Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Edge

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.
Never thought of Anthony Hopkins as an action hero? Well, this neglected but noteworthy 1997 film will show you that he is an actor of many parts. David Mamet wrote the script, and, as noted elsewhere on this blog, he is a writer who explores on which side of “the edge” between civilized and uncivilized behavior people will choose to live their lives. Many of his stories present characters who must face whether they accept living by society’s rules, or want to cross the line into the realm of the renegade.
The film opens with wind howling. This sound always produces a sense of peril, something that is a threat to a sheltered existence. In contrast, a jet plane then appears, which is an image of humans conquering nature’s limitations by soaring above them, and fits in with later connections between flying and the main character. It also shows an incompatibility, with technology degrading the untouched natural beauty of the landscape. Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), his name possibly implying he wants to live by a code of behavior that he must decipher, is a billionaire. Robert Green, Bob for short (Alec Baldwin), is a friend. His name may point to inexperience, and could have to do with the fact that he lacks the knowledge needed to deal with the wilderness. He is a photographer who takes pictures of Charles’s wife, Mickey (model Elle Macpherson), who is not only gorgeous, but much younger than her husband. The plane mechanic says he’d like to get his hands on “that,” and Charles thinks he’s talking about his wife, but the man means the billionaire’s plane. Either way, Charles has concern about others coveting what is in his life. He is advised of dangers traveling in the small prop plane they will be using because of several concerns, including bird strikes (a foreshadowing, and there are several in the beginning of the movie). Charles, unlike Bob, knows how flying into flocks of migrating birds can cause damage to airplanes. We learn early in the story that Charles is knowledgeable about many things. He reads from a book an employee gave him as a gift, which is entitled Lost in the Wild (more foreshadowing).

The panorama of the mountainous, snow-covered terrain, with its awesome ruggedness dwarfs the individuals arriving at the lodge where Charles and his group arrive. Stephen (Harold Perrineau) is there to assist Bob. The proprietor of the lodge, Styles (L. Q. Jones), is a rugged guy who built the place by hand, and would be hunting bear with his native friend Jack Hawk, if not for the arrival of the guests. Styles, his plural name indicating the duality of his nature, has one foot in the civilized world, entertaining visitors at his rustic hotel, and the other foot in the world of mountain men. Charles shows his eclectic knowledge by suggesting the use of an ironing board to help get Styles’s rifle “sighted.” Bob has come here seeking the “unsentimental,” the uncivilized, which is outside of his comfort zone, but he has no clue how to deal with that world. He is there to vicariously provide hints of the primitive through pictures. Charles hasn’t lived in remote places, but he at least has sought out wisdom in how to exist off the grid. It’s as if he has been waiting to be tested, unprotected by his wealth.
Mickey (her name conjures up a cartoon character who lives in a make-believe world in contrast to the stark reality where she now finds herself) boasts that Charles is very well-read. Styles challenges Charles to say what is carved on the other side of an oar that has a panther on one side. Charles knows it is a motif from the Cree Native American culture. He rightly answers that there is a rabbit smoking a pipe on the other side. When asked why he is smoking a pipe, Charles says the rabbit is unafraid of the panther, because the rabbit is “smarter than the panther.” This line drives the story. How do physically inferior humans survive in the dangerous wild? Only by using their wits. Charles, though, admits that he has retained all of these facts, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to put them to use (again, foreshadowing).

It is Charles’s birthday (although he’s not sure if anyone has remembered that fact), and it is suggested that the story symbolically shows that he must be reborn in a trial by ordeal. Styles warns them to be careful of bears (foreshadowing), and advises not to leave any food out that may draw the animals. Charles’s wife says she is going to bed, and Bob leans close to her, smiles, whispers something, and she pushes him away playfully, implying that he said something sexually suggestive. Charles, looking serious, observes the two, and it appears that again he is on alert about attempts to steal his wife away from him.
In their bedroom, Mickey says that she got the “creeps” about the bear talk. She also says Charles is a “most excellent man,” and that is why she married him. The later knowledge of her infidelity makes the compliment especially hurtful. He says that she is the only woman he ever “wanted.” Here, he does not say “loved.” Is this how a very rich person sees things, as acquisitions? He says that it is a special day for him, and, since that is how he feels, she says he needs to get away more. Little does she know how far removed from city life he will be. She tells him that he is an angel, except for the wings (which foreshadows how the small plane will go down later). But, his knowledge, and determination, will allow him to fly above the adversities he will encounter.

Mickey asks him to get her a sandwich, but he finds the kitchen door open, with meat sitting out. Charles is quick enough to understand the precariousness of the situation, and we feel the suspense with him. However, his wife and the others are playing a prank on Charles. Bob covers himself in a bear skin, scaring Charles, and makes the stunt part of a surprise birthday celebration. Again, Bob’s act is a foreshadowing, and it shows how the others play at danger, but are unprepared for really facing it. Also, it hints at Bob being an actual threat to Charles later. They all sing happy birthday to him, and he (after regaining his composure) is pleased to see that his wife has remembered his “special day.” Bob says Charles is generous, and has a good nature (again compliments that also make his betrayal worse). Mickey says Charles is also brave, which we later see is very accurate. Mickey gives him an engraved pocket watch, which he will later use for survival. Also, there will be revealed another engraved statement later that Charles will discover, which will undermine this gift. Bob gives Charles a pocketknife, and Styles reminds Charles that he has to give Bob a coin, according to a tradition. Charles knows about the superstition, saying that without the coin giving, the gift of a knife “cuts the friendship.” We have another foreshadowing.

Bob and Mickey do a flashy photo shoot while Charles, in contrast, is being practical, using his new knife to peel an apple as he looks at his survival book. Mickey has facial markings and wears feathers, possibly emulating some indigenous people of the area, but there is no authenticity in a model pretending to be from a native civilization. This attempt by the sophisticated fashion world to present the primal reality of the wilderness highlights the shallow nature of Bob and Mickey’s actions. Bob is stressed out about not being able to have Mickey’s shoes look right in the shot. Again, Charles tries to show the practicality of using what you have to work with, and says the inside of a banana peel can shine shoes.

Styles sees Charles open his book to a picture of a Kodiak bear, and Styles says that the animal is a killing machine, especially if it has tasted human flesh. (More foreshadowing). Bob says he wants to photograph Jack Hawk, Styles’s friend. Bob continues to seek an elemental, basic subject for his photography, not a male model who happens to be sick and can’t be there for the shoot. Styles informs Bob that Jack Hawk has no phone or radio, and is probably hunting. He is out in nature, being part of it, sustaining himself. Bob is only hunting for a photo opportunity.

