okay, so first of all, right off the bat. let’s get this out of the way: “a cure for wellness” did not make the cut for the zine. this is for two reasons which are somehow not at polar opposite ends of the movie review spectrum: it’s very beautiful and compositionally competent. the costuming walks that thin line in capturing a sense of both mundanity and unease in all the bleached white uniforms and scrubs without giving in too much to one or the other. these locations they’ve scouted give a sense of isolation and insolation, with the tight hallways and symmetrical architecture. all this in effect creates a very claustrophobic feeling movie, which i feel is very appropriate for a movie which revolves around, and hardly leaves, a single creepy location. no one is slacking in their performances (some are working harder than others and dane dehaan zero charisma in this role but its fine).

its also insanely boring, insipid as shit and the plot is fucking stupid. i’m actually not sure what the hell happened with this movie. it’s an anomaly to me. everyone who worked on it appears to be totally average movie makers who tried to box above their weight class in a major way. this movie was trying to Be something. in that way it is kind of interesting, but it is absolutely NOT entertaining enough to recommend to people in good faith. it is cursed with an absurd run-time only get funny once or twice before barreling full steam ahead in the last 30 minutes.

the person presumably responsible for what it looks like, cinematographer bojan bazelli, has worked on nothing i’ve seen except for “boxing helena” (1993) (which i hated), hairspray (2007) (absolutely unremarkable filmmaking, maybe even leaning toward bad), and “the ring” (2002) (probably his best effort but its just like. okay). the writer has no notable credits and gore verbinski has graced us with a lifetime of terrible movies (starting with the 1997 “mouse hunt”) before winning an oscar for “rango” because there wasn’t a disney or pixar movie that year. these guys all got together and decided “what if we made an artsy psychological horror film?” and…to their credit…they got halfway there. they thought they could bamboozle me just by shoving film through my eyes for nearly 3 hours until i was overloaded with information. but im too powerful for them and saw through their ruse because i’m insane.

[begrudgingly] that’s pretty cool gore

the writing in this movie is outstandingly terrible. like we’ll hit all the individual components here because this movie is like a pale, ethereal, slippery soup made up of many stupid ingredients but let’s start with the shit they hit you with right off the bat. justin haythe writes his evil corporate glenngary glen ross wannabes with the grace and authenticity of a literal child. i’ve seen episodes of “riverdale” with more convincing suits. our main character is a boiler-plate business asshole whose introduction to the audience is literally shuffling numbers around in excel for evil reasons. it’s so fucking lucky for haythe that we get the fuck out of this setting immediately because any more time spent here might have. actually you know what i was going to say it would have ruined the movie but who cares and how could it have..

it’s a completely functional story, which is usually a major hurdle a psychological horror movie has to cross, so at least i can give it that. is it good? uh. no. its not bad either, it just is. our protagonist is a business guy (dane dehaan) who did business crime so his business bosses threaten to give him up to the business police unless he retrieves a business guy from a decidedly non-business sanitarium overseas. unfortunately, he gets owned big time by a deer while cruising in the swiss alps and flies through his windshield into a big ol’ clumsy leg cast at the super special clinic he was looking for. enter the mysterious doctor volmer (jason isaacs, who is really playing this role lol. he’s having fun being a naughty little mysterious man…hee hee! hoo hoo!). he encourages him to drink plenty of……water….hehehe…[exits enticingly]

isaacs is great in his role but for whatever reason the entire cast was directed to speak like they were in a public library. you really gotta lean in to hear anyone in this damn movie. there’s not really any jump scares so at least they’re not cheap enough to hit you with that, but then it begs the question as to why? you have to struggle to hear the persistent squeak of our protagonist’s crutches over the soundtrack CONSTANTLY going full ear-drum popping dolby BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR that overtakes the soundtrack every 15 minutes.

our business boy finds his business man (harry groener) who refuses to come home in order to cure his non-specific illness he’s determined himself to have. that’s the psychological part of the horror you see. the water from the wells and springs at the sanitarium is believed to have very, very vague healing powers that the many elderly patients are gaga for. he also meets a very mysterious and wispy girl named hannah (mia goth, who i feel a little bad for her since she keeps getting stuck with these “creepy girl” roles because she has pale eyebrows) who is clearly under socialized from having lived in the sanitarium her whole life waiting for her dad to come back from getting cigarettes or whatever. 

our business lad, lockhart, is dumped into an enormous tub of water after he hallucinates and passes out in a very public way that was a little too close to my real life for MY comfort. the water vat is a treatment for what ails him; like sensory deprivation except there’s a huge window letting in a bunch of light on the side of the tank and he has to be submerged under the water with a snorkle, so nothing like it at all actually. this is where shit gets hysterical. please prepare your body, mind and soul for the next sentence which will reveal to you the unspeakable horror which awaits you in “a cure for wellness”.

our hero is menaced by a hundred eels (who just kind of gently swim around him while he screams and flails) while the guy who is supposed to be watching him is literally masturbating to a nurse who just decided today was more of a tits out kinda day.

just like grab them and tie them in a knot dude.

his stupid flailing pulls his snorkel out and he almost drowns. like at no point were the eels a danger to him in this instance. he almost killed himself because he saw creatures he wasn’t expecting. frankly. i wouldn’t do that. i would simply enjoy the creatures.

lockhart survives and reconnects with hannah, who is the only person not allowed to splash in the waters due to “her condition”, which is just Victorian Wasting Waif Disease at first glance. they sneak away on her bike into town which is FORBIDDEN and stop in the least friendly bar i’ve seen in a motion picture that isn’t a biker or trucker bar. the whole time we’re here, the soundtrack is blaring german (?) post-punk over the jukebox and it looks like a place where you go to be crucified by the local extremely niche pagan cult specific to the town.

