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Firecracker

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This film's major selling point seems to be that it stars Mike Patton (of Faith No More, Fantomas and tons of other projects). The man runs Ipecac, home to the mighty Dälek, so I can't fault his taste entirely, but after seeing Firecracker one thing is for sure: he's not an actor.
Firecracker plays like a directorial wank from someone who's just a little too in love with David Lynch and the Coen Brothers. From the opening shot of the film with its hollow, wind-tunnel sound design and its man with a strange gait running around a small town street, the Lynch flag is flying high. I love David Lynch's movies, and if I ever made a film myself, it would probably have a lot of Lynch in it too because I think his eye for strange details is amazing. Then again, no one is helping me make a movie, and I have to wonder why anyone thought that this film would work either.

To be fair, it has some lovely cinematography and some great lighting design. It's clear that the filmmakers know the craft of putting together a shot, and have at least studied the masters in this regard. Unfortunately, they can't edit the shots together well enough to tell a story, and they haven't hired a cast able to sell just about any of it.

The basic premise is that Mike Patton plays a sadistic asshole who abuses his family and his mother and little brother turn on him and kill him, leading the small town's persistant female sherrif (where have I seen THAT before?) on a mystery trail. Since it's obvious to the audience what has happened to Patton's character, there's no real suspense except for wondering when the movie will draw to a close. Add to the abysmal edits and acting a strange woman who talks to dirt and plays a pivotal role in the plot despite making no sense at all, and the film really begins to fall apart. You can also tack on the fact that nearly half of the movie takes place in and around a cast of carnival characters that seem to be a badly realized fantasy projection of the young, victimized brother.

The film is borderline misogynistic as the female lead is continually subjected to abuse, rape, and mutilation at the hands of Patton's character and there seems to be no reason for most of it. Once we see Patton's character anally rape his younger brother, we've seen all we need to see to make up our minds about him and what he deserves. Unfortunately, the film lacks the ability to draw out any catharsis because the emotionally shattered characters inhabiting the story are played with melodramatic sobbing and biblical monologues to the heavens.

There is a decent film in here somewhere: 30 minutes could be omitted it would probably work better. Nearly every scene with the distraught younger brother completely fails because the actor can't find the character and keeps playing him as a combination of shellshocked and retarded. The entire carney story could be completely excised from the film, and while it would lose one of the more interesting visual aspects of the movie (the carney scenes are in oversaturated color, the rest is in black and white), the whole idea doesn't work. Are the characters real? (Two of them are played by Patton and the mom, in similar roles of abuser and victim.) Is this all a fantasy for the younger brother, and if so, why is it so bleak and brutal towards the analog of his mother? Why do the carneys turn on one of their own who they've been trying to protect all along, and let her get raped and beat to death for a few coins? It's all just nonsense.

This would have worked as a Coen Brothers film, filled with real dread and the kind of sickly beyond-repair characters that they excel at bringing to the screen. It might have worked as a David Lynch film, although most of this ground was covered in Blue Velvet to much greater effect. It certainly DOES NOT work as a Lynch/Coen pastiche that as my friend Bryan put it "is only slightly better than a college student film." There is a reason this won't be in theaters any time soon.
Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2005 03:50  


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