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Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Feb 10 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221140:43282:0[/embed] John Wick: Chapter 2 Director: Chad Stahelski Release Date: February 10, 2017Rating: R  John Wick: Chapter 2 is the movie you want it to be. It’s the movie it has to be. It begins with a Buster Keaton joke. The camera looks up at a wall in New York City that is projecting footage from one of his classic films, but as you watch, you see sounds that fit with it, and you think, “That’s not right. There wouldn’t be those sounds!” and then you see a man off his motorcycle with a badass car in pursuit. The sounds were diegetic. And then we realize that we’re about to watch a Buster Keaton movie, if The General was about a lone Confederate soldier violently murdering the entire Union army. Of course, it’s not really a slapstick comedy. There are some pretty great (CG-enhanced) stunts, many of which are effectively sight gags, but bringing Keaton’s name in will give you the wrong impression of what John Wick: Chapter 2 really is... though I stand by the comparison regardless. That scene is followed by John Wick getting back his car, a loose end from the last film that is dealt with in the first minutes of the film. For those who haven’t seen the original, it serves as a pretty effective entry point into the character. Cross-cutting John Wick’s any-means-necessary acquisition of his vehicle is a Russian mob-man, telling John Wick stories. (Again, everyone knows who he is.) And at the end of it, after a sizeable body count and significant financial damage, John Wick offers peace. And the mob man accepts. Because it doesn’t matter if John Wick just destroyed everything you own, you don’t come after him unless you have a death wish. It doesn’t matter who you are or how many you are; you cross him, and that’s good night.  So he tries to retire (again), and that works for several whole minutes of screen time. But, of course, nothing is ever so simple. Someone who knows John Wick very well indeed shows up, and after some… persuasion(?) gets The Boogeyman to do one last job. Things go badly. For everyone. Except us, the viewers; if people did the smart thing (not antagonizing John Wick), then we wouldn’t get badass movies out of it.  And oh man is Chapter 2 badass. The first film is pretty hardcore, but action sequels always have to Go Big or Go Home, and that’s taken to heart here. It’s not just that the fights are better and the body count larger (though they are), it’s that the staging of everything is just so much more impressive. There are three key fight locations –catacombs, subway* car, and an art installation – that stand out as being particularly spectacular, but all of the fights are great. Because of course they are. That's what the whole thing is about. Much like the first film, though, the gun stuff is better than the hand-to-hand. I am a big fan of the way the close-combat fights are filmed, what with the long takes and wide shots and everything. (Love of all that.) However, the actual fights themselves feel a little… deliberate. This is a problem I have with a lot of fight scenes, actually; it doesn’t feel like the moves that are happening are being decided and executed at the moment. I think you could make an argument that this is true about every single fight scene that Keanu Reeves has ever been in (sorry, The Matrix), and it’s still true here. (I have the same problems with all Christopher Nolan fight scenes, though the problem is much worse there than it is here.) Don’t get me wrong: They’re good fights, really good even, but they’re not Great the way the gunfights are. And the gunfights are really, really great. As in the first film, John Wick applies his bullets liberally; rarely do people get shot fewer than three times. Two to the chest and one to the head is most common, but you’ll see all kinds of combinations… as long as they all turn into headshots. And they have to. Because headshots are kinda his thing. Conveniently, though, he’s the only person as good at headshots as he is, because even though he has an (awesome) bullet-proof suit (justified well enough), he never covers his head. He gets shot at a lot of times, and even hit a couple, but they’re all aiming for the wrong place. Too bad for them. Before Chapter 2, there was (unsurprisingly) a trailer for the F8 of the Furious. It looks pretty cool. I should probably watch all those other ones to get ready for it. But I thought about it again while the credits were rolling. Assuming this does well (and I don’t see how it couldn’t), there will be a Chapter 3 at the very least, but why should it stop there? Why not keeping upping the ante until we hit John Wick: Chapter 8 (running alongside the trailer for Sixteen and Furious)? There’s a whole lot of creativity going on in the action here, and I think that it has a few more entries to go before it could really jump the shark. (Though, honestly, I think an ultra-violent Buster Keaton film would be pretty awesome.) I want our society, ultimately, to know John Wick like John Wick's does. I want to be able to walk into any social gathering, say the name, and have everyone together conjure up stories of multiple murders committed using a single pencil. I want him to be one of the all-time action greats. He deserves to be one of the action greats. And with Chapter 2, this franchise has started off right. Long live John Wick. (And long live John Wick.) *Don’t fuck with me, John Wick: Chapter 2. I know what the gosh darn PATH train looks like. At least put a “C” sticker somewhere on it if you’re going to pretend like it’s the C train. Sincerely,A Guy Who Lives in New York City.
John Wick 2 Review photo
You Will Know His Name
In the John Wick cinematic universe, everyone who matters knows John Wick, by face, name, and reputation. They know the stories, they see the man, and they get a little concerned: “You working again, John?” asked ...


