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Hipster Holy Grail: Massacre / The Border of Tong (1985)

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 5,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....


The problem with Massacre (aka, The Border of Tong) is that nothing much really happens.  It's got maybe twenty minutes of plot padded out to an hour forty.  This happens a lot with low-budget movies, but often they will at least have the decency to keep the overall length shorter.  I can be forgiving of a seventy minute "feature" that's just a bunch of nothing, but this?  It's ridiculous.

I think I'm going to have to come up for a term for movies like this.  Maybe something like "Bullet Movie," because I can really just sum up my reaction in a bulleted list of observations.  No need for an essay.

So, how about this?  I'll just sum up the plot briefly, then give you a roundup of the only thoughts worth having.

Massacre is about Joe, a young Chinese immigrant, who robs a gambling parlor controlled by gangsters and affiliated with an affluent politician.  The robbery goes wrong and a bunch of people get killed.  Joe goes on the run while Detective Randy Walker investigates.  Joe hangs out in Canada for awhile, occasionally runs away from people, and then later gives Walker some Evidence that incriminates the politician.  The end.

My Bullets:
  • Randy Walker is played by David Heavener, last seen in Twisted Justice, wearing lipstick for some reason.  Sadly, his goofy-ass acting is not enough to breathe life into this movie.
  • The audio is really poor.  Sometimes characters are clearly dubbed over, and sometimes not.  Either way, they speak broken English through thick accents.  Kinda makes you wonder - if you're going through the trouble of dubbing the actor, why hire somebody who also does not speak English to do the dubbing?
  • When Joe goes on the run in Canada, there is a recurring thing where he or people he's running with keep dropping their immigration papers.  Like, everybody just has their papers loosely tucked into their back pockets.  Whoops.
  • There's one scene where Joe is getting mugged, and he has a flashback to the gambling den.  The mugger will punch him in the stomach, and Joe will flinch and then gaze off to one side, then - CUT TO - Joe standing in the gambling den, not really doing much of anything.  You know how some movies will inter-cut a painful scene of the present with a painful scene of the past to imply that the character feels so painfully about those memories?  I guess Joe just really didn't like standing around and being bored in the gambling den.

  • Speaking of dumb scenes with poor editing, there's exactly one moment worth watching in the movie, and it happens while Joe is running away from / fighting some random Vietnamese thugs in Canada.  He charges into a guy to tackle him, but instead of falling over, the guy just runs backward.  So Joe is pushing into the guy's stomach while they both run through a forest for maybe 100 yards.  It's kind of a funny sight gag in a movie that is not a comedy.
  • This is one of the ugliest movies I've ever seen.  Just in terms of direction and photography.  The actors are... well, they're not "fine," but they're not the worst I've ever seen, and the color is... again, not the worst I've ever seen.  But the camera angles are atrocious.  Everything feels cramped and claustrophobic.  Scenes never feel spacious - everything looks like you're shoved into a broom closet and sweating it out.  I think the crew forgot to pack a wide-angle lens.
Pictured:  Not a wide-angle lens.
  • The camerawork is especially bad during the sex scene between Joe and the random Vietnamese prostitute that he meets / runs away with.  Because it's so claustrophobic, it's impossible to tell what body parts are being shown, or who they belong to.  It's just squirming blocks of skin rubbing against each other.  If they covered themselves in KY and green food coloring, it would've been an amazing close-up from a horror movie.
  • Speaking of the Vietnamese prostitute, Joe just kinda randomly falls in love with her and settles down to start a new life with her.  They're on the run for a long time until they just shrug and decide, yeah, this is far enough that we're safe forever.  Predictably, she is killed when the people who are pursuing them... continue to pursue them.  Go figure.
  • Add "the passage of time" to the list of things this movie does wrong.  It takes place over the course of more than a year, but you'd never guess until somebody outright says it.
  • Another motif: vehicular exposition.  All the major plot details are told via voiceover when people are driving, flying, or otherwise in transit.  But whenever the characters are on screen together, they just kinda shut up and look at each other.
  • Oh, yeah, a thing about Randy Walker.  He is probably the most useless character ever.  He's supposed to be investigating that massacre that happened, right?  The thing they titled the movie after?  But he doesn't make a break in the case until the very end, and even when he finds out what's going on, he just gets shot almost immediately and isn't able to apprehend Joe.  Then he disappears.  Why even bother to give him a name?

My Final Analysis:  This may be the most bored I've been watching a movie in a long time. Don't bother.

One Last Thought: David Heavener did not write or direct this movie, so maybe his next appearance is going to be a little more entertaining.  Good Lord, I need more of that mullet to break up the tedium. 


How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?  (Added in June 2016)


It gets the full obscurity bonus of 50 points for having less than 100 ratings on IMDb, and it gets a tiny little bump for having Heavener in the lead role.  It gets nothing else, though - and in fact, I'm going to use the Street Vengeance rule to penalize it since one of the movie's titles was "Massacre" and it barely delivers. I'm awarding this one 45 hipster cred out of a possible 100.