Charles continues his fascination with learning about how to survive without the material enhancements that have defined his life. He mentions that the book says that one can make a compass with a needle (which shows up later in the story). Styles, supposedly a man compatible with living in the wild and requiring only basic needs, proposes the idea to Charles of converting the local area into a resort. This attempt to cash in on the allure of the pristine frontier is a disappointment to Charles, who has come there to escape materialism, and those who want to use him for his wealth. Charles walks away as soon as the investment pitch occurs.

Mickey suggests that Charles go with Bob and Stephen to look for Jack Hawk. She says that he should get some air under his wings, another reference to Charles being an angel, flying above others, trying to help those who can’t help themselves. Charles looks at Styles, and goes along on the trip because the lodge has turned out not to be far enough to get away from the materialistic world. Their plane has pontoons, and they arrive on the lake next to Jack Hawk’s place, who has gone to a spot twenty miles away according to a note he left. Charles warns his comrades to avoid a deadfall near the cabin, a concealed pit used to catch bears (foreshadowing). Bob says, “let’s be bold” and go look for Hawk. He has no idea what he’s getting into.
As they fly, Bob says to Charles that it must be tough having all that money and never knowing who to trust, who values you for yourself or your money. Charles, though, is not one to complain about good fortune. He says, “Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane.” It is funny, but reinforces Charles connection to flying, and wings. Bob says that he admires Charles’s style, and thinks his wife is pretty “cute.” Charles, having seen the attraction between Mickey and Bob, and wondering about why Bob wanted Charles on this trip, asks, “So how are you planning to kill me?” Then the plane is hit by a bird strike, loses its wing (making it less angelic), and it crashes into the lake, killing the pilot, Charles is the one who keeps his calm, rescues Stephen, and takes the bag with flairs. While he uses his knife to cut Stephen loose, Bob swims away to the surface, only thinking of his own survival. Charles does lose his survival book, and must rely on his memory to use what he has read. He revives Stephen with CPR. While Bob is still in shock, Charles is already in survival mode, asking for matches so that they can make a fire to get warm. His actions show that he tries to fly above adversity.

They have trouble getting a fire started, indicating that even with the matches brought from the civilized world, one can still be left in the cold in this harsh environment. Bob uses a flare to start a fire, despite Charles using foresight and saying they will need the flares to signal for help. Overnight, Bob shows his frailty by falling down on the job, allowing the fire to go out, and Charles again reminds him they will need the remaining flares. Charles thinks that others will go to Hawk’s cabin, see the man’s note and go looking for them. But again Bob has messed up, taking Hawk’s note with him. Charles again uses his book learning. He says a book he read said that people lost in the wild die of “shame.” They keep blaming themselves for doing the wrong thing, wondering what they should have done differently. What they need to do is not dwell on the past, but deal with what to do next by “thinking.” Which goes back to the tale of the rabbit and the panther.

Charles configures in the dirt where the lodge is in comparison to Hawk’s cabin, and says a search party will look for them in that area. His conclusion is that they have to head south. He knows that a watch with a compass built in will help. But, the gift he was given by Mickey is broken (implying his relationship with her is also damaged?). Bob says, after hardly looking, that his watch is also broken. It is a suspicious evasion, which is explained later. Charles must resort to using the tools available to him to make a compass. He gets a leaf, places it in water, takes a paperclip, magnetizes it by rubbing it on the silk in his clothing, and puts the paperclip on the leaf. It rotates to point north, supposedly, so Charles says the opposite way is south. They head in that direction. Charles seems pleased that he was able to apply his knowledge.

Charles, wanting to show how much information he has absorbed, tends to drone on, dispensing what he knows. At one point, Bob tells him to conserve his breath, politely implying he should stop talking. Bob brings up the line about trying to kill Charles, and asks why would he do that. Charles says for his wife, and that he has seen how they are together, appearing intimate, not professional. Bob says he can get his own girls. Charles says that he would also be going for the money. Bob’s reply is, “Rich man. All anybody wants is to take something from you.” Bob is right in his assessment, but Charles is also justified in being suspicious of others. Then Bob, kiddingly, says that Charles has some latent homosexuality, and suggests that he, Charles, and Mickey get into a hot tub together, and let things play out. Bob says this with a lisp, mimicking a stereotypical characteristic of a gay man. He uses the lisp again, supposedly mocking gay feminine traits, but his preoccupation suggests some hidden homosexuality that he is denying through ridicule. Bob may be joking on the surface here, but there is the suggestion that he feels some attraction for Charles.

Just as they seem to be unwinding a bit, their relaxed attitude is undermined when the trio hears the growl of an animal. They then see a Kodiak bear approach, like the one Styles commented on at the lodge. (By the way, this is Bart the Bear, the same one in another Hopkins film, Legends of the Fall). They try to escape it, but it follows them. They are stuck near a waterfall. Charles, always thinking, gets them to use a tree trunk to cross the water. Bob and Stephen make it over to the other side, but the smart bear (yes, animals have their own intelligence) shakes the tree trunk, causing it to shift, which knocks Charles off, and he falls into the rushing stream, losing the flares in the process. The other two save Charles, and the bear, unable to reach them, wanders off. Momentarily, Charles is the one who seems to give up, blaming himself for losing the flares. But Bob, learning, reminds Charles about how shame is a killer. Bob, adopting the power of positive thinking, says they will use the matches to build a signal fire. Charles is grateful, and is surprised that Bob helped to save him. Bob jokes, saying he needs Charles to help him get out. And, if he killed him, he’d have to kill Stephen too, and he’s the only one who knows how he likes his coffee. Stephen joins in with the humor, saying Bob wants his women to be like his coffee, “bitter and murky,” They are able to laugh, despite their predicament, or maybe because of it, having survived this specific challenge.
As they continue their journey, Charles climbs up a rock, trying to get his bearings. It also makes him look majestic, as he surveys and appreciates the majesty of the mountains. However, Charles’s overconfidence in his knowledge is a flaw, and they actually wind up back at their original camp. The paperclip was attracted to Charles’s belt buckle, affecting its behavior. Charles didn’t consider this contingency. The implication is that even when using one’s wits, there may be unanticipated possibilities. Stephen is desperate now, saying that they are going to die, that they have nothing to eat. Bob is also upset, but doesn’t break down like Stephen. Charles tries to get Stephen to focus on a task, giving him a long branch, and telling him to sharpen it with his knife to make a spear, so that they can catch fish. He says that they will be rescued, or they will walk out of the wilderness, surmounting the obstacles placed before them. Bob is frustrated and questions whether they will be rescued, even though, as he says, society usually doesn’t like their billionaires misplaced. Charles, being forceful again, asks loudly, what are they supposed to do, lie down and die? That is the alternative to giving into despair.
Unfortunately, Charles’s attempt to give Stephen something to do backfires, since Stephen is an unskilled man in a place that requires skills. The man cuts his leg deeply with the knife. Charles uses a scarf as a tourniquet, and tells Bob to bury the bloody part of the pants. Charles uses the stars to set a course for the next day to head south. Bob says he is gaining a new perspective, commenting how different it is where they now are compared to the world where he photographed beautiful women, and snorted coke off of a girl’s thigh. Charles says jokingly, to ease the seriousness, “In what way?” Struggling to survive makes other inessential activities seem less important.

