Broken Hearts Club, 20 Years Later

DATELINE: Sexy Romantic Comedy?

stellar cast

Of all the weird elements of the Broken Hearts Club is its subtitle, a Romantic Comedy.  It is nothing of the sort, but rather a version of a gay sex farce. That takes nothing away from its polished and entertaining qualities.

The other oddity, still years later, is the cast of all-straight men, mostly at the start of their big careers, and all playing mincing gay boys of different stripes. It’s like one of those World War II platoons with different ethnicity and stereotypes.

The cast is stellar, including Timothy Olyphant (of Deadwood and Justified) giving a slightly off performance that nearly convinces us he is gay. Of course, his kissing abilities are hot, but he has been married for years.

So has Dean Cain as the Lothario of the group and Zach Braff as the gayest queen.

The ragtag friends work part-time in some capacity or other at Jack’s a gay friendly restaurant in Los Angeles, and they play softball for the business. This gives the actors a chance to prance around in queenly fashion.

When dramatic moments are called for, the actors are highly polished and strong, even in their disappointments with love. They seem to avoid falling into bed with each other, but when it happens, look out.

Greg Berlanti writes and directs with aplomb and wit, though stereotypes are required. The young men are all 20-somethings, in the tail end of the AIDS crisis and not really part of it.

We would like the director to do a sequel and show us these men and their dissipated lives at age 50. It might prove more instructive, if not frightening, to see what happens to handsome gay men in middle-age.

World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.

 

 

Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Bend Unbroken, Stir Unshaken

DATELINE:  James Bond Satire

Chris Lew Kum Hoi Dr. Tu Yung

How amusing is a gay parody of James Bond? Well, if you tune into Matt Carter’s one-hour spoof, you may be more than pleasantly surprised. It is not too violent, nor too sexual.

It’s Jayson Bend: Queen & Country.

So, it falls into a Goldlocks world of gay cinema. And, thank heavens, it is not about teenagers with a coming out angst and done on videotape.

Some of it is heavy-handed, as it is always difficult to satirize a satire—and people often forget that James Bond was Ian Fleming’s satiric secret agent. He is taken too seriously.

Matt Carter seems to have his name and paws all over this little film. It stars Davis Brooks as Jayson Bend (not Bent), but it’s Jayson with a “Y”—and don’t ask.

We find the cute girls are replaced by cute boys—and Dr. Tu Yung is an adorable villain (played by Chris Lew Kum Hoi).

What may be a great surprise is that this film has a big budget look about it. The color is bright and bold, and the fast cars and special effects are just right. The only violence is at the start, and the sex is chaste: hints by kiss.

It’s safe for straight guys.

Out of Time and Out of Clues

DATELINE: Dean Cain & Denzel Back in 2003

Dean & Denzel

Like Bruce Willis, for twenty years or more, Denzel Washington has showed a knack for picking interesting films and character roles. One of these is called Out of Time, a hackneyed suspense drama.

In 2003, he tried his luck as a semi-corrupt small-town sheriff in the Florida Keys. The film has all the workings of film noir in the 1940s that Robert Mitchum could have played.

Denzel is an anchor among some flashy performers, and the opening wit is entertaining before it devolves into a mystery muddier than anything Raymond Chandler could dredge up.

You will enjoy seeing Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain as a couple of reprobates, but their general dubious crime associations are masked by their attractiveness. The first-half fun is replaced by a phony suspense device in the second half.

Eva Mendes as Denzel’s ex-wife and John Billingsley as his slob of a medical examiner are worth having their own pictures. Sanaa Lathan and Eva play ping-pong with Denzel’s balls.

Plot holes start to do in the viewer as the complications become less amusing and more ridiculous. It seems Denzel’s sheriff is a dope (self-admitted by film’s end) and must work to extricate himself from a set-up that, for unknown reasons, makes him a fall-guy.

Since he is a charmer and likeable, we figure that drug dealers have it in for him. We might be wrong, as usual. However, clever clues are not forthcoming to help armchair detectives figure out the thriller mystery. Yet, Dean Cain and Denzel are at the peak of their youthful good looks in this one, and they are highly watchable.

All your natural action ingredients are tossed in, and there is a time handicap that never really becomes a deadline of importance. The suspense is botched.

Yet, for Denzel’s fans, it is another masterful performance in a well-produced movie. For the rest of us, it’s a ho-hummer, beating the clock for an hour.