Thor Ragnarok Cast Grows, Adds THE HULK & more

May 20
// Rick Lash
Marvel just announced some major additions to its third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok including Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, and Tessa Thompson. Oh, and another guy you might have heard of, Mark Ruffalo, as a l...
Donnie Yen in Star Wars photo
Star Wars just got a little more badass
Prepare to sing the Ewok celebration song, folks: Donnie Yen will appear in Star Wars: Episode VIII and possibly Star Wars: Rogue One. Reports suggest Yen, who completed Ip Man 3 with Mike Tyson not too long ago (though ...


This Avengers: Age of Ultron TV spot busts up the joint

Apr 13
// Nick Valdez
I sat through most of the MTV Movie Awards this year. Every year there's a big trailer reveal or something to look forward to, and that's why I'll sit through it for you guys, but this year was a whole lot of nothin' in term...

FlixList: The Top 10 Movie Robots

Mar 06 // Nick Valdez
10. Wall-E (from Wall-E) I didn't like Wall-E, but even I'll admit how important of a robot Wall-E is. Although its nostalgic design and lack of speech was a shameless pull at cuteness, Wall-E is still a robot that lives in a future that reminds of of Mike Judge's Idiocracy. And anything that reminds me of Idiocracy automatically deserves a place on any list.  9. T-1000 (from Terminator 2: Judgment Day)  Although the T-1000 spent most of its time resembling the dance sequence from TLC's "Waterfalls" music video, it is the best machine in the Terminator franchise. Even more so than Schwarzenegger's T-800 and especially greater than whatever the hell the T-X (I assume the X stood for boobs) was. The only reason the T-1000 lost because it was the villain and was cheated. I imagine if there was a rematch now between the T-1000 and the current Schwarzenegger, things would end a lot differently.  8. Astro Boy (from Astro Boy)  Astro Boy is one of Osamu Tezuka's best works, and should be heralded as one of the best robot fictions overall, but since I can only count movies (and not the awesome manga or anime) it's only at number eight. The 2009 film adaptation of the series looked good, but just lacked the spark of the originals. Also, the kid has friggin' rocket boots man. Every kid wants rocket boots.  7. Robot (from Robot & Frank) Robot & Frank is a deliciously charming film. It's about a retired burglar named Frank who's slowly receding into dementia as his son buys him a robot companion, named Robot, who helps him steal an antique copy of Don Quixote (in one of the hilariously inspired moments of the film). As the film goes on, Robot somehow develops a personality (as one is projected onto him) and becomes just as endearing as Frank. And when the ending hits, I challenge you to keep your eyes dry.  6. 80s Robot (from The Muppets) 80s Robot seemed like a throwaway gag, but quickly became one of the funnier (and self-referential) inclusions in 2011's The Muppets. Its simple R.O.B. like design, its Dial-Up modem, and its offerings of Tab and New Coke make a perfect additions to this list. Sure Robocop may be cool at stomping down crime, but has he offered anyone a cool beverage? NO.  5. MechaGodzilla (from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) Since Pacific Rim is essentially a reboot of Godzilla Vs MechaGodzilla, it only feels right to add MechaGodzilla to the list. How is it not the fifth best robot ever? It's everything Godzilla wishes it could be but with robot parts, it was built by a planet of apes who lived in a black hole or something, and Godzilla can only defeat it by ripping its head off! I mean, come on!  4. SICO (from Rocky IV) "Happy Birthday, Paulie"  3. SAINT Number 5/Johnny 5 (from Short Circuit) When a robot develops feelings, normally that's when you dismantle the thing. Yet Short Circuit's Johnny 5 gets away with it for being so damn adorable. What other robot immediately makes you think of Lou Bega? What other robot could smooth talk a woman and win her over with "More Than a Woman"? Does Robocop care whether or not a woman is more than a woman? Do the evil cowboy robots from Westworld have enough of a heart and will to get into a woman's underclothes? Does A.I.'s Gigolo Joe- wait, yeah he'd probably care. Whatever, Johnny 5 is super cool and is the reason Wall-E was so well received.  2. Good/Bad Robot Bill and Ted (from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey) Bad Robot Bill and Ted were rude, crude, and totally removed. They killed Bill and Ted, were rude to the Princesses, and even try to take over Battle of the Bands. Then Station (an alien recommended by God who can split himself into two) builds the Good Robot Bill and Ted and the then they all fight and holy maloney this was all this the same movie. It was one of the greatest climaxes in movie history. Can't wait to see what Bill and Ted 3 brings, so I hope Good/Bad Robot Bill and Ted could make a comeback.  1. Iron Giant (from The Iron Giant) Vin Diesel stars as a giant robot that teaches an entire town the true meaning of #FAMILY and not-Communism. Which means The Iron Giant is secretly Fast and Furious Part 10 (Fasten Your Seatbelts), a sequel in which Dominic Toretto has passed on and now lives as an alien artificial intelligence. As he grows closer to a child (which brings flashbacks of his time as a Pacifier), he remembers that life is really all about fast cars and then throws himself at meteor as redemption for forgetting that life lesson.  Did I forget your favorite movie robot? Did I just forget Robocop on purpose? What are robots anyway? Feel free to talk it out below! 
Top 10 Movie Robots photo
Domo arigato, Mister Roboto.
[This feature originally ran with the release of Pacific Rim two years ago, but with the new robot movie Chappie now hitting theaters, I figured it'd be a fun revisit!]  In honor of Pacific Rim releasing July 12, I,...