In the pouring rain, while Stephen moans, maybe because he has an infection, Bob asks what really are their chances of getting back to safety. Charles tries to keep the tone optimistic, saying that the odds are good. To undercut what he just said, Charles then sees the ripped clothing that Bob didn’t bury and only hung from a tree. Charles immediately realizes Bob’s fatal mistake, as there is now blood in the air. The bear is there, he charges, and mauls the helpless Stephen. Charles courageously, though pointlessly, tries to attack the bear with a burning branch, but falls down. It is Bob here who realizes the futility of the rescue. He uses another lit branch to rescue Charles, but they must escape as Charles’s confidence is devastated by the loss of Stephen.

Bob and Charles are in a snowstorm, trying to stay warm, building another fire. Charles, back in cool survival mode, says they will navigate by the stars. He says that they will have to find the river and then follow it back to civilization. Charles uses his knife to fashion a cage and they trap a squirrel to eat. A helicopter flies by, but the angelic Charles is not capable of rising to the occasion to get noticed. Bob is ready to give up, and Charles goes into his pedantic professorial stance, asking how can ice be used to make fire. He is trying to get Bob to not dwell on the negative, but instead to quickly move on. Bob, in tears, rants at him, saying how “moneyed people,” who only seem to be able to play golf at the country club, can actually bloom in emergencies, because they are so “dense” as to the ramifications of the crisis, being so use to success. Charles is able to make a joke even in these circumstances, saying he’s not dense, just has no imagination. Bob laughs, but wants to hold onto the belief that the helicopter will return. But Charles, Mr. Practical, says no, they have scoured the area and will move on. Bob concedes, and asks the practical question about the ice. Charles says one can fashion the ice into a lens to concentrate the sun rays to start a fire. He again shows how thinking can be used to transform a helpless situation into a chance to succeed.

Charles wants to catch fish from the stream. He uses the chain attached to his watch to bait the fish. He says it’s made of gold and the whole world yearns for it. Even among the animal world, there is an attraction to the precious metal, connecting the various species. He uses the thread from his sweater as a line. Here, the rich man must now use his material gains for basic survival. Bob says he isn’t in the mood for humor when Charles mentions how the allure of gold can even attract a fish. He tells Bob, “Don’t go native on me.” Despite the struggle to survive, Charles wants to hold onto the civilized trait of humor. 

As he fishes, the sees that the bear has tracked them there. It charges after Charles, who goes through a bunch of tangled tree branches that impedes the bear’s movement. He gets to Bob and they throw burning branches around them to create a fire barrier against the animal. But his growls are heard in the night, creating a very primal scene of terror. Charles knows that they can’t exit the fire ring. But if they don’t, they will starve. Bob asks if Charles has a plan, and at first Charles is frustrated by how he must be the one who must come up with a strategy. He finally says, “We’re gonna kill him.” In the end, alternatives are reduced to one choice in the wild. It is survival of the fittest, which means in such a situation, one must die for another to live.
Charles says they will lure the bear with blood from a cut on his hand to the spot they want. They will use the creature’s weight against him. As was shown in the survival book, the bear will impale himself on one of the spears that they make as he tries to pounce on one of them. Charles says that Indian youths can kill lions with spears, and Native Americans go up and slap bears. He fires up the doubting Bob by saying that he will kill the bear because, “What one man can do, another can do.” He uses the phrase as a kind of mantra to show that they are as capable of doing what other courageous men have done. Charles looks primal as he has reached an elemental state ready to face his foe.

They have marked an “X” with branches to designate a spot where sharp branches swinging from a tree will pierce the bear. However, the pointy sticks only graze the creature. They have several spears which they use to stab at the animal. The bear knocks Charles away, then whacks Bob, and attacks him. He is injured, but Charles quickly recovers and gets the bear to go after him instead. Charles plants the spear on the ground which impales the bear when he tries to pounce, as Charles planned. The men now eat the dead creature’s meat and use his fur for clothing. They have won the battle in this deadly challenge and use their victim to help with their survival. Charles makes necklaces using the bear’s teeth to symbolize their triumph. Charles says that he always wanted to do something that was “unequivocal,” meaning something that was basic, with no compromises or complications; something that was definite. Bob says that in the past Charles would just call a lawyer to deal with this bear problem, but Charles, again inserting humor, says wittily, “No, I wouldn’t do that to an animal.” As they walk, they look like they have transformed into mountain men, wearing their bearskins, and, in a way now inhabiting the animal’s spirit, Charles says nobody he knows actually changed his life, but after this experience, he says he will start his life again. He is rebooting himself after finally putting all of his theoretical, untested knowledge into practice, and now has a broader perspective on life.

