The Ridiculous 6: A Slapstick Video Game Western

It could be seen as tiresome for a joke about taking knives to a gun fight to last almost two hours, as does The Ridiculous 6, but then a slapstick comedic attempt at a video game western could be forgiven for a having too much of a mediocre thing.

Adam Sandler and company in The Ridiculous 6

It could be seen as tiresome for a joke about taking knives to a gun fight to last almost two hours, as does The Ridiculous 6, but then a slapstick comedic attempt at a video game western could be forgiven for a having  too much of a mediocre thing.  Fans of Adam Sandler, may   enjoy this star studded offering, while others may want to do as “Smoking Fox” suggests and  “gouge their eyes out,” after 159 minutes of nonstop Sandler.

Perhaps the biggest issue with this “comedy” western, apart from the blending of genres and entertainment mediums, is that it feels like one long Saturday Night Live skit.  Like the vast majority of Sandler’s films that all have the same feel and similar formula.  The Ridiculous 6 could have been called “Happy Gilmore Goes West” and lost nothing.

Starring Chandler, Nick Nolte, Harvey Keitel, Taylor Lautner and Luke Wilson, along with the ever-present Danny Trejo, The Ridiculous 6 has a impressive pedigree of actor mixed in with SNL alumni who fill out the cast; Jon Lovitz,  Rob Schneider. With a  cameo by Steve Buscemi as a dentist/barber/doctor and John Turturro as Abner Doubleday one can only wonder what Sandler held over these performers to entice them to be in the film.

Sandler plays “White Knife” and/Tommy depending on what hat he wears, who goes to save his re-discovered father Frank Stockburn (Nolte) and along the way finds five men who all share his paternal genes.  Sandler’s idea of a taciturn western character is to growl in a low tone while gazing laconically at the camera.

For all about the film that annoys,  bores and (typical of Sandler’s one note humor) is too silly for words, there are funny moments that stand out.  There are also performances that lend themselves to praise.

For instance, Taylor Lautner has well and truly left the horrid verse of Twilight behind and shown that he can do comedic impressions. As Lil’ Pete,  Lautner gets to keep his shirt on and do his version of a simpleton Ashton Kutcher.  The actor is funny and this is either one hell of a homage to Mila Kunis’ new hubby or one massive “mickey take.” Whichever way, Taylor is leaning in his performance, he does leave his mark.

On a sidenote, the film looks great. Very “western-y” all pole corrals, proper looking saloons and outfits that fit.  It must be this “focus” on authenticity that moved the “True West” magazine’s “film critic” to speak so favorably about the film.

Standout gags:

Steve Buscemi and the ointment gag, not once but twice.  Buscemi manages to make one jar of ointment as disgusting as possible. Cringingly funny.

Luke Wilson and Harvey Keitel with the glass gag. Wilson’s character annoys Smiley (Keitel) who proceeds to beat the dickens out of Danny (Wilson). The saloon owner throws the man about like a giant rag doll and punches him repeatedly, all the while not one drop from the half-full glass is spilt.

Harvey Keitel, again as the headless Smiley.

The entire “Danny backstory” about Abe Lincoln.

Nick Nolte single-handedly populating most of the old west

Terry Crews and his red Michael Jackson outfit.

Brit English entertainment reporter Robin Leach providing the “voice” of Herm (Lost actorJorge Garcia)

Jorge Garcia as Herm.

The entire Left-Eye Gang buried in the dirt, up to their heads, and the crow, ants, lizard and snake…

Nick Nolte’s “Sh*t happens,” line.

The brilliant actor Steve Zahn and his cock-eye performance as Clem.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Lautner’s scene on the gallows.

Annoying things:

The “Native American” gags are nowhere near as funny as Sandler seems to believe.

Sandler’s preoccupation with Let’s Make a Deal and Bob Barker.

The taking a knife to a gunfight gag that runs throughout the film and the fact that the star and his director feel the need to actually point out the joke in case we missed it.

The Assassin’s Creed style of climbing walls.

The giant gold nugget that was light enough for a single man to carry.

Adam Sandler’s vocal delivery.

Rob Schneider’s Mexican accent.

The entire Mark Twain, Gen. Custer and Wyatt Earp poker game and the “gangster-speak.”