Godzilla photo

Is this Godzilla's new face?

(Yes it is.)
Sep 11
// Nick Valdez
Spotted at a licensing event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a poster for the upcoming reboot of Godzilla, releasing in 2014, seems to have revealed the King of the Mothraf**king Monsters new face. As a courtesy to those who want ...
This is the End photo
This is the End

This is the End getting re-released in theaters soon

The end is back, alright! (Sooner than you think!)
Sep 02
// Nick Valdez
This is the End was the best film of the Summer hands down (Fast & Furious 6 notwithstanding). It brought the biggest surprises, biggest laughs, and most memorable moments (that finale had to be the greatest thing I've se...
Fast and Furi-YES photo
Fast and Furi-YES

Kurt Russell in talks for Fast & Furious 7

Aug 30
// Nick Valdez
While we haven't covered it on here, there have been some major casting additions to the seventh film in the Fast & Furious franchise (which could possibly be a 70s revenge thriller). First UFC fighter Ronda Rousey joins ...
Rambo TV program photo
Rambo TV program

Rambo TV show in development, possibly starring Stallone

"They drew first blood, not TV."
Aug 21
// Nick Valdez
You know how that upcoming Rambo: The Video Game seemingly came out of nowhere? I think we finally know what it's attached to. Stallone has been trying to get another Rambo film off the ground for some time now (it would've i...
FFS: Truth in Journalism photo
FFS: Truth in Journalism

Flix for Short: Truth in Journalism

Truth in Journalism does a Marvel character right
Aug 01
// Nick Valdez
Truth in Journalism is a lovingly crafted short film set in the Marvel Universe produced by Adi Shankar (who produced films like The Grey and Dredd), directed by Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom) , and is 17 minutes of pure a...
More Rocky movies photo
More Rocky movies

Michael B. Jordan to star in Rocky spin-off, Creed

Jul 24
// Nick Valdez
First of all, I'd like to go on record as saying the Rocky saga is favorite franchise of all time. More than Godzilla and The Simpsons combined. So when someone says they're making more of them (you guys weren't aro...
This movie looks tough as hell
Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen has been keeping busy. He's got The Monkey King and Iceman 3D coming out soonish, there's the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel shooting next year, and there's still talk about Ip M...