They come across an abandoned cabin. Now that he doesn’t need Charles to fight the bear, Bob finds a rifle, starts to load it, and is ready to put his plan to kill Charles into effect. The bear kills for food, but man kills for self-indulgence involving sex and money. There is a canoe outside, and they check out a map that is in the shack. Bob now feels he can get back on his own because he has directions and a means of transportation. Charles wants to light the stove, and looks for something to burn. He opens the box that held the watch that Mickey gave him. In a bit of plot contrivance, Mickey left the note to the watch inscriber that also contained one addressed to Bob “for all the nights.” This explains why Bob was unwilling to give up his watch, saying it was broken. Bob is drinking a bottle of whiskey in the cabin, trying to acquire liquid strength for his lethal undertaking. He taps a bullet on the rifle, a kind of contemplative gesture to show he is trying to make up his mind as to whether to carry out the killing. He says if he had his camera with him, he would have made his “fortune.” But instead of the camera, he can shoot another object, the rifle, and make his fortune a different way. Charles says, “Can’t do it sober.” Charles says he wants to see Bob’s watch, and now Bob knows that Charles knows about the affair. Bob tries to convince himself to do the deed by saying that Charles had no business with a gorgeous, young woman like Mickey. It was his money that led her to him, he says. Bob orders Charles to go outside. Charles says that he wants to know how long has the affair been going on, because, he finally says, he not only wanted Mickey, he loves her. Charles already told of a deadfall at the previous cabin, and approaches Bob, who falls into one, impaling his leg.
Charles could be brutally savage here, letting his enemy die, but they are not bears, and Charles rescues Bob. He tries to stop the bleeding, but is frustrated this time since he has no real means to help him other than a tourniquet. He puts them in the canoe. They go on shore to start a fire to keep Bob warm. Bob marvels at the fact that Charles is trying to save his life. He asks what he will do when Charles gets back to the lodge. Charles says he may not go back, because what does he have to go back to? All of his wealth has not really made him feel fulfilled, and his wife was unfaithful to him. Bob now uses humor by repeating what Charles said earlier, that he can’t feel sorry for someone who owns a plane. Bob says he is truly sorry and tells Charles that Mickey had no part in the plan to do away with her husband. Charles tells Bob, “don’t die on me.” Bob smartly says, “Don’t tell me what to do.” Charles hears a helicopter. He is able to draw the attention of those on board by adding branches to the fire. But it’s too late for Bob, who dies. Charles returns to the lodge, and his only display of pride in surviving occurs when he says to Styles, “Why is the rabbit unafraid?” Styles acknowledges Charles’s accomplishment when he answers, “Because he’s smarter than the panther.” When he reunites with Mickey, he hands her Bob’s watch which has the inscription, and she now realizes that Charles knows of her unfaithfulness. Charles has, almost like a biblical hero, gone into the wilderness to be purified, and now has returned. There are many reporters there. He generalizes his experience to others that go through their own ordeals when he says to the press, “We’re all put to the test.” When asked how his friends died, he says, “They died saving my life.” In this statement, there is magnanimity, as Charles does not take credit for having survived by his own wits. But, his journey with the other men led him to want to change the priorities in his life. So, in a way, they did save him.

The next film is Key Largo.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Four Recent Films

SPOILER ALERT! The plots will be discussed.

Each one of the following four 2018 films deserves a detailed post, which may happen at a later date. Right now, here are some brief impressions of these thoughtful motion pictures:

Writer and director Adam McKay’s take on the political career of former Vice President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale, completely immersed physically and psychologically in the role) contains some fun and flashy techniques that he used in his previous work, the satire on Wall Street, The Big Short. Characters break the fourth wall as they address the audience directly. There is a fake ending, showing how Cheney exited politics and led a rather pastoral life breeding dogs, with credits running prematurely. To show how Cheney and his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) don’t reach the level of Shakespearean tragedy, McKay has the two of them quoting from the great Bard, thus creating a mock-epic scene. Perhaps the most ironic device in the movie is having the character of Kurt (Jesse Plemons) narrate the story. He is a decent, regular guy who served in the Middle East and wound up, after his untimely death, being the heart donor for the Machiavellian Cheney.

The film is mostly one-sided in its view that men like Donald Rumsfeld (a terrific Steve Carell) and Cheney had no scruples in undermining political adversaries and stretching the U. S. Constitution to enhance the power of the executive branch of the government. However, there are some humanizing elements in this portrait of Cheney. He, with the forceful urging of Lynne, elevates himself out of a state of drunken apathy to use his intelligence and cunning to change the country for what the couple felt was for the better. He stands up to Lynne’s father, an abusive and possibly homicidal father, after Lynne’s mother drowns under suspicious circumstances. He mostly stands behind his daughter, Mary (Alison Pill), after learning she is gay. However, he later gives permission to his other daughter, Liz (Lily Rabe), who was running for her father’s old Wyoming congressional seat, to do whatever she had to do to overcome her lagging poll numbers. Liz eventually comes out against gay marriage. At the end of the movie, Cheney delivers a speech directly to the camera, affirming his ends-justify-the means way of doing things, in the wake of 9/11. He says, with total honesty, “I will not apologize for keeping your family safe. And I will not apologize for doing what needed to be done so that your loved ones could sleep peacefully at night. It has been my honor to be your servant. You chose me. And I did what you asked.” Basically, he is telling the American people that if they didn’t like what he did, it was their fault for putting him in a position of power.

Green Book

Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen, putting on weight and adopting a New York accent) is a bouncer at the Copacabana nightclub in 1962. After the venue closes temporarily, he gets a job being the driver, and more importantly, a bodyguard, for accomplished African American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as the musician tours the Deep South of America. Mortensen’s character is considered the lead here, because we see his change from joining in with the covert bigotry of the North (as he throws away glasses used by black workers in his home) to questioning racial bigotry as he observes the institutional racism in the southern states. But, Mortensen’s Italian tough guy relies on many stereotypical traits that we have seen several times before. For me, Don Shirley (Ali gives another Oscar-worthy performance) is the more interesting of the two. Shirley makes a good living, but while having the ability and desire to perform the classics of the great composers, he has become an entertainer that plays more popular forms of music because he can’t be accepted commercially as a serious pianist due to the color of his skin.

At one point, because Tony is more aware of African American performers than is Shirley, the musician says, “So if I’m not ‘black’ enough and if I’m not ‘white enough,’ then tell me, Tony, what am I?” His anguish over this point is at the heart of the story. He plays well enough and earns enough money, but can’t perform at Carnegie Hall; the closest he can get to that stage is to live in an apartment above it. The various establishments want him to perform, but he’s not allowed to eat at their restaurants. Even though he is good enough to entertain white audiences, he must keep the “colored” curfew and not stay out late in certain towns in the South. He must use the Green Book which lists safe, black-designated motels and hotels to stay at. Toward the end of the film, he finally feels at home, first at a black club, where he plays African American music enthusiastically and is accepted passionately by members of his own race. Then, Tony, who has become not only his defender, but his friend, welcomes Shirley into his home to celebrate Christmas with Tony’s family and his white friends.

The Favourite

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has given us some darkly humorous and absurdist films in the past, such as The Lobster. This movie also contains that quirky satirical thrust, but the story is not surreal and there is empathy for at least the character of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Yes, she has been spoiled by being born into royalty. But, here she is a very vulnerable person, subject to physical ailments, and is the object of manipulation by various people pushing their own selfish agendas. She has several pet rabbits that substitute for a lack of children. They mirror her meek and almost fearful reaction to other humans. If you are an animal lover, as I am, you will find the scene at the end of the movie with Abigail and one of the bunnies very disturbing (though not anywhere near as bad as the one in Fatal Attraction).

