Skip to main content

For a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure do fret about it a lot.

True Detective
1.3: The Locked Room

Rust’s anti-religious spleen is given full vent when they visit the preacher who formerly led a flock at the burn out church, Joel Theriot (Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham). “What do you think the average IQ of this group is, huh?” Rust asks Marty’s, who’s had just about enough of his bile. “If the common good’s got to make up fairy tales, it’s not good for anyone” Rust continues.  But Marty swings the odd salvo back; “For a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure do fret about it a lot”. Even if he has no chance of winning the match (“At least I’m not racing to a red light”, Rust rejoinders).


Their interview with Joel doesn’t divine anything particular suspicious about the preacher, and serves to cross castrated disciple Burt (seen in the opening titles) off the list of possible suspects.  But there isa new clue to keep the increasingly under pressure (from brass) duo focussed; a man tall man with shiny skin around the jaw.


The simmering tensions between the two are building to a head. Marty’s extra-marital dishonesty is clearly peeving Rust (“People incapable of guilt usually have a good time”), while the former considers Rust’s great failing is his inability to admit doubt. Discovering Rust round it his house in a vest, having mowed the lawn and accepted an iced tea from Maggie, Marty is livid. One wonders if Rust is purposefully pricking at him, attempting to make him see sense, or he actually has an interest in Maggie (she clearly has an interest in him, but he won’t be her confidante). The third option, that it is entirely innocent, is out of the question for one so considered about his actions. Harrelson’s particularly good when embodying the contrasts between his statements in 2012 and the reality of the past, but it has to be said Pizzolatto does lay on the reveals of the lie a bit thick at times. Come episode five, such counterpoints will be at the heart of the detective’s version of the case but here it sometimes strays into the smug territory.


Rust advises, “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door” and we have to admit that for all his faults we’d rather have him on our side than the baffled Marty. The double date scene is another strong one following the opener’s dinner at the Harts, in which the social milieu of the partners is never seen to be straightforward. Marty builds up the momentum to topple his life over the brink as he becomes jealous of Lisa carrying on with another guy.  He shows up at her house and makes a scene, while his other self is sagely describing how “People give you rules. Rules describe the shape of things”.


Rust in 2012 tells us that he’s never been in a room for more than 10 minutes without knowing if a suspected perp did it or not, which would have been a sure indication of whether these two were under any illusion if indeed they got the wrong guy. Except that… well, that’s episode five. Rust and Marty investigate an old school started by Tuttle (him again), “Light of Way”, which was attended by an old case considered to be an accidental drowning. It turns out she was the ex-wife of Charlie Lange, who in turn shared a cell with one drug dealer and sex offender Reggie Ledoux , with whom  she ran off. The manner in which McConaughey, with all but a flourish, announces “And finally, we arrive at Reginald Ledoux” has the air of one who knows he has a rattling good yarn to spin. So too, his probing of his interviewers (“You ever been in a gunfight?”) sets up something big in store along withfurther morbid thoughts (“They welcomed it” concludes Rust of the ends met by murder victims as, in the last instance, they saw how easy it was to let go).


The final shot is thunderously uneasy; outside a remote ramshackle farm, a gas-masked meth-maker in his underwear, machete in hand, walks by in slow motion. Combined with the industrial twitchiness of the soundtrack, it’s a visual as potent as the arrival of Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Believe me, Mr Bond, I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still create ze proper effect.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
(SPOILERS) Some of the reactions to Spectre would have you believe it undoes all the “good” work cementing Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond in Skyfall. If you didn’t see that picture as the second coming of the franchise (I didn’t) your response to the latest may not be so harsh, despite its less successful choices (Blofeld among them). And it isn’t as if one step, forward two steps back are anything new in perceptions of the series (or indeed hugely divisive views on what even constitutes a decent Bond movie). After the raves greeting Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan suffered a decidedly tepid response to his second outing, Tomorrow Never Dies, albeit it was less eviscerated than Craig’s sophomore Quantum of Solace. Tomorrow’s reputation disguises many strong points, although it has to be admitted that a Moore-era style finale and a floundering attempt to package in a halcyon villain aren’t among them.

The Bond series’ flirtations with contemporary relevance have a…

Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honour – which is probably more than she ever did.

Duck Soup (1933)
(SPOILERS) Not for nothing is Duck Soup acclaimed as one of the greatest comedies ever, and while you’d never hold it against Marx Brothers movies for having little in the way of coherent plotting in – indeed, it’s pretty much essential to their approach – the presence of actual thematic content this time helps sharpen the edges of both their slapstick and their satire.

On account of you, I nearly heard the opera.

A Night at the Opera (1935)
(SPOILERS) The Marx Brothers head over to MGM, minus one Zeppo, and despite their variably citing A Night at the Opera as their best film, you can see – well, perhaps not instantly, but by about the half-hour mark – that something was undoubtedly lost along the way. It isn’t that there’s an absence of very funny material – there’s a strong contender for their best scene in the mix – but that there’s a lot else too. Added to which, the best of the very funny material can be found during the first half of the picture.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s Jaws, there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.

Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the system when Burton did it (even…

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

This better not be some 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea shit, man.

Underwater (2020)
(SPOILERS) There’s no shame in a quality B-movie, or in an Alien rip-off done well. But it’s nevertheless going to need that something extra to make it truly memorable in its own right. Underwater, despite being scuppered at the box office, is an entirely respectable entry in both those arenas from director William Eubank, but like the recent Life (which, in fairness, had an ending that very nearly elevated it to the truly memorable), it can’t quite go that extra mile, or summon that much needed sliver of inspiration to set it apart.

I still think it’s a terrible play, but it makes a wonderful rehearsal.

Room Service (1938)
(SPOILERS) The Marx Brothers step away from MGM for a solitary RKO outing, and a scarcely disguised adaption of a play to boot. Room Service lacks the requisite sense of anarchy and inventiveness of their better (earlier) pictures – even Groucho’s name, Gordon Miller, is disappointingly everyday – but it’s nevertheless an inoffensive time passer.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

Goodbye, Mr Chimps.

At the Circus (1939)
(SPOILERS) This is where the brothers sink into their stretch of middling MGM movies, now absent the presence of their major supporter Irving Thalberg; it’s probably for the best this wasn’t called A Day at the Circus, as it would instantly have drawn unflattering comparisons with the earlier MGM pair that gave them their biggest hits. Nevertheless, there’s enough decent material to keep At the Circus fairly sprightly (rather than “fairly ponderous”, as Pauline Kael put it).

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…