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SXSW: Quint on midnight French action/blaxploitation flick BLACK and Bigelow's THE HURT LOCKER!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I have to apologize for disappearing for a couple of days. Monday night my computer slipped quietly into a coma and hasn’t come back… I had ship the old boy off to the Mac Factory, which I believe looks a lot like the world Neo wakes up in in the original Matrix, and have busted out my old laptop, which is shaky at best. It runs slow-slow-slow, but it is stable enough to start getting caught up on the SXSW flicks I’ve caught this year. I’m going to discuss 2 flicks here before crashing for the night, start chipping away at that mountain of reviews. Let’s start with BLACK.

All I knew going into this movie was that it was a French action flick with a supernatural kick to it. Now this flick isn’t just an action movie, but a film that takes the best of ‘70s blaxploitation and ‘80s fun action and rolls it into a bizarre as hell voodoo backdrop. But don’t misunderstand me… the voodoo elements aren’t at the forefront at all, which makes it even that more weird. The flick really does feel like a bizarro-world SHAFT IN AFRICA. That’s mostly due to the note-perfect score. I wish IMDB wasn’t failing me now because I’d love to highlight the man or woman who composed this music because it’s the best blaxploitation score since the glory days of the genre. You’ve had countless films try to mimic that feel, even using the original masters like Isaac Hayes, but they only seemed to succeed for one title track (like Hayes’ awesome BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD DO AMERICA theme song) or only work in moments throughout in flicks like UNDERCOVER BROTHER. But even those examples were used in comedies, which is one of the reasons I didn’t take to BLACK DYNAMITE, which promised to be an honorable black exploitation movie and instead just came off as a more accurate spoof movie. BLACK is its own movie… it’s not set in the ‘70s, it’s not about a swaggering pimp or charming bounty hunter… Instead director Pierre Laffargue and writers Lucio Mad and Gabor Rassov took the right path. They made their film just as they would have in the ‘70s. There’s humor, but it’s not a comedy. Everybody’s serious about the action and the comedy comes out of the characters, not gags. MC Jean Gab’1 plays the title character, a French hardass who begins the movie robbing an armored car with a group of buddies armed with shotguns and grenades. I knew I made a solid choice in my midnight movie selection when the flick not only kicked off with a badass, hardcore brutal robbery but with an African priest walking through the streets of Paris telling a tale of the transformation of the evil snake and the lion who will defeat him. The dude stops in front of the dump-truck our group is using and serves as our introduction to Black, who is identified by the priest as being the lion. So you have a movie that’s almost equal parts crazy action spectacular and fairy tale, but all wrapped up in a blaxploitation plot.

Black is the only one to survive the failed robbery and subsequent car chase and ends up on another adventure shortly thereafter. His skeazy cousin in Dakar works at a bank that is holding a few million dollars worth of raw, uncut diamonds. Now Black must assemble a new team and head down to Senegal to plot their heist. His team is awesome, by the way. Each one has their own distinct characterization… one’s a giant of a guy, one’s a germaphobe, etc. All of them are badasses. What they don’t know is a drugs and arms dealer (with a skin condition) is on the hook for a batch of bad AK-47s and only has a week to make things right with a ridiculously outlandish guerilla commander. He finds out about this deposit as well, thanks to the loose lips of the greedy bank manager. Before you know it, there are three separate parties trying to steal the diamonds at the same time. Now throw in the Nubian goddess/priestess/lover of the arms dealer, animal mysticism, a badass fro’d female cop and a roving gang of machete wielding wrestlers and you start to get why I flipped out for this movie. MC Jean Gab’1 is a charismatic figure and a hell of an action star. He’s a charming asshole when not beating the fuck out of people and you can’t take your eyes off him when he is. I hope to God this movie starts gaining popularity and they make a series of these things. Black In New York. Pair him up with Michael Jai White. Black In China and get Sammo Hung to play the villain. I’m telling you, it’d be awesome. BLACK is just fun. Good old fashioned fun with a liberal dash of “what the fuck?” thrown in when people start turning into snakes and our heroes gain the powers of other animals… then seem to just go back to normal. Just like in the good old days!

