Monday, March 26, 2018

A Plot and Its Dog

Tis been a while since I blurted out a review, if memory serves!  Now, as you might imagine, I'm such a perfectionist.  See, what I really wanted to do was go back over the following movie with a fine-tooth comb and get all the details, re-digest them and what not... and if I was really good, I wood... would.  But time is finite, and resources are even more finite-er... so let's just call the whole thing off completely.
But I'll make a few musings about a little movie called Bullet Head.  LAST SEEN ON: Netflix.  Brought to you by Netflix. (TM) (R).  Netflix!  It's like walking through a video store and going "No... No... No... No..." but without leaving your couch!  Now, I know what you're going to post.  You're going to post: "Bullet Head is Movie I like very much please for to visiting MY movie site Turd Tuna dot com.  Turd Tuna is at for having One Stop ShØpping for movies that are being better than what's talked about here.  Sorry, but Ür know it's true Purple Monkey Dishwasher."
Okay, back to the instant case.  First off: kudos for the up-front irony.  Even though the movie's called Bullet Head, there are very few shots fired in the movie proper, and none of them seem to go into anyone's head.  Reminds me: on the last episode of "Gotham," SPOILER ALERTS it looks a lot like Sofia Coppola Falcone gets shot in the head.  We see her head, we see a red splotch of blood in the middle of her forehead.  Next scene: someone... probably Commissioner Gordon, asks "And Falcone?"  Someone else says "She's in a coma."  Now... oh, skip it.  Okay, back to Bullet Head.
Ooh!  There's also what's that fella's name... Walter Hill, that's it.  Turbo-manly Walter Hill's 2012 feature called Bullet to the Head, whose big finale revolves around a mano-a-mano axe fight.  An attempt to piggy back on Stallone's silver screen resurgence, and also to push the limits of digital video as a replacement of film.  Looked pretty good!  The axe didn't seem to streak at all.  That's my big pet peeve with digital video.  I can't even remember if Bullet to the Head lives up to the title... I guess that's how good it is or something.  So maybe there's irony built into the genre.


