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See, now here’s a movie where Willem Defoe is brilliant. I really do think it’s all about the director. And you can add Oliver Stone to the list of director’s that can handle his talent (it’s a lonely list, the only other director being David Lynch).
In Platoon, we’ve got another movie at Vietnam. This one starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger and said Defoe and a young Johnny Depp and a young Forest Whitaker. The movie centers around Sheen’s character, Pvt. Taylor, and his loss of innocence and spiral into madness.
Throughout the movie, we get to hear Taylor writing letters to his grandma, essentially narrating the story. As a result of me actually enjoying this part of the story, I must add a corollary to the I comment I made about narration in my Boondock Saints review: narration is okay if A) You’re writing letters to your sweet grandmother and B) if you’re Charlie Kaufman.
So we see Taylor do the quintessential things that one would do whilst spiraling into madness. He smokes weed for the first time, he begins to smoke cigarettes, and he kills his first person.
And this is a good thing that he goes mad, because at the beginning of the movie he’s the whiniest son of a bitch you’ve ever seen. Collapsing and complaining about ants and shit. At the same time, though, it goes to show that not all soldiers start out hardasses–instead, that’s what they become as the war eats them alive.
And this movie’s focus is definitely on the internal effects of war than on the external effects of the Northern Vietnam Army and their ingenious leaf helmets.
So, holy shit. This wound up being an Oliver Stone movie I actually enjoyed. Though he generally has a penchant for making trash (like Born on the Fourth of July and the drudgery of JFK–only one of which can be blamed on Tom Cruise) like the upcoming W film starring Josh Brolin as the president, he has actually surprised me with this one. And I’m probably going along with some people in the Academy of Motion Pictures and yadda yadda yadda because they gave this film Best Picture in 1986. And I’d like to think that half of it was out of the surprise that it’s actually a great movie. Probably my third favorite movie about Vietnam, only surpassed by Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now.
So, kudos to you Mr. Stone. Maybe you should have never directed another movie after your opus.
This film is one about two Irish-Catholic brothers in South Boston who believe in vigilante justice, by the will of God. They, the McManus brothers, feel that their mission from God is to take down the mobs and the pimps and murderers and the thieves by becoming one of them (it’s the same strategy used by Rage Against the Machine, by trying to bring down corporations while being a part of one–easier access to millions).
So that’s a decent plot, I suppose. But this movie tries to hard to be a Quentin Tarantino film tailor-made for teenagers. With its score replete with techno and rock and the slow motion and the violence, this movie wasn’t made for the thinking man, as many want to believe since it raises an ethical question, but instead it was made for the 13 year old who sneaked into this film.
And the script isn’t very well written either. Instead of having characters state or discuss their identities, we are given a set of written titles for each of them and what their connection is. If this was for the thinking man, couldn’t he figure all this shit with a few more lines of dialog? This type of explication, along with narration, often show weakness in the writer’s style. And, luckily, there’s no narration.
But maybe I’m missing the whole point of the movie and am instead focusing on Willem Defoe’s terrible performance or the film itself. WriterDirector Taylor Duffy (who hasn’t made a movie since–nine years on, thank God) wants us to look past the movie and its shit acting in order to focus on the question at hand: Is vigilante justice ok?
But instead of subtly allowing the question to filter into our minds, he shoves it upon us at the end of the film with a fake newspiece interviewing people around Boston about the brothers, who’ve been dubbed The Saints. They give you all the answers right there, both sides of the coin. So what is there to discuss? How you feel personally? That’s no necessary, the crazy black girl said it better than you ever could.
You cannot force a viewer to think when you’ve made a piece of sloppy trash like this movie. The only performance worse than Ron Jeremy’s (yes, he’s in this movie and no, you don’t see his penis) was Willem DeFoe’s. I had hope in him after I saw Wild at Heart, but his performance here is over-the-top and terrible. He plays the homosexual detective who is flamboyant and most of the time right. But he’s not very good at this whole acting thing. He performs like no one would ever act in real life. So maybe Defoe’s problem is that he’s a good actor, but he needs proper direction, and only some director’s can make him do what he’s good at. What he’s good at, I have no idea. But apparently it’s not being a gay FBI detective and it’s not being the Green Goblin.
I guess you’ll like this movie if you’re thirteen or if you’ve already seen all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies and you want to see something that is a shoddy attempt at imitation (much like Smokin’ Aces of 2007). It left a bad taste in my mouth, that’s for sure.