In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_large_20ut2u5dmgl6szdu0adaq8u5zoc

The Interview

Opportunities at rich satire flatten out into Hangover dude-dope-doodoo jokes, where the premise is that there’s nothing funnier than watching over-privileged grown men act out…

Thumb_american_sniper

American Sniper

American Sniper proves the dictum “never count an auteur out” by proving itself as Eastwood’s strongest directorial effort since 2009's underrated Invictus pretty much right…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Straight to Hell

  |  

Not long ago, Omni magazine did an issue on the movies of the future, and asked me which young directors showed the most promise of being the grandmasters of the 21st century. Alex Cox was right there at the top of my list. After "Repo Man" and "Sid and Nancy," I believed that he could scarcely do wrong, and that there was a streak of obsession in his genius that might well carry him into the pantheon.

Since then I have seen Cox's "Straight to Hell," and I must report that he is human after all. I still anticipate his next film. I still think he has a special gift. But "Straight to Hell" is an indulgent mess, a movie so uneasy about itself that the press release is prefaced with this quote by Joe Strummer of the Clash: "Yuppies are gonna hate it." Strummer is right, but he need not have stopped so soon. In fact, if he finds a demographic group that does not hate it, he should phone in a new quote for the ads.

The movie was filmed in Spain, on the same sets that Sergio Leone used for his spaghetti Westerns, and it's a sendup of those movies, I guess. Fierce desperadoes stalk the streets of a Western town, shooting each other and drinking lots of coffee and buying hot dogs from the local vendor. The wind howls and the music is tense and lonely, and there are dozens of corpses by the end of the film.

But there is not, alas, a comic or satirical point of view. Cox and his co-writer, Dick Rude, have nothing they want to say about Leone or spaghetti Westerns, no angle of approach to their material, no characters they want to develop in an interesting way. In fact, they scarcely bother to develop characters at all; a group of people arrive at the beginning of the movie, mill about aimlessly, and are mostly dead at the end.

"Straight to Hell" was "filmed in three weeks on a shoestring budget of $1 million," but looks more as if it were filmed in one week on Cox's MasterCard. The cast is littered with familiar faces who dropped in for the fun: Strummer, Elvis Costello, Grace Jones, Jim Jarmusch, and Dennis Hopper - whose mere presence should have sent up some sort of a warning light. It was Hopper who went to Peru in 1970 and made "The Last Movie / Chinchero," another shapeless gonzo Western starring lots of rock stars and personal friends, and the backlash from that movie put his career on hold for years. Cox seems to have staged the same sort of come-as-you-are party.

Watching the movie in a dreary reverie, while nameless characters shot at each other for no discernible reason, I asked myself what it was lacking. And the answer, I guess, is sort of old-fashioned: It needed some kind of coherent narrative, so that I could understand the relationships and the plot enough to determine if I cared about them.

"Straight to Hell" is simply a record of aimless behavior, of a crowd of pals asked to dress up like cowboys and mill about on a movie set. The way I would like to interpret all of this is, Alex Cox is saving himself for his next film.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Dear Angelina: Thoughts on "Cleopatra"

A letter to Angelina Jolie about the casting of her upcoming take on "Cleopatra."

The Ten Best TV Programs of 2014

The best television programs of 2014.

Roger Moore's Best: "The Spy Who Loved Me"

An FFC comments on Roger Moore's best James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus