To my surprise Start the Revolution Without Me begins with none other than Orson Welles introducing the film as well as narrating it; this along with the stylistic opening credits featuring footage of John Barrymore in Don Juan I know I had to be in for a treat. Start the Revolution Without Me is largely unheard of but surely paved the way for other large-scale historical comedies of the 70’s and 80’s from the likes of Monty Python and Mel Brooks; a type of film comedy which is long extinct. The recurring repetition of the date “1789” in the narration has vibes of Monty Python while the film’s ending reminds me of that from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Likewise, the film is probably the closest thing to a spoof of costume dramas; think the costume drama getting the Mel Brooks treatment. The film includes references to works of fiction including A Tale of Two Cities, The Corsican Brothers and The Man in the Iron Mask (portrayed here as a bumbling fool). With the film’s historical references, King Louis XVI is a slow-witted cuckold and Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a nymphomaniac.
The production spared no expense getting the shoot in actual historical locations in France. You would think they would only allow such locations for more dignified films, not a slapstick comedy. The film itself is as lavish as any big-budget costume drama but not in tone of course. Costume pictures are always a genre I’ve struggled with, dare I say I find them dull with characters I can’t identify with or care about; you know, rich people problems. Thus there’s a sense of satisfaction seeing the genre turned into a slapstick farce. Not only do you get an impressive display of madcap physical comedy, but you even get some swashbuckling action with Gene Wilder getting the opportunity to display his abilities as a swordsman.
Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland play two sets of identical twins who are accidentally switched at birth resulting in an aristocrat with a false brother who was supposed to be born into life as a peasant and vice versa. I get the impression Sutherland plays the twins intended to be aristocrats as they seem more comfortable and in tune with the lifestyle than the two twins played by Wilder. Mistaken identity humour is often looked down upon but it makes laugh whenever it is done well. Start the Revolution Without is inspired zaniness if I’ve ever seen it.
Proper Action and Sh*t
***This Review Contains Spoilers***
Hot Fuzz is my favourite comedy of the new millennium as well as in my top 5 favourite films of said era. I already thought Shaun of the Dead itself was a perfect film yet Hot Fuzz is even better. There are so many film and pop culture references, inside jokes and foreshadowing ranging from the subtle to the more obvious. Just how long does it take to write a movie this layered? It’s like Bad Boys meets The Vicar of Dibley meets The Wicker Man. British comedy has long been about quality over quantity, just look at the small episode count of British sitcoms or films by Aardman Animations which employee a similar style of humour to Hot Fuzz; there is more comedy in this one film than several Hollywood comedies combined. The pacing and consistency of the jokes in Hot Fuzz are perfect, never is there more than 10 seconds that I’m not laughing. For me, the best laugh was saved until the end when the swan attacks the police officer in the car.
Those moments when Danny (Nick Frost) asks Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) about films he has seen; just how many times have I been in this situation in real life when someone names films one by one (usually junk food films) and when you say you haven’t seen one they keep going onto you about it. Angel himself manages to be a likable character despite his overt political correctness but for me, Timothy Dalton steals the show. He really is one of the last of his kind as a Shakespearean trained actor who can play these types of debonair villains; here he just has the smuggest look on his face.
It’s easy for a film to mock bureaucracy but this seems to be one film which speaks in its favour, then again how many films can make the act of filling out paperwork look exciting. The film’s use of fascism and the concept of “The Greater Good” (the greater good!) as a theme surprisingly is highly thought-provoking.
Hot Fuzz satirizes action movies by being grounded in reality and with Danny’s misconceptions between fantasy and reality yet at the same time also celebrates them. Having an action movie with British police officers, set in a small English town and full of Hollywood action movie tropes; the concept works on so many levels – likely because there doesn’t exist a tradition of cop movies in the UK. Plus having the bad guy’s hideout being an outlet for an actual British supermarket chain is another stroke of brilliance. There’s just something refreshing and satisfying watching these Hollywood clichés spoofed in a British manner. Action movies have never been a favourite genre of mine, especially this brand of shaky cam, fast cut action, but the action scenes here are legitimately edge of your seat thrilling. The film’s use of CGI blood is my only complaint but when a film is this amazing I can look past this one flaw. Thank you, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for improving the greater good of British cinema (the greater good!).
Kirk Douglas and Arnold Schwarzenegger did a movie together? Yeah, I couldn’t believe it at first either. But that’s only the tip the iceberg of bizarreness that is Cactus Jack. It’s also a live-action Road Runner cartoon! So let’s sum this up: “One of the all-time Hollywood greats and the granddaddy of cheesy action movies team up for a live-action road runner cartoon.” How did this movie bypass me for so long?
Douglas (in remarkable shape for 61) wasn’t as a big a star as he once was by the 1970s, so did he take this role due to lack of superior film offerings or was he not ashamed to show that he had a sense of humour about himself as the inept, out of his league outlaw Cactus Jack Slade. It’s also worth noting the relationship he has with his horse named Whiskey parallels to that he shared with a horse of the same name in a previous Kirk Douglas film Lonely are the Brave from 1962 – with the one difference being that the Whiskey in Cactus Jack acts in a cartoonish, anthropomorphic manner.
I’m also not sure if much of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s line delivery is supposed to be intentionally or unintentionally funny in the role of the male bimbo Handsome Stranger as he is oblivious to the sexual advances of Ann Margret’s Charming Jones. The scene in which Handsome narrates a flashback about when he tried to stop a bunch of runaway horses from injuring women, children and old men while trying his hardest to emote cracks me up.
The main problem with Cactus Jack is that the jokes are very hit and miss, from well-timed gems to moments of head-scratching awkwardness. At 85 minutes it’s already a short movie but even then it could have trimmed down to meet the requirements of its high concept premise. The roadrunner inspired gags are undoubtedly the highlight as Jack pulls props and elaborate setups out of thin air. By far my favourite gag is the classic painting a tunnel onto the side of a rock; having this gag in a cartoon is funny itself, however, I find having it played out in live-action is even funnier in the sense that I couldn’t believe they were doing a live-action rendition of this joke, having me pondering if that the carriage would really go through that painted tunnel.
On the other hand, other slapstick gags in the film don’t make a whole heap of sense even within the film’s cartoon world nor appear to have a clear method as to what Cactus Jack is trying to do in order to take down Handsome Stranger and Charming. Likewise, Cactus Jack is not a film that is particularly well-directed although a sleeker project would have less charm. This is the type of film I can watch more than once based purely on its novelty value and I’m happy it exists, even in its very flawed state.