I just can’t seem to enjoy mindless bloodshed as much as I used to.
All that fun of arterial spurting, limbs being blown off, and gloopy syrupy oozing has gone. I think I’d rather watch Miss Congeniality.
Last night, I watched Death Sentence, a loose adaptation of the follow up novel to Death Wish. It was about someone in management who killed everyone who was bad. He had a seemingly genetically inherited knack to kill and kill again. It came from some well within. One moment he was worried about the font of for the Autumn pig knuckle projections, the next he was aiming big guns with loose limbed aplomb. I presume he had gym membership.
I can still be impressed by the artistic use of squibs and exploding ribcages in films, but beyond the technique, I find the spectacle itself puckers my skin and worries my face.
The older I am, the more I find the ease of cinematic death, and the intended adrenaline kick for the passive viewer, disconcerting.
So much casual carnage.
I wouldn’t mind if there was a plot and characters, but they are merely a perfunctory scribble to adorn with death, lots of death.
I have read a few essays, arguments and books on fictional violence and its effects, and I am none the wiser as to whether this aids a culture of real brutality. Does the joy kick of watching all those guns and ammo aid recruitment for the military? Does it secrete the idea that killing maybe fun and your enemy is a two dimensional butcher with no compassion or love? The violence has so little consequence, just blood and death.
It is a few years since I watched Reservoir Dogs, but one of the things I liked about it was that at least some of the brutality was painful, not just the shrugging off of a splintered arm, the screaming agony of a gut wound, not, “hey, it’s just a pancreas, I wasn’t really using it anyway. Got a cigarette.”
Dead Man’s Shoes has plenty of violence, but it also has characters, doubt, a story, and powerful performances. It doesn’t seem to celebrate the idea of going to Matlock to kill a man on the toilet.
I still adore the original Robocop. It is a good comic book film and not just a tableau to spray guts onto it like an abattoir Jackson Pollock. The first time I saw Murphy being shot to pieces, I winced rather than smiled. Paul Verhoeven skates a fine line between jamboree of death and corporate criticism, but I think he does it adeptly.
Sam Peckinpah was the messiah of new violence, but that rarely felt like a shindig, the dying was melancholy, the killing costly and regretful.
Maybe it’s because flicks like Death Sentence are worlds of goodies and baddies, where death is something to cheer. “hurray, his lungs are showing! My popcorns aroused.”
Maybe it is just because I am middle-aged and would rather spend an afternoon watching Alastair Sim in The Green Man or Boris Karloff creep out benighted partygoers in The Old Dark House.
Maybe it’s because so many of the death feasts seem artless, empty, snazzy factory made products.
I think I’ll watch Richard Attenborough in Brighton Rock, now there’s death and menace.
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