Tuesday, August 30, 2011
David Sumner(Dustin Hoffman) is an American mathematician, retreating to the English countryside with his wife Amy(Susan George) in order to finish a research project "in quiet" We are introduced to Amy via close up on her sweater, which she is obviously not wearing a bra underneath, carrying a "man trap" over her shoulder to bring home.
Charlie Venner, (Del Henney) an old boyfriend of Amy's is attracted by this sight and approaches immediately, along with his cousin Janice, and offers to help the Sumners with a construction project. It's obvious from the start that Charlie and his group of friends are very different than David.
Running into a bar for cigarettes, David witnesses an altercation between Charlie's uncle, Tom Hedden,and the bartender. David retreats to the background and lights a cigarette, smirking to himself as if watching children trying to do something they don't understand. Although Tom had paid for David's cigarettes to make up for the inconvenience he caused, David insists on paying again, as if Tom's money doesn't count. While David is in the bar, it's established that Charlie and Amy had a relationship, and Amy gets upset when Charlie claims that at one time she was "begging for it."
The men working on the house take liberties with the property, stealing a pair of Amy's panties and describing what they'd like to do with her. When asked by the men about his reasons for coming to England, they reference violence in the states, certainly including Vietnam protests, David says he's only seen shootings on television. He speaks to all of the locals as if he's their moral superior. This includes his wife, who he calls "an animal" when she's eager to have sex.
He gets impatient with her often, insisting that she leave him alone to work. She resents his chalkboard and calls him on it even messing up his equations. She also accuses him of moving them out there to avoid making a stand regarding the war. Amy mentions discomfort with how the men look at her, to which David only replies that she should wear a bra, saying "You shouldn't go around without one and not expect that type to stare." She does act sexually suggestive, standing topless in front of the bathroom window in full view of the workers on the roof and giving them a glimpse of her panties while getting out of the car.
The workers are always looking in the windows and often openly ridicule David. He chooses to ignore their hostility, even refusing to believe they are responsible when he finds their cat hung in the closet. Amy tells him they are proving that they can get into his bedroom, which again, he refuses to acknowledge. Finally when she won't relent, he agrees to broach the subject. He invites them into the house, and Amy brings out drinks including a bowl of milk for the cat. They don't take the bait and instead invite David to go hunting with them, which he eagerly agrees to perhaps to avoid a scene, or looking "unmanly."
He doesn't realize they have him out hunting so that Amy will be unattended at the house. Charlie finds her there and rapes her. She is initially repulsed, but clearly there is a lot of history between them and it becomes more complicated. However, Charlie didn't realize that another of his friends would want to participate as well which leaves her horrified with revulsion, and gives Charlie misgivings, although he does nothing about them. (And be advised, just as it sounds, the scene is very disturbing) Amy doesn't reveal these events to David, who later lectures her about being childish when he comes home after hunting. She tells him that they would have avoided unpleasantness if he'd confronted them about the cat right away. David responds that the bowl of milk made it impossible because he looked "like an idiot." David makes a show of firing the crew the next day at first accusing them of wasting time, but when they argue, he says he just doesn't want them around.
Attending a church social event the next day, where the whole crew is present, Amy can't stop thinking of the rape and David seeing she's uncomfortable, but not knowing why, offers to take her home. While the social had been going on, a local pedophile, Henry Niles had been lured away by Janice, a local girl. She tried to seduce him not realizing how disturbed he was, and Tom kills her, then runs out into the road where David runs into him with the car. Amy, aware of Niles' past, says she doesn't want him in the house but David insists that they bring him home and call the doctor.
Meanwhile Charlie and his friends are out looking for Janice, having heard she left with Tom. They soon discover that he's at David's house and demand that he turn Tom over to them. David finally starts standing his ground. He locks them out but they won't back off, breaking his windows and pounding on the doors. The magistrate shows up and demands the attackers leave. They won't comply though, and when he's shot fighting over a gun, things escalate, as they realize they're all accomplices to murder now. They cut the phone line and start intensifying the attack.
Amy continues to panic and refuses to help David, demanding that he give up Niles. David will not back down however, and as the gravity of the situation sinks in David's civilized veneer starts to crack. He threatens to break Amy's neck when she tries to leave. David has become a completely different person, the look in his eyes enough evidence, that he's finally taking a stand. Although he imagined himself a man of ideals and education, it took a territorial threat to make this happen.Watching him scramble to hurt and kill his attackers outside it becomes obvious that his mild mannered veneer was not the result of any innate kindness but rather his sadism was held in check by cowardice, and once that was removed his ugliness is revealed. David grows frenzied with killing until the crisis is resolved. The value of his victory is questionable, as he has succeeded in defending a pedophile and murderer, by himself murdering everyone. At best, he has defended his territory. Leaving Amy alone at the house with the bodies, David drives Niles home. Niles says he doesn't know the way home and David responds "That's OK. Neither do I."
Right and wrong take a backseat to the question of who is more determined to get what they want and brutal enough to take it. David's stand is taken in order to save the life of a pedophile who just murdered a young girl. His attackers, although they have been hostile towards David, and extremely hostile against Amy, are ultimately trying to get justice for one of their own. But nothing is so simple, their past actions can't be removed because they currently want something more just. This world is not one of an easy morality, but rather people acting out their animalistic urges and hiding them underneath their social faces (some more than others) until something makes the social niceties irrelevant. No matter how polished the facade, the animal is still there and acting civilized, it would seem, is a weak defense against it. Using a pedophile to incite David's stand is an inspired touch, and an interesting comment on David's denial of the power of sexual urges. It's also interesting that the rape of his wife, was not a factor in his loss of control, but rather another violation that happened independently.
