The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) – A Movie Review

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is a crime drama that takes place in and around Boston.  Robert Mitchum is Eddie Coyle, a small-time member of an Irish gang who is about to be sentenced for a truck hijacking that he did for another gangster named Dillon who is played by Peter Boyle.  Because Eddie doesn’t want to do anymore time he agrees to act as an informant to ATF agent Dave Foley.  He informs on the gun runner Jackie Brown who has been providing Eddie with pistols for use by a bank robbing gang being run by Eddie’s friend Jimmy Scalise.

At the same time, we discover that Eddie’s associate Dillon is also providing information to Foley too.  Eventually Dillon provides information on Scalise’s operation and the gang gets busted.  When both Jackie Brown and Scalise both get taken down by ATF the head of the gang decides that Eddie is responsible for the leaks and sends his hitman to kill Eddie.  And ironically the hitman is Dillon.

The movie consists of the various crimes, the gun-running and the bank robberies along with Eddie’s and Dillon’s meetings with Dave Foley.  The movie’s strengths are the dialog and the portrayal of these characters.  Listening to them justify the various and contradictory actions they take rings true.  Even Eddie’s relationship with his wife and family demonstrates what a hopeless mess his life is.  And the ending where Dillon takes Eddie to a Bruins hockey game and gets him black out drunk before executing him in a car ride into the suburbs is completely believable and emblematic of the faithless fraternity that these men inhabit.

Living in New England I asked a friend of mine what he thought about the somewhat recent Boston mob movie, “The Departed.”  He said that the legitimate quintessential New England mob movie was the “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.”  And I agree with him completely.  This movie feels about right as a representation of Boston corruption.  Whether it’s gangsters or crooked politicians this is what that world looks and feels like.  It’s petty and disloyal and penny-ante and very, very local.  There’s nothing grandiose and nothing heroic.  It’s gritty and believable.

If you like crime movies that reek of small-timer sweat, this is it.

Touch of Evil (1958) – A Movie Review

Here’s a movie directed by and starring Orson Welles.  Makes you think of Citizen Kane?  Well, not exactly.

Charlton Heston is Ramon Miguel “Mike” Vargas, a Mexican prosecutor on vacation with his American wife Susie played by Janet Leigh.  As Mike and Susie are getting ready to cross the border from Mexico into Texas we watch as a bomb is planted in a car with a man and woman as passengers and in the extended opening shot the Vargases and the car wend their interweaving ways toward the border crossing from Mexico to Texas.  When the car explodes on the American side of the border and the passengers are killed Ray gets involved to represent the Mexican authorities in this cross-border incident.

Local police captain Hank Quinlan, played by Orson Welles arrives with his associate Pete Menzies to investigate the crime and almost immediately start to clash with Vargas.  Quinlan is trying to frame a Mexican local who is married to the daughter of the man killed in the car explosion.  Vargas works with the local District Attorney’s Assistant, Al Schwartz to uncover a pattern of planted evidence in several of Quinlan’s old cases.  At the same time some local Mexican criminals, the associates of Joe Grandi, are after Vargas because of a conviction he got against one of their family.  The Grandis reach out to Quinlan and he agrees to allow the Grandis to kidnap Susie.  Susie is staying at an isolated rural motel on the US side of the border which is owned by Grandi.  Grandi’s henchman terrorize her then apparently rape her and inject her with a narcotic and drag her back to town.

Meanwhile Quinlan, for no apparent reason, strangles Grandi and tries to pin the murder on Susie.  Mike Vargas goes berserk and beats up the entire Grandi gang single-handedly for attacking his wife.  Then he convinces Quinlan’s assistant Pete Menzies to wear a wire to prove that Quinlan is guilty of corruption.  But because of the hokey nature of 1950’s surveillance equipment Quinlan hears the feedback between the microphone on Menzies and the speaker Vargas is pathetically carrying around with him to remain in range of the perambulating fat police captain.  Quinlan shoots Menzies and is just about to shoot Vargas when a dying Menzies shoots Quinlan and he slowly sinks into a wastewater pond like a dying whale.

