Tag Archives: Walter Hill

Walter Hill’s The Long Riders

◦ I’m pretty sure that Walter Hill’s The Long Riders does something that no film had done before or after, least to that extent: pull off the biggest sibling stunt casting session in history. Based on the rowdy, violent exploits of the James Younger gang in the old west, Hill casts real life brothers as the troupe, a choice which could have been south of silly in any old director’s hands, but works like gold here. James and Stacy Keach play Frank and Jesse James, David Robert and Keith Carradine are the Younger clan, while Randy and a very mean, very young Dennis Quaid fill the boots of the Millers. It’s fairly brilliant, well organized and pays off nicely, especially if you’re a fan of any of these guys, which I am and then some. Now, the film. Most westerns about these hotshot outlaws take a quippy, cavalier standpoint and go for sterling silver charm. Not Hill, a notorious trend shirker and trailblazer whose tactics in casting, music, editing and tone have never followed the Hollywood grain. The film is downbeat, somber and mostly a series of vignettes that topple against each other like dominoes. The gang shuffles from robbery to holdup almost reluctantly, like it’s written in the stars and they have no choice but to commit crimes. They clash royally with the ruthless Pinkerton agency, who cause more than a few casualties on their side. The shootouts here are no sanitized 50’s Lone Ranger fluff, they’re brutal, bloody and amped up to extreme violence, which is always to be expected from Hill. The life of an outlaw is not glamorized here either, a choice rarely, if ever made in the western department. These are hard men resigned to their rough lives, not fast talking hot-doggin prince charmings like insufferable Young Guns type crap. There’s scattershot subplot about the brother’s lives, but mostly the focus is rooted in their exploits and run ins with the law. David Carradine’s Cole Younger has a cool knife fight sequence up against half breed injun Sam Starr (Hill favourite James Remar) over the favour of pretty hooker Pamela Reed. The actors are all gritty and grizzled, from James Keach’s long-faced, Moody Jesse James to Dennis Quaid’s volatile psychopath Ed Miller. Hill’s go to music guru Ry Cooder provides another achingly gorgeous score with echoes of his composition on Southern Comfort a few years later, a melancholic tune stripped bare of any action sequence swells or orchestral hoo-hah. Pretty damn underrated as far as big screen westerns go, with a tone and look that seems somehow far more genuine than many others in the genre.

-Nate Hill

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Conceptually Speaking: An Interview with Sylvain Despretz by Kent Hill

 

Sylvain Despretz really is the personification of honnête homme. And he has been a man of the world since an early age. Travel was a part of his life; the other constant being his love of the cinema.

He is an artist of great style and skill and after his schooling he worked as an art director for a top Madison Avenue agency then moved on to illustrating Graphic Novels in California under the mentoring of the internationally famed artist Moebius. From there he would set out upon what would become and astonishing career as a story board artist and conceptual designer.

 

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His work you’ll have seen, gracing the screen in a myriad of films in a variety of genres. Movies like Gladiator, Alien Resurrection, Panic Room, The Fountain, (Tim Burton’s) Planet of the Apes and The Fifth Element. These including work on Don’t tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and the coming Luc Besson sci-fi extravaganza: Valerian. He has worked with  and on films directed by the true masters of the screen including Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

But, as you will hear, Sylvain has become disenchanted by the current repetitive nature of Hollywood’s cookie-cutter output. He is now driven by the notion that the only way to usher in change, is to be part of a creative revolution that places an emphasis on original voices instead of corporate responsibility.

 

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To this end he is now embarking on a journey that will see him stepping away from the drawing board and moving behind the camera; bringing his own visions to life using that mysterious blending of industrial light and storytelling magic.

He is a learned Hollywood veteran who has seen the Dream Factory from the inside, and his stories and wealth of knowledge and experience was and is fascinating to experience.

The designer behind the scenes and the future man in the director’s chair, proud am I ladies and gentlemen to present this interview with the one and only, Sylvain Despretz.