The apparent nod to Annabelle.

There were bits that missed the saddle completely. The end credits, with their Spaghetti Western animation a’la A Fistful of Dollars felt that is belonged to a different film completely. The Ridiculous 6 had nothing to do with Leone-esque type westerns or any other oater genre.

Sandler had issues with a number of his Native American cast walking off in disgust at his humor.  Amazingly, there were no non-Native American cast members who left for the same reason.   It really does beggar believe as to how Sandler got actors like Keitel and Buscemi, and Nolte to sign up.

The Ridiculous 6 is an uneven affair that has moments of hilarity, tediousness and forced humor.  This comedy western is a “straight-to-Netflix” effort, funded by the site, and it feels right at home in the medium.

This is a 3.5 out of 5 stars, earning such a high mark because the gags that do work are hysterically funny.  Fans of Sandler will love this effort and should go over to Netflix now and watch it. Others may want to give this a miss, although there are bits which tickle the funny bone. People who do not think that Adam Sandler is that funny will definitely want to avoid this film,  instead of gouging out eyeballs.

Castle: That ’70′s Show ‘Life on Mars’ Sans Harvey Keitel

Castle: That ’70′s Show ‘Life on Mars’ Sans Harvey Keitel

Last night’s Castle episode, That ’70′s Show could have been titled Life on Marssans Harvey Keitel. Although to be honest, the premise had nothing to do with being in a car crash or going back in time. In the show, there is a “visit” to the 1970′s in terms of wardrobe, the precinct, and the morgue, but no real, or imagined, trips to the time of disco is evident on the show.

La Horde (2009): A French Zombie Feeding Frenzy

Directed by  Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher (both of whom also co-wrote the film with three other writers) La Horde gives us the French take on the zombie apocalypse.

Set in a derelict building for 90% of the film, the action takes place in hallways and rooms and pretty much ends in the basement of the building. The 10% of the film time that does not take place (and 10% is “miles” over the actual amount of screen time that does not take place in the building, but I am too lazy to give a real percentage) is at the start of the film and the very end.

The film opens with a funeral. A small crowd of people are at the graveside of the dearly deceased. After the ceremony four of the mourners meet with an older woman who tells Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) that she knows what they are going to do and to bring all of them back.

The four mourners are Ouessem, Jimenez (Aurélien Recoing), and Rivoallan (Laurent Segall) and Hélène (Marie Vincent) who at the very start I thought were gangsters. It turns out that they are cops and they are attending the funeral of a comrade who’s been murdered by a drug gang.

The gang is multi-national set of thugs headed up by Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney) and his brother Bola (Doudou Masta) and Tony (Antoine Oppenheim) and a few other thugs to fill out the numbers.

The cops approach the “abandoned” building and kill one of the gang’s lookouts. As they enter the building the “manager” comes out armed with a shotgun. They explain that they are there for Ade’s gang, telling the manager to forget he saw them and they go up to the criminal’s hideout.

As they are preparing to enter the flat, the manager shows back up and inadvertently alerts the gang to the planned entry. Rivoallan is shot through the door; Jimenez shoots the explosive that they placed on the door and gets injured. Bola comes out and shoots the manager and the cops are drug into the crooks lair.

Meanwhile, France is undergoing a catastrophic experience that includes explosions, fire and smoke and (although the group doesn’t know it yet) a zombie infestation. By the time the two bands find out about the zombie problem, they have lost most of the crooks and one of the cops. This little group form an uneasy alliance and decide to get out of the building.

Yves Pignot as René.

As they fight their way through the building they meet René (delightfully played by Yves Pignot) who is the condemned building’s resident loony and ex-soldier. He joins the ever decreasing group and they all attempt to escape the zombie infested building alive.

The movie itself is entertaining but not overly so. I did not care for any of the police, they were not a cohesive group and everyone had issues with everyone else. The female cop was not likeable and she actually was the least sympathetic character of the group. No one did anything that made their characters stand out.

But, the bad guys?

They were great. The film belonged to Ade and Bola and Tony. These three actors owned this film. Every time that Ade (Eriq Ebouaney) was on screen he commanded the scene; Doudou Masta and Antoine Oppenheim as Bola and Tony had a similar effect when they interacted with anyone.

