The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't. This week, I watched....
Action / Drama(?) / Attempted Political Wit, 1990, 90 minutes, Directed by David Heavener
This is getting a little closer to the sort of fare I expected to be seeing in the BCI Eclipse box sets: generally crappy, but with a few scenes of comedic gold here and there that could inspire a drunk movie night.
This is a movie made by some guy named David Heavener, who I've never heard of before, but who I expect will become a familiar name to me given his IMDb credits. In addition to writing and directing, he stars as James Tucker, a bad-ass cop in a terrifying future world where all guns have been outlawed! Also, he is chasing after a serial murderer and, in the process, learns of a terrible new drug that gives criminals super powers.
First things first. This is a movie that may or may not be sincere, and that does affect my perception and overall rating. For the purpose of this review, I'm going to assume that everything in it was meant to be taken at face value; that the grit was not ironic. It's one of those movies that looks like it could have been a SyFy Original where they try too hard to be funny and end up not being funny at all. There are moments of humor all throughout that fall terribly flat. Fortunately, the rest of it is frequently hilarious.
Second things second. This is pretty much just a political diatribe wearing the skin of a cheap action movie. The premise is that all guns have been banned - not even the police can use them - and now criminals have gone wild. And you know, despite the reactionary aftertaste it leaves in your mouth, it's not a bad premise for a movie.
The truth is, having a modern action movie with no guns is a great way to establish some tension. Guns are a quick and easy way to resolve a conflict in a movie. Bad guy appears. Good guy shoots him. Good guy wins. But that's not very fun. So most movies are about people shooting, but never hitting - the bad guys all have that renowned Stormtrooper aim, and the good guys keep dropping their guns or getting them knocked out of their hands. Until the last scene or two - then you can have consequences.
Why not just have a world where gunplay is literally not an option? Take it completely out of the picture. Play it straight and assume that there are no more gun manufacturers anywhere and no black market weapons. There will still be bad guys, so how do they inflict harm? I bet that would be kinda neat. Maybe you'd have a bunch of themed gangs like in The Warriors, and each gang has their own special weapon, like the Molotov Cocktail gang or the Rusty Pipe gang or the Leather Glove With Nails Poked Through The Knuckles gang. And then how do the police respond? Maybe they have to use special tactics or martial arts or something, and then....
Oh. Or they could just have dart guns like the cops in this movie.
See, that's a complete cop-out. You say you're going to have a world where guns are forbidden, but a tranquilizer gun is still a gun. Not a lethal or impressive gun, but it's still a gun. It's in the name. What else do you call it - a tranquilizer "thrower?"
Fine. So, do we have any themed gangs or creative weapons or....
...they just use illegally obtained guns? Why? What's the fucking point?
Alright, so you're basically just putting this whole no-gun thing in the movie so you can have a pseudo-political bite? Thanks a lot, David Heavener. I'll look you up next time I feel like a tease.
The actual political aspect of the movie is pretty much what you'd expect. A couple of talking head moments, some heavy-handed commentary, and a few straw men, but nothing clever. The real issue here - and the real reason I need to write this review - is Tucker's butt-stank.
See, there's a scene early on in the movie where you see that Tucker doesn't sleep in a bed. He sleeps in his tub. It's his bedroom, and he shares it with his pet rat (either Floyd or Freud - couldn't really tell with the way Heavener mumbles his dialogue). He can't take a shower in his apartment, because it would ruin his sleeping arrangement.
There's no explanation given for this, except for one possible interpretation of the ending that I'll get to later. At first I thought, "His apartment really sucks and he has no room for a bed, so he sleeps in the tub." But then they cut to his kitchen, and you can see that there's plenty of space to roll out a sleeping bag or something. So then I think, maybe he just can't afford furniture, and the tub seemed like the best solution. But that's not it, because then they cut to him sitting on a perfectly good couch that he chooses not to use.
So then I think that maybe his tub-sleeping thing is meant to establish something about his toughness or his personality. See, he also spends his free time watching old movies and reading classic literature, so part of you might think, "Maybe this guy just really likes the past." Maybe the tub-sleeping thing is supposed to be like him getting to his roots, getting down to basics - no need for frilly modern-day conveniences like beds or whatever. But then why would he be cool with owning a gun? Guns were invented more recently than beds.
