My movie buddy and I recently enjoyed three of the trashiest movies in recent memory. They bridged the gap between completely unbelievable and utter nonsense, but they did it with admirable verve and commitment.
In the category of slightly believable and somewhat interesting characters, “Savages” takes home the prize. It’s about two ritzy drug dealers and their junkie girlfriend who are assailed by the even-worse Mexican mob. The blood, gore, and miscellaneous body fluids flow in quarts. As for the “The Dark Knight Rises” (Batman XVIII or so) and “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” nobody could possibly care for any of their characters and wouldn’t want to. Batman gets a little bit of gratuitous sex; in “Savages,” they get a lot of it; Abraham doesn’t get any, but makes up for it by making everything in the film gratuitous.
In the category of special effects, nothing since “Avatar” has measured up to “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” The great battle between the vampires and Honest Abe on top of a moving train, with 3-D sparks flying around them and into the audience, was, between yawns, completely breathtaking. Batman’s computer generated pyrotechnics probably exceed the other dozen-or-so film versions, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen. Savages relies a lot more on its ridiculous plot and over-the-top sex and violence than anything as superficial as computer graphics.
Abraham Lincoln takes the golden statue, too, in the political significance category. The profoundness of “Savages” is that drug dealers are really heroic and people to envy. “Batman’s” message tells us that the status quo is really oh so much better than monsters who empower the poor and put the masters of the power grid on trial. Actually, that’s the only really unbearable aspect of any of these movies.
Batman’s new nemesis, “Bane,” is intent on destroying Gotham City and plants a nuclear bomb in it. But he goes way out of his way to pretend to be some kind of liberator, so the movie’s clear intent is to make liberators look monstrous. Bruce Wayne is, after all, a billionaire industrialist, so the movie might have been subtitled, “Billionaires to the Rescue!” I had my movie buddy re-explain this crazy plot on the way home, and she reassured me that I hadn’t misunderstood.
We liked the hoakie message in “Abraham Lincoln;” Lincoln started the Civil War on purpose because vampires were growing so strong by bloodsucking the slaves of the South that they might take over the entire country. During the war, and they actually portrayed this in the movie, President Jefferson Davis makes a handshake deal with the leader of the vampires to save the Confederacy! Lincoln has to rush special weaponry to Gettysburg to overcome the supernatural vampires in grey!
As southerners, we liked this version of the causes of the Civil War much better than the version imprinted on everybody’s minds by the 1939 film, “Gone with the Wind” and all the subsequent movie glorifications of the slaveholders’ cause. We had to wait 53 years, but we finally have a movie answer to those southern icons, Rhett Butler and Scarlet Ohara.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper
The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman
Directed by Oliver Stone
Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively
Photo: Savages official website.