Now I want to chat about a film that will be seeing a release in the states this coming June called THE HURT LOCKER, directed by NEAR DARK’s Kathryn Bigelow. The film, written by reporter Mark Boal based on his eye-witness accounts, is set in Baghdad circa 2004 and focuses on the bomb squads who go out every day finding IEDs and other explosives amongst the rubble, hidden in trash piles or even dead bodies. Early casting announcements lead me to believe Guy Pearce was the lead actor of the movie and in the opening scene you believe he is. But circumstances prove that report untrue and Mr. Pearce exits the picture early… in a rather spectacular way. The lead is actually Jeremy Renner (28 WEEKS LATER, ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES) playing a confident (perhaps overly so) thrill seeking Sgt. James. He’s new to the squad, but quickly proves he’s one of the best out there, even if he goes about his job recklessly, much to the disdain of his team. As you can expect, this film captures the tension of a WAGES OF FEAR or SORCERER… any film about people dealing with explosives can’t escape that comparison, but what’s fascinating about what Bigelow and Boal do with the story is they are able to switch gears on you multiple times. Not every scene is set around an explosion. For instance, there’s a sniper sequence that I just loved. I have a big soft spot for sniper stories and there’s a good chunk of the movie as our guys are pinned down and it becomes a battle of snipers. The twist is that they’re a mile from each other and the one manning the US gun isn’t a trained sniper. At that distance it’s a trial and error system. Not only that, but it’s a patience game. But that’s not the only example. We get a look at all forms of combat in the movie and most importantly I think for the first time I fully grasped just what it means when people are saying Iraq is a non-traditional war. I’m not a complete idiot. I understood the concept of the Urban warfare vs. tradition “front line” type warfare, but just seeing how the most innocent things could be a life-ender on a street that often times doesn’t look any different from some I’ve seen in my state just really sent it home for me. There’s a moment where Renner disarms a bomb and thinks he’s done… the disarming scene, was very tense and slowly paced as the tension grows with each passing second… only to find another wire connecting the bomb to something else. He pulls on the wire, causing me to suck in a breath and reveals a spider-web of wires, all connecting to other bombs around him. He gives another tub and he pulls a dozen bombs out from under the loose gravel and races to disarm them. That kind of sums up the movie and the situation over there. Every threat you think you take of seems to be tied directly into a dozen other hidden threats, closer than you think. Brian Geraghty and Anthony Mackie play the other two in the bomb squad and we get to know them as they deal with the hotshot new member to the team, whose antics they view as not only dangerous to him, but them as well. They all have their issues, like anybody would, but a sort of unstable bond develops between them. I know that sounds very typical and fake, but when I say shaky I mean shaky. Even by the end of the movie they still don’t like each other, even if there is a respect there. Bigelow makes sure each explosion has its own personality and is set in reality. There’s one explosion in particular that sends up tons of rocky debris that I thought was scary and beautiful at once. All in all, Bigelow, Boal and the rest of the team crafted a very entertaining movie that puts character first, but also gives you a real impression of what our troops are dealing with in the Middle East. The tension is real and works for every scene… hell, I got tense during regular scenes, expecting an unseen explosion to take out one of the guys, which I assume was something very much intended.

The flick opens in June. I got a chance to interview both Bigelow and Boal this morning and will have that to you when I can. It’ll probably have to wait until I get my regular computer back. This one is working fine for now, but is pretty unreliable and slllllooooowwwwwww. Tomorrow I have some time before heading out for more movies, so I’ll try to knock a few more reviews out. Got a good dozen on the docket and another dozen more to see before the fest closes. If you Twitter, be sure to check out my newly started Twitter page! Be back soon with more SXSW stuff! -Quint

Readers Talkback
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  • March 19, 2009, 6:23 a.m. CST

    First Bitches!

    by Bill Brasky

    Here's to Bill Brasky!!!

  • March 19, 2009, 6:31 a.m. CST

    This might be the first GWOT success

    by Bill Brasky

    Hurt Locker, if it stays away from political veiw points and focuses on these EOD guys, might break the tradition of Hollywood GWOT bombs. I'm rooting for it to succeed.

  • March 19, 2009, 6:45 a.m. CST


    by Quint

    It very much does. It's all about the men on the ground... When I interviewed Boal and Bigelow this morning they kept underlining that it's a combat film, trying to separate themselves from exactly the kind of films you're talking about.

  • March 19, 2009, 7:27 a.m. CST


    by CaseyMcCall

    Ralph Fiennes in Hurt Locker? Saw no mention of him. Small part?