Gojira Poster photo
Gojira Poster

Godzilla reboot gets new poster and monster info

Godzilla has multiple monsters. Pacific Rim is already obsolete.
Jul 22
// Nick Valdez
Ahead of its panel at San Diego Comic Con last weekend, Godzilla premiered two posters. The awesome, artsy one from before and one of Gojira's tail. I may personally prefer Skyscrapersaurus, but I can appreciate how well this...
Batman in Man of Steel 2 photo
Because nothing screams "Superman movie" more than Batman
I'm sure no one guessed DC Comics would take its first concrete steps toward Justice League so soon. But since Man of Steel was a success (despite its problems), I suppose anything is possible now. The sequel to Man of Steel ...

Gojira Poster photo
Gojira Poster

Godzilla reboot gets a poster I need in my life already

Lucky Comic-Con jerks
Jul 15
// Nick Valdez
You think Pacific Rim set a new standard for giant monster movies? Don't you dare forget a new Godzilla is coming out next year. To remind all of you that a potentially badass Godzilla movie exists, here's a poster revealed j...
Gatchaman Trailer photo
Gatchaman Trailer

Trailer: Gatchaman

Jun 24
// Nick Valdez
Super Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (or known as Battle of the Planets in the English version) was one of my dad's favorite cartoons. Naturally this meant that I watched a ton of it myself, so I'm very invested in this (altho...
Machete Kills photo
Machete Kills

This Machete Kills poster has Michelle Rodriguez on it

Jun 03
// Nick Valdez
Michelle Rodriguez, known as "Tanktop Jesus" round these parts for her glorious ability to die in almost every movie she's been in and somehow is revived several sequels later, graces the newest poster (as She) for Robert Rod...
Expendables 3 photo
Expendables 3

Expendables 3 adds Cage, Chan, Snipes and Jovovich

Not a bad day bad day bad day!
Jun 03
// Nick Valdez
Okay, I'm going to type this calmly. You know how awesome The Expendables was when Sylvester Stallone, Ahnuld Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis had that one scene together? You know how awesome The Expendables 2 wasn't because...

