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The Bottom Shelf #141

01.03.2008

Old seventeenth century English. Modern day Columbian Spanish. And they both have the initials RT. Other than that, who else can get the connection between these two films?

REVENGERS TRAGEDY (2002)
Directed by: Alex Cox
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Eddie Izzard

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REVENGERS TRAGEDY originally was a play by Thomas Middleton. I haven't seen the play, so I'm not going to do any comparisons there. I'm going to simply state how much I love to hear old English patterns of speech spoken with true accents with conviction by people who look like they understand what they're saying. Growing up, I was forced to watch a lot of PBS (Public Broadcasting System, the privately funded education stuff for those who aren't from the US and don't know what that is) because my mother had been an English Literature major in college and wanted me to experience the "greater works" when I was young enough to plant the seed. While I understood little of it, the seed was indeed planted. I get nearly a high from listening to the rapid-fire pace of the intellectual lines and prefer that they not be spoken by younger Brits or Americans who just can't get the rapid-fire part in accordance with their adopted accent.

The movie starts with the warning that he who seeks revenge should dig two graves. And that's an appropriate warning, as tales of revenge are rarely told without unnecessary death involved. A wronged bridegroom goes after The Duke, the man responsible for the death of his beloved many years before. When she refused his advances, The Duke had her and the rest of the wedding party poisoned with the champagne. His brother working as a guide for the royal and morally corrupt family helps to provide the avenger with an "in," being that The Duke's eldest son wants a pimp to help seduce the virginal Castiza. Trouble is, the young woman is the baby sister of the avenger (Vindici). With incest, murder, rape and all other crimes most foul, you're never at a loss for something to focus your salacious-craving attention on.

Eccleston was more recently seen as The Rider in the box office bomb THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING, but is more fondly remembered by me as the cowering and increasingly psychopathic David in SHALLOW GRAVE. He isn't classically handsome and for some reason doesn't have the magazine cover punch that other actors of his generation have acquired, but the man is golden. He approaches all of his work, this movie included, with a voracity that is unparalleled in anyone else I've seen lately. He is the power to this movie, alternating between melancholy, wild-eyed delight and cruel deliverer of justice. If you watch the film for no other reason than to see him tear up the screen, that's good enough. But there's more to the movie than Eccleston alone. Eddie Izzard, not always commonly referred to properly as being a viable dramatic actor (which this movie is far from being a straight-forward drama, being that its twisted comedic aftertaste permeates the entire film), is strong as well, always appearing to have something up his sleeve. He is the oldest of a clan of five brothers and all of the actors in that clan are enjoyable. But let me put out a call to anyone who's dialed in right now and decree that it's a shame that the angelic Sophie Dahl (as Imogen) hasn't become a bigger actress. Hell, if it takes her screwing Jude Law to get her noticed more, I'll be the pinch hitter for that. The woman has that something about her... you know, that something that you can't put your finger on but you know you like. All in all, this was way more fun than the PBS dry biscuit stuff that mom used to make me watch. Far better.

Favorite Scene:

When Eccleston later runs into the gang of thugs that he'd beaten up earlier in the film.

Favorite Line:

"Were it not for gold and women, there would be no damnation. What was decreed before the world began, that they shall be the hooks to catch a man."

Trivia Tidbit:

The final sequence depicting the bombing of Nagasaki was originally intended to show the planes hitting the World Trade Center, relating the plot of futile revenge to the current "War on Terror."

See if you liked:

REPO MAN, SID & NANCY, MIRRORMASK

ROSARIO TIJERAS (2005)
Directed by: Emilio Maillé
Starring: Flora Martínez, Unax Ugalde

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Back in the stone ages, circa sometime in '93 when I got my first job working at a video rental store, there were these things that people checked out all the time called VHS tapes. Long before DVD when you had no option of changing the dubbing or subtitles, people used to have to rent tapes that were specially dubbed in order to hear them in a different language. I lived in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood, so the store that I worked at had a considerably sized section of VHS that were American, English language movies dubbed into Spanish. The selection wasn't a great one, but we were the best place in town to get selections like Jean Claude Van Damme's HARD TARGET en espanol. It cracked me up that people would want to watch a guy who was foreign to the English language be dubbed into another language. But after spending some time watch telenovelas, I understood why his melodramatics were popular. It seems to be normal behavior for those with Latin American roots.

And ROSARIO TIJERAS is in many ways like the Colombian version of a Van Damme movie. It focuses on a young woman who was put out onto the mean streets when her mother discovered that her stepfather was molesting her (in that lovely, I-think-you-seduced-him-you-evil-11-year-old way that these women always seem to possess) and turns into a killer and call girl for the drug syndicate. She's tough yet emotional, and with a great rack to boot. When she starts a sexual relationship with a young man named Emilio (Manolo Cardona, an actor more gorgeous than recent People's Sexiest Men selections), she ends up becoming close confidantes with his childhood friend Antonio (Ugalde), allowing him into her personal hell. There is a lot of scorching sex, bloody killings and hysterical Hispanic histrionics.

Martinez is the Latina Rose McGowan, and plays Rosario as a pouty lipped, full breasted (albeit implants) babe who isn't afraid to tell men where their place is in her life or drop her drawers when nudity is direly needed. The film wouldn't be quite the same without her, as her character is largely a caricature of the wounded spirit that most vengeance killers in these types of movies are. But her huge, round brown eyes suck you and hold you in place, even through scenes that normally would be laughable. Watching the film made me wonder what Van Damme would have sounded like if he could have spoken in his native language. I believe part of what makes TIJERAS more believable is the Spanish being spoken and the culture being different. It's strange to those unfamiliar with it but it's a lesson in the differences that we possess, rather than trying to have people jump through unnatural hoops and pretend that they're dubbed in life.

Favorite Scene:

It's a toss-up between the scene where Rosario is blessing her bullets and the WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S-ish scene with her dead brother.

Favorite Line:

"You'd better sleep. You're looking older than me."

Trivia Tidbit:

The movie is one of the highest grossing films in Colombian history.

See if you liked:

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, DESPERADO, EL MARIACHI

Out with the old, in with the new... f*ck that. We've really got to come up with a better way to look at a new year. I like old stuff. Hell... I AM old stuff.

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