The film takes place in eighteenth century England, which is the Neoclassical period. There was a strong belief at that time in the “chain of being.” This concept held that life was based on a hierarchical system that put the most spiritual at the top of existence. Thus, God came first, followed by the angels, and as one moved down the ladder, there was less spirituality and more emphasis on the bestial. Hubris (a Greek term), or exaggerated pride, which led one to believe that he or she should be exalted above one’s station, was the ultimate sin. The great writers of the time, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, attacked those that succumbed to this failing. As I watched this movie, I thought of Swift, (and when the writer's name was mentioned in the story, I felt that I was on the right track) whose works always tried to remind us that no matter how much people tried to pass themselves off as superior, humans had ugly, animalistic aspects. The characters in this film, such as Abigail, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Harley (Nicholas Hoult) may dress in the finest of clothes, and inhabit grand palaces, but they are ruthless, and in some cases, disgusting individuals. Lanthimos has his actors dress in exaggerated costumes, dance absurd steps, and engage in antics that satirize their pretentiousness. (Stanley Kubrick, in Barry Lyndon, had a similar take on the eighteenth century by showing the chaos that existed beneath the facade of art and manners).

The performances here are very good, especially those of Stone and Weisz, as their characters compete to become the Queen’s “favourite.” But, Colman’s Queen Anne is the standout here. She’s already won the Golden Globe, and look for her to be a top contender for the Oscar.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins adapted the famous novel by James Baldwin for the screen and directed this movie which is significant for not emphasizing overt racism, but instead showing how the bigoted environment in which decent people of color exist permeates and endangers their lives. Set in the 1970’s, the main characters, Tish Rivers (Kiki Lane) and Fonny Hunt (Stephen James) have been sweethearts since childhood. Tish becomes pregnant, and all the two want is to get married and share a normal life together. However, some man rapes a Puerto Rican woman by the name of Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios), and she identifies Fonny as her attacker. We later learn that the police basically pressured her into identifying Fonny, which we assume was based on prejudice and expediency. Victoria is left in a state of emotional precariousness, and her escape back to Puerto Rico is a metaphorical one, too, as she wants to flee the frightening world she encountered on the mainland.

The unjust arrest and conviction create a domino effect that impacts the main characters and their relatives. Because Fonny is imprisoned, the fathers of the two young people, Joseph Rivers (Colman Domingo) and Frank Hunt (Michael Beach) turn to crime, selling stolen goods to pay for Fonny’s legal defense. Tish’s mother, Sharon (Regina King, in a superb performance) goes all the way to Puerto Rico in an attempt to get Victoria to reverse her signaling out Fonny as the perpetrator. Because among some in power at the time who felt that black lives don’t matter, Fonny must accept a plea and has to spend several years in prison, only seeing his wife and child during visiting hours at a prison.

Except for a confrontation between the Hunt and Rivers families over the union of the two lovers, and a scene showing Fonny protecting Tish from a sexual harasser, and his subsequent confrontation with a bigoted cop, the movie is a quiet one. If there is any fault in the movie making here is that it attempts to be too artistic with some scenes running too long with little action, no dialogue, and only moody music.

The next film is The Edge.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Wild Bunch

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.
Sam Peckinpah, who directed this 1969 western, offers a vision of America’s mythology of the Old West in transition as it deteriorates from idealism into cynicism. The significance of the title of the movie shows that the group of men are uncontrolled outlaws because they find no connection with a corrupt society, and their only allegiance is to the tribe they have formed. Whatever redemption they feel they can achieve in this fallen state comes from their loyalty to each other.
The first shot is of the Bunch, riding together, like a violent family. They are wild, but they are a unified. There is a shot of grinning children as they feed a couple of scorpions to a colony of ants. The film seems to present a restricted path for existence, with the threat of destruction being the primary force. Individuals perish, and any chance at a worthwhile survival depends upon the strength derived from a cohesive group. The image of the children getting enjoyment out of their sadistic act is disturbing, implying that innocence is dead as violence now begins among the young.

The cruel activity of the children is offset with the gathering of members of the Temperance Union, with a speaker quoting from the bible, which is also undercut by the Bunch riding by. The members of the Bunch are disguised as soldiers. Pike (William Holden), the leader, bumps into an old lady and her packages drops. For an instant Pike’s meanness shows on his face but then he puts on a benevolent look, as he and Dutch (Ernest Borgnine) pick up the packages and escort the woman. Appearances are deceiving, but these men are at least capable of civilized behavior. They are robbing a railroad depot, but Thornton (Robert Ryan) is there with his group of bounty hunters waiting for them. The Bunch spots the bounty hunters. We see the children marching with the Union, almost desecrating the actions of the righteous considering their affinity for destruction. Thornton’s men are just as bloodthirsty as any criminals, eager to start shooting. There is a smile on one man’s face in anticipation of the shootout, another, Coffer (Strother Martin) kisses his gun. The Bunch throw a railroad clerk out into the street while the marchers pass by, as they are not above sacrificing innocents as cover, who get caught in the crossfire. Many of the bounty hunters are shot. These men are not so admirable since their motivation is to collect rewards as opposed to enforcing the law.

There is recognition between Pike and Thornton as they exchange glances. Thornton hesitates and a band player gets in the way and is shot by Thornton, again showing how the violence of the time is wiping out the innocent. Pike’s return shot does not aim at Thornton, but kills the man next to him. We later learn why these two men can’t kill each other. The violence, which may not seem as graphic as today, but was revolutionary at the time, is extensive. The slow-motion shots make it linger, showing the devastating effect of the bullets on a human body. At the same time the cinematography is stylized, distancing the audience from the gruesome reality observed. The effect is similar to the technique that director Stanley Kubrick used in A Clockwork Orange. The mayhem appears choreographed to emphasize the artifice of film, ironically showing that even death can be made to appear artistic.
The bounty hunters, demonstrating how their callous greed undermines their cohesiveness as a unit, argue over who claims the rights to the bandits that were killed. Thornton is angry about the lack of organized planning which leads to the loss of lives. Harrigan (Albert Dekker), who works for the railroad and hired Thornton and the bounty hunters, criticizes Thornton for not killing Pike. One of the Bunch, Crazy Lee (Bo Hopkins), the name definitely fits here, who was guarding people at the railroad office, is cut off from the Bunch. He is unbalanced, asking the captives to sing, licking one of the women, and then shooting them when they try to escape for no reason since the robbery was over. He is shot by the bounty hunters, but even as he dies, he shoots more people, showing his deadly nature, and how the men who are outside the law can attract those that undermine their band of criminal brothers. The townspeople blame the railroad, a supposedly legitimate business, for luring the bandits in with a fake publicized delivery of silver, and thus causing the massacre. Thornton at least does seem outraged by the deaths. Children then imitate the action of the shooters, stressing how systemic the violence has become.