Review: Fast & Furious 6

May 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]215658:40122:0[/embed] Fast & Furious 6Director: Justin LinRelease Date: May 24, 2013Rating: PG-13 Almost the entire gang returns (Don Omar, Tego Calderon, and Eva Mendes are noticeably absent) as Hobbes (Dwayne Johnson) goes to Dom (Vin Diesel) for help in catching a new crew of skilled drivers, led by Shaw (Luke Evans), who are stealing parts of a vague government super weapon. Dom is uninterested at first until Hobbes reveals that Dom's ex-girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) didn't die like Dom thought she did and is now helping Shaw run that crew of super evil mercenary racers. Dom then recruits the old gang (Gal Gadot, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Ludacris, and Paul Walker) as they work with Hobbes and earn full pardons in the process.  Admittedly, it's hard to write that summary and not chuckle a bit. Right after I watched the film (and began writing this review) I had to pinch myself to make sure what I saw, was in fact, something I indeed saw. I just watched a film about a crew of street racers taking down a doppelganger crew (this troupe is hilariously mocked and turned around in the dialogue) of street racing thieves and it involved tanks, Dwayne Johnson as a one man-one liner delivery machine, Batmobiles, a giant planet plane, nitrous oxide, and two Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez (two of the most badass women ever) fights. Fast & Furious 6 does indeed exist. And it is gloriously ridiculous. much credit should it get for its self aware stupidity? Tons.  2009's Fast & Furious (the fourth part of this now seven film saga) felt much like an experimental transition between types of movies. It carried on the street racing shtick from Tokyo Drift (it's also extremely important to note that Tokyo Drift is technically the last story in the F&F timeline) while beginning to integrate greater series themes like crime in a foreign land while the street races became less realistic and grandiose. It had its faults, but its universe eventually led to the greatness that was Fast Five, a film in which two Dodge Chargers could toss around a million pound bank vault with little problem. Why is this important to bring up now? Because much of Fast & Furious 6 feels like an experimental transition.  The bold and smart step I mentioned? It's Furious 6's complete withdrawal from any sort of reality. The commitment to its stupidity leads to all sorts of spectacular (and surprisingly practical) stunts that could rival any Michael Bay film. In fact, I can say without a doubt that Furious 6's stunts have somehow set a new standard for not only the series, but any action film that involves cars. The Ludacris nature of its new direction not only applies to the stunts, but to the characters (and their interactions with each other) as well. While the film's dialogue and superfluous use of words like "family" and "honor," have been slightly charming in the past (and part of the reason Fast and Furious became a success in the first place), they're blown way out of proportion here and somehow aren't a detriment to the film. Lots of the film's "sure okay, whatever" ("You want to chase after your formerly dead ex-girlfriend? Sure okay, whatever") decisions in the film are written off as "WE'RE FAMILY" and it's completely fine.  Fast and Furious used to fall apart as soon as the crew left their vehicles. Thankfully, that's not the case anymore. Now that Fast and Furious begins the turn towards action, there are plenty of hand to hand fights with fight choreography getting much better (one of the better scenes involves one of the stars from The Raid: Redemption, Joe Taslim, getting to strut his stuff). Don't expect greasy bald men wrestling here. People are thrown against walls with minimal effort, Dwayne Johnson hilariously apes interrogation violence, and he even gets to throw a People's Elbow. Although, Don Omar and Tego Calderon's humorous exchanges are sorely missed, Tyreese and Ludacris thankfully make up for them in spades. Fast & Furious 6 isn't a perfect film (every interaction with a Londoner paints them all in an extremely negative light as they become prejudiced Anti-Americans, there's an arguable lapse in pace during the second act as the plot's thin premise loses steam, not everyone will enjoy its overblown machismo), but it's definitely a celebration of itself. From the openings credits, a montage of the five previous films, to its explosive third act (stay for a bit after the films ends for a very serious treat), the film is constantly firing on all cylinders. There's a difference between films that are unintentionally funny and a film that knowingly accepts that it's stupid. Furious 6 in no way refers to its audience in a derogatory manner. It instead decides to revel in the fact that most everyone will expect dumb things and delivers it to them on a silver platter. Justin Lin may not be returning for the seventh part, but that's a good thing. Fast & Furious 6 is definitely his magnum opus. I can't wait to see where we could possibly go on from here. Space?  Geoff Henao: Fast & Furious 6 has been announced as Lin’s final film in the series, so it only makes sense that he leaves with a bang. It’s still not going to garner a great critical response or make audiences re-think action films, but it’s wholly entertaining and the very definition of a Hollywood summer movie. The future of the series will depend on James Wan's vision in next film, but if the post-credits scene is any indication, I get the feeling Fast & Furious 7 will help elevate the series to an even higher level. 80 -- Great Matthew Razak: It may be that you can't stand Vin Diesel's gravely voice. It may be that the sight of Paul Walker getting paid to act is unbearable to you. It may be that you have hated all the other Fast & Furious films. Whatever reasons you may have for not seeing this movie throw them out the window because the final action sequence involving a cargo plane, grappling hooks, body slams, explosions, fist fights on top of cars and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink is worth sitting through anything. A masterful bit of summer action that sees Lin leaving the series he ushered into greatness with a bang. 82 -- Great
Fast and Furisix Review photo
Without a doubt the best Fast & Furious
The Fast and Furious series started from humble beginnings and has since grown into the behemoth of explosions, familial bonds, fast cars, and wild stunts folks have grown to love over the years. Before it races into the futu...


