Guilty Pleasure No. 37: Death Wish (dir by Eli Roth)

Is it finally safe to honestly review Death Wish?

You may remember that this film, a remake of the 70s vigilante classic, came out last March and critics literally went insane attacking it.  That it got negative reviews wasn’t necessarily a shock because the movie was directed by Eli Roth and he’s never been a favorite of mainstream critics.  Still, it was hard not to be taken aback but just how enraged the majority of the critics appeared to be.  Seriously, from the reviews, you would have thought that Death Wish was not just a bad movie but a crime against nature.

Of course, a lot of that was due to the timing of the film’s release.  The film was released less than a month after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  At the time the film first came out, the country was in the midst of a daily diet of anti-second amendment rallies and David Hogg.  Many critics accused Death Wish of being a commercial for the NRA.  Others branded the film as being right-wing propaganda.  In fact, the criticism was so harsh that it was hard not to feel that the critics were essentially taking Death Wish far more seriously than it took itself.

If anything, Death Wish is a big, glossy, and rather silly movie.  Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey.  Paul is a peace-loving man.  We know this because he refuses to get into a fight with a belligerent parent at a soccer game.  He’s also an emergency room doctor, the type who pronounces a policeman dead and then rushes off to try to save the life of whoever shot him.  No one in the movie suspects that Paul would ever become a vigilante but we know that there’s no way he can’t eventually end up walking the streets with a loaded gun because he’s played by Bruce Willis.  When Paul backs down from the fight at the soccer game, Willis delivers his dialogue with so much self-loathing that we just know that, once Paul gets back home, he’s going to lock himself in the basement and start yelling at the walls, Stepfather-style.

Eventually, criminals break into Paul’s house and shoot both his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and his daughter (Camila Morrone).  His wife dies.  His daughter ends up in a coma.  Paul spends a day or two in shock and then he promptly gets a gun and starts shooting criminals.  Eventually, this brings him into conflict with the same criminals who attacked his family!  Meanwhile, two detectives (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise) look at all the dead bodies piling up around them and just shrug it off.  At one crime scene, Norris is happy to grab a slice of pizza.

And really, that’s it.  It sounds simple because it is simple.  There is absolutely no narrative complexity to be found in Death Wish, which is why, in its own cheerfully crude way, the film totally works.  In real life, of course, vigilante justice is not the solution and the death penalty is often unfairly applied but, from the moment the opening titles splash across the screen, Death Wish makes clear that it has no interest in real-life and, throughout its brisk running time, it literally seems to be ridiculing anyone in the audience who might be worried about the moral ramifications of a citizen gunning down a drug dealer.

Death Wish is a big extravagant comic book.  It takes Paul one scene to go from being a meek doctor to being an expert marksman and, when Paul dispatches one criminal by dropping a car on him, Roth lays on the gore so thick that he almost seems to be daring us to take his film seriously.  By that same token, Paul kills a lot of people but at least they’re all really, really bad.  In fact, the criminals are so evil that you can’t help but suspect that Roth is poking a little bit of fun at the conventions of the vigilante genre.  Even the fact that Willis wanders through the entire film with the same grim expression on his face feels like an inside joke between the director and his audience.

The critics were right when they called Death Wish a fantasy but they were wrong to frame that as somehow being a flaw.  It’s a cartoonishly violent and deeply silly film and yet, at the same time it’s impossible not to cheer a little when Paul reveals that he’s been hiding a machine gun under his coffee table.  It’s an effective film.  Eli Roth delivers exactly what you would expect from a film about Bruce Willis killing criminals in Chicago.  It may not be a great film but it works.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean

TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return “Part 6” (dir by David Lynch) (SPOILERS)

It’s time to take another trip into the world Twin Peaks!  Below is my recap of the latest episode.  Along with reading my thoughts, be sure to check out Ryan’s review of the episode as well!  And, if you want to see where my mind was immediately after the end of Part 6, check out my initial thoughts here!

