Tag: Film

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FOREIGN LANGUAGE WEEKEND*** Pusher (1996)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A really impressive effort from a first time director.”

Pusher-2010
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again.   But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.

“For instance, there was this Turkish guy once. He fucked up and owed Milo some money. So I went over to his place. I’d been there many times before, asking for the money in a polite way, without any luck. Finally, I took a knife, stabbed it in his kneecap and teared the shit up. Sometimes, I’d like to have another job. Believe me.”

Before scoring a massive, mainstream hit full of Gosling goodness with Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn directed one of the most mind blowing movies I’ve stumbled across in recent years with Bronson (it’s like Chopper…  If the main character was more insane, more violent, more darkly hilarious and based just as much on a real world figure.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen Bronson, you really should).  But before that, and whole lot of other stuff, Nicolas Winding Refn kicked off his career with Pusher.


As the title suggests, this is all about the world of drug dealing.  Kim Bodnia plays Franky, a low level Copenhagen dealer who’ll sell whatever he can his hands on to make a buck and fund his own habit, as well as drinking and hanging out with his partner Tonny, played Mads Mikkelsen.   Franky already owes Milo, his local wholesaler of the hard stuff, 50,000 kroner, until the promise of one big sale to an ex-prison buddy puts him closer to 300,000 in debt.

Soon, Franky is going from one end of Copenhagen to the other, trying to call in money owed to him, borrow more, make deals and do anything he can to pay his debts and save his life.  I don’t think it’s any accident on the part of the screenplay that almost every “deal” is done on credit.  Constantly Franky and others buy and sell everything from drugs, to firearms, to mobile phones, and on almost every occasion, when it’s time for money to change hands, the buyer is asking for credit with a promise to pay soon.  It’s like the entire black economy of the movie is nothing more than numbers floating in the air, based on and handshakes and promises.  Which makes it only hit harder when the very real, very mortal consequences begin to bare down on Bodina’s Franky.

One thing I really liked about Pusher is its objectivity.  This is no cautionary tale about the pitfalls of a life of crime or drug use.  But at the same time, it’s in no way a glorification of any of that either.  It looks like an accurate, fly on the wall account of people doing a particular job and the bullshit that comes with it.  Well, it looks accurate to my white bread, suburban, upper working / lower middle class eyes, anyway.  Franky is never portrayed as a hero or tragic victim.  He’s a man doing what he thinks needs to be done it.  He’s not misunderstood, he’s not struggling with any inner demons, he’s just dealing with decisions he’s made and the consequences that come with them.

As pretentious as it may sound to say, the camera really is almost its own character in Pusher.  Constantly in motion, even when the characters it’s shooting are not, the camera work goes beyond hand held.  Almost every single scene starts and finishes with the camera following someone in and out of the given location.  This might be one of the only movies I’ve ever seen where we see characters’ backs almost as much as their faces.  But this non-stop motion really does add to the movie, making the viewer almost as anxious and on edge as Franky when the walls start to close in around him.

Pusher

This is a really impressive effort from a first time director and you can see hints of where he was headed with something like Drive more than fifteen years later.  And maybe the Scandinavian setting, characters and costumes threw me off, but it doesn’t look fifteen years at old at all, it has aged really well.  Seriously though, if you haven’t seen Bronson, see it first.  Then give Pusher a go if you have time.

(Review originally posted Aug 5, 2013)

Pusher
Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Jens Dahl, Nicolas Winding Refn

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D SUNDAY FLASHBACK*** Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Only two good things came out of watching this horrendous movie. An amazing piece of gonorreah fuelled trivia, and the fact that I have been able to type the phrase ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song’ upwards of half a dozen times.”

Sweetback 1

“When you’re the first to do something, the upside is, that originality and innovation give you a free pass to be a bit shit. In 1971, director, writer, actor and composer Melvin Van Peebles made what is seen as the first blaxploitation film, with the ludicrously titled Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song. Even more ludicrous than the name is the fact that it became bit of a hit at the time and that its legacy is still evident today. Because this thing is pretty terrible, top to bottom.