Dustin Hoffman does a terrific job creating an unlikeable character. He takes David from a condescending, self consumed coward to an animalistic madman without straining believability at all. In David's mind, the world exists to serve him, his wife is his property, and others are tolerated only for their usefulness. He's so convinced of his superiority, that the idea of someone threatening him is difficult to even admit. But when things won't stay where he put them, his reference for his own behavior is lost. Straw Dogs is not a movie to like, but it's ugliness is portrayed convincingly, and acted very well. You might not feel the world is as nasty as Peckinpah does, (it's certainly relative I would think) but the holes pointed out in the civilized world are certainly worth some consideration.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
The movie opens on a schoolyard with girls chanting a jump rope rhyme. On the other side of the fence surrounding the schoolyard, we see Bernard (Michael Micolosi) eyeing the children and one little girl in particular.He struggles with his urge for a moment and then climbs the fence and approaches the girl, and meekly says "hi." Rather than be frightened, she responds "What do you want, doofus?" Bernard is quickly tackled and pinned to the ground by adults.
We then flash to Jimmy the Saint (Andy Garcia) driving down the street in his convertible to a Tom Waits song. He drives by a diner and we move to the inside where we see elderly Joe Heff (Jack Warden) lecturing a couple of younger guys on feminism and "movements. Jimmy the Saint walks in and Joe tells him about Bernard. He tells Jimmy "They picked him up in a schoolyard, fishing for saplings." Joe adds "They oughtta neuter that fucking kid." Jimmy tells him "It's a brain thing, Joe, with Bernard, not a balls thing." Joe replies "Ah, give it a name. Come on, anything you say is a problem with a man. It's a balls thing." Jimmy just smiles and holds up his palm to Joe, who meets his palm like a secret handshake. Jimmy says "Boat drinks." and Joe says it back. As Jimmy leaves, Joe tells the guys at the table "Jimmy the Saint from Flatbush, went to seminary school, but lost the calling. But, in his day, the bitch's bastard."
Jimmy drives to an office where we see a terminally ill man being videotaped giving advice for his surviving loved ones. In the same building we see a boy watching a videotape of his father giving advice on women. The video of his father tells the boy "treat 'em like dirt and they'll come running." Jimmy is touring the facilities with a couple of potential customers who are so horrified by seeing that video that they leave. Jimmy attempts to appease them but they're too disturbed to be reasoned with.
Jimmy arranges to meet his assistant at a local bar later. Jimmy isn't happy with an ad that's been placed in the paper, calling it "clunky" His assistant reminds him that they are about to lose the business unless Jimmy dips into his "boat fund." Jimmy is not listening however, as his attention is now focused on Dagney (Gabrielle Anwar,) a woman in the bar. He rushes over and introduces himself to her, although she doesn't seem interested at all until he tells her he has one question and asks "Are you in love? Because if you are, I won't waste your time. I'm really not the type of man to impede another man's happiness. However, if you're not presently in love, then I will continue my rhapsody, because, if I may say so Dagney, you are most definitely the bee's knees." She laughs at this comment, and asks "Does this rap ever work?" He tells her "Alas, in the old days. Now I rarely get a chance to try it. But you haven't answered my question."
Dagney: I forgot it.
Jimmy: Are you in love?
Dagney: Well, there is someone...
Dagney: We date. I have memorized his phone number, but I won't use his toothbrush. We're somewhere in between. He's crazy about me.
Jimmy: He should be. You glide.
Dagney: I glide?
Jimmy: You glide. It's a very attractive quality. Most girls, they merely plod along. You, on the other hand, you glide. Tell me about him. What's his name? Chip?
Jimmy: Same thing. Does he, make you thump?
Dagney: Define thump.
Jimmy: Thump, like when you think about him, you can't eat, can't sleep. When he smiles, you forget about man's inhumanity to man.
Dagney: That's a ridiculous concept. No one could do that.
Jimmy: Girls who glide, need guys who make them thump.
She finally agrees to have dinner with him.
Jimmy leaves the bar and finds two thugs, Gus (Don Stark) and Ellie (Harris Laskawy) waiting for him. Ellie tries to guess the brand of Jimmy's suit, which amuses Jimmy. Gus explains that Ellie's parole officer told him he needed a hobby, so he decided on fashion after making his own pasta didn't work.They explain that "He wants to see you." Jimmy asks "What for?" and Gus explains "What can I tell you? He says, 'Gus I want to see Jimmy the Saint.' I said, 'Boss, Jimmy the Saint don't mix it up no more. He says, 'Gus, I want to see Jimmy the Saint. Here we are. The point of me arguing seemed...specious." Ellie explains "Gus is reading the dictionary." They explain that "he" wants to see Jimmy now, and they escort him to the estate of "The Man With the Plan" (Christopher Walken) a powerful crime boss who is paralyzed from the neck down, and gets around his mansion with a breath powered wheel chair.
The Man With the Plan meets Jimmy and says "Long time Jimmy. You don't come around."
Jimmy: Been busy. Working hard.
MWTP: Right. A citizen now. Legitimate. Businessman. I heard about your endeavor. Some kinda support group thing for dying fags or something.
MWTP: I spend a lot of time with these two fucking morons (Gus and Ellie) and a village idiot son. I miss my wife Jimmy. You remember Cynthia.
