So this trailer for a Punisher film was put out at San Diego Comicon in July this last year: Dirty Laundry
Shown to me a few weeks after by a friend from out of town it’s stayed on my mind for a good while now (but I sure didn’t get this blog article written in a timely manner). Violent and fun and potentially a new development in how individual interests work to get movies green-lit but still boringly disappointing on the lady front in the way my favorite genre movies generally are.
Set in a nowhere-ville that reads like a cross between Brooklyn, LA and Sudan with a lack of people on the streets making time of day either 4 in the morning or sometime post apocalypse, a man wakes up in a van and I think, “The Wrestler; what a great movie”. Who is this man steppin’ outta this van? It is Thomas Jane, star of the 2004 version of The Punisher.
So Punisher. Stumbling into this Marvel character’s comics as a kid made for me the introduction to SAT vocabulary word, “vigilante”. In my personal dictionary it is his black unitarded person that stands glowering next to the word’s definition.
Why the angry face? Punisher, aka Frank Castle’s family was murdered by mobsters. His need for revenge and justice in the wake of this tragedy, ends up being insatiable. Frank Castle becomes The Punisher, a justice dealing out killer that just wont quit. This being a backstory not at all uncommon in the comic book genre: Batman, Dick Grayson, Shi, Red Sonja, Spider Woman (I’m thinking if you find the right wiki this could be a very long list) Punisher, with no superpowers except for his super seriousness, is meant to be distinct from his fellow comic book compatriots with his willingness to kill. Punisher mets out an eye for an eye justice with no regrets. Lacking a rich double life, having no super-friends, no catchy badguys, and no saucy girl foils, this character failed to keep my interest as I can’t keep holding on. To what you got. When all you’ve got is hurt.
Regardless the character’s gotta look money to a lot of people as over the year there have already been 3 movies made with this character off the Marvel back lot. Hollywood is nothing if not chockablock with wanna be action heroes and wanna be megahits. Dirty Laundry, this latest Punisher effort was introduced to me as having been entirely paid for (or not paid for?) by the actor. This seems unique and noteworthy to me.
Thomas Jane is quoted as saying “I wanted to make a fan film for a character I’ve always loved and believed in – a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans…” (Dear Nightcrawler -long have I longed to wrastle with your blue fuzzy person…). Having never seen Tomas Jane’s first Punisher I Netflix instant viewed it. TJ’s first Punisher is not a good movie. It’s not TERRIBLE… its biggest flaw lies in it being rote: Frank Castle’s family is killed and he finds vengeance. Although this is not an uncommon storyline in movies that I’ve liked: Mad Max, Gladiator,Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Cyborg (like is maybe a strong word in this case), Beastmaster, Conan, The Crow, 2004′s Punisher doesn’t cover any new ground and with nowhere new to go this movie just never gets going.
Possibly this character really resonates with Mr. Jane, possibly he was inspired and felt he had more to say. More likely, I would think, in today’s movie market where nothing new is released, this trailer is a calculated move on the actors part to get himself and his people some blockbuster budget. As a girl subsisting in the edges of this entertainment industry I can super appreciate a person working the angles. There are multiple comicon video’s available of our guy loaning his star power (Hung? Does it have a following?) to artists and artistic interests. He also gets some word in on his own comic book enterprise Raw Studios and some plugs in on a weirder personal platform “God gave you feet and you’re meant to be connected to the ground…” Thomas Jane is a member of The Barefoot Society. Thomas Jane doesn’t wear shoes. To Comicon.
But back to, “a love letter to Frank Castle (Nightcrawler -why have you returned all my mail?) and his fans It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it….”
Reeeeeeeaaaallly? How many people would a production like this take? How much time? How much editing? Who put the blur on all the license plates in post? All for free?
“It’s been a blast to be a part of from start to finish; we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.”
So right, we were watching…
Thomas Jane steps out of a van to do some laundry. He’s been waiting in his van all night just to get this shit done and if I can relate to this guy in no other way I get laundry. Facing up to the reality that is inner city laundry care, sometimes you just gotta get grim.
Right away we’re introduced to Bad Pimp riding in super wide in his pimp-mobile. This pimp has a name: Goldtooth.
That Goldtooth is a asshole is underscored by who he and his gang of wild-boys prey upon: Women (disposable prostitutes) and Children (a little lost schoolboy as cute as Pinocchio).
We meet Brandee Tucker, an actress with an IMDB page who does a very real and believable performance as a girl scrambling for cover, terrified off her ass but credited only as “the girl”, and her prostitute compatriots who go completely uncredited. Goldtooth drives up with his gang in a foul but horny mood. Poor lady bird Brandee. Rapidy rape raped.
His foul mood not entirely spent Goldtooth moves on to wrong place at the wrong time schoolboy Deshawn. Deshawn is unlucky enough to have those screenplay type parents who let confessed drunks be their kid’s bodyguards,
or let beautiful robot ladies pick up their babies while they just… look away… briefly…
Deshawn’s guardians in Punisherland are so lost as to have their kid dressing in the super boughie clothing, walkin’ the streets with the neon arrows pointing at him , loud speakers screaming, “Kick me! No no! Kick me!” Do you know where you live?
The stage is set with the players, it’s well established pimp is an nonredeemable dick. Hand it to the pretty cinematography, the directing and the timing you do get a nice sick feeling like you’ve actually been through something heinous. Here the narration lets us miserably wallow watching Goldtooth evil bastard live large and in charge while our main character loads his washer and wanders into a cameo by favorite character actor Ron Pearlmen.