One of the Bunch, Buck (Rayford Barnes) was shot and loses his vision. He says just end it for him, and hardly gets the words out of his mouth before Pike shoots him. If an individual can’t help the group, he is a hindrance, and must be put down. This killing shows the brutal nature of the pact made between these men. Pike says rhetorically and sarcastically that maybe some of the others would like to give the man a decent burial. The thrust here is that their way of life can’t afford the luxury for sentimentality. One man does say he would like to bury him, and another says that too many of their number died. Dutch, Pike’s second in command, chimes in with sarcasm too, saying, “maybe a few hymns’d be in order. Followed by a church supper. With a choir!” The scorn for a religious ritual shows how far these men have distanced themselves from mainstream life.

 Harrigan yells at the bounty hunters for not stopping the thieves, but he only sees things in terms of dollars and cents, not in the loss of life, and threatens to give a thousand dollars to any man who kills one of their number who quits on the job. The intent of this offer is meant to unite this group but really just appeals to their individual greed, and discourages working in harmony toward a common goal. We learn that Thornton was in prison, used to be one of the Bunch, and Harrigan wonders whether he will try to rejoin them. Thornton says he gave his word, which is still important to him, but Harrigan says if he doesn’t bring the bandits back dead in thirty days, Thornton go back to the Yuma prison. Thornton points out angrily that Harrigan is able to order killings with the sanction of the law behind him. Harrigan, thus, appears worse than the criminals since his violence can be carried out without worrying about consequences. There is a flashback of Thornton being whipped in prison, showing the sadistic nature of the supposedly legitimate institution.
The Bunch crosses the river to get into Mexico. The border, as it was used in A Touch of Evil, can represent an area that exists between traditional concepts of good and evil, and here can also show the transition between a romanticized outlook to a cynical one. Two of the Bunch, Tector (Ben Johnson) and his brother, Lyle (Warren Oates) say they don’t think the old member of their group, Freddy Sykes (Edmond O'Brien), and the Mexican riding with them, Angel (Jaime Sanchez), should get equal shares of what they stole. Because Pike knows that anything that threatens to divide the Bunch will lessen their strength, he says he is either the leader and what he says goes, or he ends things right there. The threat of death is enough to cower the two men. Since the heist at the railroad depot was a trap, there are only metal washers in the bags. Pike admits that he saw Thornton at the depot. They plan their next move, but as Sykes says, they’re not getting any younger. Pike echoes that by saying that they must think “beyond their guns. Those days are closin’ fast.” This elegiac feel is similar to what happens in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where outlaws are constantly on the run from a changing world that threatens their place in the mythos of the Old West. In order to ward off the specter of future demise, the men here just laugh it off as Lyle and Tector talk about being with whores while Pike was setting them up to steal washers.
At their campsite before going to sleep, Pike says to Dutch that the railroad robbery was supposed to be his last job. He says he wanted one big heist and then hoped to “back off.” But his pal says, “Back off to what?” Pike has no reply, because they don’t know any other life, and probably couldn’t leave the one they have behind. In a way, their actions and the changing world has trapped them. He asks Pike about other plans, and Pike says there are a lot of garrisons along the border waiting for payrolls. Dutch says the authorities will be waiting for them, and Pike defiantly says he wouldn’t want it any other way. Dutch shows his allegiance to Pike, saying he wouldn’t want it any other way either about confronting the law. Pike has a flashback of him and Thornton (the name might suggest he represents a “thorn” of guilt in Pike’s side?) at a brothel, and Thornton saying they have to move on. Pike says that it’s okay because “Being sure is my business.” But the authorities burst in on them and Thornton is shot and cuffed. Pike escaped and now probably feels guilty about miscalculating their safety and leaving Thornton behind, which makes him bitter about betrayal.

They cross an area of desert and then Sykes causes them to roll down a dune and get unhorsed. Tector threatens to kill the old man, but Pike stops him, and announces his code by which he believes they should live. He says, “We’re gonna stick together, just like it used to be! When you side with a man, you stay with him! And if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal, you’re finished. We’re finished! All of us!” The rest of the world might be in chaos, and a man might help contribute to that breakdown of society, but within the nucleus of the tribe, there is a thread of order through loyalty that keeps one elevated above becoming totally savage.

As Pike tries to mount his horse, a stirrup breaks and he falls down, hurting his leg. Tector and Lyle ridicule Pike, saying maybe they shouldn’t be following a man who can’t get on his horse (as mentioned in past posts, the horse is a traditional symbol for manhood). Despite his pain, Pike manages to mount his horse, and there is admiration on Dutch’s face for the toughness of his leader. As they ride, Sykes asks how Crazy Lee, his grandson, performed at the robbery. Pike didn’t know the young man was Syke’s relative, because the old man wanted Lee to make it on his own. Pike says he did ‘fine.” Even though they are on the wrong side of the law, thieves still care how one of their number handles himself professionally. Pike shows some compassion here, not telling Sykes how undependable Crazy Lee acted.

The Mexican member, Angel (an ironic name which shows an inverse world where the thieves are more noble than the legitimate people in power), invites them to his village and warns them not to disrespect him in front of his people. Angel has not totally accepted his role as a criminal. The others laugh at his hypocrisy, since he is a bandit, which the villagers do not know, and they defy him humorously by saying suggestively they want to get to know his sister, mother and even grandmother. The Bunch’s wildness is contrasted with the domestic and agrarian lives of the villagers. We have here a similar situation that was presented in The Magnificent Seven. An old Mexican, Don Jose (Chano Urueta) says the Mexican soldiers, instead of protecting the citizens, stole from them. Their leader, Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) hanged Angel’s father and took his girlfriend, Teresa (Sonia Amelio). Don Jose says Angel idolized her “like a goddess to be worshiped from afar.” But, she went with Mapache, “drunk with wine and love,” according to the old man, who says these are sad times for Mexico. He sounds a bit like Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, another film that bemoans the loss of old standards of behavior. Don Jose describes Teresa as being like a ripe mango. Cynical Pike says that Angel dreams of love, while Mapache eats the mango. In that sentence we see the defeat of romantic idealism as it is consumed by carnal desire.

Lyle and Tector playfully go with some of the village women to help with the cooking, and Pike says with a laugh that he finds their behavior hard to believe. But, Don Jose says that, “We all dream of being a child again. Even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.” Pike basically admits that his band is among “the worst,” thus understanding that Don Jose means that there is a part of the men of the Bunch that yearn for a return to a less cruel world. But, as we saw the behavior of the children at the beginning of the story, innocence is gone.