I have to admit that I cringed a little when Part 6 opened with Cooper/Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan, of course) still staring at that statue.  It was an image that was somehow both touching and annoying.  There’s an innocence to Cooper/Dougie that makes you want to protect him and, at the same time, it’s hard not to want the old Cooper back.  No matter what, I do have to admire David Lynch for having the courage to take the risk of maintaining such a leisurely pace when it comes to telling this story.  It goes against all conventional wisdom.

After coming across Dougie/Cooper still staring at the statue, a friendly police officer takes him home.  (Dougie/Cooper is obsessed with the officer’s badge and can still only identify his house by using the red door.)  Janey-E (Naomi Watts) has finally reached the point where she’s willing to accept that Cooper/Dougie needs to see a doctor but she still seems to be in denial about just how strange her “husband” is acting.  If anything, the Cooper/Dougie storyline demonstrates the lengths that some people will go to in order to pretend that everything’s normal.

Dougie/Cooper is sent upstairs, by Janey-E, to say goodnight to Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon).  This leads to a genuinely sweet scene, in which Sonny Jim and Dougie/Cooper take turns clapping their hands and making the lights go out and come back on.

However, that fun is interrupted by Janey-E.  While going through the file that Dougie/Cooper brought home from work, she comes across an unmarked brown envelope.  Inside is a picture of Dougie with Jade (Nafessa Williams).  Janey-E realizes that not only has Dougie/Cooper not paid the money that he owed the loan sharks but that he’s also been seeing a prostitute.  “You are in the dog house, mister!” she shouts.  Dougie/Cooper, on the other hand, is just happy to see a picture of Jade.

“Jade,” he smiles, remembering that she once gave him a ride to a casino.  (“Jade gave two rides,” Dougie/Cooper says, blankly.)

Suddenly, the phone (a landline!) rings.  “Maybe it’s Jade calling!” Janey-E snaps.

“Jade,” Dougie/Cooper smiles.

Janey-E answers and discovers that it’s the loan sharks calling.  They want their money.  Janey-E tells them that there’s no way that Dougie/Cooper is going to be able to pay, especially if they do the typical loan shark thing and break his legs.  (Naomi Watts, incidentally, totally kicks ass in the role of Janey-E.)  Janey-E agrees to meet with Dougie/Cooper’s “friends” the next afternoon.

“Tomorrow’s a big day!” Janey-E snaps at him.

“Big day,” Dougie/Cooper agrees.

“Yes, sweetheart,” Janey-E agrees.

Meanwhile, somewhere — perhaps in Twin Peaks — a green light turns red and there is the sound of electricity.  In the Black Lodge, One-Armed MIKE (Al Strobel) walks with his one arm raised to the air.

Suddenly, MIKE appears in Dougie/Cooper’s living room.  “You have to wake up!  Wake up!  Don’t die.  Don’t die!  Don’t die!” he tells Dougie/Cooper before vanishing.  Dougie/Cooper responds by drawing what appears to be a ladder and steps on his work files.  It’s hella creepy.

Cut to Albert Rosengfield (Miguel Ferrer) driving through the rain.  (Is he in New York?  That’s what I assumed, mostly because I assume all big, unnamed cities are meant to be New York.)  After parking his car and getting out in the rain, Albert struggles with umbrella and then shouts, “Fuck Gene Kelly!  You motherfucker!”  It’s a funny line but also a sad one, as it reminds us of the great actor we lot when we lost Miguel Ferrer.

Albert steps into a trendy bar.  He approaches a blonde woman at the bar.  “Diane?” he says.  She turns around.  OH MY GOD, IT’S LAURA DERN!

(Yes, after 25 years, we’ve finally met the Diane that Cooper always spoke of.  Even better, she’s played by the one living performer — Jack Nance, sadly, is no longer with us — who is as closely linked to David Lynch as Kyle MacLachlan.)

Laura Dern as Diane

Cut to Twin Peaks.  At a lumber yard, psycho Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) has apparently just snorted the greatest cocaine ever.  He’s at a meeting with Red (Balthazar Getty) and several heavily armed men.  Apparently, Red is the new Twin Peaks drug lord.  (I guess the Renault family has gotten out of the game.)  Red says that he’s been in town for a few weeks and he likes it.  (During Part One, we briefly saw Red at the Roadhouse, making eyes at Shelley.)

