John Belushi was one of the most beloved and respected comedy actors who ever lived. So to show that deep respect and admiration… they made a terrible biopic movie that just takes a big dump on Belushi, his family, friends and loyal fan base all in one go.
That’s right, I’m going to take a look at the cinematic disaster that was Wired.
How The Disaster Began
It was when Belushi’s widow, Judith and his manager Bernie Brillstein approached Bob Woodward and asked him if he would like to write a factual account of the life of John Belushi in an attempt to straighten some of the rumours that had been circulating over his death at the time. The result of which was the book – Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.
Several of Belushi’s closest family and friends were interviewed for the book including his widow Judith his brother James Belushi and closest friend Dan Aykroyd. Yet none of them were happy with the final product as they felt to book was exploitative and not representative of the John Belushi they knew and loved. In fact, Judith detested the book so much that she eventually wrote her own account on the life of her husband withSamurai Widow.
Even though the family and friends of Belushi hated the book and made that very clear, it still went on to become a best seller. Woodward then sought out to sell the movie rights to the book and the result of that was the movie Wired.
It Gets Bad Within Minutes
The movie opens with Belushi leading the Killer Bees in a rendition of the classic blues song I’m The King Bee in what is supposed to be a scene from Saturday Night Live – but as the film couldn’t secure the rights to use anything from SNL, these scenes look less like something from one of the biggest and most popular shows of the 70s/80s and more like something shot in a dingy basement. But it gets worse, so much worse.
Before I get much further into this cinematic mess of a film – I would just like to point something out. Yes the movie is beyond terrible but I have to recognise Michael Chiklis in his debut film role playing John Belushi. He is amazing and nails the Belushi performance, the mannerisms, the high energy, the voice – he even gets the eyebrow thing nailed. Chiklis is most definitely the best thing this film has to offer. The movie is horrendous but I still would suggest watching it just for Michael Chiklis’ amazing performance.
Anyway, as I was saying – the movie gets bad right from the off. After the brilliantly acted but terrible looking opening, the film cuts to Belushi’s dead body in a body-bag being wheeled into a morgue lying on a gurney. Belushi’s body is left alone in the morgue when suddenly a hand from the body-bag pops out, grabs a donut, eats it and then burps before getting up from the gurney and running down the corridor of the morgue. Yes you just read that right. This film has the dead body of one of America’s much loved and dearly missed comedy actors returning from the dead, swallow a donut like a cartoon character and then run around a morgue naked except for a sheet covering his modesty.
The film also has Bob Woodward appear played by J. T. Walsh. Yes, the author of the book that the film is based on is a character in the film. That is not so much 4th wall breaking but more so just smearing the 4th wall in excrement. Anyway, Belushi escapes the morgue and runs into a taxi driving angel… seriously, his name is Angel and he’s an angel – the film quickly becomes one of those ‘guardian angel’ flicks where the main character is shown his life and what went wrong… only done badly. So if you have been keeping up so far, this is a biography where the dead body of John Belushi comes back to life and is driven around in a taxi by an angel to be shown how crap his life was.
Can you understand why Belushi’s family and friends felt this film was disrespectful?
Disrespectful And Exploitative
Angel takes Belushi to the scene of his death just in time to see his corpse being carried away. We then get that overused and bog-standard scene where the dead body doesn’t believe they are dead and the reveal by the guardian angel that no one can see or hear him. Angel then takes Belushi on a tour of his life. Think A Christmas Carol only written by the same guy that wrote The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – because it was. Wired’s screenplay was penned by Earl Mac Rauch and also the last movie he wrote.
We are introduced to Dan Aykroyd played by Gary Groomes who lectures Belushi on his drug intake. The film also shows various SNL performances and sketches featuring The Brothers Blues – not The Blues Brothers because, as I mentioned earlier, the movie didn’t have the rights to use certain names. These Brothers Blues scenes are pretty well done though and again, Chiklis provides a stunning performance and if you didn’t know better – you could swear that was the real John Belushi at times as his dancing, movements and mannerisms are perfect.
The film takes us on a mish-mash of various ‘flashbacks’ to Belushi’s life but fails to show anything of his actual life. It becomes more a collection of SNL sketches that didn’t really exist because they didn’t have the rights to use them. They couldn’t even use the names of some of the people Belushi was closely associated with in his career.
There is one scene where John asks Judith to marry him and its really well done too, its personal, emotive and well shot. But sadly these scenes that do delve into his life and that of those around him that could have been more interesting if they were the focus are few and far between as the movie is more focused on trying to hammer home that drugs are bad. The film is basically one overtly long anti-drug PSA and not a respectful biography of John Belushi.
