Skip to main content

Life’s barely long enough to be good at one thing.

True Detective
1.7: After You’ve Gone

Even though we appeared to be up-to-date, Nic Pizzolatto can’t resist sprinkling a few flashbacks into the penultimate episode. After You’ve Gone is full of great moments, but perhaps a slight step down on the quality of the past couple of weeks. While it’s exciting to see present day Rust and Marty team up, there’s an occasional awkwardness to the character work (how many times do they have to ask what each has been doing for the past ten years?) and it has to be said straight up that the final scene is hopelessly Scooby Doo. Just as long as that’snot a harbinger of the finale.


What’s most interesting is that, and it would be a rather unnecessary gambit for him to lie, Rust really has spent much of his time since 2002 as a (not so old) soak, before snapping back into purposefulness in 2010.  A man remembers his debts”, he tells Marty, echoing Maggie’s remarks about Cohle’s responsible nature in the previous episode. And, for all Marty’s recalcitrance, he recognises the truth of Rust’s urging amid the occasional barb (“You must have really pissed him off” in response to Cohle noting that Time has his way with us all).


Rust’s whistle-stop summary of the investigation to date recaps what we already know, but also adds a few events from two years previously. First, his encounter with abuse survivor Toby Boulez, whose attestation to the goings-on at Tuttle schools confirms Rust’s worst fears. Toby imagined it must be a bad dream, partly due to being drugged and partly due to the animal masks worn by his assailants. And there’s the man with the scars round his mouth again. While the emphasis on long-standing evils perpetrated is effective, less so is the referencing of Hurricane Katrina; it’s a lazy fall-back device designed to invest dramatic resonance (“I think he had a really good year” suggests Rust).


Rust’s conviction isn’t the be-all-and-end-all in persuading Marty. He warily brings his gun along to Rust’s lock-up, and notes of his one-time colleague “It’s like you’ve been alone too long”. Rust’s honesty  at least is reassuring; he too wondered if it was all in his head but, “That time passed”. It’s the other flashback that seals the deal for Marty, who goes from concern over whether Rust offed Tuttle to grim determination to see this thing out (Cohle latter professes not to know the details of Tuttle’s demise, conjecturing that his associates took him out behind the woodshed and put him down when they assumed he would be blackmailed; this isn’t wholly convincing, and we’ve seen before how well Rust is able to lie to Marty).


Harrelson is outstanding in the scene where Marty watches the videotape evidence of abuse Rust took from Tuttle’s safe, any lack of resolve evaporating. Most of the sequence plays out on the actor’s face, and it’s quite sufficient to tell the story. Marty suggests Rust he shouldn’t have the tape (for his own safety, presumably) and Rust replies “Nobody should have this”. If Rust’s sharpness may have been somewhat blunted over the years, or at least his energy, Marty has also changed. Perhaps he hasn’t become a better man, but he’s more conscious of his failings on all levels. No longer a young buck, his evenings are spent alone with a beer and TV dinners. And his visit with Maggie is curious, to say the least. She asks him if he came to say goodbye, as if she has been expecting him to make a final (as in mortal) exit for some time. Unless she just puts two and two together as the likely outcome of reconnecting with Rust. But it’s still a strangely low-key scene. As if Marty is an old cowboy off to his last stand, one that has been heralded before anyone even realised that’s what it was.  And Marty too gets his flashback, a particularly unsavoury reminiscence involving a microwave oven to explain his decision to exit the Force.


It’s actually Marty who does the lion’s share of the gumshoeing. He sets Rust up in his office (business clearly ain’t good) and scours old police files, goes golfing with Sheriff Geraci (Michael J Harney), while Rust (a persona non grata) tends bar. Rust is only called in when its time to break out the car battery and two jumper cables. The interplay between Geraci and Marty, both studying the other’s lies, is almost as strong as between Rust and Tuttle in the previous episode. The overt “True Crime” referencing by Marty was unnecessarily meta when he persuades Lutz to let him look around old police files, but it just about travels.


If After You’ve Gone’s most unsettling scene is the one in which Marty reviews the tape, the one most beholden to the show’s mythology occurs when the duo visit Miss Delores, who worked for the Tuttles (this after another validation of the man with scars from Jimmy Ledoux). She confirms the general dodginess of the Tuttle family, and granddad Sam Tuttle’s “other family’(the Childresses) before recognising Rust’s drawings of the wicker totems. “You know Carcosa?” she asks. “What is it?” questions Rust. “Him who eats time” responds Miss Delores kind of awesomely (time again). Perhaps this eerie occultism will go unexplained, how disparate people have insight into an unknown realm (albeit those who do seem to be in altered states, be they pharmacologically induced or a consequence of neurological diminishment). That might be appropriate; the glimpse at something that may or may not have more to it is frequently more compelling than a clear answer (see also Lost).