Red is a typically talkative David Lynch drug dealer.  He says that he has problems with his liver.  He wants to know if Richard has ever really studied his hand.  Red talks about how much he likes The King and I.  In between all the random comments, he worries that Richard doesn’t have his drug use under his control and then says, “I’m going to be watching you, kid.”

“Don’t call me kid,” Richard says.

Red thinks that’s the funniest thing he ever heard.  Red also explains that, if Richard screws up, he’ll saw open Richard’s head and eat his brains.  Red does an elaborate magic trick with a dime, flipping it into the air where it apparently hangs in suspended animation before briefly appearing in Richard’s mouth.  Richard pulls the dime from his mouth, just to have it disappear from his hand.  Suddenly, the dime falls into Red’s hand.  Red explains that the dime represents the two of them.  “Heads, I win,” Red explains, “tails you lose.”

(Balthazar Getty is totally and completely chilling as Red.  He’s certainly a better actor now than he was when he made Lost Highway.)

Anyway, Richard doesn’t take this well because, in the very next scene, he’s driving his pickup truck, crying, and screaming, “Fuck you, man!”

Meanwhile, at a nearby trailer park, Carl (Harry Dean Stanton) is starting his day.  (You may remember Carl as the trailer park manager from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  Apparently, he’s moved to Twin Peaks.)  Carl, who says he’s mostly just waiting for die, is driven into town by a friend.  Accompanying them is a man (Jeremy Lindholm) who talks about his wife, Linda.  She’s in a wheel chair and the man says that it’s taken forever for the government to send them their money.

“Fucking war,” Carl says, “Fucking government.”

(Damn straight, Carl!  Also, remember in Part One, the Giant told Cooper that he needed to find Richard and Linda.  Well, we’ve already met Richard Horne and, in this episode, we learned about Linda.  But are the same Richard and Linda that Cooper needs to find?)

At the Double R, we discover that apparently there hasn’t been any staff turnover in 25 years.  Shelley (Madchen Amick) is ringing up customers.  The German waitress is still taking orders.  A customer named Miriam (Sarah Jean Long) says that she loves Double R coffee.  She’s a teacher.  “The kids this year are so cute!” she says.  There’s much giggling.  Surely, nothing bad could possibly be about to happen with all of this happiness going on…

Uh-oh, Richard’s still driving and yelling.  “I’ll show you a kid!” he shouts, slamming down on the accelerator.  Damn, Richard — is that any way for a Horne to behave!?

Carl sits in a park and stares up at the trees.  He watches a mother playing with her young son.  He smiles at them.  Carl appears to have calmed down considerably over the past 25 years.

Richard, being the worst human being ever, runs a stop sign.  Well, what could go wrong on such a beautiful day, right?  I mean it’s not safe but — OH SHIT, RICHARD JUST RAN OVER THE KID!  And then he keeps on driving, all the while screaming that it’s not his fault!  While he’s yelling, he suddenly realizes that Miriam — who is standing outside of the Double R — has seen his truck and his face.

Meanwhile, the mom is left cradling her dead son, while a group of onlookers stare at them.  Carl runs out to the street and sees a yellow flame (the boy’s soul, maybe?) floating into the atmosphere.  Of all the witnesses, only grizzled old Carl attempts to provide any comfort to the sobbing mother.

As the scene ends, the camera zooms in on the power lines.  We hear the crackling of electricity.  Remember how Killer BOB was always connected to electricity during the show’s initial run?

In Las Vegas, Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) sees a large red square on his laptop.  He gets an envelope out of a cabinet and puts it on his desk.  The envelope has a black dot on it.  (In case you’ve forgotten, Todd appeared briefly during Part 2.  He’s a Vegas business executive who apparently is in some sort of debt to some powerful and frightening people.)

At Rancho Rosa, the cops are looking over the remains of Dougie’s car, which exploded last episode.  One cops find the license plate on the roof of the house.  Meanwhile, across the street, Druggie Mom (Hailey Gates) chants, “One one nine!  One one nine!”