Silver Samurai gets solo poster

May 06
// Logan Otremba
Last Saturday, a new poster for director James Mangold’s The Wolverine was released. This time the poster was for the villain in the movie, Silver Samurai. The poster was done in the same watercolor style as the first p...
Studio Ghibli photo
Studio Ghibli

Flix for Short: Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo

Apr 25
// Nick Valdez
What do you get when the director of Neon Genesis Evangelion and animator for Nausicaa Of The Valley The Wind, Anno Hideaki, commissions a short film, gets direction by Higuchi Shinji (animator on Evangelion), and a gia...

UPDATE 2: New Pacific Rim Jaeger posters are gorgeous

USA! USA! USA! Oh and Australia I guess...
Mar 29
// Nick Valdez
UPDATE 2: Now we've got all five Pacific Rim Jaegers folks! USA's Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka! Now that you've seen them all, what do you think? I'm personally hoping they eventually combine and form a Voltron...

Two ninjas fight in new G.I. Joe: Retaliation clip

Paramount also changes the release date again
Mar 12
// Nick Valdez
You know how G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra advertised promises of hot Storm Shadow on Snake Eyes action, but all we actually got was them fighting as kids? Well, it looks like the folks at Paramount learned their lesson. Or they'r...

Flix for Short: Timeless Man

Mar 11
// Nick Valdez
Timeless Man, a loving homage to science fiction staples Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future, and Quantum Leap, is a short film by Two Joker Films (Brian O'Neill and Paul Bushe) in which Benjamin has trave...

UPDATE: Even more Catching Fire character portraits

Updated again with Peeta, Gale, and Finnick
Mar 08
// Nick Valdez
UPDATE 2: We now have Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (one of the Thor brothers) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) portraits in the gallery! And they all look appropriately attractive. This is probably it. If not, expect another update...

Flixist Awards 2012: The Pterodactyl

Mar 04 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
It really had to be. While every single one of our five nominees was amazing, Dredd is the ultimate in badassery. Perhaps the best proof of that is the fact that Karl Urban gave one of the best performances of the year with nothing but his mouth. Tom Hardy may have been unable to act with anything but his eyes, but eyes are the window to the soul, so he can suck it. No, the real test of skill is being able to wear an eye-covering helmet for 90 minutes and still be amazing in every way.  His hand-to-hand fighting skills, like those of all but one person on this list, may not be particularly impressive, but his ability to use his fancy Judge-Gun thing for ultimate destruction is awesome and incredible. Like Dr. Shulz, he is a man of the law. Unlike Dr. Shulz, he is not fazed by the horrors of the actions of others. In fact, he isn't fazed by anything. And that's why he's our Pterodactyl. His pure commitment to justice is an inspiration to us all. BRAWWWWWW  Bane - The Dark Knight RisesRama - The Raid: RedemptionDr. King Schultz - Django UnchainedOld Joe - Looper
The Pterodactyl photo
Ultimate badassery
Of our year-end awards, I think that the Pterodactyl is probably my favorite. Looking back on a year's most badass characters is a good way to remind yourself of just good (or bad) a year was. Last year, Ryan Gosling's Driver...


Trailer: Kid's Police

Feb 28
// Hubert Vigilla
(Oh, Japan.) Based on the TV show of the same name, Kid's Police is a badass 70s-style cop movie with child actors in the lead. And that's all you need to know. The sheer joy and absurdity of the concept puts a goofy smile o...

Awesome fan builds the Battle of Hoth in his living room

"Hoth? They should call it Coldth!"
Feb 20
// Nick Valdez
Remember when in The Empire Strikes Back how everyone suddenly was on an ice planet for some reason? And then a battle happened for other reasons (i.e it was badass to look at)? Imagine looking at all of that cool action in t...

NYC: Pam Grier film retrospective runs March 15-17

Feb 13 // Hubert Vigilla
Foxy Brown (1974) [embed]214750:39644:0[/embed] Jackie Brown (1997) [embed]214750:39645:0[/embed]
Pam Grier herself will be in attendance at several screenings
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is doing a weekend-long retrospective of the films of Pam Grier from March 15th through March 17th. Grier is best known for her work in blaxploitation/exploitation classics like Foxy Brown, ...

