Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Grab Bag Robert Edition: Enter the Dragon, Bad Company, The Hustler

By coincidence, all three of the movies I'm reviewing today are directed by guys named Robert. It's a theme!

Enter the Dragon, by Robert Clouse, 1973

I remember when I was a little kid and Bruce Lee was the bomb. I knew he was the greatest long before I ever saw a single one of his movies. He's still the bomb, as it happens. I haven't seen Enter the Dragon in probably close to 20 years, so all I really remembered was that Lady from Shanghai style fight in the house of mirrors, and the claw marks on Bruce Lee's chest and cheeks.

One thing that struck me about Enter the Dragon is how, in an effort to reach all the demographics they could, the producers made a movie that mixed as many genres as they could (martial arts, crime movie, spy movie, blaxploitation), and was strangely racially diverse for its time. I'm not saying it's not exploitative, but it was kinda cool that there was a Chinese guy, a black guy, and a white guy fighting in this tournament on equal ground. I liked the villain with the fake hand that had various weapon attachments too. I guess I forgot about that guy. But Bruce Lee was coolest of all.

Bad Company, by Robert Benton, 1972

I don't think I've ever seen Jeff Bridges this young before. So I guess that's cool. Sort of like seeing young Beau Bridges in that old Hal Ashby movie, but, you know, better.

Bad Company is a western starring Barry Brown as a young, well-to-do, educated lad, sent west by his parents to save him from conscription and certain death in the Civil War (Vietnam parable, anyone?). On his way, he crosses paths with a fellow kid named Jake (Bridges) and his gang of teenage thieves, also avoiding the war, cheating and stealing their way west. Barry joins up with Jake's gang and gets into all sorts of trouble, though he still tries to keep on the straight and narrow.

It's a pretty good movie. Better than I expected, anyhow. Bridges is awesome as always in a sort of loveable rogue role. I liked the way it starts with them as mortal enemies, becomes a buddy movie, before they become mortal enemies again and then buddies. It was also pretty violent and dark with a surprisingly high good guy body count, showing us just how wild and dangerous the west can be. This movie is worth checking out, I'd say, though it's not great.

The Hustler, by Robert Rossen, 1961

Now THIS is great. A legitimate classic, by all accounts.

This is the story of Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), a pool hustler with a desperate need to prove himself by beating Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Along the way, he makes some enemies, and finds a fragile love in Sarah (Piper Laurie), a sad alcoholic woman.

The performances are all around excellent, but I especially loved George C. Scott as Bert Gordon, who takes it upon himself to manage Fast Eddie. The dialogue is incredible, too. It makes you wish more movies nowadays were written this well, or at least in this manner. I also loved the cinematography, which won an Oscar. There's an amazing continuous shot that follows Sarah around a party. We see just how much of a wreck she is as she finishes three entire drinks in a single take. Much of the movie is shot around a pool table, but it never stops being interesting. You'd think there would only be a limited way to shoot a game of pool, but they keep you involved.

Out of these three movies, this is the big one. If you haven't seen The Hustler yet, you definitely should.


So there you have it. If I was to base it off of these three movies, I would say that guys name Robert are pretty good directors.

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