wow big crowd tonight

look, they make plot progress here but all of it is so minimal and so uninteresting. it’s shockingly banal and cliché; lockhart runs into a kid drawing a ~scary picture~ and talks to the town vet (~who is covered in blood~) about his suspicions that the sanitarium might not be on the up and up! turns out the place used to be owned by a baron obsessed with creating a pure bloodline and his sister-wife, who was infertile. they both came here seeking a cure for her “condition”. meanwhile, hannah (who he left in the bar) flirts with womanhood by applying someone else’s lipstick that she found in a public restroom?! GIRL THAT’S YUCKY DISGUSTING

the vet cuts open a dead cow in front of lockhart and a bunch of eels fall out. ahhh heed this warning that this might happen to you!! after witnessing this frankly insanely fucked up scene that would have me questioning whether or not satan is real, lockhart runs back to the bar to… call his workplace so he can ask them if his business partner here at the sanitarium had any pre-existing health conditions. now, here’s a thing about employers: there’s this little thing called the ADA that makes it so they specifically can’t ask you about that. so why would they know that. im not trying to be smarter than the movie here but it’s a weird detail when it ends up honestly not mattering. this would have been a great scene for the cutting room floor in this THREE HOUR MOVIE.

lockhart freaks out at hannah over the Mystery of the Sanitarium instead of telling his employer to send a fucking car and a plane and the fbi and the guys that dealt with waco. instead he makes the wis 20 move of  starting a bar fight in a leg cast. 

i’m starting to think this guy is fucking stupid.

oh shit! the saca tripas! used to gut sheep and other warm blooded animals!!!

the MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR VOLMER pops in just in time to save them and bring them back to the sanitarium. lockhart should have maybe refused to leave. that’s what i would have done. but maybe i am not psychologically horrified enough yet. the eels didn’t do it for me. you know what is giving me the fucking willies are these scenes between the spooky doctor volmer and hannah, who is pining for her missing father. the unpleasantly horny doctor volmer makes a few REALLY bad moves on this explicitly underage girl while i check how much runtime i have left.

our protagonist starts to investigate the bowels of the sanitarium, where the movie honest to god does the room rattling BRRRRRRRRRRRR to reveal a woman in a laundry room witting a stick. two seconds later we see two nurses punch an old man in the head to no fanfare. the movie is starting to go off the rails a little but it’s not enough to make the movie worth it yet. we will be stuck in this speed for another 40 minutes. it’s a little better, but not quite where i need it to be.

he meets one of his allies in the sanitarium, an older woman who earlier enticed him with a crossword puzzle comprised of plot points, who gives him a little history lesson while lying on a slab like a corpse. legends say that the baroness was once infertile…but cured…through strange and mysterious means! means that apparently involved a fuck ton of dead peasants. once the remaining villagers found the bodies, they burned down the manor and killed the baroness. just to add insult to injury, they cut out the baronesses’ fetus and chucked it in a well where it apparently thrived long enough to be rescued. haha well baby

speaking of drowning in a well lockhart finds a horrible room full of naked old people soup.

ding-dongs unconfirmed but theres boobs

he spies his old pal pembroke the business man but that bitch just floats in the soup. he can’t be helped. business boy hustles back to the main hallway filling his pants with terror induced shit where he is intercepted by……THE EVIL DOCTOR VOLMER!!! YAY!!! the incomparable doctor volmer takes this time to show off his cartoonishly malevolent dentistry skills by just drilling straight through his tooth after strapping him down into what can only be described a dental bdsm device. oopsie!! tee hee!!

lmfao come on

there’s a wholly useless scene where lockhart tries to go to the cops that progresses nothing and adds no emotional depth to the film. this is truly the most useless scene in the film. if its supposed to underline the helplessness of our protagonist, i’m not sure it helps or hinders. our idiot protagonist had access to a phone and used it to ask his boss about his coworker’s dietary needs. i dont really need to be shown why the cops are useless. there’s already a good reason why our protagonist can’t be saved from the sanitarium: he’s fucking dumb.

it does have a hysterical moment where they bring pembroke into the room to prove he’s alive, implying that they brought him with them somehow knowing they’d need him. he was in the soup like thirty minutes ago so he probably had to dry up too.

we have forty minutes left and here the movie starts to offer us pockets of hope: our protagonist starts to hallucinate. you might be thinking “well, that could be spooky” but what if told you were treated to the delightful sight of watching a man in a leg cast rip a toilet full of eels out of the floor. the handle had the audacity to jiggle ominously at the camera. an eel peeks its head out of the bowl. it’s an all-timer honestly but it’s also only like a minute long. in no way enough to justify a three hour movie.

lockhart succumbs to life in the sanitarium. he goes in the soup but does NOT get his dick out. he’s wearing VERY conservative swim trunks like a bitch. in a moment of dawning realization, he finally tears off his cast to reveal his leg was fine the whole time (something i feel like would have been obvious much earlier??). 

thirty-five minutes left. the movie is now going to go full speed. hannah puts on the lipstick to symbolize her womanhood while lockhart discovers that the sanitarium is feeding the eels mummified corpses. get this: gore verbinski is about to blow your stupid mind with these sick editing tricks. you see, while lockhart witnesses the bloody feeding frenzy of the terrifying…eels, hannah gets her first period in a pool she walks into for some reason and starts bleeding like someone turned on a tap. i get its supposed to be a visual spooky aesthetic choice but…c’maaaaan. anyway the eels are like “yum yum blood” and swoop in. like literally i think they’re trying to swoop into her pussy based on her defensive maneuvers.

you need medical attention

let’s check in with our hero. oh he’s fighting off a henchman but don’t worry, he won. the eels meanwhile have abandoned the quest for pussy and instead are just circling her ominously. been there! hannah, wet and bloody, runs in and ruins a fancy banquet that the TWISTED DOCTOR VOLMER is holding for his patients! lockhart also wants to ruin the banquet and makes an impassioned plea: the doctor is keeping you sick! the water makes you dehydrated until you’re mummified! you’re dying and you don’t even know!!! literally everyone gets up and beats the shit out of him. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

it’s plot resolution time. i’m going to try to explain this but if it doesn’t make sense it’s not my fault, im just the reporter. we are given an explanation for the spooky occurrences: the water at the sanitarium is very toxic to humans…unless it can be filtered through them (process unknown). im not sure how something can be extremely toxic but also can be filtered through them over a period of time. many things are unclear. the result is a little bit of juice that gives you a freakishly long life. the mischievious doctor volmer then floods our protagonist’s mouth with eels. as you do.