This movie seems to be Welles daring us to find something good to say about it.  I will admit that the long opening scene with the car and the Vargases is very well done and interesting both dramatically and visually but after that this whole movie is a hot mess in every way possible.

Let’s start with Charlton Heston as a Mexican.  Oh, come on!  Sure, they put some bronze-o on him and gave him a thin moustache but then it’s still Charlton Heston.  He looks like Charlton Heston; he sounds like Charlton Heston.  He even walks like Charlton Heston.  All he left out was saying, “Let my people go.”  Heston runs around the movie with great energy and reasonableness.  All the viewers are rooting for him.  All the other characters including Janet Leigh’s Susie are making his life extremely difficult.  He’s finding decades old evidence against Quinlan and beating up hundreds of Mexican gangsters and setting up and monitoring very ticklish radio-frequency surveillance equipment.  And all the time hard at work trying to look and sound Mexican while being Charlton Heston.  I’m giving Heston a solid B for effort.

Next there’s Welles.  He looks like he weighs 400 pounds.  They must have used a special lens to make him look even fatter.  It’s awful.  I can’t figure out if they’re trying to make him seem somewhat sympathetic.  If so, they failed.  He’s loathsome and repulsive.

Then there are the supporting characters.  During the rape scene at the motel, the “night manager” is played by a young Dennis Weaver who seems to be playing the role as a hick who also is some kind of psychiatric patient.  I found him more off-putting than the “Mexican biker gang” that is there to torment Susie.  But they’re weird too.  There is some kind of implication that we are seeing some subculture involving drugs and possibly lesbianism but it’s so confused and furtive that I’m not sure the actors even know what they supposed to be portraying.

And then you have a very worn looking Marlene Dietrich playing a brothel madame named Tanya who Quinlan still remembers fondly and visits for some reason.  The scene is so bizarre that it reminds me of Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles doing an homage song to Dietrich called , “I’m Tired.”  It’s like Dietrich is doing a bad impression of herself.

And finally, they made Zsa Sze Gabor a strip-club owner.  But her part was so minor that mercifully she didn’t have to pretend to act.

So, who should watch this movie?  I guess people studying film in college.  Fans of Orson Welles who want to talk about his evolution as a director.  And people who like really bad film noir.  That should do it.  You have been warned.

The Big Heat (1953) – A Movie Review

This is film noir has Glenn Ford as homicide detective, Dave Bannion in a city where mob boss Mike Lagana controls the police department all the way up to police commissioner Higgins.  When one of the crooked cops, Tom Duncan, has a change of heart and kills himself, leaving a file with all the details of the police corruption, his not so grieving widow Bertha hides the file and tells Lagana that she wants to keep getting money or she’ll have the file released to the newspapers.

Dave Bannion is assigned the Duncan suicide but when he starts sniffing around Duncan’s life, he finds that the supposedly honest cop is involved with a lot of shady people.  Dave’s boss Lieutenant Ted Wilks, gets pressure from the Commissioner’s office to stop digging into the case but Dave refuses.  Bannion finds that Duncan had a barfly girlfriend named Lucy Chapman who tells him that Duncan was unhappy in his marriage and felt guilty about being a crooked cop.  Unfortunately, Lucy is overheard talking to Bannion by one of Lagana’s men and she ends up tortured and killed by his henchmen.

Now Bannion is sure that Lagana is responsible for Duncan’s and Chapman’s deaths and he confronts Lagana at his palatial home.  After roughing up Lagana’s bodyguard and threatening the mob boss he leaves and the next day is dressed down by Wilks who has been ordered to stop Bannion from continuing with the crusade.

The next night when Dave gets home his wife is killed by a bomb that was planted in his car and was meant for him.  After moving his young daughter to his sister-in-law’s home under police protection Bannion returns to work where Wilks and Higgins try to persuade him to let the department solve the murder of his wife.  Bannion as much as accuses Higgins of being Lagana’s stooge and Higgins demands his badge and gun.  Bannion gives him his badge but says the gun is his own and when Higgins warns him not to use it, he replies, “I won’t use it until I find my wife’s murderers.”