Jimmy: Beautiful lady.
MWTP: Thank God, she never had to see me like this. Look at you. Got a lady?
MWTP: Cause, you're hanging around with the virus breeders Jimmy. P.B.'s. You into that yet? Biting the pillow?
MWTP: You will. It's a liberal thing. One day you're saving the rain forest, the next you're chugging cock. Am I wrong?
The MWTP calls for his nurse, (Jenny McCarthy) so Jimmy can get a look at her. He explains that "She can't nurse for shit, but I keep her around because, although I can't feel it, I know I have erections in her presence."
The MWTP explains the situation with his son Bernard, who was caught in the elementary school yard, "grabbing itty bitty titty." He goes on to tell Jimmy that Bernard's problems stem from his ex girlfriend Meg (Sarah Trigger) leaving him for a guy named Bruce in Los Angeles, (Josh Charles) who was in school to be an orthodontist. The MWTP has information that Bruce and Meg are coming to Denver so Bruce can ask Meg's parents to marry their daughter. The MWTP explains that "This can't happen. Meg loved Bernard for seven years. She can learn to love him again."
Jimmy: What do you want done?
MWTP: It's just an action. It's not a piece of work. Catch the creep, out on the highway. Before he gets to Meg's, brace him. Make it so's he'd sooner fuck the fryolator than propose to Meg.
Jimmy: Why me?
MWTP: Jimmy, you got the nice suit, you got the seventy dollar haircut, but you are taking a dump in your video business. I gotta call in the note.
Jimmy protests, saying he didn't borrow from the MWTP but used legitimate channels. The MWTP explains that Jimmy's lender took the note off him.
Jimmy agrees and says he'll need a crew. The MWTP says he's paying $50,000.00, which he can split however he wants.
Jimmy starts gathering up his old friends for his crew. The first recruit is "Franchise" (William Forsythe) who tells Jimmy that things are different now, as he has a family to take care of, and he's managing the trailer park where he lives. Jimmy tells him it's a one shot deal. Franchise says "Give it a name. If it's so easy, why do you need a crew?" Jimmy says "Safety in numbers, plus the man wants to pay the freight, who am I to argue?" Franchise is still hesitant, adding that he has another baby on the way. Jimmy says "10 large. Your call." Franchise brings Jimmy to say hello to his wife Dodie (Deborah Strang) Dodie refuses to even look at Jimmy, obviously not fond of him. Franchise asks Jimmy if he's going to do the job no matter what. Jimmy explains "I've got to. He's got me on the dangle."
Jimmy and Franchise next head to an x rated theater, where "Pieces" (Christopher Lloyd) runs a projector. On the way Jimmy bumps into a young prostitute named Lucinda (Fairuza Balk) who asks Jimmy to borrow five dollars, which he gives her, when she assures him she's "staying clean." Franchise remarks that Lucinda doesn't look good, but Jimmy tells him Lucinda will be around long after they're gone. They find Pieces in the projection room. We see that Pieces is missing fingers, and Franchise asks if he's still got "that disease" Pieces tells him "Cut the shit with that." but then tells them that he lost a toe the other day. Pieces is frustrated that the effort to go legitimate has left him running porno films and losing toes. Jimmy tells him that the MWTP asked for him by name. Pieces jumps at the chance to do the job and agrees to meet them the following day.
Jimmy and Franchise find "Critical Bill" (Treat Williams) next working at a mortuary. They're surprised by his "workout routine" which consists of him hanging corpses like punching bags and beating on them. Franchise asks what he's doing and Critical Bill says "Workin' out. Don't seem to bother him much." Jimmy explains the $10,000.00 and Bill agrees. Before leaving, Franchise asks "Bill, you still crazy, man? If you still crazy, I say you stay here, you beat up on all your old friends. We don't need you Bill, if you're crazy." Bill says "I am what I am."
We then find Jimmy, Franchise, Pieces, and Critical Bill at the Thick and Rich Diner, planning out the job. Jimmy explains that he also has a driver coming "Easy Wind" (Bill Nunn) who then walks into the diner. Everyone is surprised when Easy Wind doesn't want to go ahead if Critical Bill is involved. Franchise remarks that the two of them used to be close, but Easy Wind explains " Yeah, til we ended up in jail together, homeboy turned out to be a major league fecal freak." Everyone is a little stunned, so Easy wind goes on "a fecal freak, a brown boy, a fucking dookie taster." Easy Wind and Critical Bill start yelling at each other, horrifying a family group, there for a kids birthday party. Jimmy gets them to sit down before they come to blows. Easy Wind can't help himself though, and when Critical Bill looks at him, Easy Wind says "Fucking shit eater." causing Bill to throw himself over the table at Easy Wind. They leave the diner, and Bill pulls Jimmy off to the side, telling Jimmy that he wants to be part of the group of "cops" bracing the kid. Jimmy says no, and Bill insists that he's changed. Jimmy points out that Bill has been beating up on corpses. Bill says "But that's the point. With them bodies, It keeps my powder dry." He insists that he hasn't touched a live person in years, since he started beating corpses. Jimmy gives in, but insists that Pieces do all the talking.
Jimmy picks up Dagney for their date. He takes her to an Italian restaurant where they know him. They play a song at their table "For the return of Jimmy the Saint, and the angel who brought him back to us." Jimmy translates the song from Italian. Walking her to her apartment, she asks why they call him Jimmy the Saint. He tells her it's because he says 11 Our Fathers, and a Hail Mary every time he goes to bed, and he never kisses on a first date.