now for a creepy wedding ceremony between the fifty year old doctor and the almost certainly not legal girl. i dont know what age you got your period at but for me it wasn’t even remotely close to eighteen.

if you showed this to someone they would think it was a real movie

the honeymoon begins instantly. and his super-hot come on is to gesture at the bed he’s dragged her to and say “this is where you started”.

that’s right. the fucked up and jokerfied doctor volmer is hannah’s FATHER!!!!!! oh, great. and he’s tying her down and talking about how he used to do this with his sister. i fucking hate germans, man. anyway whattttt the lascivious doctor volmer is the baron and hannah is the fetus that was chucked in the well and they’ve been living for a long time using the people eel juice??? oh no her boobs are out.

lockhart figures this all out when he finds a photo with a lot of important exposition hidden in it. he has like a jimmy neutron brain blast and saves us the trouble of going through this again.

with fifteen minutes left in the movie, the depraved doctor volmer tears his fucking face off revealing a bunch of green goosebumps goo underneath. i dunno! i laughed, i didn’t know what the fuck what happening. now this movie decided to get good all of the sudden? why now? why now after 2 hours and 35 minutes!! and then lockhart lights him on fucking fire!! it’s great! but not for long.

verbinski insults me and his audience by cutting between the incomprehensible doctor volmer flailing frantically due to his fire problem and the wedding guests dancing in the ballroom. we get it; there’s one thing happening, but at the same time a bad thing is happening that is visually similar to that first thing. i get it gore!! you need a second hook!

oops, we didn’t count on the undefeatable doctor volmer actually being a terminator. the fire did nothing except light everything on fire. now you have two problems. actually three, because the entire sanitarium is in flames and not just this sex room. hannah solves one problem when she hits her dad-husband with a shovel and the unfuckable doctor volmer dies an ironic death at the hands of his precious eels and daughter-wife.

hannah and lockhart escape! they are fleeing! our heroes have taken hannah’s bicycle and are riding it to freedom-

fuck!

you thought this movie was ending for the 20th time but you’re wrong. the people in the car are his bosses from new york (??) and they get out and yell at him while he’s bleeding in the street. we finally get our scene where lockhart tells his bosses that he’s “feeling much better” (get it? eh? eh?) and then he skids away on his little bike. i’m not sure how his teeth come back but they’re here for this final shot where he grins into the night. how did the teeth come back.

this is a movie of contrasts. it’s so fucking long and asks so much of the audience. it is too boring to recommend to people, too competently made to be sold to people solely on the basis of it being a bad movie (if this movie had a worse budget it would have been a whole different experience lol), and while there are some genuinely “what the fuck” great belly laugh moments in it, they are too few and far in between.

i spent 6 hours of my life on this movie watching it twice. imagine how i feel.

 

apparently this movie, which is impossible to find unless you order it from someone who i can only assume (based on their eclectic collections) must display a type of mania for movies that you have to open a pineal gland to obtain, has re-entered the zeitgeist. thanks to random news outlets reminding people that it, at minimum, exists, people are now aware of this movie. and now, you are aware of this movie. it’s a movie you can be aware of. that’s the most i can say about it.

i was immediately brutally bait-and-switched by this movie during the first literal minute during which i assumed i was going to be treated to one of my favorite lost movie arts: the song created about the movie for the movie. but it turned out to be the start of an absolutely nothing of a gag that went on for about 40 seconds too long, which caused me to slump back in my chair and start to decompose from a combination of disappointment and the deliberate assault on my ears. the setting…da greatest city in da world: new york. the credits, which play out over “city sounds” of construction, traffic and people yelling, offers a life raft for me to cling to: a listing for a bird trainer. oh more than one life raft! costumes designed by…legendary fashion designer edith head?!

before the first 5 minutes are up, you are subjected to the hackiest series of juxtaposed images put to screen sincerely probably since 1968. this might have been the high water bar for hacks for a solid span of movie history. it’s the kind of observational humor that barely counts as an observation. check it out, women be shoppin, men be drinkin, college students be radicalizin, and beat poets be weird. all observations that were staler than a year-old crouton by the time this movie came out and by now have aged into the audio-visual equivalent of one of those maggot cheeses.

mary tyler moore is SLUMMING IT in this movie. my god. she looks and acts far too well to be forced to have the screenwriter’s trash drop out of her mouth. this has the stench of older men trying to write “youth culture” ground into it. it’s no offensive, just grating on my senses. oh thank god, the bird is here and it’s a hell of a bird.

turns out the bird is a carrier for a disease that causes euphoria and bad greek accents, if the actors are anything to go by. the bird, once caged safely on the ship it had infected, is released by the giddy crew to wreck havok on new york. meanwhile, mary tyler moore and her increasingly wacky beatnik compatriots are having a d-tier sitcom level conversation about the function of art (“to reflect misery in society”….well that explains this freakin movie!!) while the bird spreads it germs above them. sounds like this is going to be a movie where we see sad or angry people become uncharacteristically happy over and over again as the single gag the movie has to offer us. i guess we’ll find out in due time. 

boy if there’s one thing i can comment on with absolute certainty about this movie it’s that the ADR stinks. ADR is tough to pull off in the best of circumstances (it’s a useful tool in editing!) and with this movie every ADR line is a total clunker that seems to have been inexplicably added after the fact to the detriment of the film. example: as one beatnik waters his weed he’s growing on the rooftop, he says, (“says”) “i’m going to put up a sign: keep off the grass!”. this is not a joke or even an observation. it’s a reference to a mundane thing irl with no apparent connection to his current thoughts or actions except through the most tenuous connections.

a health official confirms that the virus is spread through the respiratory system and infects the brain, which the mayor of new york shrugs off with a “whatever”, so at least that part is true to life. this is also the least new york mayor ive ever seen. no way is this guy an italian. he’s like a fucking protestant or something. if you look at him you’ll know exactly that i mean.

anyway mary tyler moore’s pal (george peppard) starts to feel a little better about his life instead of acting like a cartoonish and clownish caricature of a tortured artist so she raises the panic alarm among her fellow weirdoes (who are on, get this, UNEMPLOYMENT!!!!!!) before hitting the street for a doctor. on the way, she runs into a cop who clues her into the connection between the bird and her boyfriend’s newly cured depression. if only looking at a funny bird could cure you from your various brain problems instantly in real life.

