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The Schlitz of Miller

By Brian Prisco | Film | January 28, 2010 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | January 28, 2010 |

I’ve got this idea, see? It’ll cock that jaunty fedora pretty sweet, see? I’m gonna make a movie about a detective, a shylock, a gumshoe, and I’m gonna call him Malone. A real man’s man’s name, honest, blue collar, salt of the earth, see? And then I’m gonna surround Malone with a bunch of dames and broads, saddle them with names something like a Dick Tracy character would have only it’s not a descriptor. Tough guy names like Matchstick and Boulder and Mauler and Frankie the Crooner, see? And I’m gonna frame it real nice like, like it’s a gritty hyper-stylized Frank Miller version of a Jim Thompson novel, only I’m not actually gonna set it during the 1940s. Scratch that, I’ll just give the lead guy a smooth 1940’s looking ride, and have him mutter and grumble like Rain Man playing Sam Spade. Oh, this puppy’s cooking with gas, barking up the right lightpost, doing me a square solid, hoorah, twenty-three skidoo, see? Did that last sentence get away from me? Not make a lick of fucking sense, and you didn’t really care, because you never heard of this movie and the really dense and shitty gumshoe schtick is getting old and boring and you’re probably gonna click on something else?

Congratulations. I’ve given you the viewing experience of watching Give Em’ Hell, Malone.

Thomas Jane still owes me an apology for face-rapin’ the Punisher series with that pussy-fart PG-13 version. And this sure as shit ain’t it. As I blathered, the plot is that Malone (Thomas Jane) is hired by his kinda-boss-friend Murphy (Leland Orser) to fetch a briefcase in the only watchable part of the flick. Malone spends the first five minutes shooting guys in the face, sending gouts of blood flying everywhere and building up hopes for a Hell Giving that never ever come to fruition. They never establish whether the movie’s set in the 1940s or if it’s just a few of the baddies who doll themselves up that way. If anything, they keep peppering the flick with anachronisms: one guy drives a 1969 Mustang, they make reference to AA, there’s a computer keypad on the big boss’s elevator. So it’s never explained why Malone’s doing the brass knuckle schtick. Or why anyone else is. If they spent five fucking minutes establishing that, it wouldn’t have nearly been as distracting. However, if they explained it, it wouldn’t have given me anything to think about for the last 85 minutes, other than why these good actors are hamming the shit out of this abhorrent script by Mark Hosack, who wrote nothing that anyone has ever heard of. (Cue the one person who saw Pale Blue Moon and thought it was pretty underrated, and cue me praying that one of Malone’s stray bullets smashes through their nose.) Interestingly enough, I was kind of hoping that the entire thing was Malone’s sick fantasy, that he was some sort of madman driven insane by the murders of his wife and kid. But, no, he’s just the regular boring kind of tough guy bent on vengeance.

Instead of the Macguffin that this Poor Man’s Tarantino would have you wish, the briefcase actually contains nothing but a wooden elephant toy. It’s supposed to contain the meaning of love. Get it? Cause I don’t. And then what follows is Malone hopping in and out of trouble, as the big boss Whitmore (Gregory Harrison) sends his goons like the massive thug Boulder (Ving Rhames) and the psychotic Matchstick (Doug Hutchison) after the case. There’s always some dame, and the dame’s name is Evelyn (Elsa Pataky) and trying to track the logic of her character’s actions would cause Raymond Chandler to come back from the dead to Fatty Arbuckle director Russell Mulcahy’s mother. Mulcahy, as well you should know, directed some of mine and your favorite flicks, including and especially the original Highlander and Ricochet. So why he fucked this up so incredibly is a question you’d have to sit down and discuss with Mr. Mulcahy and possibly Alex Cox and all the other giants of the eighties who are spending their winter years bespoiling what once was.

If you’re into getting beaten over the head with stilted Dick Tracyisms and watching Thomas Jane slur through a bad Bogart, the only other reason to watch this — and really there aren’t any — is to watch the performance of Doug Hutchison as Matchstick. As a character, Matchstick is a travesty, a firebug with facial scars who spends of most of the movie either lighting himself or other people on fire. SPOILER: He doesn’t mean to light himself on fire. But Hutchinson chews the scenery with such bravado it makes me want to cast him in a musical with Crispin Glover and Michael Emerson, who plays Ben from “Lost.” I swore that Hutchinson had a more impressive curriculum vitae, surely a few notable horror flicks, but he’s not been as much as I thought, which is a grievous oversight.

Otherwise, Give ‘Em Hell, Malone sets up asskickery that never comes about. It kind of reminds you of Highlander in that: There actually wasn’t as much sword-fighting and head-lopping as you think after watching it. Aside from a few Verhoven-level-bad henchman fights — most of which involve Malone squinting and performing some kind of Mortal Kombatesque low-rent CGI finishing move — there’s hardly any hell given. I was supposed to have caught this at Comic-Con, and now I know the sleep I got was much more worth my time. Walk away, and get high and watch the Warren Beatty Dick Tracy. It’s pretty much the same thing.

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