It’s not that Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song looks like it was made by someone who had never directed a movie before. It’s that Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song looks like a movie that was made by someone who had never even seen a movie before. Are the weird shot compositions, all over the shop editing, stilted performances and sub-amateur music score artistic choices made to subvert traditional film making? Or are they the result of a bad script, performed by bad actors, shot by a bad cinematographer, at the order of a bad director who also decided to write the bad score? (more…)

***2013 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Birdemic 2: The Resurrection

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I’m not generally into movies that are so bad they’re good.  I don’t like the idea of watching something that is terribly written, terribly acted, terribly shot and terribly made just so I can laugh at it.  But then, there are movies like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room and James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror that really are so bad they’re good and cause me no guilt when I laugh at everyone involved, never with.  Which is why I was pretty stoked to see Birdemic 2: The Resurrection.

Before I get into it, if you’ve never heard of Birdemic, you should really treat yourself to its Wikipedia entry and watch the trailer.  I don’t want to say Nguyen is a bat shit insane nut bag, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he wrote the screenplay to Birdemic 2: The Resurrection with his own bodily fluids, Marquis de Sade-style.  I’m not exaggerating, this is probably the craziest movie you’ll ever see.

Like its predecessor, one thing that really stands out is how much padding there is to get to it’s not even eighty minute running time.  The opening is literally more than five minutes of one of the main characters, Thomas Favaloro’s Bill, walking down the street.  That’s it, just walking.  When he (finally) gets his to his destination, he meets Alan Bagh’s Rod, the hero from the original Birdemic: Shock and Terror.  Favaloro plays a director who’s first movie was a hit at Sundance.  How do we know that? Because Bagh tells him.  Yep, Bagh tells Favaloro that Favaloro made a movie and that it was a Sundance darling.  Clunky exposition is one thing, but clunky exposition that leads nowhere is a certain kind of Nguyen special.  It turns out Favaloro  needs a million bucks to make his next movie, and luckily, Bagh made a few mill in the first movie (from what I remember, he made his money through his ability to endurance clap).   Then there a couple of blonde broads to round out the cast.

There are examples of amazingly, awesomely, astoundingly bad film making every second of this movie, but one that really summed it up to me was the meeting between Bagh and Favaloro in the opening scene.  They get together in a café that is completely empty.  There are no the patrons and the only other person in the place appears to be the waitress (one of the afore mentioned blonde broads).  But despite this unpopulated desolation and lack of budget (or forethought) to employ any extras, there’s a constant hum of people “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarbing” in background.  It’s a special kind of attention to detail that feels like it needs to populate the scene with sound, regardless of how it in no way matches the vision.

With the first movie becoming a bit of a cult classic, I was worried that the sequel could suffer from everyone involved being in on the joke this time around, but if they were, no one ever lets on.  Similar to the original, this is a cautionary tale about global warming.  I know this because the characters openly blame global warming every ten minutes.  Gone are the 8 bit Sega Master System quality pixelated CGI eagles and vultures.  Now we have all new and improved 16 bit Sega Mega Drive level CGI eagles and vultures wreaking havoc.

They score some guns, they shoot as shit load of birds, they talk to a hippy, we get to see some boobs and it has amazing liver performance of an amazing song in the middle.  All in all, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection really does trick all the boxes.

Birdemic 2: The Resurrection
Directed By – James Nguyen
Written By – James Nguyen

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Spielberg: Duel (1971)

duelposter
I’m not a big Spielberg guy.  He has a couple of movies I really love, a few I think are really over rated, and a whole heap I’ve never bothered watching and probably never will.  But as ambivalent as I am, there’s no denying the amazing impact he’s had on film making over more than four decades.  There’s a reason why he has possibly the most famous behind the camera name in Hollywood.  And you can see the beginnings of that future notoriety in his first move, Duel.

Dennis Weaver is David Mann, a dude in a car trying to get to a meeting.  Stuck behind a filthy oil tanker on the highway, he decides to over take.  For some reason. the tanker driver takes offense to this and starts a game of vehicular intimidation and harassment.  Is starts small with tailgating, over taking then slowing down, that kind of thing, until the truck tries to run Weaver off the road.

Shaken, he stops at a roadhouse.  Showing the kind of dead horse flogging subtlety Spielberg will go on to exhibit throughout his career, Weaver calls his wide and it’s revealed he let another dude cross a few lines with her at a party the previous night and decided to ignore it to avoid conflict.  I wonder if that will serve as any sort of motivation to his actions when he gets back on the road and the truck reappears?  Upping the anti of torment until Weaver knows this has gone further than just intimidation and his life is actually in serious danger.