But the opening of the dead body of John Belushi waking up and running around naked was just the tip of the iceberg as this movie even manages to out-do its own disrespect. There is a scene in the movie that shows Belushi’s autopsy… and that’s not the worst of it. Belushi is depicted as being awake during this as its played up for laughs as Angel dances around in the background and Belushi screams in pain as well as do impersonations of Marlon Brando while a laugh track plays.
Just take that in for a moment and try to put yourselves in the shoes of a family member or friend of John Belushi watching that scene. Seeing a person you loved and cared about screaming during an autopsy while a laugh track plays over the top. Yeah pretty disrespectful right?
A Diamond In The Rough
Look, the film is horrendous, disrespectful and exploitative. It just shows no regard, no attention, no respect to John Belushi, his life or anyone that knew him. However, there are some great moments in the flick. Aside form Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, Patti D’Arbanville plays Cathy Smith – the woman who supplied Belushi with most of his drugs and who injected him with the speedball that killed him. D’Arbanville’s portrayal of the drug dealer is mesmerising as she is interviewed by the police. The scene is brilliantly acted and shot as well as being brutally honest. An excellent scene… just a shame it ends with the line “Just another fat junkie went belly up” in reference to the death of John Belushi.
But then there’s a scene where they show Belushi’s coffin being loaded onto a plane and its handled in a slapstick/comedy manner as they struggle to get the dead body of John Belushi on-board. As they just can not fit the coffin on the plane, they decide to take his dead body out and just strap it into a seat instead. I know I have used the word ‘disrespectful’ more than a few times in this article but what else can I call this scene?
The last act of the movie mostly takes place in the room Belushi’s died in and again, its well done for the most part. Well directed, well shot and well acted – its moody and effective. But then these scenes are inter-cut with Belushi and Angel playing a Blues Brothers pinball table where its agreed that if Belushi wins that he can go home. This is the main problem with this film, the good scenes – and there are some really good scenes are ruined with slapstick and inane comedy. One second you are watching Cathy Smith inject John Belushi with the fatal drug cocktail that killed him in a scene that is brilliantly convinced, portrayed and very powerful, then seconds later you watching ghost Belushi play pinball with an angel or even Bob Woodward interviewing John Belushi quite literally as he slowly dies. For every great scene in this film, there are a dozen or so bad scenes that ruin them.
Wired is a mess of a picture. It depicts Belushi as a burping, farting imbecile and shows hardly anything of his good and caring nature. I know Belushi was no angel. I’m fully aware of his legendary drug taking and how he could and would disrupt a film shoot. His behind the scenes antics are well known and reported on. Yet despite all of this, the people that knew him best like his widow Judith and best friend Dan Aykroyd always said that he was one of the most caring and thoughtful people they knew. A man who underneath his many demons still had a heart of gold.
This movie shows pretty much none of that and chooses to portray Belushi as a thoughtless, careless drug addict. As a bio – the movie just does not work as it tells very little about the life of John Belushi other than he liked drugs a lot. Then as a movie about drug abuse it falls flat as all of the hard hitting and well shot scenes that are supposed to leave an impact on the viewer are book-ended and inter-cut with unnecessary bad, slap-stick comedy. There are just not enough ‘ WTF Hollywood’s’ to go around.
A new John Belushi biopic has been rumoured for quite some time as back in 2013 Emile Hirsch was said to have been cast to play Belushi.
The film was set to be relased in 2015 and obviously, that never happened and nothing has been heard of since. Wired was such a huge insult and disappointment for John Belushi fans that a new bio that does the great man justice would be welcomed with open arms. Make it happen Hollywood, give us a worthy Belushi bio that can wash away the bad taste of Wired.
Now, before I get into the meat of this article, I wish to make it perfectly clear that I do not believe in curses. I believe in accidents and coincidence. No matter how bizarre or macabre a situation may seem, to me it’s an accident/coincidence with a possible, reasonable explanation. With that out of the way…
There have been several notable cursed movies over the years. With titles such as The Exorcist and The Omen being two of the most famous. Then there are curses associated with actors like Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee. Or even curses connected to a character such as Superman. Just a few examples of supposed curses in movies. But what about a cursed screenplay? Well yes, there is one of those, too, and one that is being blamed for the deaths in the ’80s and ’90s of some of the biggest names in comedy.
The Incomparable Atuk was a novel released in 1963 by writer Mordecai Richler. The book is a satirical tale about a Canadian Inuit who moves to Toronto and loses his simple lifestyle when he is seduced by the greed and pretensions of the big city.
It was going to be one of those fish out of water plots akin to other comedy movies like Crocodile Dundee or Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Rights to the book were bought in the 1970s by Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison and the supposed cursed screenplay was written by Tod Carroll. If you feel brave and wish to read this cursed screenplay, then you can do so right here. I have to issue a warning, though, not because of a curse, but because the screenplay is not very funny.
But what about the deaths this screenplay is said to have been linked to?
