (and has sex with his own daughter btw), he blacks out and murders them, before the devil reveals all and Johnny/Angel is taken away.
First time I’ve seen this in a while, watched in lovely HD.
I think Ben Chaplin (Bell) was the only major Thin Red Line actor to return in The New World, but I never recognize him when I watch it. He’s the thick-browed guy with traitorous wife Miranda Otto (later Tom Cruise’s wife in War of the Worlds).
Blu-ray outtakes: Witt gets berated by John C. Reilly. “Made a mistake getting in this discussion.” Don Harvey gets berated by Paul Gleeson. After Danny Hoch gripes about Lt. Gleeson, Pvt. Larry Romano drunkenly confronts his superior. Private Nick Stahl freaks out after bayoneting an enemy. Bizarre conversation between Witt and sniper Mickey Rourke. Taking Japanese prisoners, one can’t walk. Bell brings his divorce letter to Clooney, who makes good on his earlier comment that he’ll always be available for questions. And a doctor sends Adrian Brody home for his leg injury after Witt dies.
The on-disc interviews are fascinating. It feels strange, though – the actors speak of the movie as Malick’s personal vision, so it’s all Terry this and Terry that, and the absence of his own perspective in the extras makes it seem like reminiscences of a dead artist. Of course it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to participate, that’s just the impression I got. After actors there’s editing, source novel/author, and music (Hans Zimmer says Terry wanted the music to ask questions, not answer them).
I was so glad to see a high-quality big-budget comic movie for once, enjoying the story and the evil Russian with a whip and Sam Rockwell trying to outdo Tony Stark as a self-obsessed showman (the movie never lets us forget that Tony, despite his braggadocio, has humanity’s best interests at heart). Then Samuel L. Exposition came along and ruined it. Nothing against Mr. Jackson – he can be awesome – but why cast him in a momentum-killing non-awesome long dialogue scene in a donut shop? After this, the movie wastes a lot of time on Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers character, as if we know or care who the hell she is, plus gives Rourke a go-nowhere back-story, doesn’t punish Cheadle for stealing an Iron Man suit and giving it to the transparently evil Rockwell, and provides Downey with a happy-meal redemption from his so-called dark days (ooh, he’s drunk on his birthday) and a permanent cure for the illness that’s supposedly afflicting him (Katy and I forget some origin-story details from part one). It falls into fragments and never reattains its pre-Samuel-L innocence. Anyway, I liked Mickey Rourke’s electric whip and parts of the final fight scene. And the cockatoo. Katy likes Gwyneth Paltrow, but not as much as in the first movie.
Weirdness: this was written by Justin Theroux of Mulholland Dr. He and Favreau (who cast himself as comic relief) must not have a thing for comic superhero names, since I didn’t know that Mickey Rourke was supposed to be called Whiplash (or Don Cheadle “War Machine” or Scarlett Johansson “Black Widow”) until IMDB told me. A post-credits scene sets up THOR, which we’ll watch some weekday night as soon as it’s free.