Out here, we’re hunkered down. We know what’s coming. As we say in the business: We’ve seen this movie before:
You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul.
We know the transformation scene. It’s Travis Bickle and his guns in Taxi Driver
, Sylvester Stallone, girding his loins in Rambo
, Arnold Schwarzenegger oiling his guns in Commando
It’s the scene where the hero, or the anti-hero — or even the “villain” — has had enough. Off come the street clothes, on comes the superhero mufti. In this case, the backward baseball cap, the photographer’s vest stuff with ammunition, the black gloves, the ninja clothes. The claw hammer. The martyr pose. The two mismatched handguns.
The worm turns.
And then he kills people. As many as he can, until either he gets them all or goes down in a blaze of nihilistic glory.
He is unstoppable, implacable, invulnerable. He is getting his revenge on every woman who ever said no to him, on every man who ever got crossways with him. With the aid of his firearms, he is suddenly, unequivocally a Man, doing what Men should do — making the world acknowledge, through death and destruction, his awesome power.
He is Eros and Thanatos, come to sound the Last Trump.
This didn’t have to happen.
Sure it did.
And that’s why we hunker down. We know the firestorm that is to come, from all sides.
Video games, some will say — games that reward the head shot, bonus points for brains and splatter. Shoot the shuffling, brain-eating zombies in the arm, they keep on coming. Blast them in the chest, they pause and resume. It’s only the round between the eyes that gets results.
Hollywood movies, say others. Our movies, in which gunplay on the streets goes unnoticed by the cops, in which a fatal shooting has zero consequences, in which the pathetic worms begging for their miserable lives are barely worth the cost of the bullet that puts them out of their misery.
As Jon Polito screams to Gabriel Byrne in Miller’s Crossing while firing a fatal gunshot into his former henchman’s head: “Always put one in the brain!”
When the time came, I did it.
Keep pointing: Godlessness. The coarse culture. The cheap laughs when sexually active college kids get suddenly dismembered, stove in, decapitated, fatally violated, spit-roasted, barbequed. All Grand Guignol. All in bloody good fun. It’s only a movie.
Besides, it’s O.K. because it’s just young people, and they grow on trees, or used to. (Where did they all go?) And young people live forever — just ask them. They’re not afraid of “Death” because odds are they won’t be encountering him for half a century or so. Death is something that happens to other people. Old people.
No one ever stops to think that, sometimes, 23 is as old as you’re going to get.
I hate him. Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Dick must die.
I read scripts by twentysomethings all the time, and you’d be appalled at their content. Flesh-eating zombies are practically benign compared to some of the things they come up with — and flesh-eating zombies pop up in comedies. Sam (Spiderman) Raimi, a pretty darn good director, made his bones with the Evil Dead films, and mom and dad, if you’re watching at home: Turn off the TV before the eyeball scene.
This is where it ends.
Until Wednesday, not one American in ten million had ever heard of Oldboy, a huge hit in Korea. It’s part of director Chan-woo Park’s Vengeance trilogy. Three million Koreans have seen it.
Still haven’t heard of it? It won the jury Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004.
The wronged hero kills a dozen people with a claw hammer.
Bet you’ve heard of it now.
This is where it ends.
Ah, but what about redeeming social value? What can we learn from this tragedy?