1. John Belushi
It has been said that while Carroll was writing the Atuk screenplay, he had John Belushi in mind to play the title role. By the time the screenplay was completed in the early 1980s, Belushi had become a household name thanks to his time on Saturday Night Live, and things seemed to be working out perfectly. Everything was set to go into pre-production and Belushi apparently loved the script and really wanted to play the part too. The movie was set to begin filming in 1982 — but Belushi died of a drug overdose before that could happen.
2. Sam Kinison
The production of Atuk lay dormant for around a decade before the idea to try to get the film off the ground once again came about in the early ’90s. Known for his outlandish attitude and loudmouth comedic approach, Sam Kinison was signed on to play the lead role, and the film even commenced filming. However, after a few days of shooting – Kinison’s overbearing attitude and drug-fuelled lifestyle caused his life to unravel. He was soon fired from the Atuk production and shorty afterwards he was dropped by his agent. Then in 1992, Kinison’s car was struck by a drunk driver in a head-on collision, resulting in his death from the multiple internal injures he sustained.
3. John Candy
In 1994, Atuk’s production was fired up once more, and this time it was larger-than-life comedy actor John Candy who was suggested for the lead role. Candy was said to have been very interested in taking on the role and read the script with great interest, he was set to star in the movie. Sadly, he died of a heart attack before he could sign up for the movie.
4. Chris Farley
Even after the deaths of three stars connected to the film’s production, Atuk was still trying to find its star. It was 1997 when Chris Farley was suggested for the role, and he was all set to sign on for the film, too. Yet the cursed screenplay took another victim when Farley died of a drug overdose that same year.
Coincidentally, Belushi and Farley were both former SNL stars, both 33 at the time of their deaths, and they both died of a drug overdose — and both after expressing interest in playing the title role in Atuk.
5. Phil Hartman
This one is a little tenuous, I admit. It has been said that Farley took the Atuk script to his friend Phil Hartman with a plan to get Hartman involved in the movie too – in a possible supporting role. Six months after Farley’s death and Hartman was fatally shot several times by his wife, before she committed suicide.
So there you have it. An apparently cursed script that is connected to some of the biggest names in comedy from the ’80s and ’90s. But what of the screenplay today? Well, United Artists is said to be the copyright owner and still has the original script in its archives. Perhaps one day the studio will want to once again attempt to get the film off the ground. But would anyone want to sign up to star in a movie with a supposed cursed screenplay?
The 1969 Moon landing
There have been numerous fan theories and suggestions about this picture. Most famously is that some people believe that Kubrick hid dozens and dozens of hints that he helped to fake the Apollo 11 moon landing from 1969 and how he used The Shining as an apology for his involvement. Personally, I think that is all crap but some people really do believe it.
We all know the plot. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a struggling writer who takes a job as a caretaker in the Overlook Hotel which is closed for the season. He takes his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) along with him and hopes to use the solidarity of the closed hotel to get some writing done and hopefully finish his book. However, things don’t work out quite as Jack wanted. He starts to suffer from cabin fever and attempts to murder his wife and son as he slowly goes insane while being hunted by numerous visions of ghosts and spirits.
Jack was perfectly sane
But here is the theory… what if Jack Torrance didn’t go mad at all? I guess you’ll need a line of reasoning for this theory right?
I’ll need visual aids to explain what I mean here as most of this involves small, background details in the film itself. So get ready for plenty of pictures…
The big wheel trike
Remember Danny’s big wheel trike from the movie – it had a red frame, blue seat and a single bell on the right handlebar.
You can see the red frame under the blue seat and that single bell on the right in that image.
But that is not what it looked like when we were introduced to it. Earlier in the film when the Torrance family first arrive at the Overlook Hotel, we get a shot of their belongings near the entrance as Jack waits in the lobby.
Here is a zoomed in view of that very same scene.
That’s not a red frame – its white and there is a bell on each of the handlebars too. Its a different trike… but why?
Jack’s typewriter and the sculpture
Jack uses a beige Adler typewriter in the movie – if you need proof…
There it is right there sitting on the desk Jack set up in the hotel. Also in his makeshift writing office, there is a prominent wooden sculpture sitting on a table.
There it is on the left hand side of the screen as Jack throws a ball against the wall while suffering from writer’s block. But later on in the film…
The typewriter has not only changed colour – its a completely different typewriter. Different make/model. As for that wooden sculpture?
As you can see form this shot of the entire room, that table that once adorned the wooden sculpture in front of the fireplace is empty – the sculpture has gone!
Jack’s infamous coat
Its an iconic image. That of Jack wearing that burgundy coloured jacket in the movie.
He wears this jacket for all of the latter part of the flick and have you noticed that is while wearing this item of clothing is when he starts to go mad… or should that read ‘supposedly’ mad? The very first time we are introduced to Jack wearing it is right here, also note the blue jeans…
Jack is asleep and is having what seems to be a nightmare. As I say, this is the first time we see Jack wearing it – but it is not the first time that outfit is seen in the film. We need to go back to near the start once more.