  • March 19, 2009, 7:30 a.m. CST

    Jeremy Renner..

    by WhinyNegativeBitch

    Ever since seeing him in SWAT and a straight to video gay centric bio on Dhamer, I've been waiting for him to really get a chance to make an impact. He's been good in quite a few films, but hasn't been given a role he really deserves.

  • March 19, 2009, 7:44 a.m. CST

    Hurt Locker

    by spyro

    ...opens in June ??!! Its already on DVD in certain regions ! Its very good though.

  • March 19, 2009, 7:45 a.m. CST

    Ralph Fiennes

    by spyro

    is in the Hurt Locker for about..oooo....16 seconds ?

  • March 19, 2009, 8:27 a.m. CST

    I don't know...

    by wampa 1

    ...but it sure smells good!

  • March 19, 2009, 8:37 a.m. CST

    War Movie

    by taylor2

    This is not your typical war movie. It's very apolitical and more or less just focuses on the environment for "grunts". What war is to them on a more personal basis. Great movie.

  • March 19, 2009, 11:03 a.m. CST

    can't wait for this flick

    by StovetopStuffin'

    She's made some great films, and I've heard lots of good stuff about this one too.

  • March 19, 2009, 11:34 a.m. CST


    by Bill Brasky

    Good, I'm glad to hear it. I will definitely see it then. <p>I gotta tell you; These EOD guys are really something special. I've had a few dealings with them over the past few years. They are cooler than the Fonz and very good at what they do. I can tell you: I would probably not be writing this if not for the men of EOD - Army, Navy and USMC EOD. (Never met an Air Force EOD team, but I'm sure they exist.)

  • March 19, 2009, 12:29 p.m. CST

    Yeah, fucking thanks for the spoiler... :-(

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    Seriosly, what the hell?!?<p>That I still wanna see this flick speaks for the appealing theme of the movie. But damn this spoiler!

  • March 19, 2009, 12:35 p.m. CST

    Quit whining about the "spoilers"

    by Wee Willie

    If you don't want to know anything about a movie in advance of seeing it, then DON'T READ ABOUT IT. Plus, what level of mind is unable to enkioy something if they know what's coming? isn't the joy in see 'how' things happen, not 'what happens'. Retards.

  • March 19, 2009, 12:43 p.m. CST

    You got to interview Kathryn Bigelow?

    by Kenny_Fuckin_Powers

    Fuck you, buddy. Im jealous, but I'll have to just satisfy myself knowing I have exceptional hair.

  • March 19, 2009, 12:52 p.m. CST

    I know that it can only take one film

    by skimn

    to partially derail a career (McTiernan-Rollerball, Bigelow-The Widowmaker, look at all the guff Raimi gets for Spidey 3..), but this sounds like a return to form for Bigelow, and maybe the film that can break the "Iraq movie curse".

  • March 19, 2009, 1:18 p.m. CST


    by The_Genteel_Gentile

    I love Kathryn Bigelow. Wish she'd work more often because she's one of the very best at solid, dramatically motivated action movies. There was nothing wrong with K-19 by the way, that was a strong film. I think people just couldn't get over the icon of Harrison Ford as a Ruskie. I didn't have a problem with his accent, I totally bought in to his character and the story. The Weight Of Water is the only Bigelow film that stands out as not being executed as well as it could have been, needed to have more of the approach of Scott Hicks' Snow Falling On Cedars. But Point Break and Strange Days are perfection. Near Dark and Blue Steel are very good. Still havn't seen The Loveless but it's next on my 'to do' list. <p> JOHN MCTIERNAN, WE NEED YOU BACK TOO!

  • March 19, 2009, 1:29 p.m. CST

    wee willie

    by The_Exterminator

    don't make dumb blanket statements like that

  • March 19, 2009, 1:57 p.m. CST


    by skimn

    Just could not get past Ford's "Russian" accent. Some actors can pull off accents with ease...Ford, not so easy. And I haven't thought about Blue Steel in about 20 years...good flick. Rewatched Near Dark recently and it holds up very well. No remake please!!

  • March 19, 2009, 3 p.m. CST


    by Quint

    I apologize for ruining anything in the movie, but everything I talk about happens in the first 5 minutes of the movie. That doesn't mean the Pearce stuff wasn't a giveaway, just not crucial to your enjoyment of the movie or the story.