apparently the virus does have one little quirk, which is that, much like cordyceps, it makes you want to spread it to everyone in a nearby vicinity. in order to achieve this and to have an excuse for blasting people’s faces with bursts of air exploding from his mouth, peppard disguises himself as a the german philosopher hero of the beatniks. the joke is german people talk loud and forcefully. lots of pop in those consonants in the german language. i am “laughing”.

as an aside, the leader of the beatniks throws out randomly that they only use first names, because when the world ends, first names will be last names. i just wanted to make a note of that.

in a scene that feels like it’s fresh from every dsa meeting ever held: mary tyler moore is sexually harassed by peppard-as-the-german and then is told she has bourgeois sexuality when she rejects him. he forces a kiss out of her, reveals himself to be peppard and then he bails as she chases him out. 

all the beatniks awaken the next morning, ready to become wackier than ever. my stomach hurts a little from anticipation because i know what’s coming is certainly going to be, as they say, “cringe”.

the mayor is recommending people wear masks when they go outside. im starting to feel exhausted watching this on a base level i haven’t experienced with a movie before. i feel like i’m listening to a waiter explain what the specials are tonight at a restaurant that only ever has meatloaf every night. the uncomfortably featureless mayor is downplaying the amount of infections in order to prevent public panic and to maintain the illusion of control. the low–grade fever i’ve been nursing all day is starting to bubble over into something more severe as a immunization response to what i’m seeing and hearing

mary tyler moore and peppard show up to the crowded media event revolving around the mayor’s cowardly flight from the city in a fruitless attempt to encourage everyone to catch the virus and breath all over everyone they can. she describes how she and the art collective secretly spread the virus all over new york by deception, infiltrating distribution programs intended to provide sanitary masks to people and hosting crowded events so they could attend them. i’m starting to feel a little ill from retrospective whiplash.

unlike the novel coronavirus, all this disease has done is benefit society. very lucky for all of these absolute freaks. the least believable part of this movie is that no one has shot the bird yet. but he did just do a funny trick where he flipped a grape into his mouth, so i’m glad this movie is not a 1:1 re-creation of real life.

i’m upset realizing that there’s still somehow 50 minutes left in this movie. after 20 minutes dedicated to a long, boring, absolutely nothing of a scene where they try to sneak the bird out by disguising it as mary tyler moore’s pregnant stomach (for reasons unclear to me, the audience, and likely the screenwriters as well since we aren’t given one), i realized that what i had been subjecting myself to this entire time was a movie that had spun out of ideas immediately after the conception of the premise. this movie has meat, no bones, absolutely no substance. it could be a 7 min SNL sketch in a low tier episode at best. i’m shocked this script got financing. my god there’s still 25 minutes. just let the bird fly out the window or something. what the hell.

the latter half of this movie really drives it home but this is an impressively ugly movie even for the time. the set direction is particularly wretched; the mopey beatniks/art crowd live in an apartment completely lacking in any semblance of aesthetic sensibilities or any sense of how to use a space to establish characters. the space is supposed to be both messy and artsy but it just looks like there was a sale at the used grandma furniture warehouse and the artists pooled together to spend a reasonable amount of money on things they needed instead of slowly accumulating a hoarder’s house worth of assorted weird crap they either find or make. 

the only exception to this is this dresser:

like what the fuck is that! lmfao! i love to see him!

the final third of this movie takes place in a concrete bunker marking the lowest point of the movie visually. the scenery is grey, the clothing of the government suits are dull, and a solid 10 minutes is dedicated to looking at a black and white tv set of mary tyler moore and peppard about to go to slam town.

the virus is cured because the u.s. government has a vested interest in keeping people from uniting or treating each other well. the end. no moral. the movie literally ends with the threat of restarting the pregnancy bird gag. what a nightmare.

unlike “hudson hawk”, i don’t think i can bring myself to re-bore myself by pushing play on this movie more than once. it was a struggle to get through after the 20 minute mark passed and i realized i had seen everything this movie had to offer me and was staring down the barrel of 70 minutes of mirthless comedic sleepwalking. is there any despair more uniquely agonizing than having to outlast the run-time of a boring movie? the last time i watched a clock this closely i was still working a desk job. i could feel the precious moments of my young life slip away from me and thought about all the stuff i could be doing instead of watching this movie. like uhh. ah shit right, pandemic. well, i could have been playing videogames and smelting virtual iron or whatever. or trying to prevent my royal son from fucking his mother and throwing my kingdom into chaos.

i suppose the question that every movie raises by the nature of existing is “why was this made”? for movies that are entertaining or informative to watch, the answer is quickly evident. but this movie is neither of those things. why was this movie made? there’s an air of aloof certainty wafting over this movie like a bad odor that makes it seem like everyone involved was thinking about a pandemic in america in the abstract. i can’t read people’s minds, obviously. i don’t know what they were thinking when they made this movie. but i would put money down on at least once facet of the creation process involving a smug assertion that this would NEVER happen here.

having to exist in the current reality we have today while watching this movie is a deflating experience. the attempt to sugar up and dress up the fun of a pandemic has been retroactively spoiled both because real life is a bitch and because this movie sucked ass to begin with.

holy shit i just went back to edit this and completely forgot edith head was the costume designer. what a fucking waste.

don’t watch this movie. it has nothing for anyone.

im a mere 30 years old, so i was not around really to experience firsthand bruce willis’ clumsy start and stop with his early career and thank god for it. watching this felt a little voyeuristic. i mean…i feature a lot of vanity projects in things but this is a tragic vanity project. it’s not so deeply embarrassing in its sheer incompetence in the way that many vanity projects are and i think that’s because those tend to be self funded; instead, this whatever-the-fuck movie was a means by which bruce willis got to demonstrate that he was a…renaissance man. as long as the movie allowed him to do x (story), y (sing) and z (act) it could be about whatever.

and it is truly about whatever.