 

The Trip (of Light Fantastic)

DATELINE: Boon Companions

trip 2.jpeg

Gourmet Wit & Impersonations on the menu!

We don’t know how we missed this film or its sequels. We are delighted to say we have found them now: epicurean wit and breathtaking scenery.

Two minor actors for reasons unclear are assigned to sample fancy restaurants in northern England. You may well ask if there any fancy restaurants in far-off south of Scotland. You may well ask yourself why two actors would be hired as journalists, not even TV journalists.

Yet, this light fare is sweet enough and fluffy around the edges. Steve Coogan is often insufferable and hardly worthy of spending five days in a long car ride. Rob Brydon is more pleasant and funnier. We do vote that Steve’s Michael Caine impersonation is better.

They have an edgy friendship, Platonic as Steve claims, but Coogan is known for his gay-themed movies like Philomena and Ideal Home. Here, he plays himself: as a womanizing aging actor.

There are some hilarious moments in a largely improvised script. One wonders why Brydon would be willing to go along after being told that just about everyone else said, no, thanks.

After an hour with Coogan, we understand why everyone from ex-wives to children and girlfriends are loathe to go anywhere with him. Alexander Pope’s wit likely rendered him unpleasant too. Groucho’s did.

They eat delectable meals and seem to have no appreciation for the hard work that goes into their menu trivia.

They sing-along during boring rides in the countryside, and they stop off in famous literary haunts. Their witty impersonations of notable and not-so-notable British stars (Michael Caine, Sean Connery, yes; Michael Sheen, no) are lively and funny.

Ultimately, Brydon admits that Coogan was exactly what he expected during their trip, and Coogan turns down a chance to star in an American TV series about a British pathologist.

How much is reality? How much is fake? Well, they made a few sequels—and we will sign up to go along with them.

Coogan insists it is not reality at all. It is the epitome of entertainment.

 

Simpleton Luck of the Logans

 DATELINE:   Hunh?

Untitled

What have we got he-yah? When you go with a Channing Tatum movie, you never know what’s inside the movie box of chocolates. Logan Lucky is pot luck and a spin of the wheel of fortune.

In this film, paunchy Channing looks like he put on 30 pounds from eating boxes of chocolates. It might be a fat suit, but on him it is a shock.

A rather extraordinary cast dumbs down their typecast Hollywood looks. We’ve seen these actors playing sharper and more sophisticated roles than the denizens of Hooterville in the Hills.

It’s all in fun, though we aren’t quite sure if hayseeds will be offended by the sincerity of the actors.

Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play a couple of down-on-their luck dumb and dumber brothers who are disabled veterans and abused and neglected good ol’boys. One limps and one has a prosthetic hand.

Yes, it’s a comedy.

This is the story of genuine brothers who don’t need a bromance to seal the real deal.

You have to like them, even when Boss Hogg Daniel Craig shows up with a Southern drawl and platinum hair to tell them they are simpletons. They plan to break him out of the Big House to help them blow up a safe. For James Bond this is a grit of hominy.

It’s part of Tatum and Driver’s charm that they will use their abused lives to disabuse a race course speedway payroll. Hillary Swank is an investigating FBI agent.

Well, of course, we are in the deepest darkest land of speedway race-cars and going ‘round the bend means a life of watching cars careen around a track several hundred laps.

These hillbillies make nice folks like the Clampitts seem like rocket scientists. When the brothers seek a computer expert, he boasts he knows “all the Twitters” with a twang.

The plot holes are in the heads of the characters. It’s a caper movie with a twist of moonshine.

How could you resist this trifle truffle?

 

 

In Search of….Life After Death

 DATELINE: Thereafter in the Hereafter?

alcor Freeze Your Asset Off?

Dead to rights, you are likely afraid of death. This episode of In Search of…would not be a comfort if you are. It seemed to spook Zachary Quinto, the unflappable host.

The series tackled the question of surviving death, immortality, fountains of youth, and cheating the Grim Reaper, with a variety of considerations.

We met a few experts—one in paranormal with engineering skills to make devices to catch spirit sounds. Another expert in near death experiences (NDE) spoke of the “wonderful experience,” of dying.

Yet another talked about the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when he almost drowned—and seeing a busy Grand Central Station of spirits, by the cartload, wandering these long halls. It seems commuting never ends.