  • March 19, 2009, 3:48 p.m. CST

    Iraq Vet who loved the movie

    by elBox

    I served two tours in Iraq in 03 and 04. This is the first fictional movie that seemed to get it right. The actors talked and acted like soldiers I knew. Especially Jeremy Renner. He reminded me so much of a friend (who died in an accident after the war) that it gave me the chills. I think his career will really skyrocket when this comes out. One thing that Quint didn't mention is the last few minutes of the movie. They just do not fit. The ending almost ruined the whole thing for me. It's still worth watching, maybe you'll think differently.

  • March 19, 2009, 11:06 p.m. CST

    Panic Room...Hurt Locker...Apprehension Cabinet...

    by iwasredempted

  • March 20, 2009, 3:20 a.m. CST

    Seen it last month

    by onemanarmy

    Considering we're all in Iraq, and we all enjoyed the film. <p> As we discussed in the other HurtLocker TB, the main thing with this movie is to stay with the characters and what they're going through as opposed to pointing out all of the inconsistencies. <p> EOD team going out alone, where ever they please in Iraq? I say thee nay! Just one example, and the main one at that. Loads of SOP and equipment inconsistencies, but if you stick with the characters and understand that the "action movie, adrenaline junkie" cliche isn't whats being portrayed you'll be fine. <p>

  • March 20, 2009, 3:29 a.m. CST

    @ elBox

    by onemanarmy

    The ending is what makes the movie. <p> Possible Spoiler~ <p> There are THOUSANDS of troops "institutionalized" by Iraq. Exposed to extremely tense situations for 365 days a year (that few if you're lucky) where you think you could die at any moment, and then thrown back into civilized life and expected to function normally? Give me a fucking break dude. He can't function at home with his family so he goes right back into the shit...because that's an acceptable reality for him at this point. What isn't there to get? <p> I admire Bigelow and her attempt at possibly trying to get the civilian world to understand what it's like to live like this, and then to try and fit back into a normal society. Maybe her way of hinting at why so many soldiers ACTUALLY VOLUNTEER to come right back to Iraq after a deployment. Or maybe her way of explaining why soldiers seem so shell shocked after coming home. <p> Then again, maybe it's just me & the general consensus between myself and the troops I live with everyday over here.

  • March 20, 2009, 11:06 a.m. CST

    Back at Onemanarmy

    by elBox

    Here's my problem with the end of Hurt Locker SPOILERS BELOW The last shot of the movie with the rock music blaring and Renner in full EOD suit just does not fit. It negates the theme of the entire movie. It reminded me of the end to Iron Man, with Ozzy screaming during the end credits. I get what Bigelow was attempting to do. I know exactly how it feels to return from war. It is impossible to relate what it was like. The way that I viewed everything changed. I had to completely change the way I thought about the world to survive over there and then change again when I returned. It was not easy to do, but I did it becuase I never wanted to feel like that again. At the same time, I understand why some soldiers volunteer to return. I still feel pride in my ability to adapt to those extreme circumstances. It is an accomplishment to make it through war (plus it pays better than sitting stateside). However, Bigelow had a chance to wrap up the movie with a powerful message but she blew it. It seemed like completely false bravado. The audience already understands that Renner is a complete badass, he doesn't need blaring rock music to hammer home that point. The whole movie does an excellent job of showing warfare for what it is and not glorifying it. Then that is all flushed away with an unnecessary ending. I would love to see an alternate ending builds on the characters developed. I don't mind that Renner returns to Iraq, I even expected it. I just don't agree with how it was handled.

  • March 20, 2009, 11:08 a.m. CST

    Nube needs help?

    by elBox

    how do you get paragraph breaks to show up in posts? shift + enter shows up when I type it but not on the post.

  • March 20, 2009, 12:40 p.m. CST


    by onemanarmy

    "Bigelow had a chance to wrap up the movie with a powerful message but she blew it." I honestly couldn't agree more. I actually had to re-watch the last 2 scenes to take it all in, and in retrospect I felt the same way you do. She could have went in so many directions to get the *under the table message* across but instead she went with the *he's such a bad ass* ending. <p> And < p > makes the paragraph breaks.

  • March 20, 2009, 5:47 p.m. CST


    by elBox