This scene is from earlier in the film from when Jack and Wendy are being given a tour of the Overlook. Who/what is Jack looking at in the centre of the frame there? Lets zoom in slightly…
Jack is looking at somebody cleaning in the background… a caretaker? And what is this caretaker wearing? They are wearing blue jeans and a burgundy jacket – the same blue jeans and burgundy jacket that Jack himself is wearing later in the movie when he goes full on crazy. Hmmmmmm?
So what does all of this actually mean – simple continuity errors?
If you know anything about Stanley Kubrick and his film-making, then you know the man was a perfectionist. Sometimes shooting and re-shooting, getting hundreds of takes of the same scene to ensure it was just right.
The man’s attention to detail was/is legendary. I’m not saying his films do not have continuity errors, of course they do. But what if these points I have brought up here are not continuity errors but are – in fact subtle/subliminal hints as to what is actually going on within the film?
What if the changing colour of the trike, the different typewriter, disappearing wooden sculpture are purposely there to show that there are two different realities going on in The Shining? What if the white trike with the two bells, the beige typewriter and that sculpture on the table are from the ‘real reality’. Then the changes with the red trike with one bell, the darker coloured typewriter and missing wooden sculpture represent the novel that Jack Torrance is writing?
That is what writers do right (I know I do it). We get influenced by our surroundings and take inspiration from what we see. So what if – when Jack does snap and go mad… that is just the fictional Jack from the novel that Jack Torrance the writer has created, what if what we see when Jack losses it is just a visual representation of the novel Jack Torrance is writing? Maybe that is why the colour of the trike changes as does the typewriter and it could also explain why that wooden sculpture disappears too, because these are details that Jack has written within his book.
Plus would it not make sense that Jack Torrance the writer got the idea of how Jack the psycho caretaker should dress from that caretaker he spotted earlier when being given the tour of the Overlook Hotel?
Maybe Jack never did go mad and try to kill his family as he was 100% fictional. Jack Torrance had been sitting in that makeshift writing office all along just tap-tap-taping away on his typewriter and blended the story that he had been told about Charles Grady with his own life and created a fictional world inspired by the Overlook Hotel that we see later in the movie… maybe?
I am a self confessed Quentin Tarantino fanboy. From his first full length movie that was Reservoir Dogs to his most recent picture, The Hateful Eight – I’ve enjoyed all of his films for very different reasons. Hey, I even liked Four Rooms.
Over the years, Tarantino has made films that all seem separate and yet he always throws in little nods, references and connections via his shared universe that he was doing long before Marvel got in on the act. Using his own made up products like Red Apple cigarettes in all of his films as one example of many.
He has even extended his shared universe into the works of other directors like Robert Rodriguez, Tony Scott and even Oliver Stone… most of the time because Tarantino has had a hand in there somewhere from a writing/producing perspective. But it is in character names and possible connections where his shared universe really comes to light. From main characters to secondary ones and even off screen characters – all of his films are connected in one way or another via his characters. But there is more than one movie universe going on within his movie universe. Confused? I’ll let Quentin himself explain…
There is actually two separate universes. There is the realer than real universe, alright, and all the characters inhabit that one. But then there’s this movie universe. So From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, they all take place in this special movie universe. So when all the characters of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, when they go to the movies, Kill Bill is what they go to see. From Dusk Till Dawn is what they see.
Got it? There is a ‘real’ movie universe and a ‘movie’ movie universe going on within Tarantino’s movie universe and characters from his ‘real’ universe can go to see moives from his ‘movie’ universe within that ‘real’ movie universe. So here, I’d like to make as many of the connections as I think I have found from his moives as a writer, director or producer. I’ll start with what I think is a very interesting connection.
There will be SPOILERS ahead for pretty much every Quentin Tarantino film.
Mia Wallace Played Beatrix Kiddo
You remember that scene in Pulp Fiction where Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are out enjoying a $5 milkshake? Mia Tells Vincent that she is a struggling actress and shot a pilot for a TV show called Fox Force Five. If you listen to the description of the main characters in that show that Mia gives – they sound pretty familiar. Okay so they are not exact and water tight, but those characters sound a lot like the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad from Kill Bill. The blonde one was the leader – (Elle Driver?), The Japanese fox was a kung-fu master (O-Ren Ishii?), the black girl was a demolition expert (Vernita Green?), the French fox’s speciality was sex (Sofie Fatale?). And what type of character did Mia play in Fox Force Five… the deadliest woman in the world with a knife… or possibly a sword?
