Monday, August 06, 2007

The Kill Point

The Kill Point, which was shown on Spike TV, and which will probably be rerun quite often, has got to be hands-down is one of the best heist films I’ve ever seen. Just when I was thinking the genre had become predictable, up comes this topical, riveting, heart-wrenching, and --dare I say it?– downright patriotic thriller. And bingo, modern issues have put new life into an old genre.

Not that there was anything so wrong with the old genre. I like heist films and even at their stalest, they’re better than the typical actioner out there. But lately, they had lost a lot of their topical moorings. People were planning super-heists merely to steal a whole bunch of cash. Okay, but not really worthy of my spiritual viewing time.

Heist films are suppose to have topical issues and cultural references. Remember The Public Enemy, Roaring Twenties, White Heat, and Little Ceasar-- movies that created this genre. These established the basics of a truly noble heist film. The bad guys are in serious need of cash but there’s always something else. For some reason they don’t fit in, for some reason life is overwhelming. They are war veterans who have returned home to the evils of civilian life. They have been rejected by society at large. They are slightly mad. Whatever the reason, they just don’t fit in.

Of course some of my favorite heist films aren’t terribly angst-ridden. City of Industry, for instance, is a perfect little gem of the revenge-after-the-heist-because-the untrustworthy-henchman-has-betrayed-his-brothers-in-crime sub-genre. And The Usual Suspect works because, well, it is just so plain odd and moody...and a good surprise ending certainly doesn’t hurt.

But the majority of heist movies had lost their connection to the common man, the poor schlub who was embattled and overwhelmed by life. It was fun to get caught up in the planning, the expectations of what we know “should” happen, the inevitable mess-up when after initial success the short-lived criminal victory falls apart. But with rare exceptions such as Set it Off, there generally wasn’t much of an emotional investment.

Well, imagine my utter uncontainable joy when I saw that John Leguizamo was in this heist film. This guy always plays scrappers. Intellectual, emotional, fidgety, cool, all in one. The guy can act. He plays Mr Wolf, and he leads his animal-aliased crew of disgruntled former soldiers with such passion and compassion that I actually found myself falling in love with him. The characters are desperate, yeah, but not sordid. And everyone knows that in a really staisfying heist film, the viewer's complicity in the crime becomes problematic because the bad guys are truly not so very bad. They have no desire to kill anyone, for instance. But as we know from other heist films such as Dog Day Afternoon, the best laid plans often fall apart..at the very beginning.

Add a few 2007 issues such as media hype, government propaganda and lies, and the government’s very nasty treatment of returning vets, and we have a situation where the viewer –however moral she might consider herself– simply wants to see these guys miraculously saved from the mess they have brought upon themselves. Yeah, it’s impossible but one hopes. Somehow. Somehow. The money be damned! Some Deus Ex Machina has got to come down from heaven and whisk these bank robbers safely off to someplace that has no extradition treaty. Could their helper be the computer hacking kid? Could the contagious Stockholm Syndrome kicking in on their hostages somehow save them? Dang, even the cops (a nice multicultural mix which includes a black woman swat expert yay!) understand where these slighted patriots are coming from! What can be done to help our guys leave the botched bank robbery safe and sound? Yes, I “know” that “crime doesn’t pay,” but dang, how I wish it did...at least for these army guys, this brotherhood of criminals who have been given a rotten deal by the war-mongering government.

It has been said that writing is often a conversation between the soul and the spirit. In this case, the Christian in me knows what I "should" want: law and order. But the Christian in me also knows that these men, like Jesus my Lord, are "men of sorrows acquainted with grief" who was executed via capital punishment and whose body hung between the bodies of two thieves. A Christian, a working class person, or a minority person will understand (and be compassionate toward) these rejected, outcast, desperate men who are not only each other's brothers but also our brothers. But what can I say? The law is powerful and relentless and our bad guys aren't going to get a blanket forgiveness.

The Kill Point is being shown in Six episodes. Try to catch all of them. Be wonderfully surprised. Be wonderfully touched.
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