Lagana has a hood named Vince Stone, played with mad dog panache by Lee Marvin.  Vince and another hood Larry Gordon are handling the Duncan problem for Lagana.  Living with Vince is his girlfriend Debby Marsh played by the alluring Gloria Grahame.  She is the comic relief while Vince and Larry are berated by Lagana over the bungling way they committed the murders of Lucy Chapman and Bannion’s wife.

The rest of the plot revolves around Bannion digging into the murder of his wife and the fallout from this search.  Because an election is going on Lagana warns Vince and Larry to be discrete in public so when Bannion confronts them at a bar Vince and Larry leave the bar in full flight and Debby Marsh gets left behind.  She becomes fascinated by this cop who is able to send Vince scurrying away and follows Bannion back to his hotel.  But Debby doesn’t provide any information for Bannion and he insults her romantic advances so she leaves.

But that is the fuse that drives the story to its conclusion.  One of Vince’s boys followed Debby back to Bannion’s hotel and when she lies to Vince about where she was, he flies into a jealous rage and throws boiling coffee at her, hideously scarring one side of her face.

Realizing that her life is in danger Debby runs away from the hospital where she had received treatment for her burns and calls on Bannion at his hotel room.  He agrees to hide her and she provides information on who was responsible for his wife’s murder, Larry.  Bannion goes after Larry and beats the truth out of him about the murders and the Duncan case.  Bannion then tells Larry that he better run because Bannion will tell Lagana where he got his information.  And sure enough, when Larry does run Vince catches up to him and kills him.

Now Bannion knows about Bertha Duncan’s arrangement with Lagana and he pays a visit to her and threatens to kill her because he knows that her death will automatically trigger the release of Duncan’s file to the newspapers.  But he is interrupted by a police detail that Lagana sent to her house as protection against Bannion.

Meanwhile the protective police patrol at Bannion’s sister-in-law’s house is called off by Lagana and Bannion hurries there to find that his brother-in-law has called in the help of his old army buddies to protect the house and in fact Lieutenant Wilks and one of the other detectives have volunteered to guard the building on their own.

Meanwhile, Debby Marsh decides to go over to Bertha Duncan’s house and being a crook’s girlfriend, she decides that it is her place to kill Bertha Duncan and, in that way, put an end to Lagana and his mob.  After shooting Duncan she heads to Vince’s penthouse apartment and hiding in the dark she throws scalding hot coffee in her boyfriend’s face and gloats about it.  He shoots her a few times and right then Bannion shows up and backs Vince onto the terrace with his own gunfire.  He calls the police and ambulance and then goes out and shoots it out with Vince.  But when Vince runs out of bullets Bannion beats him down and hands him over to the police and comforts Debby as she succumbs to the gunshot wounds.

The movie ends with Dave Bannion back at the homicide squad doing his job.

I would describe this movie as a melodrama.  The emotional strings are being pulled pretty hard.  A likeable police officer with a pretty young wife and little daughter see’s his wife killed in front of his eyes by a bomb meant for him.  You couldn’t come up with a scenario more fraught with pathos.

But it works.  In fact, this was Glenn Ford’s sweet spot.  This kind of average good guy in an impossible situation was what he did best.  So, this works.  I’m not saying there aren’t a couple of spots where you yell at the screen, “Oh come on!”  But the movie is enjoyable and the audience gets the payoff it expects.  Ford is heroically vengeful.  Marvin is delightfully vicious and Grahame is comic and tragic at the same time.

This isn’t a perfect movie but it’s good of its type.  I recommend it for fans of film noir and fans of Glenn Ford.

Pitfall (1948) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

In this film noir Dick Powell is John Forbes, a married man who works as an adjuster for an insurance company.  He lives in the suburbs with his pretty wife Sue, played by Jane Wyatt and his young son Tommy.  Based on the domestic scenes, we see that Forbes is bored with his humdrum existence of work and tame suburban monotony.