As Tarantino said that the characters from Pulp Fiction could go to the movies and watch Kill Bill, what if that Fox Force Five TV pilot got picked up but adapted and turned into a movie instead and that movie was called Kill Bill? And what if struggling actress, Mia Wallace was the one who played Beatrix Kiddo A.K.A The Bride? Sounds reasonable right? I mean you have to admit that they do look a lot a like too…
The Vega Brothers
Now this one is already pretty well known as Tarantino himself has spoken about this several times and even said he wanted to make a Vega brothers movie prequel a while back. But for those not in the know, Mr Blonde A.K.A Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) and Vincent Vega from Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction respectively are in fact brothers.
Yes, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are officially and canologicaly connected and even if he never made his proposed Vega Brothers flick, Tarantino still says these two films are directly connected. He never revealed much about his Vega Brothers picture, but he did say this…
I did think about the idea of the Vega brothers, taking place before the movies when like Vin was in Amsterdam and his brother Vic/Mr Blonde comes and visits him, and their adventures.
Its a very sketchy idea at best but it was enough to get me thinking – if the film was to be a prequel that would have been set in Amsterdam and involved the Vega brothers, aside from drugs, what else is Amsterdam famous for? Diamonds. What were they stealing in Reservoir Dogs? And what exactly was in that damn briefcase in Pulp Fiction? Its a rough idea but I’m sure Tarantino must have been thinking about linking everything together. What if Vic and Vincent stole diamonds in Amsterdam, brought them back to America where they were sold and Vic then got involved in a heist to steal them back once more? Then what if those diamonds that were taken by Mr Pink at the end of Reservoir Dogs ended up in a briefcase in Pulp Fiction?
Its possible that the Vega brothers may not be the only siblings sharing the Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction canon, what about Jimmie (Quentin Tarantino) and Lawrence Dimmick (Harvey Keitel) A.K.A Mr White? Now – as far as I have researched, Tarantino has neither confirmed nor denied that these two are related, but within this shared universe, why not? Bothers, cousins or other. Its possible right?
You remember Jimmie from Pulp Fiction right? He’s the fella that was not too happy about deceased gentlemen of colour being stockpiled within his vehicle shelter – who clearly has connections to the criminal underworld if he is friendly with hitman Jules (Samuel L. Jackson). Jimmie’s last name is Dimmick. Mr White from Reservoir Dogs reveals his real name is Lawrence Dimmick to a dying Mr Pink. But if they are related then I have one question. Why doesn’t Jimmie mention there is an uncanny resemblance between his sibling Lawrence and the guy that has been sent to help clean things up Winston Wolf?
Scagnetti And Scagnetti
This is an unusual one as only one of these characters are actually shown on screen – the other is only quickly mentioned in passing and many people miss it. Detective Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) from Natural Born Killers sports an impressive quiff and an unstable personality. He may be a lawman, but he’s not exactly on the right side of the law either. A good guy with bad tendencies. When Mr Blonde is catching up with old friends in Reservoir Dogs – he mentions his parole officer is someone called Seymour Scagnetti, who apparently is not a nice guy either. Does being a bad-good guy run in the family?
Paula And The Dentist
Dentist, Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) was born in Düsseldorf, Germany but moved to America where he took up the rather profitable career of being a bounty hunter. It has been theorised that sometime in the 1850s, Schultz married a younger woman who outlived him as Dr. King Schultz is killed during the events of Django Unchained. Then later in Kill Bill, Beatrix Kiddo is burred alive in grave – and the name on the grave? Paula Schultz. Even more so, the chapter from the film it titled; ‘The Lonely Grave Of Paula Schultz’ and she would have been lonely if she died a widow. Maybe Dr King Schultz and the unseen Paula were married within this universe? Plus, the dates on the grave seem to add up too…
The War Hero And The Bandit
Back in Pulp Fiction and Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) tells a young Butch Coolidge (Chandler Lindauer) a little about the Koons heroic family history and a lovely story about a very important watch. Yet it seems that not everyone in the Koons bloodline may have been quite as upstanding as their family think. In Django Unchained while Dr King Schultz is training Django (Jamie Foxx), a wanted poster is shown for the Smitty Bacall Gang and one of the gang members is called; Crazy Craig Koons. I wonder if this Koons family member also placed timepieces in hard to reach places?
The Cops And The Bandit
That very same wanted poster from Django Unchained reveals yet another name, Gerald Nash who is wanted for murder. It seems that Gerald must have had children at some point because during Natural Born Killers a re-enactment of a murder of a police officer is shown and the name of the dead cop? Gerald Nash. But that is not all, doesn’t the name Nash sound familiar? What if I said this other Nash was also a cop? Still unsure, then lend me your ear. The kidnapped cop from Reservoir Dogs that Mr Blonde plans on torturing while listening to Steeler’s Wheel is named Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) and Tarantino has confirmed that Natural Born Killers Nash and Reservoir Dogs Nash are in fact cousins.
