Friday, February 20, 2009
Wake up, it’s a new America, same as the old America, and if the economic downturn doesn’t kill you then the skull-faced aliens disguised as humans surely will. A scattershot 1988 John Carpenter film starring (the formerly rowdy, now reformed) Roddy Piper, They Live is ridiculous, but in a rather appealing devil-may-care way. The paranoid style in science fiction rarely yields much more than vague existential anxieties (case in point: The Matrix), but They Live is kept grounded with some working-class grit—it’s not self-centered and whiny, it’s angry and ass kicking. And if unsubtle political critiques aren’t your game, you might at least go for the camp pleasures of a prime piece of 1980s low-budget action-movie craziness. Besides, with conformist messages hidden everywhere, who better to navigate this mirror maze of deceitful media than a former professional wrestler? (Richard Kelly perhaps understood this when he cast the Rock in Southland Tales; arguably, it’s the only thing he understood in that movie.) The ludicrously protracted back-alley parody of a wrestling match could be a knowing wink towards Piper’s old career or simply mockery of same, but it’s surely some sort of classic of bad judgment either way. Admittedly, Piper doesn’t always seem to be in on the joke, but that only makes it funnier, right?