Made for TV with a tiny budget, Spielberg makes Duel a much better movie than it has any right to be.  Four years before he’d invent the entire concept of the blockbuster movie with Jaws, it’s great to see what a truly great film maker he is.  A solid 90% of this movie is the car, the truck, the road and nothing else.  Apart from the odd awkward voiceover from Weaver, there’s hardly any dialogue and the most we ever see of the truck driver is his arm out the window once or twice.

In true B movie style, the entire movie is a build up to one big climax that probably represents most of the meager budget, but that doesn’t stop Spielberg from finding ways to ramp up the tension and suspense all the way through.  Especially through the practical stunt driving.

It was 1971, so there were no computers to fake anything.  And Spielberg uses a lot of long, wide shots, so you can see how fast these vehicles are going, and how close they are to each other at these insane speeds.  It’s hard to give a shit about stunts and action sequences when you know it’s basically just a cartoon made by a computer.  With Duel, the reality of everything happening on screen makes it that much more intense.

Watching Duel gave me a lot more respect for Spielberg.  Not in a way that makes me want finally to get around to watching things like War of the Worlds or The Terminal.  But in a way that makes me really wish he’d make something small and simple again.

Duel
Directed By – Steven Spielberg
Written By – Richard Matheson

MOVIE REVIEW | Shotgun Stories (2007)

Shotgun Stories (2007)
When I wrote about Jeff Nichols’ latest movie Mud, I talked about liking, but being underwhelmed by his second movie, Take Shelter, despite the masses of critical praise it received.  But now that I’ve seen all three of his films to date, I think maybe Take Shelter just suffered from being my first, and me not fully understanding Nichols’ world.  Because after seeing Shotgun Stories, I think I get it, and I know I really like it.


Jeff Nichols recurring player Michael Shannon plays Son Hayes, one of three brothers, along with Kid, played by Barlow Jacobs and Boy, played by Douglas Ligon.  Their father dies and it turns out he was one virile son of a bitch, having sired another four sons with another woman.  When Son, Kid and Boy show up at his funeral for Son to basically tell the mourners that their father was a prick before spitting on his coffin, you get the idea that maybe these two sets of half brothers don’t make up one big, happy family.

Tension between the two families grows and so do their acts of retaliation.  One of things I like best about Shotgun Stories is the believable way things escalate.  Early on, small, almost understandable antagonistic acts get the ball rolling, and they build so incrementally, that once guns are being shoved in people’s faces and the odd skull gets caved in, you’re totally on board with everyone and it’s hard to even remember who started and if either side is in the wrong or being unreasonable.

Michael Shannon really does have a certain quality about him.  I’ve heard it referred to as creepy, but I think that’s a little unfair.  Don’t get me wrong, I think he can be mega creepy, but it’s not an innate quality.  What makes Michael Shannon so entertaining is his intensity.  The look of absolute commitment and focused attention in his eyes means you believe him as a heartless hit man in The Iceman, you believe him as caring uncle in Mud, you believe his schizophrenic madness in Take Shelter and you totally believe his abused son, dedicated brother in Shotgun Stories.

Wherever Jeff Nichols goes next, I hope he keeps building on the world of his first three films and I hope Michael Shannon’s role is major.   So far he’s one of only three people listed in the cast on the IMDB page for Nichols’ upcoming Midnight Special.  And one of the other two is Joel Edgerton.  So it looks like I should probably start getting stoked for that one right now.  It also looks like I should probably give Take Shelter another chance, because I am well and truly on board with whatever it is Nichols wants to say.

Shotgun Stories
Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols

MOVIE REVIEW | Drinking Buddies (2013)

Drinking-Buddies-300x254

What kind of movie is Drinking Buddies?  I just finished watching it and I really don’t know the answer to that.  It’s not that Drinking Buddies is complicated and I don’t understand it.  It’s so not complicated that even calling it simple seems like an understatement.  It’s got laughs, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy.  It’s got a couple of emotional eruptions, but I wouldn’t call it a drama.  It’s all hand held camera work, semi improvised dialogue and rough lighting, but I wouldn’t call it indie.  Maybe if I get into the plot synopsis, a better genre classification will come to me.