Maynard The Bigoted Family
Maynard (Duane Whitaker) from Pulp Fiction is the owner of a pawn shop… and has a perverse hobby that involves a gimp, a corrupt security guard and underworld crime boss being… well just watch the film. He seriously seems to have several problems, but if you have a racist/bigot bloodline then what do you expect? But what bloodline is this? Well during the awesome Candyland shootout in Django Unchained – an unnamed, rifle toting racist screams out “Ain’t no (insert racial slur towards black people here) gonna kill Maynard!”. After which, said self-proclaimed Maynard is brutally shot to death by Django in a satisfying orgy of blood and bullets.
Clarence And Lawrence’s Shared Love
True Romance is a great love story flick. A love story full of drugs, vengeance, guns and plenty of dead bodies…but a love story none the less. Aside from having one of my all time favourite movie scenes ever where Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper) and Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) engage in an intense game of cat and mouse. The film also features another possible Tarantino connection. The hooker with a heart of gold, Alabama Whitman/Worley (Patricia Arquette) seems to have had a life before True Romance where she teamed up with Lawrence Dimmick from Reservoir Dogs as Mr White reveals that Alabama was his ex-partner. So if she was his ex-partner, after the break up – did she fall into prostitution to make ends meet and finally find love with Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) later?
The Nazi Killer And The Film Director
Sticking with True Romance, Clarence tries to sell the cocaine he acquired to a film director called Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). During the events of the film, Lee is putting the finishing touches to his latest in-movie flick; Coming Home In A Body Bag 2, a sequel to his hit Vietnam film that Clarence is a big fan of. But what if Lee got inspiration for his war movies from members of his own family? Maybe Sgt. Donny ‘The Bear Jew’ Donowitz (Eli Roth) from Inglourious Basterds and his Nazi brain-bashing ways played a hand in Lee’s film career?
Another Nazi Killer And His Great, Great Grandfather
Inglourious Basterds featured a lot of Nazi killing… a hell of a lot. One of the best and most intense scenes in the flick took place in an underground tavern where English Army officer Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) goes undercover as a German officer and things go badly. It seems that bloodshed and gunfights in enclosed places is a family trait as Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) from The Hateful Eight can attest to. But how are these two characters linked? Well Oswaldo Mobray is just an alias as his real name is actually ‘English’ Pete Hicox and he is the great, great grandfather of Archie.
The Dead Texas Ranger With A Long Life
Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) first appeared in From Dusk Till Dawn – where he was quickly executed via a bullet to the head. But you just can’t keep a good Texas Ranger down as he resurfaced in Kill Bill where he was joined by his son Edgar McGraw (played by Michael’s real-life son James Parks). The McGraw family kept on growing when Earl popped up again in the Death Proof and Planet Terror combo of Grindhouse. This time around Earl and Edgar were joined by Dr Dakota Block née McGraw (Marley Shelton) the daughter of Earl and sister of Edgar.
So I just got back from watching John Wick Chapter 2. Yeah I know I’m a little late on this one, but I prefer to wait a few days for the crowds and hype to die down before I watch a new movie. Nothing better than walking into the cinema screen and finding only 6 other people there and your free choice of plenty of seats.
I wanted to write something about this flick but really didn’t feel like doing yet another review as there are plenty of those already around… Okay, I’ll do a very quick review; John Wick Chapter 2 is awesome and so many people get shot in the head. That’s my review right there.
It was while watching this film when something hit me that I thought I’d like to share and this little bit on information is; John Wick Chapter 2 is a great action flick you can actually watch. Now I know what you are thinking, you can watch any action film right? Here lies the crux of my article…
Modern action films tend to suffer from one of three major problems that make them unwatchable – sometimes they suffer from more then one of the three. Here are the trio of things I really, really dislike about modern action movies.
- Lens flare
- Close up shots
- Shaky cam
That’s the trifecta of bad directing right there. I mean, what is the point in making a film that you can’t actually watch? Please allow me to give you a few examples of what I mean.
I call the the stand Mr J.J. Abrams and his Star Trek reboot from 2009.
I could only manage to watch around 20 minutes of Star Trek before I had to turn it off because of the excessive use of lens flare. Really, what is the point? The ad campaign for the movie didn’t state that you need to wear sunglasses to watch it. Lens flare is a nice effect when used in moderation, it can set a tone and feel for the film and make some shots look beautiful. But when it is overused like this, its distracting and really annoying.
Do you know how many lens flare effects are in Star Trek? 721 – that’s 721 lens flare effects in just one movie. J.J. Abrams take on Star Trek created a whole internet movement due to the overuse of lens flare. There are memes, You Tube videos making fun, fan made posters of other J.J. Abrams movies with ‘ added lens flare’ and so on. But that didn’t warn off other films from doing the same thing.
Lens flare used to be a thing directors wanted to avoid – why? because they want the viewers to actually be able see the film.