So maybe beds were also outlawed along with guns. Never mind that they show a bed in a scene with a hooker - she's a hooker, so clearly she wouldn't care about owning contraband. You don't see any other beds, so let's just assume that they're forbidden, and he's just some dumbass, and that's why he sleeps in the tub.
Anyway. He also doesn't do any laundry. He wears the same pair of long-johns throughout the entire movie. You might not know they're long-johns at first because in his first appearance, it just looks like kind of a ratty old shirt that he has tucked into his badical, pre-shredded jeans.
Later you find out that, no, that is not a shirt, it is in fact his old-timey one-piece underwear that he never, ever, ever changes or washes.
The other characters even point out his stench whenever they can. There's a critical point about halfway through the movie where the police chief actually orders him to go take a shower, but he says he can't because his "plumbing's broke." Which kinda sounds like it might have been a crappy gay joke in some way, since there was a crappy gay joke like five minutes before that, but whatever.
While all this stuff is happening, by the way, there's a subplot about how the police chief knows that Tucker owns a gun and wants him to turn it in, so he sends a couple of other cops over to Tucker's apartment to search for and retrieve the weapon. They come around a few times and can't find it. The whole movie builds this up like, "Whoa, how's he hiding his crazy-huge penis gun in his apartment? It is a mystery, you guys! It will totally pay off in the end!"
It's such an arbitrary choice for Heavener to make. Like, he must have been sitting there in front of his typewriter, puzzling over how to make James Tucker a memorable protagonist. "Maybe he could have a cool haircut," he thought. Then he looked at the mirror and said, "Nah, I can't pull that off." So then he started looking around his apartment for ideas, and maybe he tripped over his garbage and knocked it over, and the scent of week-old fish bones wafted up to his nose and he gagged and went, "Damn! That's gonna haunt me!" Then he went silent for a moment, dumbfounded by the flash of genius that had just devastated his brain. He ran back to his typewriter and started pouring it out onto the page: "INT. BATHROOM - DAWN: Tucker sleeps in a tub, dirty, greasy, smelling like a hobo going through puberty." Then he sat back and lit up a cigar.
Maybe it's supposed to be one of those dumb macho things that some guys do, like he'd cut a loud one and say something like, "A good lady oughta like the way her man smells, inside and out." You know the type of dude I'm talking about. The fat, hairy slobs with nasty-ass clothes and bad teeth who make fun of guys who keep themselves well-groomed and use the term "metrosexual" as insult, even though it's currently 2013.
So, the thrilling conclusion. Eventually, the main bad guy busts into Tucker's apartment in what is the best scene in the movie, and everyone is helpless to fight back. Tucker runs to his bathroom and locks himself inside - what's he going to do? What's his plan? Welp, you remember that gun he had way back when that the authorities have been looking for? Turns out he's been hiding it in the bathroom all along - but in pieces! That's why nobody could find it!
He re-assembles and then shoots, and the day is saved! (Except for the part where the bad guy runs off and they have to have a whole other fight scene at the Chemical Plant.)
Walk through the logic here with me and let me know if I'm on the right page. Tucker can't own a gun legally. So he has to hide his gun, in pieces, in his apartment. To keep it concealed, he hides the chamber in his shower head. Since his shower head is now inoperable, he must go without bathing. Therefore: banning guns = butt-stank. I believe this is the thesis statement.
My Final Analysis: It's an okay movie, I guess. If you're buying the Action Arsenal set to watch Confessions of a Police Captain, then you might as well watch this one with a fifth of whiskey and a friend. Alternately, you can just watch the climactic of the movie below:
One Last Thought: Did I mention that Erik Estrada plays the police chief, Commander Gage? 'Cause he totally does.
Best acting in the movie, too.
How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth? (Added June 2016)
Over the years I've come to appreciate David Heavener's brand of nonsense, so there's a healthy bonus thanks to him. (Refer to my much more recent review of Prime Target, another of his movies, for a more detailed explanation.) The movie also has under 200 ratings on IMDb, so there's a decent obscurity bonus. I'll give Twisted Justice 75 hipster cred out of a possible 100.