When Rust concludes that “She sure made sense to me” her niece responds, “That should worry you, mister”. And the auguries are not promising for the ex-detectives. But if Marty seems almost resigned to his fate, Rust appears to be looking forward to an exit. One with finality attached. Which is why he’s less than keen to hear the old lady promise “Death is not the end, rejoice!” Of course, since she is referencing Carcosa and we’ve already had it implied that existence is some kind of Sisyphean circle, which we are condemned to repeat throughout eternity (notably, Marty would rather she was incorrect), Rust has good reason not to be optimistic. But his intimation that he wants to finish all this up “before getting on with something else” suggests a project or journey; there’s not much planning in just topping yourself, unless there’s an additional passage through the great beyond.


The other notable Rust moment comes with Maggie’s visit to his bar. After the fireworks she set off last week, Monaghan is relegated very much to an incidental role here. Marty at least has no desire to rock boats any more, but time has not tempered Rust’s contempt. His dismissal of her with “It never sat right with me then, and it doesn’t now, you asking me to lie to you about him” is uttered with steely contempt but it still seems like weak sauce. He’s pissed that she wanted his comfort over Marty’s indiscretions, when his caustic insights into human nature really should have accepted her behaviour as elementary and completely comprehensible? I hope Maggie has more screen time next episode, as she’s been too integral to just ebb away. Of course, if speculation regarding Marty’s daughter and extended family are brought home to roost, rather than left to drift (and since they send some viewers on the most extravagant of theories, perhaps that would be just as well), she will inevitably prove to be a vital component (if any such eventuality should come to pass, I expect Woody will be a ringer for Brad in Seven and I don’t mean he’ll find her head in a box).


Which brings me to another circle. The hitherto absent detectives Gilbough and Papania ask directions from a lawnmower man with a scarred face (Glenn Fleshle, another Boardwalk Empire alumni) who appears to be mowing circles (yes, a bit of overkill there but don’t worry there’s even more of that to come) amid a graveyard. So, as with the third episode, the police are too distracted to investigate the prime suspect under their noses. Which does rather raise the question of the quality of the true detective work throughout. Are they just intentionally not very good? Any of them, even Rust with his penchant for eliciting confessions? They break the law, convict the wrong people, and seem to only make progress by having lucky clues fall in their lap before the trail runs cold again. In the space of 17 years continually haunted by an obsession Rust has done bugger all apart from mull it over and mull it over some more. It’s very lucky he never thought to go and chat to the lawnmower man properly, but then I guess there wouldn’t be much mystery. It ties in with Rust’s earlier, “Life’s barely long enough to be good at one thing” (As usual, there are some great lines, usually drawled matter-of-factly by McConaughey as if they’re just been lying in the dirt waiting to be snuffled up and shipped out).


Finally, then, there’s there moment when Pizzolatto and Fukanaga plunge headfirst into a cauldron of fondue. Mower man Errol all but looks into camera as he utters after the retreating police car, “My family’s been here a long, long time”. Yeah, ditch that restraint and classiness on the last lap guys, you’ve earned it! The sad thing about this is, not only is it a silly line, but it’s staged for maximum undermining of menace. There’s nothing ominous, threatening or scary about Errol on his mower. Especially not dribbling crap like that. Still, just as long as he turns into that much-awaited green-eared spaghetti monster next week all will be forgiven.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

You kind of look like a slutty Ebola virus.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
(SPOILERS) The phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians – in the US at any rate, thus far – might lead one to think it's some kind of startling original, but the truth is, whatever its core demographic appeal, this adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel taps into universally accepted romantic comedy DNA and readily recognisable tropes of family and class, regardless of cultural background. It emerges a smoothly professional product, ticking the expected boxes in those areas – the heroine's highs, lows, rejections, proposals, accompanied by whacky scene-stealing best friend – even if the writing is sometimes a little on the clunky side.

They make themselves now.