Angel keeps wanting to know where Mapache is, but Pike menacingly says he has to let his desire for revenge go or they will leave Angel behind. Angel must choose between two ways of life, and he says he will stick with the “wild” one. As they leave the town, the people sing a farewell but it is mournful and could be a funeral dirge for what is to come. One woman gives Dutch a rose, and he exchanges looks with Pike that seems to say that they are not accustomed to this sweetness. But, it can also represent a flower placed on a coffin.
They go to General Mapache’s headquarters to do some trading. Another general arrives in an automobile, and it is the first time the thieves have seen a car. Pike heard of them and when Sykes talks of airplanes, Pike confirms their existence. He heard that they will be used in wars. Thus, the violence of this new technology, sanctioned by the legal authorities, will cause the extermination of lives in large numbers, so that the outlaws do not seem so evil in comparison to what governments allow. They observe that Mapache has plenty of silver that he has extracted from the inhabitants. So, Dutch says, he’s just another bandit, and in his own way worse because he pretends to be a person on the side of the law. The line between legal and illegal thievery has become blurred with transgressions occurring on both sides of the law. But Dutch says that they are better because they don’t degrade people by hanging them, and calls people like Mapache “scum.”

Two women are brought to Mapache and one is Teresa, Angel’s girl, who has now become corrupted. She laughs at Angel, sits in Mapache’s lap, and kisses him sexually in the ear. Angel yells out the word “whore” in Spanish and shoots Teresa, since the condemnation of betrayal is a major theme in the film. There is the old sexist idea here of classifying women as either virgins or whores, as was noted in the conversation between Pike and Don Jose. The film shows women used by men for sex, and they are viewed as dispensable. However, women in the story many times appear to be ready, with a smile on their faces, to succumb to the men, and can be treacherous. To the movie’s detriment there is no effort given to develop a female character in this story beyond being compliant vessels for male pleasure. The Bunch gets out of this situation by saying Angel’s action was all about jealousy. Mapache and his men seem to go along with that explanation. After being questioned by one of Mapache’s German military advisers, Mohr (Fernando Wagner), Pike assures them that he and his men do not agree with hardly anything the American government stands for. In this way, Pike sort of announces the Bunch’s own declaration of independence from any allegiance except to themselves. They are asked to have dinner with Mapache and his officers.

There is a quick scene where the bounty hunters are riding with Thornton at the lead. Coffer says something about shooting Thornton, as a joke, and slaps his leather holster, alarming Thornton, who falls back so as not to be an easy target. It reminds us of the children who played at shooting guns, and makes a connection to how the urge for violence starts early. It also shows how the loyalty among the members of the illegal Bunch is stronger than that between the legal, but selfish, bounty hunters.

Mapache and the Bunch eat dinner while there is the funeral procession for Teresa winding around them, showing the contrast between a religious ritual for the dead and the illegal plotting of the living. Mohr wants the Bunch to go after a railroad, and says that General Huerta, who has taken over the military and is fighting the outlaw, Pancho Villa, wants to hypocritically show good relations with the American government while his henchman, Mapache, backs a robbery of an American train. Mohr says that they have received intelligence from Mapache about the delivery of armaments by the U. S. Army. Lyle demands women and they are brought to him and his brother, showing the objectification of the females here for sexual purposes and illustrating the men’s indulgence of selfish desires. Mapache doesn’t trust Angel and wants to exchange him for another man in the robbery attempt, but Pike, again showing the importance of sticking together, convinces Mapache that he needs Angel.

Pike, Dutch, Angel, and Sykes are in a type of sauna, getting a bath, and Angel says that he doesn’t want to steal for Mapache so he can kill and steal from his people. Pike says that he should just think about the money, and then he can buy land for his people, maybe even move them away. Angel says no one will drive his people off of their land. Angel is showing that there can still be a connection to one’s heritage and people, but Sykes says that you can’t be loyal to the village and also to the Bunch. His philosophy mirrors that of Pike and Dutch, who don’t subscribe to any other form of kinship than to their immediate band of thieves and their acquisition of wealth. Sykes says he will drink to many things, but most of all “to gold,” which shows where their priorities rest. Angel asks would Pike give guns to a man who would kill his parents or siblings. Pike, showing how he no longer feels a connection to relatives, says that a lot of money “cuts an awful lot of family ties.” Angel, however, says he would like to give guns to his people for protection. Dutch says why not give a case of the arms to Angel. Angel agrees to give up his share of the gold for one case of ammo and guns. He still feels a bond to something beyond this loyal, but materialistic, band of thieves, is important to maintain.

Thornton tells Harrigan that he needs better men and knows where Pike and his men will strike. Thornton says that the American troops aren’t experienced enough. Dutch notices Pike’s old leg injury and Pike finally tells him how he received the wound. A flashback shows that Pike was involved with a Mexican woman whose husband she said was never coming back. The husband returned and found the two ready to have sex. The man killed his wife and shot Pike in the leg. He said he never found the man, but still thinks about getting back at him. This story is another instance that shows Pike’s regret about not seeing trouble coming and another person suffering the consequences because of his lack of foresight.

The Bunch target an American military train at a water stop. Pike’s men quietly board it, getting the drop on the guards. The Bunch detach the locomotive and cargo from the rest of the train. But, Thornton is on board and he and his men ride after the locomotive, and start shooting. Angel, living up to his name here, saves Dutch from falling off the train. They unload the cargo and Pike puts the locomotive in reverse, as he and his men get off and ride away. The front section crashes into the rest of the train and shows the inexperience of the soldiers, as Thornton had said, as they chase their horses. The Bunch rides over a bridge and then dynamite it so as not to be pursued. The bounty hunters catch up as the fuse is lit, but the wagon carrying the arms breaks through the bridge. The bandits free it as a shootout commences and the explosion takes place, allowing the thieves to get away.
There is a short scene where Lyle and Tector say they won’t have to worry about Thornton now. But old man Sykes warns them that Thornton will still come after them. To ward off that negative feeling, they share a drink of whiskey from a bottle which shows the bond between them. Even Angel is included in this scene of camaraderie. They join together in laughter when no whiskey is left for Lyle.

That scene contrasts with the next one at the bounty hunters’ camp where the men voice self-centered complaints, talking about losing horses or catching a cold. Thornton yells at them for having shot at the soldiers instead of the thieves, which adds symbolically to the blurring concerning who are the good or bad guys. Mapache, retreating from a confrontation with Pancho Villa, is handed a communication by a child dressed in a military uniform, the image of a child looking like a soldier again stressing the loss of youthful innocence. The message says that the Bunch has the guns and Mapache says to his subordinate to make sure the Bunch turn over the arms, which shows how he is not necessarily willing to honor the deal of gold for arms.