One day an insurance investigator, J.B. MacDonald (played by truly creepy Raymond Burr) comes to Forbes with a case that requires him to interview a woman, Mona Stevens played by frequent femme fatale actress, Lizabeth Scott.  Her fiancé, Bill Smiley, has passed along to her gifts paid for with money he fraudulently obtained against his insurance.  During his meeting with Forbes MacDonald indicates that he is lusting after Stevens and will be making a play for her while her boyfriend is in jail.  We can tell that Forbes despises MacDonald but in order to maintain a working relationship with the investigator ignores the crudity of MacDonald’s plan.

When Forbes meets Mona Stevens at her apartment he blandly and uncaringly requires her to surrender her engagement ring and other gifts given by Smiley.  She upbraids him for his callousness and just to show her disdain for his power she tells him about an asset he didn’t know about, a small speed boat that she loves more than anything else.  Now Forbes feels remorse for being such a heel and while going out to see the boat he apologizes and tells her he’ll buy her a drink to show her that he has nothing against her.  The couple go to the dock and at her invitation they go out on the boat and she even allows him to drive it.  They both enjoy the ride and each other’s company.  Afterwards they go to a bar and have some drinks and Forbes tells Mona that he won’t include the boat in his report.  During the scene sexual attraction is on display on both sides and afterwards they head back to Mona’s apartment.  Meanwhile we are shown MacDonald skulking around watching them.  In the next scene Forbes is shown arriving at his home very late in the night and he sneaks into his bedroom where his wife is asleep.  His guilt over betraying her is plain to see on his face.

The next day MacDonald shows up in Forbes’ office and tells him he doesn’t want Forbes interfering with his play for Mona.  Also, he informs Forbes that he has added the speed boat to the list of assets that Mona must relinquish.  Forbes tells MacDonald to stop annoying Mona and not to interfere with his actions either professionally or personally.  Forbes meets with Mona and tells her about the speed boat and MacDonald’s part in it.  Mona volunteers that MacDonald has been annoying her.  When Forbes gets home that night MacDonald is waiting for him in front of his garage and administers a serious beat down on Forbes.  Forbes tells his wife and the police that he had been robbed by strangers.  His doctor tells him he’ll have to stay in bed for a couple of weeks and Forbes tells his job that he has a bad cold.

When Forbes doesn’t show up for a few days Mona calls his office and is informed that he is home sick.  She drives to his house with some soup and there discovers that Forbes is a married man.  She actually speaks to his wife in front of the house claiming that she is looking for a house on a different street.  When Forbes finally gets well, he goes to speak to Mona and she tells him she has discovered his secret.  Forbes admits his deception and apologizes.  Now Mona tells him that Macdonald is pressing his demands for a relationship, hounding her at work and is threatening to tell her fiancé in prison that she is having an affair with Forbes.  Apparently, MacDonald who is a former policeman has connections in the prison.  Forbes promises to fix the situation.

Forbes goes to MacDonald’s apartment and administers a beating that at least matches the one he got from MacDonald.  And he warns him to stay away from Mona and Forbes’ family.  Time passes and Smiley will be getting out of jail.  MacDonald has been visiting him in jail and filling his mind with stories that Mona is having an affair with Forbes.  Smiley shows up at Mona’s apartment drunk and armed with a pistol that MacDonald gave him.  He accuses her of infidelity with Forbes and says he’s going over to his house to settle things.  Mona phones Forbes and warns him.  Forbes arms himself and when Smiley arrives, he pulls the gun on him and tells him to leave or be shot.  Smiley leaves but as soon as Forbes goes back in his house Smiley smashes through a large window in the living room and enters the house.  As soon as he steps foot in the house Forbes shoots him several times.  Forbes pretends that the man is a prowler in his statement to the police.

