Tag Archives: brutal

FILM REVIEW: Hacksaw Ridge

“One more, Lord, help me get one more…”

The battle cry – if indeed that is the correct term – of one, Desmond Doss; WWII front-line U.S military medic.

Mel Gibson certainly doesn’t do things by halves. His directorial style is, shall we say, honest and forthright; proper heart-on-sleeve stuff, and it’s suitably applied in this instance to the recounting of Desmond Doss’s incredible story.

Doss (Andrew Garfield), a deeply religious man and a conscientious objector to the act of killing (or “conscientious cooperator” as he preferred to be known), performed remarkable heroics in Japan during the Battle of Okinawa, saving the lives of countless men.

His actions were all the more remarkable considering the majority of the men he attended to single-handedly, long after the rest of his unit had retreated from the field of combat, and with Doss completely unarmed and still very much under enemy fire.

Doss had felt compelled to join the war effort, and having met his sweetheart, Nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), at his local hospital, he was inspired and therefore intent upon signing up to become a front-line military medic. Doss had a fierce aversion to violence born out of both a strong commitment to the ‘word of God,’ and having witnessed and been subjected to the beatings of an often armed, and frequently enraged father –  a self-confessed, embittered alcoholic war veteran. These beatings had been dished out indiscriminately to both he, his brother and their mother during Doss’s formative years.

Consequently, on volunteering his services to the army, Doss refused to even so much as hold a fire-arm, let alone use one in combat; something that hardly enamoured him to his assigned military unit. A stubborn resolve and considerable religious devotion somehow got him through the multitude of obstacles (both literal and metaphorical), that therefore plagued his unnecessarily complicated time at the Fort Jackson military training camp; a time in which his comrades and the U.S army did everything in their power to sabotage and infringe upon his efforts to graduate.

With their efforts in vain, however, they were shipped to Japan where Doss’s unit would face the daunting prospect of the Japanese army at Hacksaw Ridge, and Doss, voluntarily, would face it all entirely unarmed.

Hacksaw Ridge is a very linear, straight forward telling of Doss’s inspirational story. Director Gibson, with trademark lack of subtlety, forces a back-story upon us, thus setting the scene and tone of the tale. Everything is rather spelt-out, clunky and predictable, and at no point is there really ever any doubt about the direction in which his film is heading.

Such a formulaic and almost clichéd tick-box directorial exercise seems like something of a missed opportunity given the intriguing nature of Doss’s story, but in his favour, the strong momentum and no-nonsense nature of Gibson’s direction rolls this particular wagon of predictability along at such a lick, that any lingering doubts over lack of character development or absence of nuance, never successfully take root; utterly brutal scenes of combat and the fierce fight for survival see to that, and demonstrate the true point and beating heart of Gibson’s hard-hitting war piece.

I’m fairly sure that the director’s intentions with Hacksaw Ridge were manyfold. We’re all aware of Gibson’s fierce Catholic convictions, so we can only assume that this work was very much a labour of love. However, Gibson somehow pulls off the trickiest of juggling acts in not allowing his considerable religious prejudices to completely overpower a story that still manages to successfully represent – equally persuasively – the resolve of the human spirit and the drive that exists within each of us towards goodness – irrespective of  organised religion’s bad habit with regard to its inference that such moral goodness is more divine-inspired than something innate within us.

Visually the film is big, bold and dramatic, centring upon the huge imposing escarpment, on top of which the ferocious motions of battle were played-out, but it’s Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of the fresh-faced, pontifical private, which, despite a solid supporting cast, is every bit the show-stealer, and this, in conjunction with Gibson’s battering-ram of direction, sees Hacksaw Ridge somehow transcend itself from stock Hollywood schtick, to something far more thoughtful and indelible.



Antagonising a room full of white extremist skinheads with a cover version of The Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” is ill advised at the best of times, but that’s the least of this particular low-profile gigging punk band’s problems having shortly afterwards stumbled upon a brutal murder scene, backstage.

It’s fair to say that they were always going to end up really wishing they hadn’t…

Whilst there’s an apparently defining line in the sand of good against bad in writer and director Jeremy Saulnier’s rather grisly tale, the truth is in fact that neither ‘side’ here is particularly likeable at all, and it’s only ultimately by adopting the default status of outnumbered underdogs – odds stacked heavily against them – that it’s really possible to root for any of the rather brusque band members or sympathise with the increasingly fraught situation in which they find themselves.