Dagney: Really? Do you want to come in?
Jimmy: More than I want the ascot to come back into style, but not tonight. Rules are rules.
He leaves her, saying that she's a "thing to be amazed by." She enters her apartment alone and soon Jimmy knocks on the door, telling her, he just noticed it was 12:04, so it's technically their second date. We see Jimmy getting up while she sleeps as an elderly woman from his video center narrates about how beginnings are the best.
It's now the night of the job and the crew is watching the roads for Bruce's van. Piece's and Bill pull the van over using a police car. Easy Wind watches the stop from a ways off through binoculars, reporting the situation to Franchise and Jimmy at another location. Just before Pieces and Bill get out of the cruiser it starts to rain. Pieces reminds Bill "You don't say dick." Bill says "My lips are locked, The key's in the river." Pieces demands Bruce's license and registration while Bill shines a flashlight in Bruce's eyes. Before he can produce them, Pieces demands that Bruce step from the vehicle. When Bruce asks why, Pieces just repeats the command. Rather than obey, Bruce asks to see some ID from them and insists that he knows his rights. Pieces says "That's not the way we do things here."
Bruce; I don't like the way your uniforms fit.
Bill: You want to take that bass out of your voice right now boy.
Pieces: [to Bill] I got this under control here.
Pieces [to Bruce] Son, we need some cooperation.
Bruce: Maybe I'm just a complete asshole, but doesn't the highway fall under the jurisdiction of the state police? It does. Doesn't it? What are a couple of Denver City police department guys doing way out here? Hey, [to Pieces] what's your badge number?
Pieces: Come on fella. Just be easy. Come on.
Bruce: Because it seems to me, on a night like this, then again, it's really just one guy talking, but you guys would have department issue raincoats, plastic hat guards, that kind of thing. What's the matter, couldn't steal those?
Pieces: We're cops!
Bruce: You're cops?
Pieces: Listen, kid.
Bruce: Woah, woah, woah, God, time out bro. What is up with your fingers man?
Pieces: Carpentry accident. What's that got to do with it?
Bruce: Carpentry accident? Okay, so tell me officer leper, how are...
Bill gets fed up and pulls Bruce from the vehicle saying "You want to see some ID! I'll show you some fucking ID!" He starts slamming Bruce against his van, while beating him. He grabs Bruce by the neck while Pieces tries to calm Bill down. Bill finally lets go of Bruce's neck, which relieves Pieces. Bruce, however, says "Dumb fucking cracker." which causes Bill to hold a knife to Bruce's throat. Pieces pulls a gun on Bill, telling him to put the knife down. Easy Wind reports what's happening and Jimmy tells him to get over there. Bill drops the knife, but Bruce mutters under his breath "Stupid cunt." Bill pulls out another knife and starts stabbing Bruce in the neck. At the same time, the back of the van opens and we see that Meg must've been sleeping in the back, as she exits, sees Bruce and starts screaming. Pieces reflexively shoots her in the head, as Easy Wind arrives.
They clean up the bodies and bring them to a funeral parlor Jimmy knows, where they load the corpses in the bottom of coffins of those dead having more legitimate services. Bill and Easy wind squabble the whole time they're there. We also see Gus whispering news to the MWTP. Jimmy's crew is talking over the situation, Franchise reasoning it isn't their fault as the MWTP's intelligence didn't have Meg in the van. One of Jimmy's video customers talks about how hearing one word such as "cancer" can change everything in your life instantly. Jimmy tries to call Dagney, but she doesn't pick up. Jimmy goes to see the MWTP who this time, also has police LT. Atwater (Marshall Bell) with him.
MWTP: An action, not a piece of work. I said that, did I not say that?
Jimmy: Sir, if I could just...
MWTP: Don't sir me, Jim! Gonna beg? Get down on your knees in your suit and beg.
Jimmy; You asked me back in.
MWTP: I'm taking you out.
Jimmy: So that's it? You're gonna send these two, and they're gonna stab me in a crowded Italian restaurant or garrotte me in my sleep?
MWTP: Never. Not these two and not that way. We go back, me and you. You lent the operation a modicum of class, in the day. That's why, milk of human kindness, I'm giving you an out. You've got 48 hours. Put it in the wind. Leave Denver. Go to Rome. Visit the Vatican. Pray to the God you abandoned back in Brooklyn . Just put it in the fucking wind, Jim, or else, I gotta do you too.
Jimmy: What about the others?
Jimmy: It wasn't their fault. THey were following my orders. I take full responsibility.
MWTP: You're not a human being. You're a waltz. Buckwheats, Jim. Your miserable band of misfits. Fuck. Buckwheats.
The crew gets together at the funeral, which will secretly bury Bruce and Meg. They're all waiting for Jimmy, who arrives with the News. "Buckwheats." he tells them. They're all very dismayed, but Bill suggests they take out the MWTP. Franchise tells them that it would be impossible anyway, with the security around him since he was shot. Jimmy tells them to go underground and that he's talked to some people about keeping them safe. Franchise asks "Buckwheats for all of us Jimmy? Even you?" He says that it means him too. Joe Heff narrates "Buckwheats is a whole nother animal. A buckwheats hit don't just mean take the guy out. It means take the guy out in the most painful way possible. It means the vic should suffer. A typical buckwheat hit is to shoot a guy up the ass. A slug up the ass you don't die so much as contort for a good fifteen minutes then you die. I imagine it's like crapping white hot razor blades." He also reveals that the MWTP brought in a hitman from EL Paso called Mr. Shush (Steve Buscemi) the most lethal contract killer west of the Mississippi. We see Mr. Shush effortlessly take out a gang that attacks him.
