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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Revenge and health care critiques in film

Recently, Larry was watching Law Abiding Citizen. I was in the other room, but I got the gist. Wow. I just love a movie that uses the rape and murder of a 5 year old girl as a plot device - just to get the main character into turbo-vigilante mode. Requiring, among other things, that he cut a man into pieces with a chain saw. Yes, the audience gets to watch. After that, he starts to target the DA and other people involved in this miscarriage of justice (the killer only got 10 years in prison as part of a plea deal). What an incredible waste of a terrific cast. I didn't think Jamie Foxx was this desperate for money.

And what is the point of all this? Yes, the justice system is imperfect. Plea deals can seem like they let someone off easy. But extreme vengence is hardly better. If someone murdered my daughter, I would, of course, want them dead. But watching this for entertainment is very odd. Among other things, the audience does not have the same feeling as the parent, so witnessing the revenge is not cathartic, it's just indulging in sadism. Really gross. Even Larry commented that it was not quite what he was expecting (the chain saw and other scenes were certainly not included in the previews for the movie). Side note - it has a 7.2 rating on imdb, which is pretty high, so someone enjoyed this.

On Friday, I happened to catch the NPR reviewer talking about Repo Men, wherein Jude Law and Forest Whitaker (both classically trained actors) play bounty hunters who reclaim transplanted organs when the recipient fails to pay. The reviewer suggested that it's an allegory for our financial crisis and a critique of our tendency to live beyond our means. That seems like a stretch, both because it's clearly a blood soaked action movie with minimal commentary of any kind, and, more to the point, it's not like the repo men are collecting luxury cars or sailboats or Florida condos. Not sure how you make the case that someone who needed a new kidney that they couldn't afford is just fiscally irresponsible. Sounds more like a critique of our ridiculous health care system, which is based way too much on generating income and not nearly enough on keeping people healthy.

Weird, weird culture in Hollywood these days. I'm waiting for The Runaways, about women rock and rollers and How to Train Your Dragon, an animated movie that's getting great buzz. Also Julia Roberts, headlining a movie (which she doesn't do that much these days) in Eat Pray Love, based on a book (always a bonus, IMO) - a memoir about a woman's quest for meaning in modern life. These may have some redeeming value!



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