Jake Johnson from TV series New Girl plays Luke, a dude in his thirties with a mid-arm tattoo, bushy beard and penchant for trucker’s hats, who works in a Chicago micro brewery .  But he’s not a hipster.  The movie makes this very clear by having his girlfriend Jill, (Anna Kendrick) literally say that.  Also working at the brewery is Olivia Wilde’s Kate.  She’s the perfect woman as invented by a male screenwriter.  She’s super hot, but really down to earth, loves that she works at a brewery and loves going out for beers with the guys even more.  She’s not the perfect girl for just anyone, she’s the perfect girl for Jake Johnson’s character.  But as you might remember from two or three sentences ago, he has a missus in the form of Anna Kendrick.

Right about now, I bet you think you know how this movie plays out.  Well I think you should maybe slow your roll.  Because I’m quietly confident you have no idea how Drinking Buddies plays out.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no huge twist, revelation or any kind of story telling revelation that will change the face of cinema forever.  It’s just a peculiar little movie that will surprise you in a few peculiar little ways.

The title, trailer, publicity photos and almost everything about Drinking Buddies point toward a romantic comedy.  You know, the kind of romantic comedy that tries to hide it’s clichés and redundancy by setting its story in some current fad, like, oh I don’t know, a micro brewery?  But this movie doesn’t go for that low hanging fruit either.

Writer / Director Joe Swanberg is one of the pioneers of the whole “Mumblecore” movement.  Whether “Mumblecore” actually exists or is just an annoying buzz word movie execs used a decade ago to sound like they were on top of the latest trends, anything associated with it seems to come with a certain aesthetic.   An aesthetic I just kind of find underwhelming.

The characters are believable and unremarkable in a very true to reality way.   The story is believable and unremarkable in a very true to reality way.  The world it takes place in is believable and unremarkable in very a true to reality way.  And in the end, that all leads to a very and unremarkable in a very true to reality way movie.

Some of that may sound a little snarky or like I don’t like the movie, but that’s not the case.  I did like Drinking Buddies.  I think…  Mabye…  Yeah…  Actually, I’m not sure.  I don’t know if I’d say you need to see this movie, but if you told me you were thinking about it, I wouldn’t try to stop you.  Meh.

Drinking Buddies
Directed By – Joe Swanberg
Written By – Joe Swanberg

MOVIE REVIEW | Pusher 3 (2005)

r.pusher3

Over the course of almost ten years and three movies, director Nicolas Winding Refn showed a real, tangible evolution as a film maker and story teller with his Danish Pusher trilogy.  In 1996’s Pusher, it was all selfishness, narcissism and badass style.  In 2004, Pusher 2 showed he could bring real characters with real emotions and depth to the series.  Then, a year later, Pusher 3 upped the anti again.


Milo, played by Zlatko Buric, was the antagonist of the first movie.  He showed up for one short, but pivotal scene in the second, and is now the main character of the third.  Until now, he has been the highest ranking of the small time dealers in the Pusher world.  He’s the wholesaler who has the big bricks that the lower level dealers will break up into little plastic bags.  But Pusher 3 is about the next level up, who wholesales to the wholesaler and who does he answer to?

The original Pusher confined the story to one very clearly depicted week.  While it’s not as definite as the first, Pusher 2 seems to be have been condensed to just a few days.  Winding Refn gets even more microscopic with Pusher 3, confining the entire story to just one day.  A day the starts with Milo at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting before heading to a drug deal where it turns out he’s bought a butt load of ecstasy instead of the butt load of heroin he was expecting.  Like the movies that preceded it, Pusher 3 shows the quickly unravelling efforts of a man getting increasingly desperate as he tries to fix one mistake, with every short term solution escalating into bigger, more dangerous problems.

The original was all about one selfish man and how his decisions affected him.  Pusher 2 widened the perspective to show the effects its characters actions had on the innocents around them.  Pusher 3 brings it back to mainly one man, but this time, the story starts with a character who’s already seeking some kind of redemption.  Milo has already learned from his mistakes, he just hasn’t learned quite enough yet to avoid what will go down on this one, horrifically eventful night.

Like the two before, the third film in the trilogy finishes on a maddeningly ambiguous, yet perfect note.  We’ll never know what ultimately happened to Pusher’s Franky, outside of one quick line of dialogue that all but dismisses him in the sequel.  Is Tonny from Pusher 2 living the quiet life of a suburban dad?  Where will Milo go after the events of Pusher 3?  It doesn’t matter.  None of these films are concerned about wrapping their stories up with a neat bow.  They’re about what happens when these characters make one mistake that spirals out of control and how they handle it in the short term.  Real life doesn’t have a neat ending to every story, and neither does Nicolas Winding Refn.