Close Up Shots
Now is the turn of Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot… yeah I’m going there.
I remember being so damn excited to watch Batman Begins back in 2005. I love me some Batman and I so much wanted to see a harder edged take on The Dark Knight on the big screen. I read up on this film before its release and one article really got me interested where Nolan was talking about this form of martial arts called Keysi. Apparently the new Batman, Christian Bale had been training really hard and they were going to showcase this impressive martial art in the new movie… except that didn’t. I left the cinema thinking to myself – WTF did I just watch?
Batman Begins has pretty much become infamous for its beyond terrible fight scenes, and well, all action scenes really. This is mainly due to the fact that Nolan decided to film everything in extreme close up so you couldn’t actually see anything. During fight scenes, you never got to see any actual fighting. What you did get was close up shots of elbows and feet flying all over the screen You couldn’t tell who was hitting who. It was such a waste. Nolan’s excuse was that he wanted Batman to be almost stealth like and you were not supposed to see him. Yeah, that reasoning works for the characters in the film but not the people trying to watch a movie. Batman Begins is one of the worst examples of this… but not the only one.
I detest shaky cam. The Bourne action film franchise is my main culprit here.
Why, why would you direct a film that makes people feel seasick? Seriously, shaky cam has since gone on to be called ‘queasy cam’ and is the one major piece of camera work that is being vastly overused by pretty much any and everyone directing action films today. Its horrible, it makes the screen blurry and difficult to watch, action scenes become nauseating.
Here is a genuine warning put up at an AMC cinema during a screening of Cloverfield.
I really don’t think I have anything more to add here. A filming technique that makes people physically sick.
Those are the big 3 things I dislike about modern action films and do you know what… none of them are in John Wick Chapter 2. This flick offers action scenes you can actually watch. There is no lens flare – or at least none that I remember feeling intrusive. The fight scenes are well framed and you can clearly make out who is hitting who. There is zero shaky cam, there is a little wobble as some of the film is shot hand-held but nothing that makes you feel sick.
There is an impressive shootout in this flick that takes place in the catacombs under Rome. Its dark down there and this shootout features dozens up on dozens of people getting shot… in the head… a lot. Yet despite it being dark and the mass amount of bullets flying, you can see everything. Every shot, every bullet hit and every dead body. You can also make out who is shooting who, where from and with what guns. Its all well choreographed, framed and directed. All the action scenes in this movie are like this – the car chases (and crashes), the shootouts and the fights.
Another action scene takes place on a tube train. Its a very close quarters fight in a very confined area. No lens flare, no close up shots so you can’t see anything and no shaky cam. A fierce and action packed fight that you can watch.
Every action scene is shot so you can actually watch them and make out exactly what was happening. I know right, an action film where you can watch the action. Unbelievable.
This is what made John Wick Chapter 2 so watchable, because you can actually watch it. To director Chad Stahelski, thank you. Thank you for directing an action film in which you can see the action – for making a film that didn’t require me wearing sunglasses or have me feeling seasick by the end credits. I just hope more directors follow suit and begin filming movies that are watchable.
Sadly, we recently lost actor Miguel Ferrer to cancer aged 61. He had a prolific acting career and featured in over 120 movies, TV shows and even lent his voice talent to animated projects and video games. Yet with so much work under his belt and so many varying roles – he’ll always be Bob Morton to me. The head honcho behind the Robocop project from the 1987 movie Robocop.
It also just so happens to be Robocop’s 30th anniversary this year too (July 17th). So no better time for me to take a look at one of my all time favourite movies and share my memories of this flick as I take a look at a film that has a much deeper story than you first think.
This one is for you Miguel as Bob himself would say…
There’s a new guy in town. His name is RoboCop.
I’d Buy That For A Dollar
I must have been around the age of 13 when I first watched Robocop. I remember my older brother renting the VHS tape from our local rental shop. I didn’t know what it was or what it was about. The simplistic title of Robocop was all I needed for it to pique my early teenage interest… a film about a robot cop? I’m in. I also had no idea just how full of violence and swearing it was. I was 13, I had seen violent films before, but nothing quite like Robocop at the time. When the final credits rolled – I was speechless. I sat there with a look of disbelief on my face, stunned at the film I had just witnessed. It was all kinds of awesome contained in 1 hour and 40 odd minutes.
Robocop was a film that scorched images into my head that have stayed there for almost 30 years. The death of Officer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) was one of… no THE hardest thing I had ever seen on film at that point. It was brutal.