As with Westerns, I like to imagine that there's some sort of big computing machine in the sky that grinds out these crime stories, making sure that they're absolutely original in at least one way.  Something above the copyright lawyers involved with this process, even though they gave it the go-ahead.  In the case of Bullet Head, the original aspects seem to be in the structure of the plot itself.  Oh, and this plot is nothing if not structured.  SPOILER ALERT - Bullet Head's plot structure involves a small-time robbery, but it revolves around dogs.  More specifically, fighting dogs... I'm guessing an underground dog fighting ring of some sort.  In fact, the filmmakers try to satisfy the audience's bloodlust for ASPCA-unapproved violence by tastefully showing a few tryouts for the illegal dog-fighting ring.  The camera hovers just above the arena, and we're treated to an audio feast of various crunching noises and canine whimpers.  I believe we only see a few flying spatters of blood or two.  I mean... the storytellers aren't total monsters, for God's sake!
Now, I hate to say the characters are clichés, or that they're straight from Central Casting or something like that, because they did get some big-time A-listers for these clichés that seem to come right out of Central Casting.  John Malkovich plays the oldest and wisest of the trio of thieves, spouting hard-earned wisdom of a man who's seen it all, and warns the other two about the pitfalls of doing that proverbial one last job before retirement.  Rory Culkin bears the heaviest dramatic burden of all, upon which the entire reputation of the entire Culkin family seems to rest, playing a junkie loser... or is it loser junkie?  Anyway, Rory's agent issued a statement saying that Rory and the whole Culkin family were grateful for the chance at this Oscar-ish role to stretch his acting chops.
And finally, we have Oscar winner Adrien Brody, stuck in the middle of these two, age-wise and probably in other ways as well.  In fact, Adrien's character has a masterful-type sequence revolving around a piano, which you might remember is what his Oscar-winning role was roughly about.  But the screenwriters were prepared in case Brody was unavailable.  My inside-the-beltway sources tell me there was a version of the script where Pauly Shore ends up outwitting the dog in a room full of sexy mannequins... something like that.  Maybe it was William Ragsdale, I don't know.
But let's not forget our fourth, and arguably main, character: the dog.  If memory serves, we start the movie from the dog's point of view.  In fact, the dog's story is interwoven throughout the whole movie.  As with any really good movie, there's inevitably a character who everyone thinks is dead.  That's been a standard element ever since the original Diabolique... sorry, Spoiler Alert.  The dog in question was supposed to be killed after one big fight that went wrong, or went right, something.  The point is, the higher ups in charge of the illegal dog fighting ring ordered the dog dead.  Spoiler Alert: the dog survived, and is still wandering the halls of the warehouse where the illegal dog fights are held.
And as with any good story slash One Act play, the trio of criminals ends up at the same warehouse.  Eventually, they stumble upon the dog, and it's all they can do to keep a locked door between them and this dog that's hungry for Kibbles and Revenge.  Incidentally, speaking of Plot Structure (TM) (R), every human in the story has a big, Oscar-worthy story about a dog, which they tell.  They even get a flashback to it.  There's even a scene where they're watching themselves in the flashback as they tell the story, which there's probably historical cinematic precedent for... don't they have that in Annie Hall a little bit?  Are we still allowed to talk about Annie Hall?
Now, speaking of plot structure, there's something called a plot "device", or a plot "hole."  That's where the plot starts to stretch that fragile thing called credulity.  Yes, unfortunately, even in the most fantastical sci-fi epic, credulity is still necessary.  That's right... people want a realistic down-to-earth show that's completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots.  Also, you should win things by watching.  In the instant case of Bullet Head, well... there were two big plot holes that I found slash had trouble with.  First... sorry, SPOILER ALERT... First plot hole: the cops drive by the warehouse where the criminals and the mad dog are holed up.  They see the getaway car... they do see it, don't they?  Well, the criminals certainly don't hope so!  I mean, they're just one level above.  All they have to do is look down and see a car that might be used in a getaway!  In fact, if memory serves, they even get out of their car, look around, see this getaway car, and decide what to do.  They might even know that a big robbery just took place, and the criminals might still be in the area.  If memory serves... I'll try to stop using that phrase, sorry... I seem to recall that we don't even see this robbery take place, but everyone involved seems to be acting like it.  Note to self: write a story about criminals who pretend to have committed a crime.
Next scene: the cops get in their car, call home and tell the dispatcher that everything looks good, and drive off.  The day is saved, and we're free to hear the next touching, Oscar-type story about one of the other characters and how a dog touched their life in a way they will take to their graves, and or bore their grandkids to death about.  SECOND plot hole: I almost forgot about it.  The trio of criminals whom we staked the next hour and a half of our lives upon, stumble across a secret room.  Porn enthusiasts will have their ears perk up as to how this room is found.  Anyway, they go into this hidden room, and find a big bag full of money.  I'm assumpting it was in a bag, or maybe a suitcase or, in a pinch, a hastily assembled banker's box.  The criminals deduce that this is "the day's take" from one of the illegal dog fighting rings that would surely explain that mean-ass dog trying to bite their collective asses.  Now, here's the thing... here's the problem I had / have/ continue to have with that.  If this society's taught me anything about money in my 45 or so years on this planet, in this greatest country in the world the mortals have deemed to call America... THAT MONEY WOULDN'T BE THERE AT ALL.  I believe it was Malkovich's wise old character that did the calculations and determined that this money made off the illegal dog fighting was more than what they just stole!  And now they have it!  My problem with that is that, one would think, in an illegal, cash-besotted enterprise as this, your priority would be first to GET THE MONEY INTO THE HANDS OF THE MOBSTER(S) INVOLVED FIRST, then kill the dogs second.  And third, you would have these illegal dog fights at DIFFERENT locations.  They seemed to imply that this one warehouse was Illegal Dog Fight Central.  Bad idea.  Did not the screenwriters learn anything from that one "Seinfeld" episode where George goes back to where the club was with all the supermodels which now stands empty?, not "The Diplomat's Club."  Something else.  Damn!  Wouldn't that be ironic if I try to find that episode, only to find an empty space where it once was?
So those were two of the more gaping plot holes I had trouble with.  There's all kinds of other stuff that might be worthy for a film class.  For instance, the Antonio Banderas character.  Spoiler alert: he finds the now killer dog as a puppy on the street.  They show this!  For our benefit!  Of course, Banderas looks like he hadn't aged a day, at least in terms of this particular story.  They wanted to get Dougray Scott to play a younger Banderas, or maybe one of Banderas' kids.  They even went so far as to give Banderas' character a Spanish-themed dog story that changed his life significantly in some way.  Now originally it was going to be a role for Jet Li... or one of the other members of The Expendables.  Oh, they were thinking globally with this thing, people!  Don't kid yourselves.  Gotta do that these days.
Also, one of the characters has a girlfriend and or ex-wife.  I think it's Brody's character; another reason he's the middle character of his trio.  To say she's only there to service the plot is probably an understatement.
In conclusion, I have at least one last point to cover.  So, in the pantheon of dog movies, The Movie Hooligan, what did Bullet Head most remind you of?  Well, clearly we're not dealing with the light side of the Dog Movie Rainbow, your Old Yellers, your Lassies or Benji's, what have you.  No, this is more of the Cujo side of things.  But I also was reminded of that old David Mickey Evans classic-ish type movie called The Sandlot.  There was a dog in that, right?  In fact, SPOILER ALERT, it was a menacing dog that eventually bonded with the group, much like in Bullet Head.  MORE SPOILERS: I was also reminded of Minority Report, specifically the big scene where the spiders discover that, yes, Tom Cruise really is in the tub.  Brody's hiding in the piano, and the dog can't find him.  A tiny bead of sweat falls off Brody's brow, through the piano, and onto the warehouse floor.  The dog stops.  Brody wonders what's going on, and then... BOOM!  The dog's on his case anew.  But really, whether you want to pigeonhole this as a dog movie or as a caper movie... let's just say it's of its time.  A time where movies are trying so hard to be clever, original, unforgettable... but just in unusually wrong ways.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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