Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort is the bees knees when it comes to backwoods survival thrillers. It’s frightening, elemental, and relentless in pace, inciting primal fear in the viewer who finds themselves terrified of these events ever happening to them. It’s a very overlooked film, with most of the kudos within this genre going to John Boorman’s Deliverance. This one is way better, at least for me. The immediacy of the protagonist’s situation, the hypnotic atmosphere of both score and cinematography working together for something really special. In rural Louisiana, a platoon of American soldiers prepares to embark into the tangled wilderness of the nearby bayou, attempting a routine training mission. Powers Boothe is awesome as Cpl. Charles Hardin, a well educated man who silently resents the roughnecks and dimwitted dead enders in his regiment. He’s joined by Spencer (a cavalier Keith Carradine), and a whole host of others as well. Now, the Bayou is home to the reclusive and eccentric Cajun people, who apparantly will keep to themselves if you do the same. But try telling that to a troupe of childish, immature GI’s packing heavy artillery that’s beyond both their pay grade and IQ. After one lugnut plays a nasty prank on a group of Cajun fisherman, they take it slightly personally. Before you can say crawfish, they promptly murder the commanding officer (Peter Coyote) and set a series of deadly traps and snares for the soldiers, out to send every last one of them to a swampy grave. It’s a beautiful backwoods nightmare, and Hill tells the story exceptionally, aided by a twangy, brilliant score from his go to composer Ry Cooder. Boothe and Carradine are shoe ins to hold off their pursuers, while the rest of them soon fall prey, in elaborate and gruesome ways. Fred Ward is badass as a fellow soldier who turns homicidal, and has a wicked knife fight with Boothe that ramps up the adrenaline and then some. The late Brion James makes quite the impression as a Cajun who they briefly capture, after which he eerily warns them of the hell that’s coming from his compadres. The locations feel authentic, damp and waterlogged as hell, making you feel every squelchy step these poor bastards take into the Bayou and closer to their end. Near the end of the film we are treated to some authentic live Cajun music (some of my favourite kind) from Dewey Balfa, a gorgeous interlude and showcase of Hill’s desire to make the auditory atmosphere of his films as heightened and immersive as possible. An unheralded classic.
True Detective We Get the Show We Deserve
“I didn’t live my life to go out like this.” – Frank Semyon
Bleak and hopelessness. That’s what we’re left with after the conclusion of the second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s masterclass series, TRUE DETECTIVE. Each one of the characters got exactly what we were promised, they got the world they deserved. I want to preface what I’m about to say next with this: From the first episode of the first season, I was completely obsessed with TRUE DETECTIVE. After the season concluded with the most satisfying ending it possibly could, I thought there was absolutely no way that a second season could, at the very least, be comparable on any level to the first. Rust Cohle was a cinematic and ideological godsend. No one had higher expectations for season two than I. Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch were announced as the primary cast. I thought, okay, this is interesting. I always loved Vaughn in dramatic roles and Farrell has always been an actor I’d watch in anything. Kitsch was good in SAVAGES, though I had not seen FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. McAdams piqued my interest based on her performance in TO THE WONDER. All that being said, and after digesting the finale of season two, I can honestly say that not only did Farrell, Vaughn, Kitsch and McAdams give career-high performances, and not only is season two better, but it completely upped the artistic game for not only Nic Pizzolatto, but also HBO and serious television series from this point on.
If you’re outraged by this, let me explain. The first season was too big to fail. It was backed by HBO, had Cary Fukunaga directing all eight episodes, T Bone Burnett doing the music, and drew the star power of Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monahgan. The season was a dark cop show, wrapped in McConaughey’s dialogue sewn with lyrical realism. The first season became not only a phenomenon but a revelation. We had never seen anything like this before. It became a monster that everyone suddenly watched. Whether or not they grasped the content is irrelevant. Everyone watched it because everyone was watching it. Then came the finale, which underwhelmed a lot. Disappointed many. Those people were concerned about the ritual killing case not being fully closed. But that wasn’t what the first season was about, was it? It was all about Rust inadvertently finding his inner peace.
Then came season two. Some people found the casting to be lackluster. There wasn’t one director for the entire season, and then the initial reviews came out, which were mixed, but predominantly overly harsh on the show. Keep in mind, the critics were only sent a screener of the first three episodes. The critics directed their negativity specifically at Pizzolatto himself. The harsh criticism is akin to the same media sabotage that Michael Cimino suffered from his masterpiece HEAVEN’S GATE.