the movie is framed as through we are being read a storybook by a narrator (william conrad) who, with all due respect, must have been told to read his lines after being shown them for the first time. leonardo da vinci, in a classic italian blunder, accidentally invents a machine that turns lead into gold instead of lead into bronze. for no discernable reason, he smashes a crystal used in the machine into multiple pieces. the way the crystal breaks is like, remember in legends of the hidden temple, when they had to put together a statue that was made of multiple pieces? it’s like that. very clean cuts, mr. da vinci.

cut to the modern day, where the narrator informs us that a modern day genius is just getting out on parole: a man named…hudson hawk.

hudson hawk was a cat burglar…but he’s out of the game…but he’s not. the music during these scenes is wretched. i think its really hard to get across and only bad once you notice it. i didn’t notice how deeply unpleasant it was for the first time until the scene after this one, but because i’m watching it again for a THIRD time (don’t ask) i’m noticing all the background music and it’s like someone’s chasing me around the room crinkling a little ball of tin foil in my ear. it’s like…what videogame noir music sounds like. it’s point-and-click adventure music. this is fitting, since our hero wears both a fedora AND a vest.

this was ’91, they didn’t know any better. we have to forgive them. he also has four piercings in one ear, which at the time was literally the coolest thing anyone could have or do.

hawk’s parole officer tries to rope him back into a life of crime, but hawk turns him down. once on the outside, a loud noise scares our intrepid and noble hero so he immediately panics and curls into a little ball like a baby. its okay though, its his annoying best friend: tommy “five-tone” (danny aiello). tommy “five-tone” brought him a cappuccino and buddy, let me tell you a little somethin’, hudson hawk really just wants to drink a cappuccino. that’s the wacky running gag in this movie. hope you like it because you’ll see it a lot. hope its your favorite.

willis has this bizarre inflection he puts on his sentences where he screams. that’s not an inflection i guess. or maybe it is. anyway, let me try to impart to you, a person who has probably not seen this movie, what this particular screech sounds like and when it’s activated. i’ve heard bruce willis talk, so i know he knows how to talk like a person, and i know he lived in new york bartending for a while, so i know he knows what a new york city native sounds like. and in spite of having a fairly gravelly voice in real life, willis is purposefully putting on a shriller affectation that, when excited or agitated, rises slowly by oscillating with every word.

brandy GOAT cheese PIZZA?!”

at his own restaurant (i think), hawk is accosted by the mafia (one of whom is the always terrible frank stallone), who force him to rob an auction house, the same job his parole officer wanted him to do. the music, is bad.

after this we are treated to an excruciatingly long scene where hawk is quizzed by his friend tommy on the lengths of various songs, which he does repeatedly like it’s an impressive trick. hawk is TROUBLED by being forced into this job. “do you think you still got it, eddie?” asks tommy “five-tones”.

“yeah” says hawk. “that’s that i’m afraid of.” pbbbbbtttt!!!

the heist is edited strangely. at some point in the creation process of this movie they decided they wanted to lean toward making it take place in a cartoon-ish universe and, first of all, bad job, and two, in their futile attempt to achieve this goal, they flooded the storybook world of “hudson hawk”  with the hanna-barbera sound fx reel. i don’t know if it was intentional, but the heavy use of ADR in this and subsequent scenes feels exactly as cheap as it must have been to do. it’s impossible not to notice how much those guys are in a sound booth somewhere.

willis and aiello then proceed to pull off the most annoying heist in human history. in order to keep time with each other they sing bing crosby’s “swinging on a star” and both of them are fucking dreadful compared to the original, which is already annoying enough. i’ve had it stuck in my fucking head for a week. i’ve been singing it while frying potato chips like a dipshit. they steal the thing, a small-scale replica of a massive statue leonardo da vinci made of a horse, and in a clumsy edit that would have worked in a better movie, they escape from what seems like an inescapable situation. hawk passes the item off to the mafia who hand it off to a british gentleman like its a hot potato who smashes it over the head of hawk’s parole officer. inside….why it’s one of the crystal shards…

after seeing a news headline claiming his robbery was foiled, hawk decides to snoop and infiltrate the auction…with sexy results.

there he meets a hot young woman named anna (andie macdowell) and five video game bosses. two rich freaks (sandra bernhard and richard e. grant) bid for the horse but what’s this!? as the gavel strikes, the auction house explodes. or to be more accurate the gavel itself explodes. the first time i watched it, i thought the auctioneer himself exploded like a bloodless “scanners”. upon realizing this is not the case, i’m really down about this movie now. i feel like i watched a better movie before even if it was by accident.

the mafia shows up in an ambulance and drives off with hawk for reasons (?). none of this part makes any sense at all. what follows is a tortured and cacophonous car chase scene that serves as a vehicle for jokes and one-liners so hackneyed and tired, they make popsicle sticks look like the algonquin round table.

thankfully once its over the CIA or something like it puts hawk to sleep. thank god! not a moment too soon. sadly its not permanent. they only send him to rome where his secret employers, the mayflowers (the weirdo couple from the auction house), let their dog (voiced by frank welker, not a joke) suck him off. oh i just realized mrs. mayflower is masha from “the king of comedy” . that’s why i’m confused by her energy she’s bringing here lol. she never quite hits that same terrifying energy scorsese managed to coax out of her. her role isn’t grounded enough in reality. the refusal of “hudson hawk” to commit to either a cartoon universe or a grounded one has resulted in a world where there are no stakes and no threats, yet at the same time no comedy.

its happening again. its the midway point and the movie is starting to lose me. he is in rome and he is stealing another bullshit thing. i’ll have to shelve this for now and try to tackle the enigma of “hudson hawk” again tomorrow.


alright, i’m back.

the main gist and purpose of this scene really is to get the 2nd macguffin into hawk’s hands and let him rendezvous with macdowell, who as it turns out is a secret agent for the vatican working to prevent the mayflowers from making the gold machine. for some reason. i’m not sure why the vatican thinks this is their jurisdiction, but who am i to question the wild and raucous surrealist logic of “hudson hawk“? whatever. this movie is throwing everything at the wall and it’s so half-baked that nothing is sticking.