There are, we are told, 200,000 near death survivors from all cultures, and they tell the same story about their minutes on the steps of the Afterlife.

Quinto wanders the halls of the Omini Parker House hotel in Boston which is reportedly haunted. There he manages to hear some voices from beyond.

The most ghoulish and creepy stuff centered on Alcor, the business in Arizona that promises new life by cryogenically freezing either your head or entire body. To have your brain (still in its safety skull) frozen will cost you about $80,000.  Cheap if they have not destroyed your brain cells in the process of putting you 320 degrees below zero. Baseball legend Ted Williams is there.

Quinto also took in Harvard Medical School where a pill keeps mice young—and soon will alter your DNA enough to keep you alive for about 140 years.

All in all, one bioethics expert noted that postponing death will render the point killer of art useless. No more need for Mozart’s Requiem, if you never die. It will be meaningless.

 

 

 

Trump & His Strawberry Moment

DATELINE:  Bogart & Trump as Captain Queeg

Trump seeks op-ed writer!

Like Captain Queeg on the USS Caine, President Trump is cracking up and cracking open a tin of frozen strawberries.

Queeg went bananas over his tin of strawberries, and Trump has gone bonkers over the anonymously opened fruit can. It belonged to him alone, and no one else was allowed near his favorite dessert.

The defining moment for Humphrey Bogart in the 1954 movie version of The Caine Mutiny went over the top in his role as President Trump, er…Captain Queeg. He rolled ball bearings in his fingers when under stress, or did he put on a MAGA cap on the bridge?

The paranoid commander-in-chief (during an important World War II mission) scientifically tested his can of strawberries to determine if someone was pilfering small amounts every day. He came to a disturbing conclusion that he could trust no one on his senior staff. It left his senior staff scrambling over whether the leader was losing his marbles.

Anyone of them could be a dangerous op-ed writer.

He assembled the entire crew and threatened them with treason for stealing his beloved personal  stash of strawberries.

How much  It reminds of the White House under T-rump, the dreaded dinosaur of politics.

Eventually the senior officers instigated a mutiny, invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution to forcibly remove Captain T-Rump, er Queeg, from the bridge of command.

Of course, the story and movie were complete fiction. No one could ever envision of total nutcase taking over the lives of a crew and subjecting the country to his dangerous and ridiculous whims and tweets.

It could not happen unless there were complicit officers on the command to leave the deranged paranoid alone and let him do whatever crazy notion entered his twisted noggin.

It’s nothing like Washington, D.C., in the 21st century.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                               

Cold Sweat and Unexpected Chills!

 DATELINE: Partial Classic Movie!

 James Mason Mason holds gun on Bronson.

Usually you can tell when James Mason, grand star of the past, took on roles for the money. He once told mega-movie critic Pauline Kael that these sort of films were candidates for the “ashcan.”

While traversing latest streaming lists of old movies now available, we came across something called Cold Sweat from 1970. It appeared to be a routine Charles Bronson crime thriller. It dated from before Death Wish, which meant it presented Bronson in a less iconic and caricatured role.

As the credits rolled, as there was no trailer, the shock value increased. Though Amazon Prime listed the costar as Jill Ireland, Bronson’s wife, the film’s leading lady was Liv Ullmann, fresh off her think-piece and highly acclaimed Ingmar Bergmann art house classics.

Good grief, she plays Jill Ireland in this film! Well, you might as well bring in Laurence Olivier to play Jimmy Olson, cub reporter. Of course, Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland shows up as villain Captain Ross’s girlfriend Moira to round out the lunacy.

Sure enough, the third name on the film belongs to James Mason. Yikes. And what is more, the film was based on a Richard Matheson novel: yes, the man who gave us The Incredible Shrinking Man and so many other classic stories. This was his adventure story, Ride the Nightmare. It is not vintage Matheson.

When Mason showed up in the story, first in a shadowy flashback as a younger man a dozen years earlier, he only makes a background cameo. He is the leader of a villainous gang of prison escapees.

He also plays an American and a Southerner. Yikes, and double yikes. You mean you won’t have Mason doing what he does so well: a modulated, upper-crusty bad guy sucking each line like it’s a morsel of his last meal.

That usually signaled that James Mason was doing a walk-through in what he considered a meritless movie. Here, he dons a blue sailor cap with the rim pulled down. He also pulls down every other word in what appears to be an Alabama twang via Oxford.