I chat with one filmmaker very often, and he initially didn’t love the show nearly as much as I did, but as the second season unraveled, he was just as drawn to it as I was. I asked him one day why there was such hostility directed towards the show and Pizzolatto. His response was one word: Jealousy. He then elaborated and told me that the disdain for Pizzolatto came from the fact he was not a part of the machine, he was a novelist who wrote a brilliant first season and went from a college professor to the showrunner of the most powerful show on the most powerful network overnight.
Whether or not that is true, it doesn’t really matter. What has me in absolute disbelief are the people “hate-watching” this previous season and proud to be doing so. I can’t help but take away that these are the same people who started watching the first season because it became pop culturally trendy too. They were the same people who on their initial reaction to the first season’s finale didn’t register it at first. These are the same people who jumped on the trendy bandwagon to hate the show this season. It became a game of Facebook “like” baiting, and Twitter retweeting. Whoever could make the snarkiest hashtagged quip won the internet for the day.
TRUE DETECTIVE 2.3 MAYBE TOMORROW
The third episode of the new season did a perfect job of fleshing the four main characters out in a complex and natural way. The episode opened with a surprising and welcome turn from veteran character actor Fred Ward as Colin Farrell’s retired cop father, in Farrell’s dreamscape. Ward, who later appears in a fantastic scene with Farrell, was cast perfectly much like Jack Palance being cast as Nicholson’s boss in BATMAN.
The episode dug deeper into Vince Vaughn’s primal gangster psyche, where he is forced to revert back to his thug brutality casting aside the educated facade he’s so carefully constructed around himself. Vaughn is currently giving the performance of his career, playing a man who is so desperate to shake his Chicago gangster persona by speaking in analytical riddles and multiple syllable words he’s heard, presumably, spoken by the sophisticated men he’s trying to legitimize himself with.
In my review of last week’s episode, I referenced THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, and this episode falls in line perfectly with that. The scene where Vaughn summons all the criminals he knows into the basement of the club is a clear homage to that film. The scene was only missing the men dangling upside down from meat hooks. But it was championed by Vaughn’s vicious use pliers.
Colin Farrell lives, because of course he does. Whilst killing him off in the second episode would have been audacious and perhaps even brilliant, he is the central hub of this show. Farrell is giving a blistering and raw performance as a man who has nothing left to live for, and the only thing propelling him forward is the rage inside him that he can barely contain for much longer. The entire episode, Farrell is physically distraught, rarely blinks and is a bomb waiting to detonate that will lay absolute waste to anything surrounding him. Farrell’s whiskey and cocaine bloated physicality is a prime example of how carefully details are paid to on this show.
Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh is losing his grip on himself. He can barely keep his homosexual urges repressed, and his inner torment is causing his world around him to erode. I can’t wait to see how Kitsch’s storyline plays out, and I imagine it’s going to keep spiralling downward.
Rachel McAdam’s is fantastic as the emotional vampire, sucking life from the patrolman Mike, just so she can keep moving onward with hers. I am absolutely loving the running joke of everyone commenting on the fact that McAdams keeps smoking an e-cigarette.
Ritchie Coster is fabulous as the drunken mayor of fictional city of Vinci who is the antithesis of corrupted power. Coster has been chameleon like in everything I’ve seen him in. Such as THE DARK KNIGHT, THE BLACKOUT and HBO’s tremendous but ill fated LUCK. This is the second time in as many episodes we’ve seen the picture of the privileged Mayor and George W. Bush embracing one another. I can’t help but enjoy the kinship and association we are meant to take from that.
What makes the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE so fantastic thus far is that if the seasons were flipped all the critics and naysayers would be complaining about how self indulged and pretentious Matthew McConaughey’s dialogue is. I honestly cannot understand what the critics, who were sent a screener containing the first three episodes of this season (so we are now caught up with them) are complaining about, and frankly I don’t care. Each episode of this season has been better than its former. What we’ve seen from the second season as of right now are four career high performances from the leads, a fantastic noir with an ambiguous time setting (cops are smoking in the Vinci police department at their desks, as are people in the bar where Farrell and Vaughn meet, tube TV’s strategically placed, digital and analog technology mixed together) and a pitch black world, where the main characters get exactly that. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but deep down inside they each know it won’t. They are getting the world they deserve.