i guess during this sequence (which i still am struggling to pay attention even with fresh eyes) it would be a good time to talk about how this movie feels like an eerie pale and sickly shadow of “raiders of the lost ark“. once this movie becomes globe-trotting it becomes more evident that they were trying to capture some kind of spirit of adventure that simply cannot and will not be raised. at its core, there is no sincerity to “hudson hawk“. there is only a thin, weak, stringy heartbeat of cynical slapstick that sputters to life occasionally with a piercingly unpleasant sound or dialog. for example:

anna: it’s funny. that excites me. i seem to have a thing for sinners.

hawk: well, i seem to have a thing for sinning! check please!

hudson hawk, who got his name because a hawk is a cold wind that blows over a river and the hudson is a river uhhh somehow that relates i guess. anyway he has a bad tattoo of a hawk too. there is a “joke” here that lands like a fucking thud and i truly want to go back in time and talk to the writers and ask them how and why that one made in there. who’s idea was it? why was this scene added?? i don’t really want to talk about it because it’s quite off-color but i am intrigued in it the same way someone might be intrigued in why a serial killer does things.

at this point the movie has made a grave miscalculation in assuming the audience is full hog ass in on this wild adventure they’ve dragged us along on. the truth is i could not give less of a fuck about the exploits of hudson hawk and that horrible boor tommy “five-tone”. i hope they both fall in a pit of spikes or someone throws a hadouken at them or something.

the movie attempts to drag a series of twists and turns out to keep you “on your toes” by revealing tommy “da salami” “five-tones”‘s betrayal. however, again, this is predicated on the idea that you are invested in the idea that hudson hawk, a man with a haircut i previously thought only ps2 characters had, and tommy “five-tones” (a wretch of the lowest order, a gutter water enthusiast) had a friendship worth preserving. “the only law i cared for was friendship” tommy “five-tones”, the bastard of new york city opines to his friend, hudson hawk, who looks like an uncooked hot dog in a t-shirt, “but i broke that one too didn’t i?”

i don’t know why they dress tommy “five-tones” like a band-aid as well. that’s worth mentioning. some people in this movie get great wardrobes and some get fucked. tommy “five-tones” was cursed to walk the earth dressed like a wendy’s napkin.

hawk and “five-tones” get in a gunfight and fall ten stories onto marble and more or less dust themselves off without a scratch or an acknowledgement that their brains should be scrambled like eggs. the cops roll up and arrest them…and those cops are intercepted by the vatican…and it turns out it was all a ruse, and everyone is still friends and they meet up with anna and whatever. nothing matters. the movie comes to a screeching halt so hudson can make a series of clumsy and WEIRD passes at anna. let me also drag this review to another full stop to try to elaborate on the exquisite lunacy of this scene:

after faking their own death, they are turning in for bed. tommy “five-tones” takes the couch while hudson hawk chomps and whinnies at the bit at the mere excitement of being in proximity to anna. hawk presumes they’re going to “sleep together”. anna assumes he’s also sleeping in the living room because she is a nun.

now that is not the insane part of this, just the framework. it’s the architecture of the set itself. this apartment is an open floor plan. there are no doors. the only thing separating anna’s room and bed from the living room couch is a translucent curtain. was hudson hawk going to just bare ass fuck in front of his friend tommy “five-tones” and if so what does this mean about their friendship. this is NOT the adventure i signed up for. i am glad he strikes the fuck out. thank you anna for saving me from having to face this head on.

the CIA finds them the next morning, paralyzes them, then everyone makes fun of hudson for dating a nun. owned lol. they pulled the heist without hawk so they plan to off him since he’s outlived his usefulness. i am clapping and singing with glee at the idea. anna apparently is still useful because she knows fun factoids about leonardo da vinci. in a world before smart phones and the internet that probably was useful. i take so much for granted. this movie has really made me think…

they survive. two CIA agents die. who cares. do you? what i care about now is that a room full of adult people now demand a woman help them put together this crystal, which, if you remember, i described as being about as difficult as a puzzle designed to confound children under immense stress. in fact it has less parts than that. it’s only three pieces. this is a fisher-price toy that is blowing the minds of multiple people.

naturally of course, during what is supposed to be the climax of the movie, where my blood is supposed to be pumping and my gooses bumping, these fucking assholes start singing “side by side”. another song i liked until they truly, and unforgivingly, start butchering it like it’s sunday dinner. this movie thinks its a musical and tries to incorporate musical elements (a classic being a villain cutting in with the final word of the song; the butler with the literal assassin’s creed knives shows up to menace the dreadful tommy “five-tones”) without uhhh being a musical. there’s only two fucking bad songs in this thing thank god. i wish there were zero.

in a series of mentally taxing and displeasing scenes, hudson hawk is assaulted like a cartoon character by the head of the CIA (james coburn) while tommy “five-tones” reverts to his bestial and primal state by attempting to bite mr mayflower’s face off like a chimpanzee. anna deals with mrs. mayflower because that’s what women do in movies like this. they’re only allowed to fight other women. tommy “five-tones” fucking explodes in a fiery car crash lol. it felt great to see. i loved it.

everyone is captured again. it’s time to make gold.

for some reason hawk is the one who has to put the crystal together again despite the fact that i thought that’s why they kept anna around. reminder: this is my third watch. i still don’t know what’s happening. however, i do know that hawk sabotaged the machine by fucking with the very complicated three part crystal so it explodes. they mayflowers die horribly and face a final boss battle…butler with knives.

the fight with the butler is terrible. after being built up to be a man of elegance and ruthlessness, he’s now sloppy like he’s been personally slighted somehow by the failure of the gold machine. the directing and editing is choppy and they had the audacity to show me one of the most plastic mannequin heads i’ve ever seen and try and tell me it was a human decapitated head. that thing hits the ground and bounces like a superball. 100% rubber.

the fight ends with the decapitation and hawk spitting “[you] won’t be attending that hat convention in july!”

okay.

hawk kills the frank welker dog bc anna is so useless she can’t even keep a terrier from jumping on her. they fly away in da vinci’s flying machine and when they land it is swarmed by a horde of italian youths.

tommy “five-tones” didn’t die. even the movie is like “just believe it, okay?” i have no choice. hudson hawk finally drinks his cappuccino. im free. on the way out of this movie i’m reminded we were being told a story in a decrepit old book.

i’m free. i’m free. this movie is like getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.