The Cult Club: El Mariachi (1992)

Feb 11 // Nick Valdez
Now I'm now the most aware "cult movie" guy, so I'm not really sure what qualifies a film as a "cult" film. As far as I've known, a film achieves cult status when it turns out to be really good, but is widely ignored for some reason or another. Whether or not that definition holds true, it's what I'm going to reference with Mariachi. Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi is a Western film through and through. It just happens to have a few Mexican herbs and spices. It starts off with a man with no name, simply referred to as "Mariachi" (Carlos Gallardo, who has sadly become a member of "I'm here too you guys!" club) who wanders into the small town of Acuña, Mexico and quickly finds himself caught inbetween a rivalry between a drug lord, Moco (which hilariously translates to "Booger" in English), and Azul, the hitman with a guitar case full of weapons. With that synopsis, the film should sound familiar. Guitar case full of weapons? Where else has that happened?  If you're unaware of El Mariachi, you might at least know its spiritual successors Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Those two feature the same Mariachi character, but greatly differ from the original film. For one, the Mariachi is played by Antonio Banderas (probably because money), and the tones for the two films greatly emphasized absurdity over Mariachi's mysterious, subdued characterization. And it's important to note that before Rodriguez became obsessed with fantastical levels of gore and camp (leading to lines like, "Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't?"), he wanted to tell a great story with as much heart as possible. It's like Mariachi's low budget forced it to get the greatest return from as little investment as possible.  El Mariachi is deceptively simple, with its simplicity ultimately becoming its greatest asset. To once again get back to the "Western" thing, no one in the story has a last name or "true" name. Each character, from Mariachi to his love interest Domino, has a nickname that's meant to give them the tabula rasa characterization. This works most of the time (someone like "Domino" could have both a light and dark side), but ultimately serves a greater purpose. To be a truly great legend and form a mythic hero, a story that bypasses concrete definitions in any media, you have to be able to retell it. It's much more interesting to say "some Mariachi came in and shot some dudes" than "Fred shot some dudes." Now which one of the two sounds like a better story? The one with the mariachi (and if you answered with "Fred's" I hate you).  Beyond the names, the film evokes a Western image. Nameless man with a single characteristic (the Mariachi/the Cowboy/the Fastest Gun in the West) wanders into a town run by a single corrupt White man (which is odd in a Mexican inspired film, but says a lot when the White man's abuse of the Spanish language is far more noticeable than it should be), is mistaken for another due to his visual characteristics (there is a mix-up when "a man in black" is all the bad guys define him by), and then leaves the town at the end of the film as both the town and the hero change in its wake. And most of all, the Mariachi himself is a genuine badass.  As I've mentioned earlier, El Mariachi helped re-inspire me. It's ultimately what set me on my academic path. El Mariachi is a traditional hero's journey though and through. But the difference is that it's not an average man who becomes a hero, it's the hero who becomes a myth. Even though the Mariachi equates himself to a turtle in the beginning of the story, he possesses certain skills. Despite fighting for his life in a haphazard fashion, he manages to kill four of Moco's men. He demonstrates a hero's skill, and since we know so little about him (and because of the initial confusion that likened him to the hitman Azul), there's no true way to define him one way or the other. When he finally drives off into the sunset, with  nothing but a bulldog, the memory of his love, and his guitar to keep him company, he becomes a legend.  El Mariachi's hero's journey, and it's deceptively simple mythic quality, motivated my once dead dream. I wanted to tell a story just like this. I wanted a character that could inspire others, I wanted to use a low budget to my advantage, I wanted to make a film that isn't an embarrassment to Mexican culture, and I wanted my own El Mariachi.  It's a shame that no one else did.  Next Month... Are you a marijuano? Do you like to partake in the occasional herb brownie every now and then? Alec Kubas-Meyer tells you why that's a bad idea with Reefer Madness (1936). PREVIOUSLY SHOWING AT THE CULT CLUB January: Six-String Samurai (1998) December: The Warriors (1979) November: Funky Forest: First Contact (2005) October: Casino Royale (1967) September: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
The Cult Club photo
"Lo que quería era solamente ser un mariachi como mis antepasados..."
[The Cult Club is where Flixist's writers expound the virtues of their favourite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pa...

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