Pike and Dutch watch in hiding as Thornton and his men try to track them down. Thornton is so disgusted with his remaining bounty hunters that he says, “We’re after men. And I wish to God I was with them.” His words show how he respects Pike and his gang as embodying what it takes to be real men, having courage, cunning, and intelligence. His attitude adds to the ambivalent feelings about the Bunch, who have some admirable attributes, but who are still dangerous outlaws. Pike, demonstrating his intelligence, doesn’t trust Mapache, saying that he thinks he might just take the guns and kill them. He wants to set up explosives that could destroy the arms if Mapache doesn’t pay up. Angel and Lyle discover a Gatling gun in the armaments they have stolen. The weapon is another sample of the escalation of destruction as the move into the modern age progresses.

With Angel’s help, the Mexicans, who are there to collect the guns that Angel promised them, ambush the Bunch. But the Mexicans apologize for not trusting them, saying their mistrust of others has kept them alive. The Bunch just laugh as they acknowledge how these mountain Mexicans can handle themselves, showing their respect for these men who have stuck together for the benefit of them all. The Bunch head toward Agua Verde. They encounter Mapache’s army of men. Pike shows the fuse leading to the dynamite that is rigged to blow up the arms. The officer sent by Mapache says he and his men are not afraid, but when Pike lights the fuse and shows the Gatling gun, they back off. Trust is hard to come by in this world, and betrayal is always a possibility. Pike says he will negotiate at Agua Verde.

Pike rides to meet Mapache and once he is paid part of the money Pike tells him where to find some of the guns and ammunition. He says that the rest are with his men and if he doesn’t return they will blow them up. Pike is no fool, and has made sure that he gets the gold before allowing himself to be vulnerable. He promises the machine gun as a gift, to sweeten the deal. Back at the Bunch’s camp, the men light some dynamite and throw it to where Sykes is ready to relieve himself. He breaks the fuse, but is furious. Even at play, these men are dangerous. Pike brings them the first payment and starts the next delivery. Back at Agua Verde, Mapache now has the machine gun, but doesn’t know how to use it. The Germans keep yelling that it must be mounted on a tripod, but the soldiers accidentally start the gun firing, and they can’t control it. The gun continues to fire, terrorizing the town's inhabitants. The scene is symbolic of how technology advances beyond its inventors’ ability to control it.

Mapache distributes the guns as Angel and Dutch approach with info on the final load as they get paid. Dutch has to explain why one crate of weapons is missing, and he says they lost it on the way. But Mapache says he found out from the mother of the woman who Angel killed, Teresa, that Angel stole the guns. She probably wanted to get back at Angel for what happened to her daughter. Angel tries to ride away but is caught. Dutch, knowing he can’t free Angel, plays along, saying he has to go and Mapache can deal with the “thief,” which is an ironic statement, since they are all thieves.

Back at the Bunch’s camp, Pike says that they can’t go after Angel, even though Lyle points out the man’s courage, and Dutch says he didn’t admit that the Bunch was complicit in giving away some of the guns. Sykes says that they should go after Angel, and he rides off with some horses. But Thornton and his men are out there and shoot him in the leg. Dutch says Thornton should be damned to hell. Pike, because of his guilt about how he left Thornton to get caught, defends Thornton because he gave his word to pursue the Bunch. Dutch yells that he gave his word to a railroad, and what matters is “who you give it to!” He is stressing the bond between men, not to some abstract, supposedly legitimate company. Lyle wants to fight Thornton, but Pike says they are low on water. They should go to Agua Verde, pay Mapache one bag of gold for sanctuary, and Thornton won’t go there. To show Pike’s hard nature, he is willing to sacrifice Sykes so that Thornton will waste time pursuing him. Thornton sees through the plan, leaves one man to look for Sykes while he and the rest pursue the Bunch. One of the mountain Mexicans finds Sykes, suggesting that he probably will help him.
As Pike thought, the general is celebrating his acquisition of the guns. They see Mapache dragging Angel around behind the car. Pike wants to buy back Angel, but Mapache says he doesn’t need gold, and continues to drag Angel around. Mapache says that the Bunch should just enjoy the drinking and the women. Pike says they may as well. Thornton and his men are on the Bunch’s trail but American Army troops are after them because of the bounty hunters shooting the soldiers at the train robbery. After being with prostitutes, the next morning, Pike seems disgusted with the situation and tells the men “let’s go,” which is code for fighting. Lyle shows his commitment by saying, “Why not?” Outside, all Dutch has to do is look at the others and he smiles, knowing what they are about to do, and laughs as they arm up. These men are so bound together that they don’t even have to speak to communicate once their minds are made up.

As they walk, the soundtrack stresses percussion, and there is marching music, as if they are off to war. Pike says to Mapache, “We want Angel,” the Mexican’s name adding significance here as these flawed men, like the gunfighters in The Magnificent Seven, seek redemption by fighting for one of their own. But, they must do it their way, through violence against the true evil men. Mapache says he will give him up. Angel is half-dead and a soldier finishes him by cutting Angel’s throat. That’s the last straw for Pike, who opens fire, shooting Mapache. The Bunch look at each other knowing this is how they are going out and they are okay with it. An orgy of stylized violence consisting of regular action and slow motion follows. Dutch uses grenades and they use the Gatling gun. But there are too many soldiers. One woman shoots Pike in the back, again showing female treachery, but the Bunch also uses a woman as a shield to show how they, too, use women for their own purposes. As Pike fires the machine gun to set off dynamite, a boy shoots Pike, again emphasizing the spread of corruptibility to the youngest in society.

After the bunch and the others are killed, Thornton and his men arrive. We see vultures landing on the dead, and the parallel is made to the bounty hunters as they pick off spoils from the remains of those killed. Thornton comes across Pike’s body, clutching a weapon, even in death. Thornton takes Pike’s revolver as a memento of his one-time friend. Thornton, showing his disgust for the bounty hunters, stays behind, not wanting to be part of the scavenging men. There is gunfire in the distance as Thornton rests. Sykes shows up with the mountain men, and says the bounty hunters didn’t get far as the mountain men got them. Sykes says he and the mountain men have work to do and offers Thornton a chance to join them. Thornton, smiling, joins Sykes, hoping to be part of a new Bunch that lives by a code of loyalty.

Next time, brief impressions on some recent films.