It’s extraordinarily uncommon for me to turn off a movie and not know how I feel about it. Even when I turn to the person sitting next to me and go “huh!” usually there’s a tinge of intonation that sways one way or the other so the only ambiguity is what I did or didn’t dislike about the experience. “Miracle Mile” has me scouring the internet for reviews trying to step into t he shoes of people who liked it to understand what’s wrong with their brains to make them feel that way, yet at the same time I can’t bring myself to feel any sort of way for it other than baffled. This movie exists. This phrase is a total cop-out, I know. People tend to say this when they don’t want to confront the movie at all or feel frustrated by it or bored or confused; I think I’m the latter. This movie thought it was saying something and it didn’t. It’s like trying to make filet minion out of a Lunchable: you don’t have the ingredients. It was never going to coalesce and so the end result is the most jumbled tonal mish-mash I’ve ever seen. 

Our hero is a pretty typical late 80’s guy named Harry (Anthony Edwards). You probably recognize Edwards as one of the nerds from “Revenge of the Nerds”. You will not recognize him in this get up as “Goose” from “Top Gun”.

 

Our heroine is Julie (Mare Winningham) who I guess did something to piss off the hairdresser because they cursed her with what can only be described as a mullet. Time has not looked back fondly upon this haircut. Harry only squeaks by without being heckled by me, the cruel audience, because he is extremely unremarkable in every conceivable way.

 

I don’t think the narrative realizes that Harry and Julie are the most annoying people on planet Earth. Over the course of like 3 hours at the La Brea Tar Pits (which, I’m not sure if you know this, smell like absolute shit due to being full of dead garbage), they madly in love with each other, as seen through some scenes where they flirt obnoxiously by quipping jokes about fossils to other people’s children (?). Their weird scenes being so heavily focused around children lead me to believe that Harry was a museum employee and she was a teacher on a field trip, but no, he’s a trombone player and she’s a waitress. There’s absolutely no reason for these two to be talking to random stranger’s kids and using them as means by which they demonstrate how cute they are to each other. It gave me the same weird douche chills I used to get watching people become twin flame soulmates via public forum chatrooms just by posting rapidly back and forth at each other back in 2008.

Harry is literally, immediately introduced to Julie’s family which is apparently composed entirely of her grandparents who haven’t spoken to each other in 15 years. The scene in which we meet them is about 30 seconds long and exists only to introduce this plot point which never really amounts to anything and its inclusion only makes the day-long courtship feel like it’s been going on for much, much longer. The scale of time in this movie prior to the phone call the kicks off the actual plot is completely incomprehensible. Is it intentional? Are we supposed to feel like they’ve known each other forever even though it’s been like 6 hours? After the phone call, the movie proceeds in real time, which is legitimately interesting and works pretty well. But everything before that feels like it takes place out of time.

They agree to meet for a date, but a bird with a cigarette burns the power lines to Harry’s hotel room (??) so he wakes up 3 hours late. He rushes to the diner they were supposed to meet at in the hopes that Julie will return if he makes enough desperate calls from the pay phone outside (but she’s completely zonked out from a Valium, she’s not on this planet). One thing about this scene that’s totally inconsequential in the grand scheme of the plot is that in order to indicate how late he’s slept, the TV is blaring the national anthem and playing that filler they used to play late at night. Remember when TV used to end?? There was a point during the day where there was no more TV. Never mind I don’t care about this anymore. Harry just hit a palm tree and like 5 rats fell out of it onto his car. I only care about this now.

The movie now does something terrible, which is that it really, truly believes that it is a strong character driven story and thus introduces a plethora of characters all at once, all of which are either cliche (the crazy homeless man, the career driven 80’s business woman) or exaggerated caricatures of people we might know in real life but exacerbated to such a degree that it feels like Harry is ordering food from the comfort of a diner in Toontown and not L. A. It is odd that the movie bothers to introduce these characters and flesh them out to what little degree it does and then toss them away after the diner scene entirely. I had thought they would return at some point, as narratives typically work that way, but I think this movie is under some delusion that its operating from some basis in reality and in real life these people would enter your life briefly and leave forever because that’s how life works. But this is a movie in which a cigarette smoking bird causes a power outage.

Harry calls Julie and instead of getting a call back from her, the voice on the other end of the payphone is a panic-stricken young man in a missile silo babbling about how nuclear war is on our doorstep. Kid’s got the wrong number; this was supposed to be for his dad. I had the pause the movie here though because the voice on the phone sounded REALLY familiar and I had to look into it. Well, lo-and-behold. Who could it be but Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic’s Carth Onasi!

It is vital that you see this.

After a family death, I got extremely into Star Wars media as some sort of shockingly unhelpful coping mechanism and this ugly motherfucker was the guy Bioware inexplicably decided was what girls of the early 2000s wanted to slurp on. With his late-80’s Dicaprio hair fringes and clothes that make him look like an anthropomorphized peach pit, playing as a female character in a game has never been so much of a detriment to a game play experience. Hearing his nasally voice wafting out from the phone socked me right in the mouth. I’ve never been so blindsided by a voice performance in my life. I was suddenly back in my old apartment wondering what happens at the moment of death and if our consciousness remains in some fashion so that our time on Earth isn’t completely wasted while this asshole belches misogynistic quips directly into my ears and eyes.

Anyway Harry has an hour and 10 minutes to prepare for nuclear annihilation.

Harry takes a solid amount of time trying to convince the people in the diner of the impending doom, but the 80’s business lady is the one who confirms that world leaders are fleeing to Antarctica for safety and plans to follow suit with the diner denizens. Harry initially joins them and then decides to go back for his girlfriend of 6 hours (who he stood up) after failing to force the driver to stop by holding a gun to his head. They make him jump during a turn because no one cares enough about his girlfriend he’s had for less than a workday and he bounces on the pavement. He doesn’t even crack his glasses despite them flying off his head.