Meanwhile MacDonald is at Mona’s apartment and listens on her radio to the police channel where they hear about the shooting at Forbes’ address.  When the radio reports add homicide to the message MacDonald calls a friend at the precinct and learns that Forbes has killed Smiley.  MacDonald then informs Mona that with Smiley dead and Forbes entangled with his death and Macdonald’s connections with the police, Mona will have no choice but to go away with MacDonald and be his girlfriend.  As he starts packing her clothes her face becomes bleak and she reaches into a drawer, pulls out a pistol and puts several bullets into MacDonald.

Back at Forbes’ home he is racked with guilt and confesses to his wife his relationship with Smiley’s fiancé and the reason for the break in.  He then wanders off into the night preparing himself for the consequences of his actions.  He ends up at police headquarters and makes his statement to the district attorney and there learns that Mona has shot MacDonald and depending on whether he lives will be indicted for either murder or attempted murder.  No charges will be brought against Forbes but the DA rebukes him.  He says that Forbes’ attempt to conceal his infidelity is responsible for the shootings.  Otherwise he could have called the police and prevented the incidents.  As Forbes is leaving the building, he sees Mona being led away by the police.

As he leaves the building, he sees his wife Sue waiting for him in their family car.  He gets in and as she is driving him home, they discuss their situation.  Forbes is contrite and assumes she will want a divorce.  Sue admits that she has considered it but isn’t sure that is what she wants.  She does think they will have to move to another town and suggests that he asks for a transfer from his company.  When he asks her how she will take up her life with him after the betrayal she admits that things will not be the same but says she is willing to give it a chance.

I find this movie interesting for a number of reasons.  The fact that the adulterous husband avoided all legal consequences and might not even lose his wife was a very atypical ending in 1948.  The Hays Code required that the guilty be punished and that included moral offenses that might not have a jail sentence specified.  Also, the reality of a pillar of the community being bored with his “American Dream” existence was sort of heretical.  But the reality of post-war America is a fitting subject for a realistic appraisal of how men would adapt to a world that no longer needed war heroes but rather expected a boring but dependable “Father Knows Best” husband and dad.  Interestingly, Jane Wyatt who played the wife is best known for her part as the loyal, dependable wife in that show Father Knows Best.  The crisis and resolution of John Forbes’ transgression is handled in a more realistic and nuanced way than what would have been seen in the 1930s and early 40s.  Forbes breaks the accepted boundaries of morality but instead of paying with his life or his freedom he is stuck with his conscience and the knowledge that his wife can no longer believe in him.  One man is dead because of him and an innocent woman will go to jail.  This is much more like what life is really like.  Lots of gray, not so much black and white.  Flawed people living with the consequences of their mistakes and hopefully learning from them.

And on a personal basis, I find the fact that Mona filled Raymond Burr full of lead very satisfying and admirable.  It shows the right attitude.  Interesting movie with nuanced characters and lots of things to think about.  Highly recommended.

In a Lonely Place (1950) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

“In a Lonely Place” is a less well-known film in Humphrey Bogart’s catalog but the plot and character combine to play very well to Bogart’s strengths.  In the story Bogart is a Hollywood screen writer named Dixon “Dix” Steele who has been down on his luck of late.  And in the first scene we also discover that he has an explosive temper that easily leads him into physical altercations.  Steele is at a restaurant where he meets up with some colleagues and other movie making types, producers, agents and actors.  A producer who is somewhat obnoxious makes a crack about an alcoholic actor that happens to be Steele’s friend and Dix physically assaults him and has to be restrained.  During the evening we learn that Dix ix supposed to read a novel for his agent to see if it is suitable for a movie treatment.  Because he is too tired and hung over, he asks the hat check girl, Mildred Atkinson, who has read the book to accompany him back to his apartment and recite a summary of the book for him.  She agrees and we see her enthusiastically summarize the book to Dix who is obviously unimpressed with the plot.  When she finishes, he explains that he is too tired to drive her home and gives her a generous amount of cash to catch a cab around the block on her own.  At one point in the scene Dix is looking out the apartment window and he sees a woman standing on her balcony.  The two of them stare at each other for an extended moment and Dix is obviously interested.  The scene ends with Dix sending Mildred on her way and catching another look at the neighbor woman who is in the apartment courtyard.

