These 3 films were rated “R” in the USA because of scenes of a sexual nature, violence or offensive language. I do now want to shock or offend anyone so if you are not of an age to watch this or are offended by such scenes, please check out the rest of my blog which is much more wholesome. Now…on with the filth !
In 1995 Christopher McQuarrie wrote a script that was a hard sell in Hollywood. “The Usual Suspects” is about 5 guys who meet in a police line-up. It is a dialogue heavy, multi-layered story, the plot is set out on Wikipedia if you have an hour to spare. The movie’s budget was $6 million & the box office take in the USA was over $23 million. McQuarrie won the Oscar for Best Original Script so he had a little leverage. It was though 2000 before a “written & directed by” was released. “The Way of The Gun” is another crime film & it starts like this.
Well all right, that’s rated “R” for restricted right there ! The frenetic rockabilly bluster of “Rip This Joint” thrusts the viewer into the world of two not-so-wise guys played by Ryan Phillippe & Benicio del Toro. (” So, you the brains of this outfit, or is he?” asks James Caan in a reprise of his seen-it-all turn in “Bottle Rocket”. “Tell ya the truth, I don’t think it’s a brains kind of operation” replies Benicio). An ill-planned kidnapping of Juliette Lewis, the crazy, beautiful ingenue of choice in the 90s, & away we go.
Any violent movie at this time was inevitably labelled “post-Tarentino” but there is a lot more to “The Way Of The Gun” than dogging the trail of “Reservoir Dogs”. In this pulp fiction there are no heroes, the relationships between all the characters are complex. There are double-crosses, puzzles & the dialogue is as smart as a whip. Oh &, as we saw, Sarah Silverman gets her lights punched out ! The progenitor of this movie is the work of Sam Peckinpah , the hard-boiled “The Getaway” & the Modern West of “Junior Bonner” not just the famed Westerns. I make no claim that the “The Way Of The Gun” is in the class of these classics but from a sound base the violence is proper, there is intelligence & flair on the screen. Christopher McQuarrie… Wha’ Happened ?
So Vincent Gallo, painter, rapper, model, musician, Renaissance Man, does a fair turn in that movie about the dorks who try to rob a jewellery shop & get doughnuts (Palookaville, 1995). From this he gets to write, direct & star in his own film. “Buffalo 66” (1998) is a gem of an independent movie with a simple plot, a fine cast & cinematography by Lance Acord, who now works with Spike Jonze & Sofia Coppola. Billy (Gallo) is released from prison, he will return to his parents (Ben Gazzara & Angelica Huston…enough said) & will take revenge on Scott Norwood the kicker of the Buffalo Bills who missed a game-winning kick in the 1991 Superbowl &, indirectly, caused Billy’s imprisonment. He kidnaps Layla & presents her to his parents as his fiancee. Er…that’s it.
Billy’s violent fantasy of revenge in the strip club is accompanied by “Heart Of The Sunrise” by Yes. It’s by no means my kind of music but the movie is Gallo’s thing. His slacker, self-indulgent, whiny character, unable to recognise or respond to any genuine emotion is a dickhead but respect to Vincent for showing out. The heart of the film is Layla, played by Christina Ricci, the ingenue of choice in the 00’s. Another bruised individual she is just so attractive in this film. Little Wednesday Addams, who knew ? Here she awkwardly performs a self-absorbed tap dance to King Crimson’s “Moonchild”.
I did not see Gallo’s follow-up film “The Brown Bunny” (2003). By this time his narcissism, performance or not, had become tiresome & I did not want to see what he & Chloe Sevighny had going on. I may have been wrong & it is worth a view but “Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be” (Kurt Vonnegut). Come on Vincent too cool is just not cool. “Buffalo 66” is a fine personal vision of stunted masculinity & a memorable movie.
Atom Egoyan, the Canadian film maker, made a breakthrough movie with “Exotica” in 1994. The film revolves around the lives of characters who coincide at the eponymous nightclub. It was promoted as an erotic thriller but it’s a complex non-linear intrigue with a lot of sadness & tragedy. I preferred Egoyan’s mature films to his contemporary US directors like Soderbergh for example. “Exotica” is a tough watch but rewarding. Elias Koteas, as DJ Eric, proves he is some actor.
Christina (Mia Kirshner) dances to “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen from the “I’m Your Man” LP which added orchestration to his caustic, spare lyrics. Cohen’s sardonic & arch commentaries on the modern world and its strange ways are perfect for the tone of “Exotica” They are often very funny. That line in “Closing Time”, “she’s a hundred but she’s wearing something tight” is so perfect. His songs are in so many films now. “Pump Up The Volume” used this same one. There are two in both “Natural Born Killers” & “Watchmen”. “Secretary” has Maggie Whatsit crawling around to his music. These films aspire to a similar accurate & pithy observation as the songs. “Exotica” does the trick & other films will continue to use Cohen’s music but please, not “Hallelujah” again. Here is a full length video to “Everybody Knows” which I find most alluring.