This is a great final installment to a really interesting and complex series that only got more interesting and complex with each addition.  But seriously, I’ll say it again, as good as this series is, you really need to see Bronson.  Even if you have, watch it again, then give the Pusher movies a go.

Pusher 3
Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Nicolas Winding Refn

MOVIE REVIEW | Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)

 Sweetback

When you’re the first to do something, the upside is, that originality and innovation give you a free pass to be a bit shit. In 1971, director, writer, actor and composer Melvin Van Peebles made what is seen as the first blaxploitation film, with the ludicrously titled Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song. Even more ludicrous than the name is the fact that it became bit of a hit at the time and that its legacy is still evident today. Because this thing is pretty terrible, top to bottom.


It’s not that Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song looks like it was made by someone who had never directed a movie before. It’s that Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song looks like a movie that was made by someone who had never even seen a movie before. Are the weird shot compositions, all over the shop editing, stilted performances and sub-amateur music score artistic choices made to subvert traditional film making? Or are they the result of a bad script, performed by bad actors, shot by a bad cinematographer, at the order of a bad director who also decided to write the bad score?

Van Peebles also stars as the titular Sweetback, a dude who’s prowess between the sheets is discovered when he works as a towel boy in a brothel. The young Sweetback is played by Van Peeble’s actual son, Mario. In an act that can only be described as child abuse, director Melvin includes a scene where his then thirteen or fourteen year old son Mario is stripped naked and simulates (at least I hope it was simulated) getting on the job with a naked, adult woman. That aint right. Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song then jumps forward to a present day 1971, where the adult Sweetback bangs chicks for a paying audience. Soon, local cops are at the door, looking for a black man to use as their patsy in an arrest. Sweetback gets the unenviable gig, escapes and that’s about it.

He later treats the female leader of a bikey gang to a seeing to as payment for their help. Which leads to another major problem with Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song. The character of Sweetback is a local legend for being a great root. But in every sex scene, all young and old Sweetback does is lay there, lifeless on top of the women whose minds are apparently being blown by his performance. If you’re gonna make your character a sex god, you should probably make sure he doesn’t just lay there like a dead fish.

And get this, the sex scenes aren’t simulated. Van Peebles actually banged these broads on set. How do I know this? I know this because Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song comes with the single greatest IMDB trivia entry ever. “Melvin Van Peebles contracted gonorrhea from one of the actresses during filming of one of the sex scenes in the movie. He applied for compensation from the Directors Guild because he ‘got hurt on the job’ and used the money to buy more film”.

Van Peebles obviously set out to make a very important statement about racism and oppression. The movie opens with a title card dedicating the movie to “Brothers and sisters who have had enough of the Man” and closes with the declaration, “Watch out, a baad asssss nigger is coming back to collect some dues”. But the execution of this movie is so subpar, any message Van Peebles wanted to impart is lost under the blanket of laughably bad film making. Only two good things came out of watching this horrendous movie. That amazing piece of gonorreah fuelled trivia, and the fact that I have been able to type the phrase Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song upwards of half a dozen times.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song
Directed By – Melvin Van Peebles
Written By – Melvin Van Peebles

MOVIE REVIEW | Pusher (1996)

Pusher-2010

Before scoring a massive, mainstream hit full of Gosling goodness with Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn directed one of the most mind blowing movies I’ve stumbled across in recent years with Bronson (it’s like Chopper…  If the main character was more insane, more violent, more darkly hilarious and based just as much on a real world figure.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen Bronson, you really should).  But before that, and whole lot of other stuff, Nicolas Winding Refn kicked off his career with Pusher.


As the title suggests, this is all about the world of drug dealing.  Kim Bodnia plays Franky, a low level Copenhagen dealer who’ll sell whatever he can his hands on to make a buck and fund his own habit, as well as drinking and hanging out with his partner Tonny, played Mads Mikkelsen.   Franky already owes Milo, his local wholesaler of the hard stuff, 50,000 kroner, until the promise of one big sale to an ex-prison buddy puts him closer to 300,000 in debt.