Jimmy brings Easy Wind to a night club where he's called a marker with the owner Baby Sinister (Glen Plummer) to hide Easy Wind. Easy Wind complains that Baby Sinister is crazy, but Jimmy says that so is The MWTP, and that's how they both got to be "big noises." Noticing Baby Sinister's group, Easy Wind says "When your saviors look like those motherfuckers, you know you done stepped in it one time too many." Jimmy smiles. Saying goodbye, Easy Wind tells Jimmy "Remember when you was a kid, you'd spend the whole fucking year waiting for summer vacation. Then it finally comes, just fly by, just like that. It's funny Jimmy. Life has a way of passing by faster than any summer vacation. It really fucking does." Jimmy gives him a hug and they give the "boat drinks" hand shake, before Easy Wind goes inside.
Jimmy finds the bar where Dagney is drinking with the guy she was seeing. He has a drink and leaves but she follows him out and asks where he's going. He says he has to meet a friend. He asks her if the guy she was with is "Chip." She corrects him, saying "Alex." Jimmy says "He has a very endearing game show host look to him. Does he have his own game show?" She asks him if he wants to go somewhere.They go to her place and she asks if he's ok. He tells her "Timing is everything. You can go years without a Dagney. You can be a man armed with only a fork in a land of soup, and then one day you meet one. You see one. And then...
Dagney: And then what?
Jimmy: I gotta go.
He kisses her, says "Sorry." and leaves.
We see Lt. Atwater in a car outside, watching Jimmy leave.
Jimmy next heads to a carnival where he finds Pieces all dressed up. Jimmy asks if he's seen Critical Bill but he hasn't. Jimmy offers him money and a charter flight to the Greek Islands, but Pieces tells him he's not going to run. Pieces tells Jimmy he's been thinking about a neighbor he had that died of cancer, and wondering if his neighbor was sorry for not doing things. He tells Jimmy "We did the things." assuring him he has no regrets. They give each other the "boat drinks" salute as Pieces walks away. Joe at the dinner narrates again "Boat Drinks, that's a common toast in prison. An ideal, at the end of a long bad life, there you are, on a big cabin cruiser somewhere in the Florida Keys, having boat drinks.
Jimmy finds Lucinda walking down the street and drives his car alongside her, asking if she's seen Bill. She keeps one side of her face away from him and we see that she has a horrible bruise. He notices, she's hiding her face and demands she turn around, stopping the car when she does and tells her to let him get a look. He demands to know what happened. She downplays it, but eventually tells him that one of her regulars "had a party with a couple beer bottles" despite her refusal and then alley whipped her afterwards. Jimmy tells her to get in the car. He then makes her tell him where the man works, although she won't give the name. Jimmy brings her into the office building rushing past the receptionist, pointing out people and asking "Is that him?" He interrupts a conference and asks Lucinda to point him out, which she does. He rushes over to the man and punches him, before wrapping his tie around his neck and telling everyone in the room about the man's problem with bottles. As he is about to demonstrate how unpleasant a bottle is, security grabs him. Later, He tells Joe and Malt at the Diner that the guy dropped all charges, because he had a wife he didn't want finding out anything.
Bernard comes into the Diner to talk to Jimmy. He tells Jimmy he's distraught that Meg won't return calls or letters. He explains that if he could just hear her say "I'm happy now." he could get on with his life. Jimmy tells Bernard to be patient, and she'll turn up. Bernard tells Jimmy he should come bowl a few frames with him sometime. Jimmy catches up with Franchise and offers him a place to go and some money to help out, but Franchise refuses it, saying he can't and that he's leaving on his own, suggesting that Jimmy do the same. He explains that he has to find Bill first. Dodie gives Jimmy a long mean look before they drive off.
Pieces is back at work in the porno movie house when he hears a creak. He looks behind him and sees Mr. Shush. Pieces tells him "Do it quickly." and approaches Mr. Shush who shoots him knocking him into his film reels.
At the same time Jimmy is meeting with Dagney at the Natural History Museum. in the afternoon. Dagney asks him if they're having an affair, due to the time and place of the meeting. She then asks if he's a gangster. "DO they still have gangsters?" he responds. Unimpressed with his Cagney impersonation, she tells him that Alex asked her to marry him, and that she's thinking about it.
Mr. Shush has now found Baby Sinister's place and asks to see him. When he gets in Baby SInister taunts him, but Mr. Shush just says "I need to find Earl Denton, aka Easy Wind." Baby Sinister says "Did you think I'd just give him up? Like I'm your house nigger?" Mr. Shush says "Please, tell me where he is. Cooperate and no one gets hurt.Baby SInister says "Say goodbye, bitch." but Mr. Shush grabs him and holds him in front of himself as a shield, with a gun to Sinister's head. Sinister tells them to shoot him, but Shush shoots them all before they can. He then tells Sinister "A choice, you can tell me where Earl Denton is, or you can tell it to the worms." We see that Easy Wind is hiding right within reach.
