RARA-AVIS: Re: Disappearance of the private eye film and the detective film in general

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 16 Mar 2009

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    docsavage80 wrote:
    > Another problem for R-rated adventure films; many of the prominent
    > performers from the 1970's and 1980's have faced serious problems:
    > Steven Seagal: not longer as fit and agile
    > Chuck Norris: eleven years the senior of Seagal, and while still fit
    > for a man of his age, has seemed to focus more on his family life
    > JCVD: well publicized substance abuse and family problems
    > Charles Bronson: deceased
    > Clint Eastwood: has moved on to other projects and directing
    > Stallone: substance abuse HGH, noticeably aged and weathered
    > (actually, Stallone's Rocky films never received R-ratings)
    > Schwarzenegger: exit strategy of moving on to politics
    > Bruce Willis: actually moved on to other genres; note that the last
    > Die Hard went PG-13


    Jason Stratham and Clive Owen are both far better and subtle actors than beefy lunkheads like Norris, Van Damme, Seagal, Stallone or even Schwarzenegger, and have both appeared in some decent action flicks, with more than a smattering of hard-boiledness. Don't know about the ratings of their films, don't particularly care. I'm not twelve -- I can see what I want.

    But the heavy-handed action flicks those guys trafficked in never really appealed to me, anyway, mostly because they took their juvenile cinematic wankery far too seriously -- and most of the stars had all the emotional range of a bicep. The best thing Stallone ever did was COPLAND, and it was the few rare moments of wit in Arnie's mostly thudding, special effects-laden action flicks that actually made them palatable to me.

    But that's just me.

    Given a decent script, Stratham and Owen (the man who should have been Bond and might still be Marlowe) might do some good stuff. And Eastwood and Willis still occasionally make hard-boiled films. So I don't think the end of hard-boiled films is at hand, not at all.

    and Mario wrote:

    > This may sound like heresy, but I don't miss any of those guys or
    > the films they made. Especially Chuck Norris and Schwartzenegger.
    > About detective films, the point for me is not quantity but quality.
    > A couple good ones a year would be fine...

    I agree. The lunkheaded action films, whatever their ratings, never really appealed to me, although they do go down well with a case of beer and a tart-mouthed gal in a nothing-better-to-do-on-a-Saturday- night way. Things blowing up, guys shooting other guys, some wobbly and predictably non-PC stereotypes, and some more stuff blowing up might be fine if I'm in a certain mood, but generally I want something a little tastier.

    And I don't see exactly why their ratings have much to do with their quality.

    Particularly the American ratings system, which seems perfectly at ease when it's dealing with decapitation and disembowelment and other family-approved violence, but squeals like a little girl if consenting adults actually have sex -- or talk too explicitly about it. The main difference between a regular action flick and an R-rated action flick is usually a nipple or two.

    Look at all the hypocrisy over a Superbowl nipple nobody actually saw.

    Recent films like DIE HARD IV or THE DARK KNIGHT might be considered action flicks, but they're hardly dumb. And tweaked a little, GRAN TORINO might have made a great noir film. Though it might not have achieved the same popularity.

    No, the dearth of good detective films has very little to do with the ratings system -- or Republicans. It all comes down to popularity. Most of the great detective films did just fine with the ratings they were handed. If GONE BABY GONE had done better -- which it should have
    -- we'd all be bitching about all the crappy P.I. films that have come out this year, instead of the dearth of them.

    A few good ones every now and then are all I ask. The first two versions of THE MALTESE FALCON were movie fans' penance -- the third one, by Huston, was their reward.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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