Soon, Franky is going from one end of Copenhagen to the other, trying to call in money owed to him, borrow more, make deals and do anything he can to pay his debts and save his life.  I don’t think it’s any accident on the part of the screenplay that almost every “deal” is done on credit.  Constantly Franky and others buy and sell everything from drugs, to firearms, to mobile phones, and on almost every occasion, when it’s time for money to change hands, the buyer is asking for credit with a promise to pay soon.  It’s like the entire black economy of the movie is nothing more than numbers floating in the air, based on and handshakes and promises.  Which makes it only hit harder when the very real, very mortal consequences begin to bare down on Bodina’s Franky.

One thing I really liked about Pusher is its objectivity.  This is no cautionary tale about the pitfalls of a life of crime or drug use.  But at the same time, it’s in no way a glorification of any of that either.  It looks like an accurate, fly on the wall account of people doing a particular job and the bullshit that comes with it.  Well, it looks accurate to my white bread, suburban, upper working / lower middle class eyes, anyway.  Franky is never portrayed as a hero or tragic victim.  He’s a man doing what he thinks needs to be done it.  He’s not misunderstood, he’s not struggling with any inner demons, he’s just dealing with decisions he’s made and the consequences that come with them.

As pretentious as it may sound to say, the camera really is almost its own character in Pusher.  Constantly in motion, even when the characters it’s shooting are not, the camera work goes beyond hand held.  Almost every single scene starts and finishes with the camera following someone in and out of the given location.  This might be one of the only movies I’ve ever seen where we see characters’ backs almost as much as their faces.  But this non-stop motion really does add to the movie, making the viewer almost as anxious and on edge as Franky when the walls start to close in around him.

This is a really impressive effort from a first time director and you can see hints of where he was headed with something like Drive more than fifteen years later.  And maybe the Scandinavian setting, characters and costumes threw me off, but it doesn’t look fifteen years at old at all, it has aged really well.  Seriously though, if you haven’t seen Bronson, see it first.  Then give Pusher a go if you have time.


Directed By – Nicolas Winding Refn
Written By – Jens Dahl, Nicolas Winding Refn

MOVIE REVIEW | Martin & Lewis: At War With the Army (1950)

MPW-43199

Gee, film makers sure had it easy back in the day.  At War With the Army shows comedy teams could become huge stars and massive box office draws with almost no comedy.  I’m not above big, broad, physical comedy, but even the dumbest jokes need some sort of context, some sort of reason to be there.  But it seems sixty years ago, the combination of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin was reason enough to throw in am obvious, predictable gag, no need for story or further justification.


This is the first Martin and Lewis joint I’ve seen, it was also the first to have them in the starring roles.  They’d been featured in two movies as a duo before, but this was their big premier as the main characters.  Which makes me wonder, how did they become such a phenomenon as a comedy double?  Because why would anyone watch At War With the Army and think they deserve another shot at the title?

That makes it sound like I think this is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  That’s not the case at all.  It’s just one of the laziest movies I’ve ever seen.  Jerry Lewis making a silly face and doing some amazing physical comedy that directly relates to the story being told… Hilarious.  Jerry Lewis making a silly face and doing some really lazy, thrown together physical comedy for no discernable reason… Confusing at best.  Dean Martin playing Lewis’ self-appointed superior who’s arrogance hides a genuine affection for Lewis deep down… That can lead to some laughs and nice bit of heart at the end.  Dean Martin basically being a selfish prick and never really attaining any redemption… Not really a great basis for comedy gold.

The weirdest part is, it’s not as if there’s no story to hang the jokes on.  This thing has story and exposition out the wazoo.  It piles on the characters, mix ups and misunderstandings in an attempt at farce, but it never really holds on tight enough to any of these aspects to keep them in check.  Instead characters, scenarios, loose threads and plot points float in when needed, are completely forgotten about when the next one comes along and pop up again out of nowhere when needed again.

In typical farce fashion, all the loose ends, quick fix solutions and lies converge on one hilarious point for the big climax.  Only, they don’t.  I had long stopped caring about any character enough to keep track of who was who,  where they fell into this wacked out world of wacky wackiness and who knew what about who.  Spinning plates isn’t so impressive if you let each one fall and smash behind you as you start the next one a-spinnin’.

The funny thing is (hey, I found a funny thing about this movie.  Bonus!) that even though I found At War With the Army pretty pointless, it has made me want to see other Martin and Lewis collaborations.  Because if they went on to become such an iconic duo in comedy, what followed must have been amazing to make people forget about this pile of mediocrity.

Watch the full movie streaming for free HERE
Directed By – Hal Walker
Written By – James B Allardice