The next morning Dix is awakened by a ring at his doorbell.  An old army pal of his Brub Nicolai is calling.  Brub is now a police detective and his boss, Capt. Lochner, wants to talk to Dix.  Dix had been Nicolai’s commanding officer in WW II and their relationship is presented as casually friendly.  At the police station Dix is unemotional and seemingly unconcerned to hear that Mildred was strangled to death after leaving his home the night before.  Lochner is noticeably suspicious of Steele’s seemingly callous disregard for the girl’s murder but when the neighbor woman who had shared the glances with Dix the night before, Laurel Gray, comes into the police station and in front of Dix confirms the fact that Mildred left Steele’s apartment alone, the police let Dix go home.  Interestingly on his way home Dix pays a florist to have two dozen white roses sent to Mildred Atkinson’s home.

The setup after this is two tracks.  Dix and Laurel fall in love and we see the relationship vitalize Dix.  Notably his screen writing work benefits enormously.  He is happier than he has been in years.  The other track is Capt. Lochner pursuing evidence of Steele’s guilt in the Atkinson murder.  He instructs Nicolai to socialize with Dix and Laurel.  Nicolai and his wife invite them to dinner and go out on the town with the couple.  These get togethers serve to only increase suspicion of Dix.  He really does have a violent and slightly disturbed personality.  And finally, Capt. Lochner calls Laurel in to discuss Steele’s long and troubled history of violence.  This plants the seeds of doubt about Dix deep into her mind.  And it is the catalyst that eventually destroys her trust in him.  When Dix and Laurel are at the Nicolais’ home one night it comes out that Laurel had met with Capt. Lochner without telling Dix.  Dix flies into a rage and storms away and Laurel barely catches up with him before he drives off into the night like a madman.  Driving at seventy miles an hour around winding mountain roads he barely avoids numerous accidents but finally sideswipes a car at an intersection.  The driver angrily insults him for damaging his car and Dix pummels him into unconsciousness on the side of the road.  But when he is about to brain the helpless man with a large rock Laurel screams at him and brings him back to his senses.  They drive off and Dix relates how he’s been in a hundred fights like this.  Laurel asks if that makes it better.  He tries to justify himself based on the verbal taunt the other driver made.  She reminds him that all the guy called him was a “blind knuckle-headed squirrel.”  He becomes slightly contrite and lets her drive them home from there.  The next day after reading of the attack in the newspaper Dix goes to the post office and sends three hundred dollars to his victim in the name of Joe Squirrel.

But now Laurel is so shaken by the knowledge of Steele’s murderous temper that she even doubts whether he is innocent of Mildred’s murder.  She cannot sleep and begins taking sleeping pills.  Sensing that things are slipping away Dix tells Laurel that they are going to get engaged that day and married that night in Las Vegas.  Too afraid to refuse him she agrees but secretly makes plans to run off on a flight to New York City.  She confesses to Steele’s agent Mel that she is leaving him.  Mel tells her it will crush Dix and counsels her to give Dix a consolation victory by allowing Mel to have the script approved by the studio before she leaves him as this will soften the blow to his ego.  This sets up a scene at the “engagement party” at their favorite restaurant where a call comes in from the studio revealing that Mel gave the script to the studio without Dix’s permission.  Dix slaps Mel viciously in the face breaking his glasses.  Dix goes into the bathroom to apologize to Mel but by the time he returns to the table Laurel has fled.

Dix confronts Laurel in her apartment and all his suspicions that she is leaving him are on display.  She has taken off his engagement ring and is hiding her preparations to flee the state.  Finally, a call from the travel agent reveals all and as she tries to placate him Dix grabs Laurel and starts to strangle her.  But before it’s too late he comes to his senses, lets her go and starts walking away.  The phone rings again and it is Nicolai and Lochner calling to apologize to Dix and Laurel.  Mildred Atkinson’s boyfriend has confessed to her murder.  Dix lifelessly passes the phone to a still visibly choked and groggy Laurel who listens to Lochner’s apology with vacant eyes.  She mentions before she hangs up that a day earlier this news would have meant a great deal more.  The movie ends with Laurel watching from her open door as Dix walks dazedly away to his apartment.