I used to really love the Nam vet character -I think because they alway read to me as parodies of my dad. The Vietnam Vets have been replaced, inevitably I guess, by our people coming back from the sands. So apparently at some point in the past Beast had gone Restrepo on the evil powers that reign in this hood and his efforts ended him up jaded in a wheelchair. He warns our hero, “You do this thing -you’ll end up like me. And nothing will change” and I mean honestly, this bastard and company took out Hellboy? What chance does Mr. Jane and his dryer sheets got ?
So Frank grabs some whiskey for the road and we get our payoff grand guinol, as our bad ass hero uses a bottle of Jack to bring the pimp down. So wonderful. The blood in this is like icing. Suddenly the whole short is a big, wonderful, cupcake. Num.
The reason I used to want to watch the Walking Dead (I heard season 3 gets better? I don’t know -life is so short to recommit to disappointing sitcoms) the reason I continue to read Invincibles; I WANT to see what a hand punching through a head artfully rendered looks like.
Please. Show me again.
One more time for the ladies.
Indulge me with a Dirty Laundry recap:
Mr. Castle pulls away in his van but not before leaving Deshawn a black t-shirt. A very swollen, very pregnant moment that delivers as soon as our man drives away. Oh its a Punisher T-shirt. Who was that not masked man? Oh yeah. That guy.
So what are we left with. Dirty Laundry has a new look. I love love love post production filters (or what do I know it could be during production filters), the writers seem to have gotten smarter in knowing what we’ve already seen, certainly it follows the unwritten sequel rules: stronger, harder, longer, more extremes in violence and delivery. I found myself excited and certainly feeling the “Fuck yeah!” enthusiasm they were aiming for and anticipating a follow up as satisfying as The Road Warrior, when the Mad Max franchise, done with it’s characters back story gets up to some memorable fun with a Gyro-copter, Wez and a feral boy.
Whether the actor bankrolled or miraculously produced this effort for zero dollars I find the project commendable either way. Will the 3 million hits generate enough fan power to move movie making movers and shakers into making a movie? Would that in itself be a harbinger for something new? I’m remembering back to when Sean Young dressed as The Catwoman to try to get cast in that part in a Batman flick. I guess it didn’t work, got her labeled as crazy and she wears shoes. Possibly all she really needed was a gang of people to make a trailer with her in it? For free?
Now why, why why among all the stuff that is awesome do I still gotta climb on a soapbox to argue for change in the helpless dumb girl motifs?
I know beating up on prostitutes is an easy go to. Prostitutes lowly state and subject of abuse have made them convenient vehicles to showcase the nobility of characters like John Wayne in Stagecoach, Vic Mackey in The Shield, Jet Li in Kiss of the Dragon or hey -Melanie and Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind, just to name a few. Writers demonstrate their character’s humanity by showing their willingness to overlook a sex workers lowly state in life and *gasp* treat them like human beings.
That this is movie code for character and heroism says a lot for societies total acceptance of judging a person who has sex under pretenses you don’t agree with. Come on hypocrisy. We all have sex, and -lets be truthful now, in any relationship we all, on occasion, are takin’ it for the team. That society still has self righteously justified scorn for the people in this world who have worked it out to trade those services for dollars and cents instead of limiting themselves to fornicating within the confines of a loving relationship or marital contract shows how far humanity still needs to grow up.
Prostitution has always been around. It will always be around. I have a brothel defying police busts and going strong two floors below my studio. No all prostitutes don’t look like Julia Roberts but regardless of looks or class the ability to sell oneself for dollars and cents does give a girl a social mobility. Cindefuckingrella. The erudite among us might consider a read into this incredible book The Murder of Helen Jewett where the author explores the facts, social moors and repercussions around a prostitute murdered in turn of the century New York (Look! Maybe it’s gonna be a movie…!) Or maybe a picture can be worth more than that books thousand billion words and we should consider the days of the Wiemar republic when Kathe Kolowitz and company were starving to death…
but Otto Dix immortalized prostitutes that were maybe not the cutest but look undeniably well fed.
Could we maybe not keep pounding out prostitutes as helpless victims but instead prostitutes, bad ass ladies that risk serial killers, societal stigma and your self righteous scorn to do what it takes and get the job done? Think of the ladies of Unforgiven. Who really had the character and loyalty in Big Whiskey? Our prudish distaste for this kind of heroism gets Judith kicked out of the Bible?
That’s gratitude for you.
And then the staple antagonist. Certainly I’ve seen Taxi Driver‘s heinous character “the pimp”. Read Malcom X, read Ice Cold’s Pimp (Did you know that this is the man from whence all the rap star names were begat from?), read Sapphire’s opening for Pimp in which she describes her one time encounter with a pimp. I know these people exist in real life but as a girl with a brain I cant help but feel like pimpin’ oughta be a profession that goes extinct.
Regardless of whether or not you can get behind the practice of hooking the question I find my female self really begging to ask the Dirty Laundry ladies is this; God love you, do what you want but what the hell does hanging out with GoldTooth angry rapist and company doing for your business? Y’all are pretty ladies: ditch the cutoffs, get a nice dress and head for the hotel bars? Hang out in places people can hear you scream? When the only answer for all the females portrayed’s behavior seems to be *shrug*, “Women are dumb” how can I, as a female audience member, not be super annoyed?
Our protagonist providing our just raped prostitute a lighter for a Goldtooth trial by fire? Pfft -Why didn’t these chicks figure out a way to burning bed this asshole a billion years before?!
Okay Thomas Jane. Make your movie. But please do something do a little something different with the girls.
I heard the other day where they approached Anjelina Jolie to be an Bond girl and she responded with “call me when you want me to play Bond”. I really, really hope this story is true. A lady Bond who sleeps with all those self important spies, cuts off their heads with her pen laser, saves the codes from whatever country America is currently scared of and then runs off to make out with Judi Dench. If anyone can get a trailer made for free I’d think Anji could. Play that for the next San Diego Comicon .