And everything would have been so avoidable too if on witnessing the dead body in the ‘Green Room’ band member, Pat, (Anton Yelchin), had not panicked and reported the stabbing in a frantic impulse call to the police; a call witnessed unfortunately by the venue’s bouncers.

As a consequence, the band barricade themselves in a room and a tense stand-off ensues.

It’s down to venue owner, Darcy, (Patrick Stewart) – the mature voice of reason? – to attempt to convince the clearly rattled band members that they can trust him. But can they? And can he trust them not to speak of what they’ve witnessed there in The Green Room?

As mentioned to me by a friend, it takes a lot these days for a film to justify the full 18 rating certificate. Green Room does, and then some.

Be it knives, guns, home made weapons, flesh-slashing, amputations or the actions of crazed fighting dogs, this is not a film for the faint of heart.

And yet, much like its director’s previous outing, Blue Ruin, the whole thing is darkly comic making a point of placing tongue firmly in cheek – though it should be said, through the unsettling haze of incessant blood spill and grizzle, that particular feature can be rather too easily forgotten!

A refreshingly and unashamedly visceral and brutal piece.






FILM REVIEW: Bone Tomahawk

There’s a scene in Bone Tomahawk that’s so gruesome that it had me physically recoiling from the screen,  averting my eyes in the process. It’s imagery like this that I’ve struggled to shift from my mind ever since, such is its graphic and brutal nature.
Now either Im getting more squeamish with age, or director S. Craig Zahler has successfully managed to get right inside my head there. I suspect it’s a little of both.
Welcome to Bone Tomahawk folks, a particularly twisted take on the classic ‘Cowboys and Indians’ theme.
When shady and mistrustful drifter, Purvis (David Arquette), rolls into the sleepy back water town of Bright Hope, Sheriff Hunt (the very well cast, Kurt Russell) confronts shoots and wounds the man leaving him in need of urgent medical attention. Doctor Samantha (Lili Simmons) duly obliges.
With night fallen, Samantha elects to remain with her by now incarcerated patient to monitor his post-surgery condition, rather than return to her husband Arthur – himself convalescing following a leg fracture. Deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit) will stand guard over proceedings. In time he will wish he hadn’t.
With the arrival of morning comes the unwelcome realisation that doctor, patient and deputy sheriff have all vanished. A distinctive-headed arrow embedded in the sheriff’s office wall is identified as being a tell-tale sign that this abduction is the work of a troglodyte tribe of cannibalistic Indians.
You see, Purvis (and a now deceased – at the hands of the Indians – accomplice), had unwittingly desecrated the Indians’ sacred burial site and with ‘bone tomahawks’ in hand, they are hell-bent on revenge.
It’s time for Sheriff Hunt to rustle up a rescue party, saddle-up and set about imposing some justice.
Joining Hunt on this mission improbable are Arthur (Samantha’s husband), no nonsense, Brooder (Matthew Fox), and Chicory (Richard Jenkins), a stubborn old timer, defying his age, refusing to be left out.
Like many a ‘Western’ before it, Bone Tomahawk is a slow-burning affair. Indeed, a five day trek on horseback unavoidably becomes all the more drawn-out and gruelling when the Sheriff and his three cohorts have their horses stolen from right under their noses, forcing them to complete the remainder of their mission on foot. Not the end of the world you’d think, but  Arthur’s fractured and increasingly infected leg isn’t helping progress.
On having his hand hacked off, the immaculately groomed, and superbly vain, Brooder, decides that he will strap on dynamite and inflict a suicide mission upon the Indians. “I’m far too vain to go on living looking like this” he declares.
Yes, it’s devilishly dark and humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and as all such elements combine with the film’s increasingly brutal narrative, it left this viewer unsure of whether to shriek in horror and hide behind the sofa, or laugh-out-loud.
Perhaps Monty Python’s ‘Black Knight’ is as good a way as any to summarise the predicament, for no matter how many ‘mere flesh wounds’ are inflicted upon our courageous – bordering on idiotic – rescue party, they refuse to be perturbed, pressing onward, unwavering from their end goal.
It may have a classic B movie air about it, be littered with faults and inconsistencies and somehow achieve simultaneously both the humorous and repulsive, but there’s absolutely no doubting that Bone Tomahawk is at once very real, gritty and highly memorable, but  most crucially of all… enormously entertaining.
A splendid piece of cult movie-making nonsense if ever I’ve seen one.