Jimmy is at the diner with Lucinda. She's telling him that she could talk a course in massage therapy and go legit. She asks Jimmy if he's ever though of being a Dad, and that she's thought of being a Mom a lot. He criticizes her massage therapy plan, telling her she'd have to support the baby. He then asks "Why me?" She says "You're different, Jimmy. What you did today, was like, God, you've got some strength. You've got decency. You've got a beautiful ass." She tells him that she's ovulating right now. Jimmy asks Malt if he should give Lucinda his baby. Malt says the baby would be the antichrist. Their conversation is interrupted by Franchise coming in to tell Jimmy that Pieces is dead and that he's leaving. He remarks that Jimmy seems awful calm for a man with a buckwheat on him. He drops the issue and leaves.
We then see Jimmy at the MWTP's house. The MWTP is in his hot tub with his nurse and Lt. Atwater. Seeing Jim, he says "You're still here, Jim. You're still in Denver. Why don't you just walk over and spit a green louie into my crippled face, cause you still being here, i think, is the equal of just that." Jimmy says he's there to talk about Francis Chizer. Saying "You gotta call your men off Chizer."
MWTP: I gotta?
Jimmy: It would be good of you to call your men off of Chizer. He's got a family. He's got three kids and he's got a wife. He won't be in your face. He'll disappear. I guarantee it.
MWTP: Disappear? Like Easy Earl Denton disappeared?
Jimmy: What do you mean?
MWTP:It was a good play Jim, but the niggers gave him up [we see a flash of Earl contorting in a dumpster] He was shot. He's gone Jim. First Pieces, now Easy Wind. Took twenty minutes to die. He suffered like you would not fucking believe. You want to stay here and die Jimmy, like a dog in the street? Easy Wind, bullet up the ass, you don't die for twenty minutes.
Jimmy:What about Francis? He's got a family. He's got kids.
MWTP I'd trade the memories of childhood for a stroke of this girl's [nods towards his nurse] stomach. The sense of touch is easily the most under appreciated of the five senses. Okay. Just so he disappears. He's got a family! He's got three kids. They need him.You! Follow him. Be gone Jim. Fucking gone!
Jimmy drives off to see Dagney. He looks at her and she says "You're leaving tomorrow, and you're not coming back. Am I right?" He says "I could send for you." They go to bed and the next day Jim goes off to look for Bill. He finds him in an apartment with many locks on the door. Jimmy knock and hears the pump of a shotgun. When Bill hears it's Jimmy, he lets him in. Jimmy is bothered by the smell in the apartment. Bill says he hasn't been out in three days and he starts pissing in a jug while talking to Jimmy and offering him something to eat. He apologizes to Jimmy for what happened but says that Jimmy was irresponsible to put him out there because "Everybody knows, I'm out of my tits." Jimmy offers Bill tickets to Mexico City but Bill says "I ain't goin' anywhere Jim. They can send whoever they want to send. I will fuck them up five ways from Tuesday. See the Man With the Plan is just a fucking head. You ever think about that? We all bow and cower and run chicken from some fucking head. Well no more. My new motto? Fuck the head!"
Jimmy: They got Easy Wind, Bill.
Bill: Easy Wind, he was a fuck. Kinda liked him anyhow.
Bill then gives Jimmy more details than he desires on the "fecal freak" accusations. Ending with calling Easy Wind a trash mouth, telling Jimmy "He'll get himself killed if he don't watch out." He offers Jimmy something to eat which he doesn't find appealing at all, before giving the "Boat Drinks" salute and leaving. Swinging by Dagney's, he sees Lt. Atwater talking to her. Atwater then looks directly at Jimmy across the street. Later that night, Jimmy ambushes Atwater with a bat as he's getting into his car, telling him to stay away from her.
Atwater says "Hey, I've got a better question for you. What's ugly, tattooed and just got sliced up like provolone? We flash to Franchise's wife and kids entering a police crime scene to find Franchise sliced up on a hotel bed. Jimmy beats on Atwater some more.
The Man With the Plan is having his nurse play "airplane" with his food, when Jimmy barges in with Atwater. Jimmy says "You gave me your word on Franchise."
MWTP: That's right. I gave my word. Gee whiz. Jimmy, don't you see, I'm a criminal, my word don't mean dick.
Jimmy: You gave me your word! [yelling] Your word!
MWTP: You gave me your word.
Jimmy: [nodding] I met someone. I met a girl. I'm asking you. I don't want her hurt.
MWTP: I've heard she's lovely. Maybe we'll get her in here, dance for the boys.
Jimmy attempts to charge the MWTP, before Gus and Ellie restrain him. As soon as they let him go, he charges again. The MWTP tells them "It's alright. I know him. He's a friend. I love this new tough guy thing Jim, very exciting. Get on your knees.
Jimmy refuses so the MWTP has Gus hit him so he drops. He then tells him to get on his belly, but Jimmy says "I'm not gonna beg." The MWTP tells him to get on his belly and beg or he'll have Dagney gangraped. After beating him and demanding he beg several times he refuses. When they stop Jimmy says "Please, I don't want her hurt." The MWTP rolls his wheelchair over to him and says "You scumbag. Didn't you learn nothing from me? Never beg. Never, ever, fucking beg. Now I gotta buckwheats you Jim.GO to Switzerland, go to China, go to the Washington fucking zoo, but an example's gotta be made. And if your bangtail's with you, Ms. Dagney Croft, ski instructor at Vail, if she's with you then she goes too, ten minutes before you, so you gotta watch her, gotta watch her drain. Or maybe not, maybe i decide to be a stand up guy, forget the whole thing, or wheats, buckwheats, or no. Live with that. And the fun part, the real shit and giggles part, is, you ain't never gonna know what I decide, til you're staring at your guts, on the wall.They work him over some more before letting him go." He goes to Malt's and has a milkshake, giving Malt and Joe the boat drinks salute on the way out. We see that Mr. Shush is sitting in the diner listening to Joe talk.