VISIT SYLVAIN’S OFFICIAL SITE:

http://www.metaprogram.net/

Walter Hill’s Trespass


Walter Hill’s Trespass could raise a pulse in a quiet graveyard, it’s so relentless. It’s one of those single location, breathless siege thrillers where two unlucky dudes, this time Bill Paxton and William Sadler, are barricaded in some unfortunate building while hordes of inner city criminals try to smoke them out. Billy and Willy are two firemen in the wrongest of places at the wrongest of times, led to a dilapidated St. Louis warehouse in search of a hidden cache of stolen gold. When one of them stumbles into a gangland assassination, the two are immediately branded as witnesses and hinted like dogs by boss King James (a snarling Ice-T), his lieutenant Savon (Ice Cube) and armies of their men. That’s pretty much the premise, and simple as it is, action maestro Hill turns it into a ballistic bloodbath that barely slows down for a second once it gets going. Paxton and Sadler are soon at each other’s throats in a feverish haze of adrenaline, whilst the two Ices argue amongst themselves about tactical logistics. Yelling, shooting, running, borderline parkour, cat and mouse games, beloved 90’s action tropes and fight scenes that almost wind the audience as much as the characters. This is a lean cut of a film, concerned only with thrilling the pants off the viewer, hurtling by at a locomotive’s pace without rest until that final shell casing hits the pavement. 
-Nate Hill

Walter Hill’s Tomboy: A Revenger’s Tale


Walter Hill’s Tomboy: A Revenger’s tale went through a few different titles, first Tomboy, then (Re)assignment, and has been quietly released this week under the simple and bland ‘The Assignment’, which tells you nothing of how batshit crazy it is. It’s a film I’ve waited to see a long time, partly due to its controversial, bizarre premise (it’s been boycotted already), and partly because it marks the return of action guru of yesteryear, the great Walter Hill. I’m sad to say the final product is somewhat underwhelming, aside from a few key elements that shine through the dour mood, the best being star Michelle Rodriguez, in her first leading role since 2000’s Girlfight. Here she plays Frank Kitchen, a scumbag of an assassin who takes his orders from wiseguy mobster ‘Honest John’ (Anthony Lapaglia, quite fun in the film’s only other decent performance). Frank is a creature of brutal instinct, a street rat and cold blooded killer with a taste for bullets, booze and blonde bimbos, basically the finer things in life. So, Michelle Rodriguez as a man. This could have gone either way, and she herself, always having a somewhat masculine presence anyway, does fairly well. She can only do so much with the makeup and prosthetics she’s given though, and let me tell you, they are horrendous. Sporting a ponytail, goat’s pube beard and plastic looking Ken doll torso, she’s a shining beacon of amateur hour from the effects team, for the first third of the film, impossible to believe as a dude. Anywho, ‘Honest’ John proves to be anything but trustworthy, double-crossing our Frank and delivering him into the hands of a rogue plastic surgeon played laughably by Sigourney Weaver, who has quite the bone to pick with him. Here is where it gets nuts: Weaver forcibly performs a gender reassignment surgery on Frank, turning him into a woman to release him from his ‘macho prison’. Frank wakes up with brand new lady parts, the prosthetics all gone and Michelle in her final form, ready to dole out vengeance on both John and the surgeon. This is all told in retrospect of course, as Weaver sits in a padded cell and blathers on and on to a wormy psychiatrist (Tony Shaloub), about the philosophical nature, the lofty how’s and why’s that fuelled her actions, while the audience is sitting there going, “Nah bitch you just crazy.” It’s all the sleaziest fare, and doesn’t work as well as a premise like this should, but there’s something about the gritty sight of a post surgery Michelle wandering around in a hospital gown, tits loose and waving a gun around that has potential and may have done well in a better film. As far as the concept itself goes, anyone who arches their back or (lol) boycotts this film is expending unnecessary energy; it’s a down n’ dirty B movie throughout, never meant to be taken seriously one bit. It’s just a shame it wasn’t more fun. 
-Nate Hill

Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort: A Review by Nate Hill

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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.

Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire: A Review by Nate Hill

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Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire is just too good to be true, and yet it exists. It’s like the type of dream concept for a movie that you and your coolest friend think up after a bunch of beers and wish you had the time, money and resources to make yourself. It’s just cool right down to the bone, a beautiful little opus of 1950’s style gang trouble set to a so-good-it-hurts rock n’ roll soundtrack devised by the legendary Ry Cooper, Hill’s go to music maestro. It’s so 80’s it’s bursting at the seams with the stylistic notes of that decade, and both Hill and the actors stitch up those seams with all the soda jerk, greaser yowls and musical mania of the 50’s. Anyone reading up to this point who isn’t salivating right now and logging onto amazon to order a copy, well there’s just no hope for you. I only say that because for sooommeee reason upon release this one was a financial and critical dud, floundering at the box office and erasing any hope for the sequels which Hill had planned to do. I guess some people just aren’t cool enough to get it (can you tell I’m bitter? Lol). Anywho, there’s nothing quite like it and it deserves a dig up, Blu Ray transfer and many a revisit. In a nocturnal, neon flared part of a nameless town that looks a little like New York, the streets are humming with excitement as everyone prepares for the nightly musical extravaganza. Darling songstress Ellen Aim (young Diane Lane♡♡) is about to belt out an epic rock ballad in a warehouse dance hall for droves of screaming fans. There’s one fan who has plans to do more than just watch, though. Evil biker gang leader Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe, looking like Satan crossed with Richard Ramirez) kidnaps her as the last notes of her song drift away, his gang terrorizes the streets and disappears off into the night with poor Ellen as their prisoner. The locals need a hero to go up against Raven and rescue Ellen, and so estranged badass Tom Cody (Michael Paré) is called back to town after leaving years before. He’s a strong and silent hotshot who takes no shit from no one, and is soon on the rampage to Raven’s part of town. He’s got two buddies as well: two fisted, beer guzzling brawler chick McCoy (Amy Madigan), and sniveling event planner Billy Fish (Rick Moranis). That’s as much plot as you get and it’s all you need, a delightful dime store yarn with shades of The Outsiders and a soundtrack that will have your jaw drop two floors down. The two songs which Ellen sings are heart thumping legends. ‘Nowhere Fast’ gives us a huge glam-rock welcome into the story, and ‘Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young’ ushers us out with a monumental bang before the credits roll, and damn if Hill doesn’t know how to stage the two songs with rousing and much welcomed auditory excess that’ll have you humming for days. Paré is great as the brooding hero, and you won’t find too many solid roles like this in his career. He’s a guy who somewhat strayed off the path into questionable waters (he’s in like every Uwe Boll movie) but he pops up now and again I’m some cool stuff, like his scene stealing cameo in The Lincoln Lawyer. Dafoe clocks in right on time for his shift at the creepshow factory, giving Raven a glowering, makeup frosted grimace that’s purely vampiric and altogether unnerving. Him and Paré are great in their street side sledgehammer smackdown in the last act. Bottom line, this is one for the books and it still saddens me how unfavorably it was received… like what were they thinking? A gem in Hill’s career, and a solid pulse punding rock opera fable. Oh, and watch for both an obnoxious turn from Bill Paxton and a bizarre cameo from a homeless looking Ed Begley Jr.

PTS Presents Writer’s Workshop with JOSH OLSON

olson POWERCAST

olsonPodcasting Them Softly is extremely excited to present a discussion with special guest Josh Olson. Josh is the Oscar, BAFTA, and WGA nominated writer of the David Cronenberg crime thriller A History of Violence, which we’re both huge fans of. Josh has also written an episode of Masters of Science Fiction with the legendary Harlan Ellison, was the last writer on Halo, working with Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp, and has worked on scripts with Slash, Willie Nelson and Mick Jagger, as well as writing one of the segments of the animated anthology series Batman: Gotham Nights. He’s currently developing a Western TV show with the great filmmaker Walter Hill. Josh is also a massive film buff, having provided numerous commentaries for the excellent web site Trailers From Hell, and on this episode, we chat about his career as a screenwriter, and also discuss our most favorite underrated movies stretching various genres. We hope you enjoy!