Nevertheless, it is an unknown Bronson film with James Mason, Liv Ullmann, Jill Ireland, and a story by Richard Matheson. You could do worse, though Mason and Ullmann were not happy on this movie set, nor with Bronson, until the paychecks arrived.

 

 

Three. Two, One, Blasted Off Your Screen

DATELINE: Billy Wilder Classic

Cagney & grapefruit

Cagney reprises grapefruit scene.

Topical political humor has a short shelf life, and you have only to see a few clips from Saturday Night Live to understand how quickly controversial becomes outdated.

When a major film tries it, as did Billy Wilder in 1962, only a few morsels remain fresh.

Yet, to take in One, Two, Three, the Cold War comedy, is less satisfying than say, Dr. Strangelove, which maintains its relevance.

When Wilder’s outlandish satire was released, East Berlin put up a horrifying wall that changed history—and it was virtually ignored in the movie, except by a voice=over addition shortly before the film was released.

What survives in a favorite comedy is the manic performances.

James Cagney plays the head of Berlin’s Coca-Cola division, unhealthy capitalism at its best, and he is marvelous to behold. He grows more intense with each passing scene, stealing anything he make merry.

Others in the cast are less successful—but seem now perfectly placed in their roles:  game show actress Arlene Francis didn’t forget her line was snide off-put wife. She is surprising effective, though the German jokes are thick.

Pamela Tiffin as the sex kitten from Atlanta is decorative, but she faded fast, unlike Ann-Margaret who might have run with the role. And, as her East German Commie boyfriend, Horst Buchholz sends out a post-James Dean vibe that shows how misused he was.

Leon Askin as the Russian commissar is delightful, and Lilo Pulver dances on tabletops in the Grand Hotel with lesbian couples while a hapless band plays and sings,  “Yes We Have No Bananas,” in German.

The music of the intense and insane “Sabre Dance” is stirring to the break-neck pace of screwball comedy, already a dinosaur in Hollywood.

Cagney’s version of My Fair Laddie turns a Commie lout into Austo-Hungarian royalty during the hilarious second-half of the film.  Cagney hated working with Horst and quit movies for years after. His best line to Buchholz who wants to lead a revolt of workers is: “Put your pants on, Spartacus.”

You shouldn’t miss it but brush up on your Cold War etiquette before tuning on the stream.

The Lost Career of Richard Cromwell

 DATELINE: Baby Face Curse

Cromwell holding clock 

Cromwell Holding Clock in Tom Brown of Culver!

Baby-faced Richard Cromwell was a shoo-in to play the panty-waist Baby-Face Morgan for a poverty-row movie production. He was always professional on the set.

Cromwell’s character is the unlikely son of Machine Gun Morgan, notorious crime boss in the syndicate. With all the FBI overwhelmed with World War II Nazis and saboteurs at home, the mob needs a front man and fall guy. Cromwell’s looks bring disparaging remarks and innuendo as he is propped up as a fake mob boss.

In case you hadn’t caught on, this was meant to be a comedy, featuring dumb blonde secretaries and mugs who are morons.

Cromwell’s career was already in the toilet, owing to the closed shop from the studios. After the pinnacle years of the 1930s when Cromwell appeared with Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, and other stars, he was in rapid descent.

He married Angela Lansbury when he was 35 and looked like a teenager at the altar. Their marriage lasted only a few months and later rumors came forth that he was gay.

Cromwell remained on the periphery of Hollywood, having many friends in the industry. When he tried to make a comeback at age 50 in 1960, he became ill and did not survive, replaced in the movie.

In Baby Face Morgan, he is referred to as a kid when he was 33. A few years later, the same fate of looking young befell Audie Murphy for his entire career.

Cromwell’s movie is only passable to watch with flat yokel humor. It’s one of the forgotten tragedies.

 

 

 

Unlocked: Bloom of Youth Gone?

 DATELINE: Spies Who Came in from the Heat

bloom Fading Bloom?

Unlocked is a gender-bender spy tale in which the producers take a routine story and make the hero a heroine, casting the burned-out case of an agent from man to woman. In this case it is Noomi Rapace or is that Roomi Napace?

You can’t tell CIA agent without a scorecard or iPO address.

She is a manly girl, and so is her butch boss, Toni Collette, playing one of those MI6 supervisors in conflict with her American counterpart in the CIA, John Malkovich.

