Hacksaw Ridge (2016): I Got You (Review)

Andrew Garfield as Desmond T. Doss

Mel Gibson may well have clawed his way out of the Hollywood “doghouse” with Hacksaw Ridge. Directed by Mel and based on a screenplay co-written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight the film tells the “true” story of Desmond T. Doss. Doss was the first medic to win the Medal of Honor without ever firing a shot in the battlefield. 

Somewhat amazingly, this over two hour film cracks along at a pace that never really lets up. We follow Doss as he fights the system and a group of Army colleagues who take forever to understand his beliefs. Andrew Garfield plays Doss (and got a BAFTA for his portrayal) in the Oscar winning film and his utterance of “I got you,” to each man he treats becomes a mantra of sorts to the audience. It also allows a certain amount of truth to shine through his performance and must be based on the real Doss and his time in the field. 

The editing, which won an Oscar, and the practical FX steal the show here as the battle sequences and the horrific injuries suffered by the men on Hacksaw Ridge while taking on an almost overpowering enemy are spectacular.  They are also hard to watch.

This could be said of the whole film. It is difficult to see Doss get a dose of barrack room justice – when his fellow soldiers follows the sergeant’s and the captain’s orders to make Doss see the “error of his ways.” It is just as difficult to see the death of the first man who really understand’s the conscientious objector.

Gibson’s film shows us many instances of discomfort, suffering and visceral wounds that, if real, would turn the stomach over with revulsion and horror. This may well be the real triumph of Hacksaw Ridge; it is not just the re-telling of the first decorated non-combative hero but a testament to the bloody and terrible toll of war in general.

(This was Mel’s chance to follow up the 1981 Peter Weir film Gallipoli, another film that focusses on the horrors of war. Gibson was in the film playing Frank Dunne an Aussie soldier.)

As an action film, Hacksaw Ridge, delivers on many levels. The battle on top of the ridge is intense and practically non-stop. Even the fall of night only delays the advance of the enemy for a short time.

In terms of performances, Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington both deliver admirably and Hugo Weaving is brilliant as the alcoholic WWI veteran who goes to bat for his son.  

The film is a white knuckle ride, including Doss’ expected hell in boot camp, and only the hardest heart would not get a lump in their throat at some of the more touching scenes. There are moments where the horrific injuries and the sounds of battle are almost too much and one can only imagine the bravery of those concerned at the actual event.

Mel Gibson’s ticket to redemption, in the eyes of Hollywood, is a full 5 star effort. There are mistakes, historical and otherwise, but these do not diminish the power of the film and its story. This is a brilliant counterpoint to Clint Eastwood’s 2014 film, American Sniper; which glorified the killing aspect of war.

Hacksaw Ridge is available on DVD and various online streaming platforms. Check out the trailer below:

Mad Max: Fury Road Second Trailer with Battle Royale Music Equals Awesome

Mad Max: Fury Road Second Trailer with Battle Royale Music Equals Awesome

The 1979 cult classic Mad Max is one of those films, that despite the filmmakers deciding to dub Mel Gibson’s voice in U.S. theatres, falls into that sacred category of “should never be remade,” but the release of the second Fury Road trailer complete with the 2000 Battle Royale film music equals some kind of awesome. It also makes the argument of not remaking the film a moot point. When a trailer looks and sounds this great, it is almost fait accompli that the film is going to rock socks at the cinema.

Bruce Willis Departure from Expendables 3 All About the Money

Bruce Willis Departure from Expendables 3 All About the Money

Come Out and Play (2012) Mexican Somnambulistic Scares

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We all have a picture of life south of the border, Mexico has always evoked images of fiestas and siestas, one meaning to party hardy and the other to have an afternoon nap because of said partying. Things are slower and more relaxed in Me-he-co amigo. So is this little horror film from south of the border.

It features a film that moves so slowly it feels a bit like sleep walking. Sleep walking that leads you straight into a Village of the Damned cum Children of the Corn type nightmare. Oozing an atmosphere that feels like molasses trickling down a table leg, Come Out and Play is a film you can’t hurry along.

Written and directed by Makinov  and based on a novel by Juan José Plans, Come Out and Play is the first feature film by Makinov and it combines the slowness of an old ballad with the discord of a one legged dancer.

Starring Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw, and Daniel Giménez Cacho; whom I’d just seen in  Mel Gibson‘s Get the Gringo play the three main protagonists in the film, although Cacho isn’t in the film nearly long enough.

The film opens with Francis (Moss-Bachrach) wandering through Mexican streets during carnival asking for directions. He is trying to rent a boat so he and his heavily pregnant wife Beth (Shaw) can get to an island village that is famous for its carnivals. After securing the boat, Francis and Beth go down to the marina and head to the island.

When they arrive there are a group of boys lining the dock fishing. All of them seem to be friendly and help to tie up the boat and help the couple to bring their bags on the dock. Only one boy isn’t friendly and despite Francis’ best attempts, he doesn’t respond to his kindness. The couple then make their way into the village and it’s seemingly deserted.

The three protagonists.
The three protagonists.