The guy robing the liquor store screaming obscenities over and over and over as Robocop walks in to arrest him. That (almost) rape scene and the exquisite solution to saving the blonde woman. Poor Kinney (Kevin Page) being perforated by ED-209 in the boardroom. Emil (Paul McCrane) getting splattered after his toxic bath, etc. So much of that film impacted me at that young age and I loved it. All I talked about at school the following weeks was Robocop, telling friends about the film and trying my best to describe what I had witnessed. I covered my school books in Robocop pictures, drew doodles of Robocop in the back of them too… and got in trouble for it. I was obsessed by this film, yet I didn’t understand it at that young age. To me then – it was just an awesome flick with a ton of swearing and violence. It wasn’t until I was much older and when I saw the film as an adult when the true genius of this picture was revealed to me.
Dead Or Alive – You’re Coming With Me
Its a completely different film now. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the bloody violence and swearing as much now as I did when I was 13. Its just that now, I see what this film is with its truly spectacular subtleties and deep humanity story that it has. Director Paul Verhoeven has gone on record as saying that Robocop is his version of the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In an interview with MTV, Verhoeven said this…
“The point of Robocop is of course that it is a Christ story. It is about a guy that gets crucified after fifty minutes then is resurrected in the next fifty minutes and then is like the supercop of the world. But is also a Jesus figure as he walks over water at the end. he could walk over the water and say this wonderful line, which is basically, em, to Clarence Boddicker ‘I am not arresting you any more.’ Meaning I’m going to shoot you. And that is , of course, the American Jesus.”
The film’s writers; Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner crafted a carefully layered and subtle story that has a lot more meaning behind it than most people first think. Yeah, action and gore-hounds are well catered for here. But then so are folks who want a bit more depth to their story and characters.
On the surface and looking at it as simply as possible – then Robocop is a basic revenge story that ticks all the boxes. If that is all you want from the movie then great. But there is much more to Robocop than just vengeance. There is the internal struggle Robocop faces as he slowly starts to remember his past life as Alex Murphy. The scene where he visits his old family home and the memories of his previous life appear on screen, the sombre music that slowly builds in the background and best of all… Peter Weller’s amazing acting. I mean, seeing as you can only see his mouth – he still manages to convey emotion with his face and movements in that bulky costume.
Murphy… Its You
I just adore the scene where his ex-partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) starts to talk to Robocop and whispers those 3 words that kick-start his memories. That one scene is amazing and for 3 very good reasons.
- Verhoeven’s directing is masterful here with great camera angles that capture one of the most important parts of the movie.
- Neumeier and Miner’s writing is subtle yet effective. Full of character with very little dialogue.
- Weller’s acting is sublime here. Its that thing I mentioned before about how he can convey great emotion while wearing that helmet only showing his mouth. The way Robocop steps backward, stunned at Lewis’ words and he becomes Murphy once more – even if only for a few seconds before snapping back into Robocop mode. Brilliant.
The film is full of great little moments like this and many people miss them.
Can You Fly Bobby?
Of course, every great film need great antagonists and Robocop is no different.
A ragtag group of villains that features; Leon C. Nash (Ray Wise), Emil M. Antonowsky (Paul McCrane) and Joe P. Cox (Jesse D. Goins) who likes to show his penis to female police officers. All headed up by the cold and callous Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). I adore Clarence as a villain, if I made a list of top movie bad guys then Clarence would definitely be in there. This guy is evil personified, he’s just total bad-ass and played brilliantly by Smith. The whole teasing/tormenting of Murphy during his death is disturbing and entertaining at the same time. A sadistic bastard, but one I love watching.
Nice shooting son. What’s your name?
The ending to this film always leaves a huge smile on my face too. The whole final scene where Robocop takes out Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and then ‘The Old Man’ (Dan O’Herlihy) asks our hero that all important question.
Robocop smiles and answers, “Murphy”. Finally connecting to his humanity and accepting who he was and now is. Then it just abruptly ends and cuts to credits.
I love this ending, its sharp, snappy and uplifting.
But I’d like to end this article the way I started it, remembering Miguel Ferrer and Bob Morton…
You Are gonna Be A Bad Motherfucker!
Bob Morton is a complex character. Is he a good guy or is he a bad guy? I mean in his own words he “restructured the police force to place prime candidates according to risk factor”. So he is directly to blame for Murphy’s death as he ensured Murphy was placed in high risk areas. Plus he really enjoys ‘models’ and drugs. So he is a villain then right?
But then he did create Robocop and crime declined because of that. Also notice how much he adores his Frankenstein-like creation through the film? He actually cares and believes in his project and Bob Morton becomes a very likeable character. Villain or not, its a tough one eh? You know how there are anti-heroes, those characters that do the wrong things but for the right reasons. I consider Bob Morton a anti-villain, a character who does the right things but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Miguel Ferrer brought this character to life. Love or hate Bob Morton, Miguel Ferrer made him memorable.
I really don’t think I can top that so I’ll end here. Thanks Miguel for creating one of the best characters in one of my favourite films…
RoboCop was maybe the best summer of my entire life. It was the summer of 1986, and it was the best part I’d been asked to do at the time.