Friday, December 24, 2010

White Heat, or Everyone in 1949 had EXCELLENT Aim

Sorry for the tardiness--Christmas madness and all.

I love these sorts of movies: a bunch of bad guys, a heist, chases, shootouts, explosions, and a random literary reference. Totally in my wheelhouse if two guys are shot violently and cold-heartedly before minute 3 is up. Thanks, Dad.

These sorts of films are normally placed firmly in "boy territory." Written by boys, directed by boys, acted by boys with one or two hot dames thrown in for boy eye candy, marketed to and watched by boys. What's interesting about this film, ready for it?--it was written by a girl! And that girl, Virginia Kellogg, was nominated for an Oscar for her efforts (she lost to a boy for a James Stewart baseball movie).

Anyway, this is one of the few films we've seen so far that I actually enjoyed watching but I think it also worth watching for more than being fun. It seems to be a front-runner in the "bad guy has issues" genre rather than "bad guy is just bad because he's bad and we're going to focus on the GOOD guy anyway because he's GOOD" genre. This bad guy is bad for a reason and we see him spiral into the depths of his psychosis as his world unravels.

We also see "technology" being used for a police chase--which amused me to no end because I can sort of pick out the locations now that I live in LA and, let me tell you, you wouldn't get the places they got with that sort of speed, echo locator thingamajig or no.

I was also highly amused by the accuracy of the gun play in the film. Nine times out of ten, if a guy shot a gun, he hit his target, even if that target is moving around far away on top of a ginormous gas tank. If you watch a contemporary version of this sort of film, the hit to miss ratio is not nearly as high. The guys in White Heat could shoot the cotton tip off of a Q-tip (Steven Seagal can do it) while the guys in a contemporary film might hit the broad side of a barn once every four shots.

So, why watch this one according to our trusty guide? Apparently, Cagney's Cody is the perfect example of the "ultimate contradiction that brings down movie gangsters: fantastic egotism and dreams of invincibility undermined by all-too-human dependencies and vulnerabilities." Out here in the real world, we might just call that hubris and be done with it. I'll agree with that but I'd offer that perhaps it's not just that he's the perfect example, it's that this is one of the films that focuses primarily on that contradiction. In other films, the hubris and fall are there but they're not the crux of the film whereas with White Heat Cody's descent into madness is the point of the film.

No comments:

Post a Comment