Comfortable and Furious



Wow, Mamet has really lost his marbles. It’s
been some time since he has been relevant to film, so he delved into
weird political ramblings and now this turd. This film almost plays as
a parody of his earlier work, particularly the untouchable Glengarry
Glen Ross. That was a story about the struggle for credible machismo.
This has been a fruitful topic, especially for Jewish writers who lived
most of their lives in the 20th century. You see the struggle to
establish alpha status and/or anxiety about being unable to do so in
Woody, Roth and Bellow to name a few. Sometimes the traditional tough
guy is ridiculed or attacked in hopes that he might be supplanted by
means of wit. Sometimes a protagonist must prove himself by sexual
conquests. Sometimes he is humiliated when a black guy pulls out a
gigantic cock. This is more prevalent in Jewish writing because Jews
were, and sometimes still are, questioned in their manhood. I forget
which nut recently pointed out that Jews don’t sign up at a sufficient
rate to be butchered in Iraq (the writer thought this was a bad
thing.) But even beyond the realm of right wing idiocy, we still have a
chuckle here and there about “this leaflet on famous Jewish sports
legends” or how, “for the record, there were a few Jewish cowboys.”

This is obviously a great jumping off point. I think one reason
Glengarry Glen Ross worked so brilliantly because it was right at the
intersection of the traditional domains of brain and brawn driven
testosterone. Guile and intelligence versus swagger and and force of
will. Hard salesmen are right between jocks and med school students. In
retrospect, it was a story set at the front lines for a Jewish
intellectual like Mamet.

Now Mamet is making movies about karate. Implausible movies, with
horrible dialog. Actually it’s not karate, but Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the
discipline that is the basis for the MMA craze. And I don’t mean to
disparage MMA, as I love the sport and have been involved in kickboxing
myself. If the instructor in the film saying “breath” every five
seconds is meant as a joke, it’s kind of funny because they do say that
a lot. But I don’t think it is a joke. And while instructors can be
platitudinous, even Mr. Miyagi would laugh at the powersauce eating
motherfucker in this film.

The story is barely worth discussing, but here is your frame of reference, since you are probably not one of the eleven people who watched this film all the way through.  I know that this will seem like a stream of nonsense, but it is what happens in the film, so brace yourself.  Or skip this part. In a shitshell: this is the story of an MA instructor who does work with this woman who has been raped and  turns out to be a lawyer.  He teaches her one move on how to escape having a knife at your throat—never mind that she is has never taken a lesson, botching the move would be fatal, it’s unlikely she will be in that exact position again, etc. He also beats up these guys who want to beat up Tim Allen, who is a movie star, then Tim Allen invites him to be a co-producer on his newest film which is about the Iraq war because close quarters, hand to hand combat is a crucial part of the fighting in Iraq, but Tim Allen’s agent sends a stolen watch to the MA guy knowing he will give it to his police friend who left his gun sitting around so that it was accidentally fired and that the police friend will pawn it and this provides leverage for the agent, who is also the agent for a big MMA promotion, to steal this dumb idea where, if you pick a black marble out of a bowl, you have to fight either with one hand tied behind your back or blindfolded. Then the lawyer chick tries to help the MA guy sue for stealing the idiotic idea, but she is the woman who accidentally set off the cop’s gun and the MMA promotion guys have photographic and fingerprint evidence of this because the MA instructor’s wife gave it to them for no reason whatsoever, not even knowing the MA guy would ever become involved with them.

One of the films ridiculous moments, and the film is basically a
series of these, comes when the instructor tells his Cop student to get
a new rig for carrying his gun, because his current one leaves him
susceptible to judo style throws. Because one of the biggest problems
cops face on the street is when criminals exploit their gun rigs to
execute judo throws. Shortly after that, we get to the part where the officer’s gun is
accidentally discharged because he has left it sitting around with the
safety off. The officer is unconcerned about his own negligence, as is
everyone else. The issue in the film is whether the frightened woman
who accidentally shot the gun will be charged with anything.

So while I’m a huge fan of combat sport and, to call a spade a spade,
fighting, we have slipped into something cruder than Mamet’s previous
territory. Most bluntly, Mamet has made a film based on a trendy aspect
of popular culture. A good pitch to investors, like the parade of
terrible gambling films riding the tails of televised poker. But we’ve
moved from the underbelly of con-men and hucksters where Mamet began,
to the world of people who physically fight each other and little of
the nuance and thought process in MMA is conveyed. When I say Mamet has
lost his marbles, I mean his brains and also his balls. He’s clinging
to the most visceral masculinity, both politically and artistically,
and doing so poorly. Mamet’s an old man. He should leave horribly
failed attempts at virility to people like me.

I have to take a little aside here. There are a million little things
wrong with this film, but this is the sand that got all the way up my
vag. The protagonist is a BJJ expert who eschews competition. Pure
ignorance. BJJ is all about competitions. Refusing to compete in BJJ
would be like refusing to compete in high diving. The B in BJJ stands
for Brazilian, of course. The whole Brazilian aspect to the film is
horribly forced. “Ooooh… I’ll have a caipirinha
Also, one of the driving factors in the story is the notion that an MMA
guy who is “the biggest thing in Brazil” would have trouble moving
tickets. This is pretty fucking absurd. Brazilians have been
international superstars in MMA as long as MMA has existed. It’s almost
like saying “he’s the best black running back in the country!”

“Yeah, but nobody wants to see him. We need a gimmick!”

What is so frustrating about a film like this, or it’s counterpart, 21,
is that obviously there were consultants brought in. They are used to
make some parts of the film realistic, then ignored when they point out
gaping flaws that it would take too much work to fix. I’ll go out on a
limb and say that Randy Couture, who plays an announcer on the film,
understands that a fight in which one of the participants is
blindfolded is dumber than Dan Quayle on glue.

The film does get interesting as convoluted machinations unfold, even
if they don’t quite add up. But in the end there is a fight between Mr.
Integrity and Spirit vs. Mr. Corruption and Bad and guess who wins.
Hey, I love The Karate Kid as much as the next guy. But it works
because it has the honesty to just be The Karate Kid. This as opposed
to a fuckbomb of intellect, trendy bullshit, ignorance of said trendy
bullshit and self importance.