with great relief a heavy heart my duty to announce that this will be the last part of the movie Smash-Up. All I can say is, it’s been real weird.
So, without further ado, etc., here’s the final
insult part of Smash-Up! 🙂
I’ve been wanting to see this movie ever since its release. The fact that it’s a Western (neo-Western, if you want to get technical) and a mystery involving Native American versus federal jurisdiction intrigued me. And I’d heard such great things about it, so my expectations may have been a bit high.
The plot in sum: a young Native American woman, not dressed for winter weather and covered in blood, runs for miles across the vast, snowy emptiness of Wyoming to the middle of nowhere. Basically, she collapses and dies of exposure. The body is discovered by the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dude, Cory Lambert (played by Jeremy Renner), whose specialty is tracking and hunting those annoying predatory animals that feast on the local livestock, etc. So he enjoys a pretty good relationship with the Tribal police.
However, it comes to light that the dead woman was raped. This is after an FBI agent from (of all places) the Las Vegas office arrives on the scene and insists that the body be examined to determine if the woman was sexually assaulted. I should add here that the FBI agent is a rookie and a white woman named Jane Banner. So … between the medical examiner being unwilling to make a finding of homicide in a case where the victim died of exposure and the general undercurrent of antipathy from the
natives residents, FBI Jane (played by Elisabeth Olsen) quickly finds herself in over her head. Needing all the help (and PR points) she can get, FBI Jane and Cory the Fish and Wildlife Dude team up to catch the perp.
That’s the bare bones summary.
Here’s what worked for me: the clash between Tribal, Fish and Wildlife, and FBI jurisdiction provides plenty of grist for the dramatic mill. The result is a most entertaining clash of interests at times.
Also, Jane may be a rookie, but she’s portrayed as a strong and capable female agent. To a point. (I’ll explain that last part more in a moment.) Jane and Cory have good chemistry in their partnership, as each learns from the other throughout the story. And Graham Greene as the Tribal Police Chief puts in an excellent, taciturn performance, as well. The police chief even warms to Jane, based on her passion to solve the case.
Finally, the plot is genuinely suspenseful. When it’s not bogged down in its overwhelming message.
Can you sense the segue into what didn’t work for me? 🙂
First, to say that Wind River‘s theme is that Native Americans have gotten and continue to get the shaft from whitey is understating things big time. Unfortunately, the horror and ensuing grief caused by the crime is overwhelmed by the weight of the movie’s own self-importance. Some of the scenes come off so heavy with messaging, I half-expected a cameo by the “Crying Indian” from those old commercials.
Second, there are too many niggling unanswered questions, particularly about FBI Jane. Why would a rookie agent be sent there without a partner? Why would a smart FBI agent stand right in front of a suspect’s door? (They teach them much better than that at Quantico.) Plus—and this just made me cringe—the woman comes to this shindig wearing thong underwear?? Seriously??? (Although, I did notice later that the film was distributed by the Weinstein Company, so …)
And, if that weren’t enough, the final scene, in which the victim’s father grieves for his daughter worked so well (and even wove in some subtle humor—subtle as this story gets, at any rate), only to be capped with a PSA about the lack of statistics on missing Native American women.
Thanks for hitting us over the head. Nice touch.
However, despite its flaws, the ending is satisfying. Be advised that this movie contains a brutal rape scene. I’ve developed an increasing dislike to those.
I’d give this four stars, but I’m taking a half-point off for the ham-handed thematics. Not to mention the damn thong underwear!
Great analysis of Quentin Tarantino’s tropes! 🙂
TELLING STORIES WITH STYLE: THE TROPES OF TARANTINO
**CONTAINS MOVIE SPOILERS**
Quentin Tarantino is a powerhouse of cinema. He has proved consistently, since his debut film Reservoir Dogs (1992) right up to his most recent film The Hateful Eight (2015), a filmmaker of incredible invention. His works are well known for their references to pop culture, TV shows, music, fashion, and quoting in general from an array of cinematic influences. Indeed, his films are always firmly planted in genre, from: war films to Martial Arts to Western to crime and B-movie pictures. However, despite utilising other genres as a springboard for his writing, Tarantino instils his own style within his work. This creates a paradoxical form of originality, making him what I would call a postmodern auteur. The postmodern auteur not only quotes, borrows and steals from other influences but they are able to present them in a fashion so…
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Only two more parts to go in this
tedious puzzling unique film that’s kind of like A Star is Born crossed with Not Without My Daughter, except not really. 🙂
Anyway, here’s Part Six!
This movie puts the definite lie to the notion that screenwriters shouldn’t use flashbacks to tell stories. The Locket is notable for its multiple and multi-layered flashback scenes.
The story opens with a woman named Nancy (played by Laraine Day) on the verge of marriage to a man named John (played by Gene Raymond). However, before the nuptials start, John is taken aside for a little chat with Dr. Harry Blair (played by Brian Aherne), who has a whopper of a tale for him.
This is the part where the screen does that dissolve-y thing and we go back in time to when Nancy and Blair were married—at least, that’s what he says.
About two or three (or four?) flashbacks later, we discover that Nancy grew up the child of a housekeeper. And her mother’s employer was a total
bitch jerk. The bitch woman accuses Nancy of stealing a locket that her own daughter secretly gave her. And, let’s just say, this leads to serious repercussions for Nancy.
The story is well-told and surprisingly unconfusing—especially given all those freaking flashbacks. It reflects the interest at that time in psychoanalysis. And, while it may not feature sets designed by Salvador Dali a la Spellbound, the narrative is structured in a way that gives the climactic ending the feel of a genuine tragedy.
I should mention that, tucked amid the flashbacks are scenes of Nancy’s life with an artist named Norman Clyde, played by Robert Mitchum. It may qualify as one of the most un-Mitchum roles he tackled.
I also think this film owes a debt to Citizen Kane, in that it uses flashback to explore how one childhood event can profoundly affect a person’s entire life.
And here’s a question for those of you who know the movie: was Nancy’s marriage to John a result of deliberate planning over the years or was it a random fluke of noir world fate?
Another B-picture that’s been sorely overlooked by most people who aren’t complete
movie maniacs cinephiles! 🙂
Hello! Here it is again. Another part of this most
dramatic musical interesting film noir/drama. With a weird feminist subtext, no less! 🙂
And, on that note, let’s get on with the show!