This movie comes at an interesting point in the transition from the studio system of the golden age of Hollywood to the aftermath with independent production companies struggling to get movies financed and made.  Bogart’s production company was able to capitalize on the talents of the actors, directors and production people available at that point to give the film the polished Hollywood look but he was stepping way from the safe plot devices and social conventions that wouldn’t have allowed a big star like Bogart to steer so far onto the dark side.  But this is what Bogart was looking for.  Earlier in his career he could be the psychotic gangster but after Casablanca and The Big Sleep he would have to be at least nominally a good guy.  This restriction to his choices was against his interests and so he sought out a film noir like this that gave the audience what they wanted.

And it is very effective.  Gloria Grahame as Laurel is very interesting to watch.  She performs the varying stages of her relationship with Dix in a convincing and entertaining way.  The supporting cast is good.  But it is Bogart who performs the tour de force.  He is given a very good script and he plays it to the hilt.  There are nice little touches throughout the movie that actually endear Dix to the audience.  He really is a very personable madman.  All his friends really do like him even after he beats them up.  Bogart’s work in this film compares very favorably to any of his better known and critically praised roles.  And the ending is wonderfully dissatisfying.  If Bogart had been cleared a day earlier none of his crazed actions would have happened and Laurel never would have doubted his innocence or his sanity.  At the same time we see that Steele is a dangerously violent man with the potential to kill in the heat of the moment.  A very nice dilemma for the audience to digest.

Highly recommended.

Blade Runner 2049 – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I saw Blade Runner in 1982.  It was a dystopic sci-fi story based on a Philip K Dick story, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”  Harrison Ford is a cop named Rick Deckard whose job is to terminate runaway androids (replicants), he’s called a blade runner.  The movie was constructed as a film noir with Deckard in love with a woman that he knows to be a replicant.  The movie is full of dark violent imagery.  And the story has at its core the concept of the inherent dignity of all human life and the injustice of denying anyone freedom.  And Rutger Hauer was a lot of fun running amok as a brilliant homicidal replicant named Roy Batty.

Since this is Orion’s Cold Fire, I feel it is necessary to record here Roy’s final speech before dying:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain. Time to die.”  It’s effective, both dramatically and emotionally.  In point of fact it’s the best thing in the movie.

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to this movie.  It’s about thirty years after the first movie and K (played by Ryan Gosling) is a replicant who works for the Los Angeles police department as a blade runner.  While terminating a rogue replicant he detects a body buried under a tree on the replicant’s farm.  Forensic evidence points to the body belonging to the replicant that Deckard ran away with at the end of the first movie.  And the forensics shows that she gave birth to a child.  This is supposed to be impossible and so frightens the law enforcement establishment that they order K to find the child and terminate it and destroy all evidence of its existence.

But based on evidence associated with the child in K’s search he begins to believe that he is that child.  Because of the usefulness and efficiency of having replicants fertile, Niander Wallace, the wealthy, brilliant and evil CEO of the replicant manufacturing corporation wants to find the child in order to learn the secret of its ability.

This scenario sparks all manner of fights and chases and clues are found and people are hunted down.  Eventually K finds the woman who delivers the child and learns he is not the child.  He finds Deckard (reprised by Ford) and reunites him with his daughter.

I thought it was an awful movie.  It was full of off-putting action, boring and confusing dialog and unsympathetic characters.  Even as science fiction it didn’t make any sense.  We can currently read the entire genome of any human being.  How could it be possible for a future world that could produce synthetic humans not be able to make them fertile.  Also, since as we learned in the first movie, these replicants were born adult and only lived a few short years, how could having them gestate other replicants make any sense?  They would be born infants and take twenty years to mature.  Or even if in the meantime replicants now lived longer why were humanoid slaves needed at all?  The advances in artificial intelligence showcased in the movie made the need for android slaves nonsensical.

But honestly, all that is beside the point.  The movie was terrible.