We then go back to Critical Bill, who is trying to stay awake. His locks are all opened from the outside one by one and Mr. Shush, enters the apartment with a knife in his hand. He approaches Bill's bed and stabs at the figure in the bed but then floodlights come on and we see that Bill was in a dark corner in camouflage paint with a shotgun. He blasts Mr. Shush in the chest and screams "I AM GODZILLA! YOU ARE JAPAN! [and then more quietly] Your reputation far exceeds your skills mammy rammer." Bill is surprised to hear a bang, and looks down to see a tiny gun in Shush's hand. He falls over dead on top of the dead Mr. Shush.
At the Diner, Joe explains "Blood runs, when the time comes. Just because Mr. Shush got it, don't mean shit. Hear he'd already made a call, the Montierrez brothers out of Albuquerque. We see Jimmy making up envelopes for Lucinda and Luffy. He then finds Dagney at a bar with Alex, and tries to give Alex the engagement ring that he had bought, so Alex could give his ring to her.Dagney asks what's going on and he tells her he's dying, leaving the ring with her. HE then drives to the bowling alley and picks up Bernard, who is happy to see him. He convinces Bernard to get in his car rather than what for his father's men to pick him up. Jimmy stops and Bernard asks "Is something wrong?" Jimmy says "Yes." and stabs Bernard to death and leaves him in the road before picking up Lucinda, She's horrified at his condition. They make love in the car and she tells him "It's gonna be a beautiful baby Jimmy."
We hear Jimmy in voice over saying "Most of all, you're gonna have to remember, it's not gonna be a perfect world. It's gonna be harder than Chinese math, but as cold as it's gonna seem sometimes, you must have faith, gotta have faith. Have a list. Come up with a list of what's important to you, the ten most important things to you. Write them down. No one can satisfy all ten. It's impossible. If you can satisfy five or six, you're nearly there. You're on your way kid to your own perfect world.
We see Jimmy driving past the bowling alley tossing Bernard's hat to Gus. He gets out of his car and hears guns being readied. We see the Montierrez brothers firing on him and the blast startles Joe and Malt in the Diner. We see Jimmy in one of his own videos telling his son that he was on his list. We see pregnant Lucinda getting on a bus to Tampa. Dagney drives in her car alone. Joe comes up in voice over saying "They said the Man With the Plan couldn't be killed, but Jimmy the Saint, he did it. He didn't have to scale no walls, or wrestle with no goons either. He just took Bernard out for a ride. The Man With the Plan never spilled another drop of blood again.We then see Jimmy and everyone in his crew on a boat having their boat drinks and fishing. Joe starts telling some diner customers about Jimmy the Saint, and we see Jimmy walk in the door again.
What About It?
"Things To Do in Denver" is a very original film which at first glance appears to be a very different kind of movie. It makes liberal use of gangster trappings, but at heart is a long way away from a formula gangster film. I've seen it many times compared to Reservoir Dogs, for example, but other than having their own sense of style, and the presence of gangsters and a heist gone wrong, the films have little to do with each other. Denver does have it's own style of dialogue, which could be felt as over the top, personally I had no trouble accepting the language of these characters as just a detail of their own world. If anything, the sensibility of the dialogue sets it apart from a Tarantino film. These characters don't have much interest in pop culture trivia or extended rapid patter. These characters converse more casually, sharing certain terms which bind them together. While these character are as doomed as those in any other heist movie, these are characters that trust each other and look out for each other, whether or not that sentiment is of any use. They're not undone by selfishness or greed but by their own natural failings, and their own willingness to overlook each other's flaws.
Director Gary Fleder creates a stylish and original film which is stylish, entertaining and contemplative at times. It enjoys it's excesses in dialogue, particularly in the case of Christopher Walken whose joyful commitment to vulgarity comes through all the more convincingly since he is, as Bill points out, "just a head." The choice of actors is vitally important, as diverse and potentially over the top as the characters are. These aren't stock characters, but uniquely flawed individuals. Yet all of their exaggerated characteristics, from leprosy, to a psychopath who sees no problem with beating up corpses, not only add their own character but give us a bigger picture of Jimmy the Saint.
The heist itself is notable here in that it isn't a complicated bank job, but on paper, a relatively simple action, which only goes wrong because Jimmy's handpicked crew has more defects than talents. Also interesting is the fact that Jimmy seems to pick the crew more as a chance to help them financially than out of any actual need of his own. The amount to be gained, $10,000.00 a piece is another interesting part of it. While it's nothing to sneeze at, it's not the take from a robbery, but an agreed upon amount of pay for a job, more wages, than anything else. Jimmy's associates don't need a lot of money to feel like they're doing well.
Jimmy the Saint is not a character out of a Tarantino film. He has no interest in the big score, except that he can't escape his obligation.The pop culture references are built into the movie, like the title referencing a Warren Zevon song, and "Jimmy the Saint" a character out of Bruce Springsteen's song "Lost in the Flood. Our main character, Jimmy the Saint, has all the trappings of a Hollywood gangster, the expensive suits and haircuts, connections everywhere, and certainly some amount of know how, but ultimately, he's a decent guy, with no interest in being a gangster, just an understanding of what it means. He's a deep character that we only see from the surface. This isn't an involved character study, although Andy Garcia certainly fills out the character very well. He works well in the lead here, his basic decency playing well against Walken's ludicrous depravity.