At a motel, a little person named Ike “The Spike” Stadtler (Christophe Zajac-Denek) sits at desk and plays with some dice.  Why is he called The Spike?  Well, we’re about to find out.  Someone slips an envelope under his door.  (It looks like the same envelope that was on Duncan’s desk.)  Inside the envelope are pictures of Dougie and Lorraine (Tammy Baird), the woman who was previously hired to kill Dougie.

Meanwhile, Dougie/Cooper is back at work.  He’s got his big case file with him.  Unfortunately, his boss, Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) is not impressed with Dougie/Cooper’s ladder drawing.  “Look at all of these childish scribbles,” he says, “how am I going to make any sense of this?”

“Make sense of it,” Dougie replies.

(Judging from the poster in his office, Bushnell was once a professional boxer.)

Suddenly, after looking at a few more of Dougie/Cooper’s drawings, Bushnell says, “Dougie, thank you.  I want you to keep this information to yourself.  I’ll take it from here but I may need your help again.”  Bushnell smiles.  “You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about.”

“Think about,” Dougie/Cooper replies.

“You’re an interesting fellow,” Bushnell says.

Meanwhile, Janey-E meets with the two men who claim that Dougie owes them money.  They explain that Dougie put a bet on a football game and lost.  They try to be intimidating but they don’t know who they’re dealing with.  Janey-E doesn’t have any time for their crap and she’s not afraid to let them know it.  She’s especially not impressed with their claim that Dougie owes them $52,000 when the bet was only for $20,000.

Nope, Janey-E’s not having it.

“We are not wealthy people!” Janey-E snaps, “We drive terrible cars!  We are the 99 per centers and we are shit on enough and we are certainly not going to be shit on by the likes of you!”  (If this seems surprisingly political for the normally apolitical David Lynch, it’s worth remembering that the script was co-written by Mark Frost, who is far more outspoken politically.  As a general rule, overly political stuff bores me to tears but Naomi Watts really kicks ass in his scene, totally selling every line.)  Janey-E gives them $25,000 and tells them to go away.

“What kind of a world are we living in where people can treat each other like this!?”  Janey-E says, before driving away.  “We are living in a dark, dark age.”

Meanwhile, Ike attacks Lorraine in her office and, in a disturbingly graphic scene, stabs her and at least two other women to death with a spike.  (Hence, his nickname.)

Back in Twin Peaks, Richard parks his truck in a field and tries to clean off the boy’s blood.

In the Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) is in the men’s room when he sees a dime roll across the floor.  He follows the dime into a stall and, after picking it up, sees a metal sign proclaiming that the stall was built by Nez Perce Manufacturing.  And apparently, Nez Perce’s logo is a Native American chief.  Hawks sees that the top of the door is split open.  Hawk splits the door open further and finds several pieces of paper.

Meanwhile, Doris Truman (Candy Clark) comes by and yells at Frank (Robert Forster).  Doris is upset because her father’s car is not running right.  “Why are you always against me!?” Doris demands.  The other deputies say they wouldn’t put up with Doris but Maggie (Jodi Thelen) tells them that they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Doris, Maggie explains, changed after their son committed suicide.

“I know that,” one of the deputies says, mockingly, “he couldn’t take the pressure of being a soldier.”

(Is it possible that the death of Truman’s son — who it sounds like may have had PTSD — could be related to Linda, who — judging by Carl’s comments about the “fucking war” — may have been wounded while serving in the Army?)

And we close out with another haunting musical performance at the Roadhouse, the week courtesy of Sharon Van Etten.

Twin Peaks on TSL:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  32. Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  33. Here’s The Latest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  34. Here’s The Newest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  35. 12 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two by Lisa Marie Bowman
  36. This Week’s Peaks: Parts One and Two by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  37. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  38. 4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Twin Peaks Edition by Lisa Marie Bowman
  39. This Week’s Peaks: Parts Three and Four by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  40. 14 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Three by Lisa Marie Bowman (dir by David Lynch)
  41. 10 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Four by Lisa Marie Bowman (dir by David Lynch)
  42. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts Three and Four (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman 
  43. 18 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  44. This Week’s Peaks: Part Five by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  45. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return: Part 5 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  46. 14 Initial Thoughts On Twin Peaks Part 6 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  47. This Week’s Peaks: Part Six by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)