Skip to main content

So much good killing down there.

True Detective
1.4: Who Goes There

I’m going to go against the grain here and suggest that, in spite of the bravura seat-of-the-edge fireworks of the final section (including a six-minute take), the fourth is the weakest episode so far (although, given the quality of this series, that still means it’s very good). It feels like a cynical switch of gears, a self-conscious ratings-grabber by way of a huge set piece gun battle. It takes the show out of the police procedural and into the territory of an action movie, as Rust relives his undercover days.


The opening interrogation with Charlie Lange (Brad Carter) sees Pizzolatto seize the opportunity of a very convenient info-dump, while Rust inspects his prey with unflinching coolness (“We’re not going to give you the Oscar, no matter how hard you try”, he informs Charlie). When Marty reproves Rust for showing no empathy towards Charlie, who has, after all, lost his wife and been told he is partly to blame, Rust is unrepentant. “He asked about his end first” he responds, indicating that any concern for his wife was a distant second to Charlie’s desire to be paroled.


Marty does have what is becoming a weekly opportunity for a finely judged comeback (he probably needs a week to think one up, like George Costanza), though. Commiserating with Charlie over having to deal with Reggie, he says with feeling “It’s gotta be tough, living with somebody spouting insane shit in your ear all day long”.


But it’s Charlie’s few words that form (for me) the highlight of Who Goes There. Lange warns of dark deeds by a rich elite, the sort of thing that might infuriate Alex Jones. And devil worship. Old stones out in the woods. Chilling, we are told there is “So much good killing down there”. It must be said that, Charlie serves this up little too neatly. He even puts garnish on the plate. Recollecting the spiral tattoos is a very tidy verification of what we already know, though (as if Charlie has been waiting to spill these precisely received details, or the writer failed to conceal his process). But there is also a momentum gathering to the divergence between what we see in the flashbacks and what is reported to the investigating detectives. That’s not just about Marty’s home life (this time out, Lisa vengefully tells Maggie about Marty’s affair and Maggie throws him out), but the stunt the duo pull in order to track down Reggie.


Rust goes undercover to infiltrate biker gang the Iron Crusaders, stealing cocaine from the police evidence room in order to sell the illusion. He lies to Marty (that Maggie will return to him) in order to buy his attention on the risky mission (Maggie also manages to give him some food for thought that has him walking out on her, after she delivers a low blow; “At the end of the day, you duck under rationalisations just like any of them”). What Rust doesn’t count on is that he’ll be strong-armed into participating in a raid on a stash house. A raid that inevitably goes awry.


This sequence is masterfully executed, infused with imminent violence and nerve twisting suspense. It also has the odd moment of humour (the idea that anyone would fall for beardy bikers as cops, especially given the uniforms, is hilarious and indicative that Tryo (Todd Giebenhain) really isn’t very smart).


But it’s still a detour, one that feels a little too calculated. Particularly when, after all that, Rust gets the information he needs from Tyro pretty sharpish. Halfway through the season, and one wonders what’s in store. The encounter with Reggie in his gasmask, obviously. The killing grounds. And the present day? Will there be a resolution with the former partners reteaming? Or will the case be solved in the interview room, with the terrible deeds of the-powers-that-be hushed up and the murderer revealed as just a patsy?



Popular posts from this blog

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.

If I do nothing else, I will convince them that Herbert Stempel knows what won the goddam Academy Award for Best goddam Picture of 1955. That’s what I’m going to accomplish.

Quiz Show (1994) (SPOILERS) Quiz Show perfectly encapsulates a certain brand of Best Picture nominee: the staid, respectable, diligent historical episode, a morality tale in response to which the Academy can nod their heads approvingly and discerningly, feeding as it does their own vainglorious self-image about how times and attitudes have changed, in part thanks to their own virtuousness. Robert Redford’s film about the 1950s Twenty-One quiz show scandals is immaculately made, boasts a notable cast and is guided by a strong screenplay from Paul Attanasio (who, on television, had just created the seminal Homicide: Life on the Streets ), but it lacks that something extra that pushes it into truly memorable territory.

Other monks will meet their deaths here. And they too will have blackened fingers. And blackened tongues.

The Name of the Rose (1986) (SPOILERS) Umberto Eco wasn’t awfully impressed by Jean Jacques-Annaud’s adaptation of his novel – or “ palimpsest of Umberto Eco’s novel ” as the opening titles announce – to the extent that he nixed further movie versions of his work. Later, he amended that view, calling it “ a nice movie ”. He also, for balance, labelled The Name of the Rose his worst novel – “ I hate this book and I hope you hate it too ”. Essentially, he was begrudging its renown at the expense of his later “ superior ” novels. I didn’t hate the novel, although I do prefer the movie, probably because I saw it first and it was everything I wanted from a medieval Sherlock Holmes movie set in a monastery and devoted to forbidden books, knowledge and opinions.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013) (SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight ; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.

Say hello to the Scream Extractor.

Monsters, Inc. (2001) (SPOILERS) I was never the greatest fan of Monsters, Inc. , even before charges began to be levelled regarding its “true” subtext. I didn’t much care for the characters, and I particularly didn’t like the way Pixar’s directors injected their own parenting/ childhood nostalgia into their plots. Something that just seems to go on with their fare ad infinitum. Which means the Pixars I preferred tended to be the Brad Bird ones. You know, the alleged objectivist. Now, though, we learn Pixar has always been about the adrenochrome, so there’s no going back…

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

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983) (SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk , and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm ’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. T

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.