Screamers (1995)
(SPOILERS) Adapting Philip K Dick isn’t as easy as it may seem, but that doesn't stop eager screenwriters from attempting to hit that elusive jackpot. The recent Electric Dreams managed to exorcise most of the existential gymnastics and doubts that shine through in the best versions of his work, leaving material that felt sadly facile. Dan O'Bannon had adapted Second Variety more than a decade before it appeared as Screamers, a period during which he and Ronald Shusett also turned We Can Remember It For You Wholesale into Total Recall. So the problem with Screamers isn't really the (rewritten) screenplay, which is more faithful than most to its source material (setting aside). The problem with Screamers is largely that it's cheap as chips.

Well, we took a vote. Predator’s cooler, right?

The Predator (2018)
(SPOILERS) Is The Predator everything you’d want from a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator (or Yautja, or Hish-Qu-Ten, apparently)? Emphatically not. We've already had a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator – or the other way around, at least – and that was on another level. The problem – aside from the enforced reshoots, and the not-altogether-there casting, and the possibility that full-on action extravaganzas, while delivered competently, may not be his best foot forward – is that I don't think Black's really a science-fiction guy, game as he clearly was to take on the permanently beleaguered franchise. He makes The Predator very funny, quite goofy, very gory, often entertaining, but ultimately lacking a coherent sense of what it is, something you couldn't say of his three prior directorial efforts.

Right! Let’s restore some bloody logic!

It Couldn't Happen Here (1987)
(SPOILERS) "I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld" said Neil Tennant of his and Chris Lowe's much-maligned It Couldn't Happen Here, a quasi-musical, quasi-surrealist journey through the English landscape via the Pet shop Boys' "own" history as envisaged by co-writer-director Jack Bond. Of course, Spiceworld could boast the presence of the illustrious Richard E Grant, while It Couldn't Happen Here had to settle for Gareth Hunt. Is its reputation deserved? It's arguably not very successful at being a coherent film (even thematically), but I have to admit that I rather like it, ramshackle and studiously aloof though it is.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

My pectorals may leave much to be desired, Mrs Peel, but I’m the most powerful man you’ve ever run into.

The Avengers 2.23: The Positive-Negative Man
If there was a lesson to be learned from Season Five, it was not to include "man" in your title, unless it involves his treasure. The See-Through Man may be the season's stinker, but The Positive-Negative Man isn't far behind, a bog-standard "guy with a magical science device uses it to kill" plot. A bit like The Cybernauts, but with Michael Latimer painted green and a conspicuous absence of a cool hat.

The possibilities are gigantic. In a very small way, of course.

The Avengers 5.24: Mission… Highly Improbable
With a title riffing on a then-riding-high US spy show, just as the previous season's The Girl from Auntie riffed on a then-riding-high US spy show, it's to their credit that neither have even the remotest connection to their "inspirations" besides the cheap gags (in this case, the episode was based on a teleplay submitted back in 1964). Mission… Highly Improbable follows in the increasing tradition (certainly with the advent of Season Five and colour) of SF plotlines, but is also, in its particular problem with shrinkage, informed by other recent adventurers into that area.

What a truly revolting sight.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (aka Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) (2017)
(SPOILERS) The biggest mistake the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels have made is embracing continuity. It ought to have been just Jack Sparrow with an entirely new cast of characters each time (well, maybe keep Kevin McNally). Even On Stranger Tides had Geoffrey Rush obligatorily returning as Barbossa. Although, that picture’s biggest problem was its director; Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge has a pair of solid helmers in Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, which is a relief at least. But alas, the continuity is back with a vengeance. And then some. Why, there’s even an origin-of-Jack Sparrow vignette, to supply us with prerequisite, unwanted and distracting uncanny valley (or uncanny Johnny) de-aging. The movie as a whole is an agreeable time passer, by no means the dodo its critical keelhauling would suggest, albeit it isn’t even pretending to try hard to come up with …

Bring home the mother lode, Barry.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

If Panos Cosmatos’ debut had continued with the slow-paced, tripped-out psychedelia of the first hour or so I would probably have been fully on board with it, but the decision to devolve into an ‘80s slasher flick in the final act lost me.

The director is the son of George Pan Cosmatos (he of The Cassandra Crossing and Cobra, and in name alone of Tombstone, apparently) and it appears that his inspiration was what happened to the baby boomers in the ‘80s, his parents’ generation. That element translates effectively, expressed through the extreme of having a science institute engaging in Crowley/Jack Parsons/Leary occult quests for enlightenment in the ‘60s and the survivors having become burnt out refugees or psychotics by the ‘80s. Depending upon your sensibilities, the torturously slow pace and the synth soundtrack are positives, while the cinematography managed to evoke both lurid early ‘80s cinema and ‘60s experimental fare. 

Ultimately the film takes a …