Saturday, August 16, 2014
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES & UNFINISHED BUSINESS: HALL OF FAME FILE #0034: ROMEO IS BLEEDING (1992)
Directed By: Peter Medak
Written By: Hillary Henkin
Cinematography By: Dariusz Wolski
Editor: Walter Murch
Music By: Mark Isham
Cast: Gary Oldman, Annabella Sciorra, Lena Olin, Juliette Lewis, Roy Scheider, Michael Wincott, James Cromwell, Tony Sirico, Will Patton, David Proval, Ron Perlman
Detective Jack Grimaldi takes us through his shattered life after encountering the most deadly (and deceptive) criminal he has ever had to deal with. It doesn't help that Grimladi is playing both sides against the middle. When he encounters Demarkov he thinks he can play her as he has all the other women in his life...including his wife. But Demarkov knows Jack better than he knows himself. She plays him mercilessly, all the while threatening to kill him when she tires of the game. The film's title is taken from a Tom Waits song. In the end credits he receives "special thanks" for its use.
This film will always hold a special place in my heart for many reasons. First of all it is the first noir film I remember seeing and understanding what it was. Second, it is one of the rare films that I looked forward to seeing as a kid that was more adult in nature that actually fulfilled all my expectations. Though watching it I was continuously surprised. Third, I believe Lena Olin in this film set a certain image of femme fatales and a certain sexiness in powerful women, who know the power of their sexuality and don't make excuses for it and aren't afraid to be forceful to get what they want that has spilled over for me into my life and my writing.
Also, I know this is not one of the greatest films ever, but it made an impact on me in many ways. It was one I the first films I ever saw physically being filmed... parts of it anyway at a train stop I would always pass on my way to high school. Which coincided to when I was really entering my movie need phase and being aware of it.
When I saw the film I recognized most of the locations. Which was or me strange as at that point films seems more like fantasy and dreams, but by seeing everyday locations that I had visited and been to plenty of times. It brought a reality to them that was never there before and intensified my love of them as well as presenting at least To me that I could be part of them to a degree.
I lived in Brooklyn and at the time rarely traveled out of it to see films. I really wanted to see this film badly and was sadly underage. So my mother agreed to take me to the city of Manhattan to see this film. It was like an adventure for me. Everything seemed bigger, busier, louder and brighter.
As is sat watching the film I was continuously on the edge of my seat. As violence cascaded with laughs. None of the characters were likeable. The film at the beginning tended to jump around The storyline so it was an introduction and a preview as to later scenes. So it was an introduction for me as an audience member to non-linear storytelling. It also further enhanced he knowledge that I have interests in takes that are dark by nature.
This is also one of the first film scripts that I ever read. After I saw the film. Not the ones you get in published book form like today.
Keep in mind this was when the internet was really beginning. So you had to rely on word of mouth and movie magazines to get all your Information.
I read about the film In Premiere magazine. Which with Film Threat, Movieline and entertainment weekly were my scriptures into film and filmmaking. When they began to advertise the film. I thought the lines on the posters which had pictures of the characters and their lines of dialogue were a work of genius even before I saw the film.
I had a slight problem with casting as Juliette Lewis as the mistress and Annabella Sciorra as the wife, was false as to me one was more attractive than the other. My decision purely based in physical, but I thought movies are all about suspension of disbelief . Not that Juliette Lewis is unattractive. It was just at the time against Annabella sciorra come on, No contest At one point, Madonna was attached to the project. Ellen Barkin bowed out of this project because she was pregnant.
The films small scary and reliance in character more than action. Lends to have a seductive trance over the audience.
The film is a modern update noir film as well as a black comedy in a sense. That pays tribute to the classics of the film noir genre while radicalizing them a little.
The film was basically a thriller, but it soon became like a terminator film. As our main character jack's sued by Gary Oldman problems all start with a character named Mona Demarkov played by Lena Olin. In a role that shows why she still gets work and was always in demand after this film, for villain roles usually. Though a spotty resume she never get to play a character with these heights. This role really defined her career. Think Linda Fiorentino in THE LAST SEDUCTION. She is sexy, fierce, dangerous, scary and smart. She is a phantom that haunts throughout the film and always seems to come out of nowhere, like her performance
Jack spends the rest of the movie on the run from her or trying to kill her. She is unstoppable no matter how many times he and others try. It actually shoots her. She keeps coming back. Like a horror movie villain.
At the time I was discovering Gary Oldman as an actor. He truly Impressed me, At this point I had only seen him in Francis ford Coopola's BRAM STOKER's DRACULA in this film not only is his performance completely different, but so is his physical appearance. after this film he was always the consummate actor. He could do no wrong in my eyes keep in mind this was before I had even seen SID & NANCY or STATE OF GRACE, TRUE ROMANCE
Gary Oldman stated in a 2012 interview that he headed immediately to the set of True Romance the day after wrapping on this film. The final scene was actually shot last, and he states that in the scene, he already has the "swagger" of his True Romance pimp character Drexl Spivey, prompting his then-girlfriend to suggest he do another take.
I went to the movie for Gary Oldman, I came out in love with Lena Olin. Who has never really found a role to match this one. Which makes this so special and one of a kind. As roles like this usually only come along once in a lifetime. Her performance left an indelible image. It implanted In my head how women are the best killers and started me on a fascination with dangerous, tough women and their complexities. They take no prisoners. For months I was writing crime stories with those type of female characters. In a way I still am. Though few if those stories survived.
The film was directed by Peter Medak. Who went on to direct many more films. Though none thy made a deep impression as this one (don't get me started on SPECIES 2 which he directed)
The film has an all star cast of character actors as well as surprising cameos.
This was one of those movies that just came along at the right time and was before it's time though so much of it as well. It seems like a throwaway production that is subtle that everyone involved has a slight knowing wink with material, but they also give it their all as you can tell they are having fun with their roles. As everyone seems to be on their a game and more then worthy of praise.
It's an anomaly as it seems like a film that almost shouldn't have made it to movie theaters. Even though the film wasn't a hit. It wasn't our run of the mill pretentious Arthouse movie either. Even with it's cloud of sorrow over it.
According to Bon Jovi's "100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't be Wrong" Collection, Jon Bon Jovi mentioned in the confession book that he wrote the song, "Always" for this film. He didn't like the movie so he exercised his right to pull it from the film. Later, the song became Bon Jovi's biggest selling single at the time. The song never did appear in the soundtrack or the film. Jon does not consider the song a love song. He refers to it's narrator as "one screw-less Looney Toon".
The film also has an attitude of cool about it. Where it is constantly proud of itself. It is an underrated gem that is worth discovering.