This flick makes sure to touch on every possible genre and aspect of movie making there could ever be, which is why at this point in the movie it makes sure to introduce a racist character: Wilson, the black car stereo thief. I have seen no review that acknowledges or mentions this. I’m not sure why Wilson has to be a literal thief in this script; it’s character dressing that serves nothing and dregs the lowest portrayals of black men in 80’s cinema for what appears to be literally no reason. There is a scene where his race is relevant because he and Harry are hassled and harassed by two cops specifically because Wilson is black and it’s late at night in L.A. I think, and I loathe to say it, this aspect was written in so the audience, in theory, wouldn’t feel so bad when he dies. In truth, I only do not feel bad when he dies because it means he no longer is subject to Harry and Julie’s whims and is free from this hell on Earth.

Harry and Wilson stop to get gas in a scene that takes approximately 10000 years in which they are accosted by the gas station owner (no 24 hour pumps!) who levels a shotgun at Wilson while Harry makes a bunch of boring phone calls that amount to nothing in the long run. Cops show up, Wilson sprays gas in their faces and when one fires her weapon they both go up in flames. BBQ pork. Check out this dummy work ahahaha.

Harry and Wilson jack the cop’s car and bail to go get Julie. Harry then breaks into Julie’s apartment when she doesn’t answer the door and watches her sleep (normal!). Wilson rightfully decides he can’t put up with this shit anymore and leaves to go save his sister from certain death, making him the smartest character in the narrative for leaving it when he had the chance. The grandmother and grandfather reconcile just because one broke the silence that’s been hanging between them for 15 years. I understand that the suggestion by the script is how absurd it is that nuclear annihilation was the only thing that would force these two together again but as an audience member I couldn’t care less. Both of these characters had two lines each prior to these scenes. They were barely people to me. This makes me sound like an incredibly cold, evil person but a movie is not real life!! I know these aren’t real people and I need to be convinced that they are like real people and why their long silence is so effecting to the other characters who should also feel like real people!! Otherwise who cares!

Harry, Julie, Julie’s grandma (name forgotten by me due to disinterest) and Julie’s grandfather (same) head to the building where a helicopter will take them to Antarctica. Julie wakes up and inexplicably decides they are going on a balloon ride based on absolutely no information at all. I mean literally none. She’s just like “oh boy a balloon ride 🙂 sounds like something you would do! (how would she know?)” right after she wakes up. The grandparents bogart the car because they’ve decided they want to die together. Julie still has no idea the world is ending and Harry doesn’t tell her so she doesn’t actually have a conversation with her grandparents before they leave forever to become Pompeii skeletons.

Finally, they go to the helicopter, but there’s NO PILOT!! This is where the plot becomes so deliriously infuriating because Julie is incapable of staying still. I hate to say “she should just follow directions, from the man” but 90% of this movie would not have happened if she hadn’t wandered off like a toddler in a JC Penny. Perhaps they should have coordinated some kind of plan together and utilized the fact that there are two of them to cover ground faster. Maybe she should have been given a bigger role than “object to chase” by the director/writers, but alas, she is merely akin to Baby Mario in the hit 1995 Super Nintendo Entertainment System game “Yoshi’s Island”. Just floating away, inconveniently.

Meanwhile, Harry is literally running all over town desperately trying to find someone who can fly the helicopter. He finds a piece of beefcake at the gym with a boyfriend (played as a joke!) who can fly the copter but Julie is off eating dandelions in the outfield so now he has to go and wrangle her again. Wilson returns to the narrative by driving the cop car directly into the building near them so they can waste more time in the plot. Wilson’s sister is dead from the crash and he furiously points out it’s been an hour and nothing has happened. What if…It was a prank…? (It’s not, but the movie would have been better if it was.)

Cops surround the building. Wilson dies with his sister in his arms. Harry and Julie have a very symbolic conversation in a clock section of a department store. Just as Julie attempts to face the cops with her hands up and explain the situation to them very calmly (white-ly), the cops fucking bail. Like they just pack up and dash off. It’s happening baby!!  Harry just wastes more time calling the panicked soldier’s dad to confirm he has a son before the streets descend into chaos. There’s a coyote in the diner now.

After some more random stupid shit happens, they finally make it to the top of the building. But not before they have what I can really, truly, only describe as a conversation not unlike two thirteen year olds trying to discuss mortality and morality during thelongest elevator ride in the known universe. “People will take care of each other, right Harry? The survivors?” Julie pleads. “It’s the insect’s turn,” Harry says indifferently as though the restaurant they’re at has Pepsi and not Coke.

On the roof, the only person remaining is the assistant to the 80’s business woman who is allowed to have a drunken/high rampaging shirtless rant as the first missiles cross the sky. The helicopter arrives to save our two heroes, albeit not for long. This is the point where the movie starts to test my ass because it thinks its “Threads” or “Barefoot Gen”. As the nukes hit, the assistant’s eyes apparently melt (it is impossible to see this in the video I was watching but reviews mentioned it so I guess I have to take their word for it) and the electromagnetic pulse kills the helicopter’s engine. We end where the movie began…At the La Brea Tar Pits. Wow…screenwriting.

As they sink into the goop, Julie rightfully freaks the fuck out. Harry, in his most throttle-able moment yet, attempts to placate her in their final moments by reminding her the world is a scorched wasteland with no hope and the best thing is to simple roll over and die (probably true, okay) and that someday scientists will find them in a museum or they’ll be hit directly and incinerated so thoroughly they’ll be turned into diamonds. If I were Julie I would be force feeding him tar at this point but she seems enamored with the idea of turning into a diamond or a museum exhibit. It ends with a big boom. Then credits.

No one makes it out alive. No lives are sacred in nuclear holocaust. The most successful movies about nuclear warfare have made this their central point in order to sway the hearts and minds of people whose only motivation for avoiding war is “me?? I could die as well?? ME?? The Hero of Life?”. “Miracle Mile” perhaps is not the movie best suited for doing this; it presents a world where I want everyone in it to die. I am indifferent to some at best. The worst people you are forced to repeatedly interact with in the movie are the protagonists and they are exactly like people making out furiously while you’re trying to eat a sandwich at the park but they keep making eye contact with you even though you’re not even remotely trying to look at them.

 

 

Maybe I don’t like this movie, actually.