I have no doubt that Oppenheim’s resemblance to a younger Harvey Keitel helped to call attention to his character. Ebouaney has so much presence that you find it difficult to tear your eyes away when he is in a scene. Masta has a great capacity for clearly exhibiting pathos and angst. This trio blew everyone else away in the film and rightly so.

The only exception was Pignot as René who used his lifetime of experience as a film actor to shine as the Vietnam veteran who is obsessed with warfare and killing “chinks.” He was the only other actor who could compete with the three gangsters on film.

But despite the fact that I enjoyed the film (but not too much, remember) I hated the ending. It was not unexpected, considering the total lack of sympathy I had with the female cop, but I would have preferred a different solution to the film.

This is definitely a 3 star film (out of 5) and worth the price of admission for the crazy ex-soldier and the three drug cartel gangsters alone; definitely a Netflix film versus a “buyer.”

Bola and Ade.

From Dusk Till Dawn: (1996) Seth and Richie Gecko

Seth and Richie

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino (who also played Richie Gecko) From Dusk Till Dawn is a Genre Bender. In other words it starts out as one kind of film and evolves into another.

At the film’s opening we see the Gecko brothers Seth (George Clooney) and Richie (Tarantino) and their two hostages who are in a gas station/liquor/convenience store. After they destroy the place, the film segues into the opening credits. It is apparent that the film is about two criminals who are fleeing the police.

Later in the film the Gecko’s take the Fuller family hostage so they can use their Recreational Vehicle (RV) and them to get into Mexico. Jake Fuller (Harvey Keitel) is a man of the cloth who has turned his back on his faith, Kate (Juliette Lewis) is his troubled daughter and Scott (Ernest Liu) is his adopted son.

After the entire group make good the Gecko’s escape to Mexico, they wait in a bar recommended by Carlos, The Titty Twister. Carlos (Cheech Moran) is Seth’s contact who will take him and Richie to El Rey and he has told Seth that he will meet them at dawn. Once the group are inside the club (which is in fact a strip club run by Salma Hayek where all the employees, along with Salma, are some sort of mutated vampires who feed off the clientele) everything changes.

The film is no longer about the Gecko’s escape from the law, it’s now about the two families escaping the club alive. The film, to me anyway, is beyond brilliant. It is almost the perfect ensemble of talent. Script by Tarantino, direction by Rodriguez, FX by Greg Nicotero, and George Clooney in his first starring film role. Not to mention the rest of the cast, Keitel, Lewis, Tom Savini, Michael Parks, Cheech Marin as three different characters…Well you get the idea.

But what I want to discuss today is not the overall film or the genre shift it so cleverly performs. No, I want to talk about Seth and Richard (Richie) Gecko and their dynamic.

In the opening sequence of the film we get an instant idea of who is in charge in the relationship. Seth is the mouthpiece, the leader and the thinker. Richie is the follower, he is also odd.

When Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) comes in to get some Jack Daniels and to use the toilet, he stands and talks to the store clerk Pete Bottoms (John Hawkes) before he saunters off to the restroom. Seth comes up and accuses Pete of not listening to his instructions for Pete to “get rid of the cop” and Pete explains that he is doing that.

Seth and Richie reminding Pete the clerk to lose the cop.

During this exchange Richie whispers to Seth that Pete is making signs at the cop.

*SPOILER ALERT — FROM HERE ON THERE WILL BE THE OCCASIONAL SPOILER — SPOILER ALERT*

As McGraw exits the toilet and goes to pay for his booze, Richie comes up behind him and shoots him point blank in the back of the head. For the first time since we’ve entered the store, Richie speaks out loud. He tells an angry Seth that Pete had been mouthing the words “Help me” to the Ranger.

Pete becomes apoplectic and denies this. He accuses Richie of lying. In the resulting firefight between Pete and the Gecko’s Richie is shot through the hand. Afterwards Richie has a hole through his hand and he seems detached from the whole incident.

We learn through television news flashes that Seth is a professional thief and that Richie is a psychopathic rapist/murderer. Seth himself does not seem aware of the fact that Richie is psychotic until he leaves him in charge of their hostage, bank teller Gloria Hill.