There is some deadpan humor evident, but the main point is whom can you trust? And is anyone really dead?

Don’t make any bets.

Michael Douglas is Noomi’s mentor in a few clipped scenes. He takes a clip or two more than once.

Orlando Bloom looks haggard and covered in tattoos to diminish his once-boyish charms as some kind of thug-cum-wish-come-true.

Yes, there are twists galore and violence unremitting as we try to figure out who the terrorists are and why they are so sympathetic. It seems their cell in London wants to downplay terror attacks in multi-cultural London.

We recall the days when it was New York City that was the melting pot, but times and spies change the war terms.

The film is utterly brazen in its attempt to create a franchise, following the exploits of this female James Bond hopeful. Most of the cast likely could return in one role or another as the spies who loved each other.

 

 

Please Murder Me! TV Titans in Film Noir!

DATELINE: Perry Mason Meets Murder, She Wrote!

TV titans

When Perry Mason meets Jessica Fletcher, we have a murder mystery donnybrook, she wrote. Murder Me Please is a surprise of the first magnitude. Who knew?

In 1956, fresh off Godzilla, Raymond Burr took on another role in which he spoke into a tape recorder while murderous film history was made around him. It was likely this movie role, heroic and protagonistic, that won him the lifetime achievement as lawyer Perry Mason. This is his first true Perry Mason role.

Here, he must defend a woman he knows is guilty of murder—and live with the consequence of exonerating a danger and menace.

His nemesis is Angela Lansbury, looking all too femme fatale before moving into matron roles. Here she gives one of her last great villain acting jobs (culminating in Manchurian Candidate).

This film noir is so dark during the first 15 minutes that you want to scream at the screen to turn on a light.

It is classic 50s nighttime in Los Angeles among the upper-classes. The supporting cast is gem-laden:  Dick Foran is the cuckold husband, and John Dehner is the Ham Burger to Burr. Young Lamont Johnson is the callow artist in his final acting job before going on to direct movies.

This is a Peter Godfrey picture, meaning it is stylish and professional, before he slipped into directing routine television anthology shows.

The fireworks between Burr and Lansbury are worth your time. It was a forgotten B-picture in its era of 1956, with far more interest today as a sign of great actors having a field day.

One problem is the print of the movie, clearly abused by time with scratches, lines, and other distractions coming from careless handling of the prints. Yet, the film itself transcends with its harsh, hard-knocks, noir crime thrills.

Lansbury and Burr would become TV icons as Fletcher and Mason, but that is mere promise in this movie. This is acting war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hostiles: Not So Friendly West

DATELINE: How the Western Is Lost

 Bale's beard Bale’s Beard

A few more Westerns like writer/director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles and the Western will be killed unceremoniously, gutted “from stem to stern” as they repeatedly say in this movie. And don’t smile when you say that, pardner.

Though we might make a comparison to John Ford’s The Searchers, we’d be way out of line. Though Ford’s John Wayne classic dealt with Indian massacres and brutal revenge, it was also human in its emotions and veered away from tedium in the stunning Western settings.

Christian Bale is a laconic cavalry captain who participated in a massacre of native Americans at Wounded Knee—and now in his final assignment must take a hostile chief and his family to a Montana sanctuary by order of the President.

Constantly prattling on that he merely follows orders, he is prepared not to follow these orders. Yet, this hero is like a good Nazi soldier, doing only his job. Cruel violence pockmarks the storyline amid the tedium. All we hear is discouraging words.

In the older Westerns, you had some likeable characters and some sense of humor to keep sane in the desolate West. Here, the characters are driven mad by their dour natures.

The Captain rescues a woman whose family has been killed by Comanches, and she joins the odd caravan through desert and mountain settings. Along the way we meet Ben Foster as a nasty Indian killer (apparently along to re-team Bale from their successful work in 3:10 to Yuma). Also along briefly is young star Timothy Chalamet, wasted mostly as an inexplicable French horse soldier out west.

Costars are impressive actors like Wes Studi, Stephen Lang, and Scott Wilson. They give the film true grit, however unhappy their roles are.

Bale is so laconic that his imperial beard has more life than he. Not a twitch from that mustachioed hero

The film is so serious about its political messages, all mixed up with revisionism and apologies, that we recognized the genre only in fleeting glimpses. The movie is in the long run, long and predictable.