Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bounty Killer

  It's movies like this that just... make my day. While the art of exploitation may not be the general norm these days, there are movies and people who try to keep it alive. Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and maybe even Eli Roth are some of the few who did so, quite famously. Yet, the indie/low-budget/straight-to-video market is chock full of wannabe exploitation movies. Movies that try to be grindhouse... but never really get there. Oddly enough, the original genre was born out of greed. These movies weren't made for the fun of it, or for the 'art' of it. They were made to make as much money as possible. But in the 70's and 80's, you had to compete with box office juggernauts like Jaws, and Star Wars. So, what do you do...?

  Of course, you obviously make ripoffs of those movies, with a few... changes. Mainly, boat-loads of nudity, tons of gore, and some of the most off the wall insane concepts you could possibly imagine. Sometimes exploitation movies didn't directly ripoff any specific movie, but you'd be hard pressed to say the concept, look, or general story wasn't painfully familiar, if you could only put your finger on it... Often times these movies simply took a very tried-and-true concept, maybe even overused and made it it's bread and butter. The rape/revenge genre for example. Tons of exploitation movies boil down to that. Thriller: A Cruel Picture, I Spit on Your Grave, Savage Streets, Ms.45, I could go on...

  The point is, exploitation movies sought to lure in a crowd by being vulgar, graphic, in-your-face, and... well... exploitative. You could see in these sleaze-fests what you couldn't see in mainstream movies. They had no holds barred, and without anyone much trying, they were often a hell of a lot of fun. Usually because they were unpredictable and overly violent. Simple, bloody, to-the-point, fun. If X villain killed your family, you grabbed a bunch of guns, and killed him to death. What's not to love? For some people... nothing. It's not their bag. I get it. It's not for everyone. These movies are glorified trash. Even fans admit that. But there's something irrepressibly fun about exploitation movies. Which is why filmmakers romanticize the genre even to this day.

  It's become something of an artsy sub-genre of movies because nowadays, you have to replicate the look of how exploitation movies looked back then, or at least replicate the atmosphere and design of things. Back in the 70's and 80's, these movies were grainy, dirty looking, and low budget. That stuck with the genre like white on rice. So when guys like Rodriguez and Tarantino made their movies, they of course replicated the dirt, grain, and grime. You just had to. Unfortunately, not all efforts are as successful. Some movies over-complicate things, or overuse the grain filter, or use CGI too much (which REALLY kills the experience) and it just... doesn't feel right. Lemme tell you something, low budget CGI is ugly, clunky, and could only possibly be seen as nostalgic in maybe another 20 years. So when these wannabe exploitation movies have like... CGI blood... it's lame. Fail.

  I get tired of getting my hopes up for some of these movies, and since so many of them sail under my radar, I rarely touch any of the new exploitation movies. Then this movie came along... I happened to like the lead actors, so I thought to myself, I give it five minutes- if it hasn't hooked me by then... I'm turning it off and going back to bed. As if it read my mind and said "Chill out bro, we got this..." it hooked me immediately. The movie opened with a big bloody shootout in a bar. Blood? Not CGI? Check. Beautiful woman who's in a lead role wearing impractically sexy clothing? Check. Ruggedly handsome lead actor who shoots a lot of guns? Check. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. This was promising. Yet it could have gone so wrong...
and didn't.

  This movie is like The Road Warrior (a genre classic in anyone's book) and Mr. & Mrs.Smith, smashed together. It has all the trappings of a fantastically fun exploitation flick and good looking stars with plenty of chemistry between them. The concept is a bit wonky, but like any good grindhouse flick- it's almost unbelievable yet... scarily enough, could actually happen. It brings to mind the state of society as seen in the movie Death Race 2000. A society so desensitized to carnage and death, it became a national pastime. Completely ridiculous, no?  Yet... we enjoy movies like that, don't we? Such meaty food for thought. In a similar manner, Bounty Killer shows us a future where big corporations ended up controlling the world- overruling governments, and starting business wars between each other. Literal wars. I found it funny how brand name corporations brought about the nuclear apocalypse and not warring governments. Yet, are they really any different when all is said and done? More meaty food for thought!