This is a film concerned with mortality above all else, as the title suggests. The initial set up, Jimmy the Saint running a business to let the dying leave messages for their loved ones really sets the tone. Jimmy is very concerned with death and very interested in helping people. His own impending death sends him scrambling to help those in his crew, although, he ends up doing very little for them in the end. The film moves at a good pace, so that such weighty concerns don't feel that way. Death is just a part of everything. Pieces is the only one who really accepts this and as a result, he dies quickly. Jimmy has a hard time with the idea of not living and in fact acts as if he has no death sentence waiting for him for much longer than the others. Franchise points this out, on finding him drinking a milkshake, having a laugh with Lucinda. He seems to believe that he can make everything work out, hide his friends, continue his life with Dagney, right until the point when all his friends are gone and Dagney is threatened. Jimmy is capable of many things but he as we see with his pursuit of Dagney, he is too much of a romantic, to be a good gangster, and it's no wonder he got out of the criminal lifestyle. On some level he knows that death is there, and the "boat drinks" gestures on leaving his friends acknowledge this. Jimmy has no faith in God, but he believes in having faith, in life perhaps, in people. It's important enough to him that he leaves it on video for his unborn son. Despite the constant reminders of mortality, the movie manages to be a lot of fun. It's full of music and energy, and is ultimately about life more thand death, how it runs away faster than summer vacation, but you can find some happiness if like Pieces says you "did the things" For a movie so concerned with death, it ends up being very sweet. Jimmy and his crew all die, but we see them finally having their boat drinks, and Jimmy the Saint living on in Joe's stories, which bring him into Malt's shop another time.
This film is also a virtual celebration of great character acting. THere are more fascinating supporting characters here than most films. Christopher Lloyd is amazing as Pieces, the oldest of the group, struggling to maintain his dignity as he loses digits. He resigns himself to a life as a porno projectionist, but can't help but jump when he has a chance to do something exciting again. William Forsythe's Franchise is the least flashy of all the characters, but also seems to be the glue that holds them together, as Jimmy's trusted confidante and the most competent of them. He is also the one with the most to lose. He comes across as devoted to his family, but is willing to risk it all, if Jimmy really needs him. Franchise's wife Dodie, seems well aware of this fact, and not too happy about coming in second place, although, her mean looks are probably equally from the knowledge that Jimmy's activities could land her husband in jail, or get him killed. She isn't interested in a word Jimmy has to say, knowing that Jimmy will likely get her husband taken away, a point which she is proven right on.
Bill Nunn is solid as Easy Wind, the other relatively stable member of the group. Treat Williams gives perhaps his best performance, playing the psychopathic Critical Bill way over the top but still making it work. We see how dangerous he is while he simmers watching Pieces talk to Bruce. His character is disturbed in every sense of the word, beating on corpses to "keep his powder dry," offering food to Jimmy while peeing in a milk jug. Bill is an accident waiting to happen, and he carries that out. He's crazy, but he's good at hurting people. His line "I am Godzilla! You are Japan!" gives us a good look at the character. But as Joe said "Blood runs when the time comes." Jack Warden is great as Joe Heff, a figure who you can easily imagine in just about any dinner. He serves as a walking history book. He knows all the stories going around.
Christopher Walken is also incredible, given free range to express it would seem. His unique verbal delivery and distinctive range of facial expressions are almost enough to make you forget he's "just a head." He manages to come across as believably dangerous despite any physical limitation. The Man WIth the Plan is a great part for him and I'm not sure I can't think of another actor who could carry the role so well. Fairuza Balk's Lucinda is also a fascinating character, giving a very personal element to the "hooker with a heart of gold" which actually works pretty well against Jimmy the Saint's "Gangster with a heart of gold" Gabrielle Anwar is very convincing as Dagney, the woman that lights Jimmy up. Clearly, he means the things he tells her, and seems completely unable to let her go, even knowing he could die at any time. Steve Buscemi is also a lot of fun as Mr. Shush. He seems a believable hit man of almost supernatural abilities, despite his non intimidating physical presence.
So I think that we end up with a very enjoyable movie, about how fragile life is, and how important it is to "do the things' while you have the time. A thoughtful movie that keeps rolling rather than getting lost in pontificating. It's full of life, in all it's terrible, absurd, bad timed forms, which nonetheless can easily be appreciated, because all the messiness is so obviously life, and very entertaining.
I don't know if I'd call it a great movie, but it's a very good one, It's nice to watch a "gangster movie" which uses the gangster vocabulary and mannerisms but makes itself into so much more; a story of friendship and obligation, and trying your damnedest to live every second you can, doing the things that matter to you. The"gritty"elements of the film are stylized enough so that while they are dark, it feels almost like a comic book. I'm not sure that Joe Heff, the narrator character, is necessary, but I found his monologues entertaining, an old man with who can't help but tell all the stories about his own neighborhood. This movie, like Jimmy the Saint, has some sort of faith and manages to hit the heavy material in a positive way. Even if you can't win the life/death battle, there may things you can do while you're fighting it.
As Jimmy said "Most of all, you're gonna have to remember, it's not gonna be a perfect world. It's gonna be harder than Chinese math, but as cold as it's gonna seem sometimes, you must have faith, gotta have faith. Have a list. Come up with a list of what's important to you, the ten most important things to you. Write them down. No one can satisfy all ten. It's impossible. If you can satisfy five or six, you're nearly there. You're on your way kid to your own perfect world."