Before Seth goes to get food and to scope out their surroundings, he tells Gloria that as long as she doesn’t cause any problems and does as he says she will come out of her ordeal alive. We the audience never doubt his sincerity. He then leaves and Richie goes into the bedroom where Gloria is and asks if she wants to watch television.

Seth returns with some Big Kahuna burgers (a trademark of Tarantino’s) and information on what is going on in the area. He gives Richie his burger and takes two more burgers out of the fast food bag. He looks at the third burger in surprise and then remembers the hostage in the bedroom with the door closed.

He says to Richie, “Where’s the woman?” Richie gestures toward the bedroom, “She’s in there.” Seth goes to the bedroom door and opens it. His reaction to what he is seeing is beyond a doubt one of the most masterful moments of the film.

As Seth takes in the carnage in front of him on the bed, he starts a nervous tic of jerking his head ever so slightly, like he is starting to crack a stiff neck muscle. He also starts to slowly blink. Interwoven into Seth’s reaction are almost nanosecond flashes of the scene he is viewing. Blood, flesh, twisted gore filled bedsheets all flit past our eyes as we share the horror with Seth.

It is a turning point in the film for the two brothers. Seth suddenly realises that his beloved brother is a monster. The professional in him reacts angrily. He confronts Richie and loudly berates him for what has happened. Richies says that she tried to escape and she became threatening. Seth reacts angrily and says, “That lady would not have said shit if she had a mouthful.”

He starts banging Richies head against the motel room wall and Richie, disheveled with his glasses falling off his face, starts crying. Seth pulls himself together and then starts to calm Richie telling him that when they reach El Rey everything will be better and that he’ll get help for Richie.

Just a quick note on El Rey. In the “making of” features on the DVD both Tarantino and Rodriguez talk about El Rey. Wikipedia says this about El Rey:

El Rey is a fictional Mexican village that acts as sanctuary for expatriate American fugitives, first used by author Jim Thompson in his 1959 pulp novel, The Getaway, and again referenced in the 1996 Robert Rodriguez film, From Dusk till Dawn. In both stories, El Rey possesses a near-mythic reputation and represents the protagonists’ ultimate objective. But in truth, it’s a hellish community where inflation runs free and all new arrivals are enslaved and ultimately executed when they can no longer work.

On the DVD commentary, writer Quentin Tarantino reveals that the city is in fact hell.

The next time we see Richie he has asked Jacob Fuller if he can borrow their ice bucket. When Jacob agrees, Seth comes in and tells Jacob and his son that they are going to be their hostages. Daughter Kate returns from the pool in a bikini and Seth immediately takes full control. He now knows that Richie cannot be trusted around women.

Richie getting in the mood.

This fact is rammed home when Richie has a conversation with Kate and she asks him if he will, “Lick my pussy.” When Richie starts to reply Seth snaps him out of his mental reverie and we realise that the conversation never really took place, except in Richie’s mind. It is another scene that shows just how scarily “out-there” Richie is.

Later when the Fuller family and the Gecko’s are in the RV, Richie. Kate and Scott are in the back. Richie leans forward and tells Kate that, “What you asked about in the hotel? I’d be glad to help you with that.” Kate clearly has no idea of what Richie is talking about and her face shows her confusion and her realisation that Richie isn’t the full ticket.

If we needed any more indications of just how uncontrollable Richie is, we find out when the group and their RV is stopped at the Mexican border. Just before a border guard comes into the RV to search it Seth takes Richie and Kate and they cram into the RV’s tiny bathroom. Richie takes offence at something Seth says and starts to throw a tantrum. Just as he starts raising his voice, Seth clocks him with his elbow and knocks him out cold. Kate looks at Seth and says thank you.

These scenes and the interaction of the two characters spells out for the viewer exactly who the Gecko’s are and what their relationship is. Seth, despite the fact that he cannot understand Richie and his revulsion at what Richie does, loves his brother and tries to “save” him.

The entire film is just brilliant and perfect marriage of cast and crew and script. A lot of film references are in the movie, mostly of horror films and icons. But in closing the best film reference is the duo of the Gecko’s. That they were inspired by the Gorch brothers (Ben Johnson and Warren Oates) in The Wild Bunch is beyond doubt.

If you don’t think so, just watch the start of the movie again and listen to Seth’s dialogue when he is warning Pete the store clerk.