  Yet, the movie isn't a thinking man's movie. It's a movie where people get chopped in half, decapitated, shot to pieces, stabbed in the eyeball, explode, and ultimately die in various horrible yet awesome ways. This is why you come to exploitation movies! The killing! What else? This movie is spectacular in it's gratuitous violence. Few low budget movies have the guts to forego CGI blood, which is definitely cheaper these days, and use loads of real fake blood. Real... fake... blood. It's a funny phrase, but a necessary distinction, albeit one I'm sad I have to make. CGI blood, just... shouldn't be a thing. If it's existence is necessary, it wasn't meant to be used for something so trivial as shooting someone in the chest onscreen. More or less, it's about believe-ability. You have to buy into what you see on the screen to a certain extent. Sure, bright red blood isn't exactly realistic- but it is tangible, and as far as something that exists in reality, and is on set, being sprayed all over the actors... it has a certain gravitas to it that can still make you cringe. CGI blood... takes you out of the experience. It just looks extra fake, to the point where it doesn't even look like it's there. So very bad.

  Bounty Killer uses real fake blood. A LOT of real fake blood. This made me smile, and the sheer variety of ways in which our protagonists kill the bad guys. Oh boy. So much fun. Yet despite the desert-punk, post-apocalyptic, motorcycling, gun-toting, good time this movie is- there are a few drawbacks I'd be remiss if I didn't point out. First, there is a lot of CGI usage. Understandably so though. Since matte painting and miniatures are such dead art forms, hiring people to do that stuff for you now could be insanely expensive. Especially when you can hire some college dude to whip up a serviceable background or helicopter shot on Photoshop for next to nothing. This is why I'm not holding it against the movie. It doesn't feel like they were copping out, but more like they had budget restraints. I can understand that. To be fair, they do a damned good job of trying to blend the CGI bits and pieces in to plenty of practical effects. Most of it is really well done. Great job.

  Secondly, you guys had Gary Busey... and wasted him. The granddaddy of scenery chewing, and he gets one little scene where he does next to nothing. This guy could've been walking, talking, gold in a movie like this! Yet oddly enough, he seems to be the one person sleepwalking through his screentime, all five minutes of it. Shame on whoever's fault this was. For once, Busey isn't funny or outrageous. He walks into the movie, and is forgettable five minutes later. Matthew Marsden does a fantastic job as the leading guy. He has the gruff post-apocalyptic hero shtick down to a T. He looks good attached to the trigger of a gun, and thankfully, that's where he spends most of the movie. This movie is full of action, as any good exploitation action flick should be. Gunfight after gunfight, each one eclipsing the last. It's a thing of beauty. And then there's car chases through the desert so friggin cool that they would have Max Rockatansky sending flowers.

  Lest I forget to mention Christian Pitre. She is a quintessential exploitation lady of action. Strangely enough though I can't find a damn thing about the actress online. A bare bones iMDB page, no wikipedia page at all, and only a handful of credits to her name. Shame. She's amazing. I do think though she's a bit older than her character was supposed to be, and sometimes it showed and was odd, but it wasn't a cardinal sin or anything. She got into the role, got bloody, dirty, and all messed up... repeatedly. As much of a star as Marsden, if not more, she was a shining delight to watch in this movie. There was even a comic relief guy who wasn't unbearable. I want to fault the movie for including him, because exploitation movies didn't really intentionally inject humor into their movies. They ended up being unintentionally funny, which is something Black Dynamite understood in spades. 

  Yet, I can't fault Bounty Killer for this, firstly because the guy is actually funny, secondly because this movie walks the line. It doesn't employ film grain or anything and it's not overly gimmicky of being an exploitation movie. It just is. It's not trying to be a grainy, drive-in, bloodfest from the 70's, anymore than the exploitation movies in the 70's were trying to spawn a retro-cool sub-genre. Bounty Killer is simply inspired by those movies, influenced by them, and fueled by them. It has no problem existing in 2013 though. More stupid fun movies should be like this. It knows it's entirely batshit crazy and off-the-wall, and like any good movie in the genre does- it embraces it. 

There's a scene in the movie (semi-spoilery but not really?) where the villain is trying to coerce the hero into joining her- someone knocks on the door, and the villain says "We're in the middle of a meeting!" Of course the person knocks the door down and it's our hero's leading lady. Who of course, promptly punches the villain in the face with a quip. The hero then says... "I would've said 'this meeting is over!'"
Which is exactly what I was hoping would be said. If you thought the same thing, then undoubtedly, you'll love this movie. If you rolled your eyes and groaned, stay far away. 

No comments:

Post a Comment