When they find a cafe, it looks like everyone has left in a hurry, leaving half empty glasses on tables. There is a “ham” radio on the wall that keeps intermittently broadcasting a woman who sounds distressed. Since Beth is tired, Francis decides to go and find some people.

From the moment that Francis and his wife land on the island, the atmosphere of the film screams, “Wrong!” Everything seems off and eerie. The place is completely deserted and you know that if you were there, you’d run right straight back to the boat, get in, take off and never come back.

Of course the young couple cannot do that as there would then be no film. It is explained through their dialogue that these two are world travellers and that not too much spooks them. Too bad, it seems that travelling around the world dulls your “Spidey-senses.” They eventually find out what has happened on the island and it’s not good.

If you are expecting a “jump-scare” movie or one that throws horror at you in a violent manner, this is not the film for you. Come Out and Play builds an almost unbearable tension from the moment these two arrive at the island. Despite the slow pace of this film, I could not tear my eyes away from the snail like events on the screen. Although I did “second-guess” the ending, it still made sense and to be fair the director did signpost it very well.

I’d give this little gem a 4 out of 5 just for the slow moving creepy atmosphere of the village on the little island and for leading me twice to the wrong conclusion on how it would end; before I finally paid attention to the signs that the director so helpfully put in place.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation/Get the Gringo (2012) VoD

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Written by Mel Gibson, Stacy Perskie,  and Adrain Grunberg – who also directed the film – How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Get the Gringo was a “straight-to-Video-on-Demand” project that Gibson claimed was done because, “We’re just in a different era. Many people just like to see things in their homes….I think it’s the future.” [Los Angeles Times] It was screened in the UK and a few other countries but in the US (where his biggest critics reside) it was VoD. 

I am not sure if Mel is right or if he was just hedging his bets after a massive fall in popularity following his divorce, separation, racist behaviour and other negative publicity. Gibson’s last few years have been more scandal ridden than film ridden and it seems that he is attempting to claw his way back into favour with his (few remaining) fans.

Set in the world of the infamous (and now closed) El Pueblito Prison in Tijuana Mexico, Gibson plays a nameless professional thief who escapes from the Texas law by crashing through the border fence between Texas and Mexico with millions in stolen cash and his mortally wounded partner.

Once they land on the Mexican side of the border, the Federales are all ready to turn Gibson, and his now dead partner, over to the Texas border police when they spy the bags of stolen money. In that moment, the Federales change their minds and take Gibson and his partner into custody.

Gibson winds up in El Pueblito prison which is more like a criminal village behind bars. Where practically anything can be bought and prisoners walk around with guns and run the prison. Once in, Gibson’s character must survive and escape or he’ll be buried in the prison and never see freedom again.

Gibson is the only “real” name in the film, apart from Peter Stormare who has a cameo as the “big boss” he stole the money from. The rest of the cast all look familiar but aren’t anyone I’ve ever heard of. The boy who plays doomed liver donor (Kevin Hernandez) does a brilliant job as the cigarette mooching aide-de-camp of Gibson’s nameless con.

Kevin Hernandez as "the kid."
Kevin Hernandez as “the kid.”

When I saw the film, it was on Netflix and I vaguely remembered seeing a trailer or two for it on other DVD’s. Until watching it, I’d never heard of El Pueblito although I knew that prisons were run differently “south of the border.”

Author Joseph Waumbaugh, in his excellent non-fiction book Lines and Shadows, tells of how two policemen interrogate prisoners in Mexico. The prisoner is tied to a chair and has his head forced back. While one Federale holds the head, the other will open a bottle of Coke. After shaking said bottle the top is then held under the prisoners nose.  A fountain of soda spritzes up the nose and into the sinuses. An extremely painful experience that results in a 100% confession rate.

When a Mexican prison rioted in the 70’s television cameras showed crates of Coca-Cola being shipped into the prison. The riot was quelled without having a single shot fired or baton raised.

Having this in the back of my head while watching the film, made me believe that conditions like those shown could, in fact, be true and they were. Just enter el pueblito in the Google search engine; it was shut down in 2002 and was very close to how the prison was depicted in the movie.

Historical references aside, Gibson plays another character like “Parker” (based on the Donald Westlake books) who is a professional crook and also ex-military sniper. In other words, a character that he could play in his sleep. It never felt like a huge stretch for Mel and it featured bits of humour that were reminiscent of his Lethal Weapon films.

The film features a narration by Gibson and it does help move the film along and is not too obtrusive. I, as a rule, don’t care for too many “narration” films; it can get a bit annoying to be treated to a constant voice over, especially if the actor doing said narrative isn’t very good.

All in all the film was very entertaining and fun to watch. I’d have to give it a 4 out of 5 stars just because I felt that Gibson was reverting to playing a role that, as I said above, he could have sleep walked through.

Will this film move him up in his fan’s estimations or is he wasting his time on a career that’s been ruined by too much adverse publicity? Only time will tell and if he can manage to keep his less savoury antics under control he just might be able to repair the damage. What do you think?

Mel in his clown robbers outfit.
Mel in his clown robbers outfit.