Funny thing you renting this here Pawn Shop Chronicles from Redbox and all. One, I always wondered what happened to the director of The Cooler, and two, it sure does warm the heart to know that Brendan Fraser is still alive.
One might say this was the right movie for the right time, for any number of reasons. The two you mentioned, sure, but it also struck me Â American cinema sure has underserved the white trash community of late. Like, youÂd think all we cared about anymore was Downton Abbey and shit like that. We were in danger of becoming classy. Too classy, if you get my meaning. Highbrow was in, language was getting cleaned up, and rumor has it, people were starting to read again. Maybe this film can set things right. WeÂre dumb as shit, God bless us all, and itÂs time to party.
So a movie centered around a pawn shop?
Why not a pawn shop? But itÂs not your ordinary pawn shop. General LeeÂs Pawn Shop. See, itÂs not just where a man named Alton (Vincent DÂOnofrio) can bicker with his black assistant about his aversion to black porn because the big dicks glisten too much, but itÂs where all kinds of folks sell off their dreams, all for a quick hit of meth. ItÂs the last stop on the road to desperation; a menagerie of the lost, the damned, and the three months behind in your rent. Only weÂre not here to explore the new and mightily improved business of making money off the poor. No, sir. WeÂre here to take a ring, a shotgun, and a gold medallion and spin each off into a sordid tale of murder, rape, redemption, and Elvis. And if a midget shows up at the end with a baseball bat, weÂre not going to say a word.
So itÂs like David Lynch meets Quentin Tarantino, with a bit of Dukes of Hazzard thrown in?
If you need to label it, sure. Take the first story Â ÂThe Shotgun: The Road to White Gold.Â We have Raw Dog (Paul Walker), Vernon (Lukas Haas), and a meth robbery gone bad, as if any has ever gone right. ThereÂs a battered pickup with a bumper sticker that says, ÂAt least Jesus didnÂt write Battlefield Earth.Â ItÂs not only funny, but unassailable logic to boot. See, Vernon needed gas money to get to the robbery, so he sold his shotgun for $20 at the pawn shop, and now they donÂt have any way to steal the meth. So the third member of the gang hits Vernon with the truck and the two set out on their own. Thankfully, they run into a hunter taking a shit by a tree, so they steal his crossbow. On the way to StanleyÂs house (Stanley being the meth dealer), they debate racism. Why are we white supremacists, anyway? DonÂt we have black friends? And how can we hate Jews if we love Jerry Springer and Adam Sandler? Long story short, theyÂre in it for the meatballs, which the meetings have every Saturday. Faulkner never plumbed the Southern mind with such richness.
So do our heroes get the meth?
They do not, as Vernon survives being run over, and is granted a silver shotgun by the devil, who happens to drive by in a shiny new truck. Naturally, Satan also has a burly mustache, perhaps so as not to frighten the people whose souls heÂs about to steal. The robbery commences, but Vernon interrupts the proceedings with blasts to assorted chests and torsos. He also shoots the meth lab, so the trailer explodes in a fireball. No one survives.
Now thatÂs how you start a movie! Is this where Matt Dillon comes in?
Yep, heÂs the center of the second tale, ÂThe Ring: Caged Love.Â ItÂs about being lost, then found, and going that extra mile to save theÂ person you love. Oh, and women in cages. You see, Dillon is Richard, and heÂs on his honeymoon with his new wife. Only all his cash was stolen, and theyÂre on their way to Orlando. So he wants to pawn the wedding ring, valued at $17,000. But right before the sale is finalized, he notices another ring in the case, which just happens to be the ring from his first marriage. HeÂs stunned. Seems his first wife disappeared one day six years ago, never to be heard from again. WhereÂd you get that ring, he screams. After threats and such, Richard sells the latest wedding ring for AltonÂs car and directions to the workplace of the man who sold him the original ring. Richard alsoÂ sends his new wife back to Connecticut. Saving his other wife is none of her concern.
ItÂs all so complicated. I suppose this will lead to Elijah Wood masturbating to his own image at some lonely farm house?
You saw that coming, huh? Yeah, after Richard tracks down the kid who sold the ring at LouÂs Fire Pit, he learns that he got the ring from his uncle, who won it in a poker game with some guy named Johnny Shaw, played by Elijah Wood. Not without reason, Shaw is a lunatic who kidnaps women, puts them in cages in silos, and jerks off to videos involving not sex, but the women being fed and patted down like stubborn cowlicks. Richard breaks in, sees his first wifeÂs picture on the fridge, and puts a shotgun to ShawÂs head. After a brief Q&A, Shaw is decorated with an elaborate contraption of fishing hooks, line, and rope. Torture! Not getting any answers about his wife, Richard knocks out some teeth with a hammer. Right before a death blow, Shaw reveals the womanÂs whereabouts. Out back, Shaw has stashed at least two dozen caged women, all naked and filthy, stacked into a huge pyramid. Naturally, RichardÂs wife is the one chick we donÂt really want to see naked, as her tits are the most vile cone shape IÂve ever seen. Just nasty shit.
So do they live happily ever after? I mean, technically speaking, Richard is a bigamist.
RichardÂs wife, having been caged for six years and living Âin her own piss and shit,Â as he says, is a bit bonkers by this point, and she doesnÂt really want to leave. She claims to have a good life, even a few privileges. All the other women, now having been released, are not as reluctant, and they wander away from the farm single file, naked and glassy-eyed. But Richard canÂt worry about them. Once Richard tells his wife that heÂs gutted Shaw like a fish, she freaks the fuck out, stabs him repeatedly in the stomach, and crashes the car into a tree. Both die on impact, or very soon after.
Naturally, the next story involves Elvis.
Brendan Fraser, out of work since that Pauly Shore caveman movie, is Ricky Baldoski, an Elvis tribute artist (do not call them ÂimpersonatorsÂ) who works various county fairs trying to stave off both boredom and bankruptcy. His story begins as it must, with the desire to get a sideburn trim right before the big show. Seems the town is a bit nutty, though, and two barbershops sit side by side. Will it be DocÂs or CookÂs? Armed with $200 after pawning his gold medallion (the story ainÂt called, ÂThe Medallion: Split Ends at the CrossroadsÂ for nothing), he first selects DocÂs. But Doc angrily shaves off half a sideburn, so Ricky storms out, heading next door. Only Cook is outraged that Ricky would choose Doc first, so he slices his neck and tells him to get out. Outside, the townspeople are rioting for no apparent reason. It plays even worse than it sounds.
I assume that was enough? Even you have your limits.
I had hopes it would all come together, so I pressed on. My patience was soon rewarded, as Ricky stops by Crossroads Liquor, which is located at 666 Charon Street. Robert Johnson is playing guitar on the corner, and a shady preacher man lurks about, talking about souls and redemption. Is this the devil? Ricky sure thinks so, and calls his mama with the news. Cut to the county fair show, and Ricky is horrible. His impersonation of Elvis amounts to nothing more than karate kicks and old women standing on stage with firecrackers and flashlights. The preacher is in the audience. ÂI accept your offer,Â Ricky yells his way, even though no offer was ever made. But at that instant, backup singers arrive and he belts out the greatest version of ÂAmazing GraceÂ ever heard in these here parts. To top it off, the naked women show up from the countryside, and are quickly draped with flags as they stand in front of the stage, like little ducks in a row. The crowd is electrified. The sky lights up, arms sway, and by showsÂ end, Ricky has signed with Jerry Cleveland Enterprises, with Mr. Cleveland looking suspiciously like Colonel Tom Parker.
So the entire career of Elvis Presley was due to him selling his soul to the devil?
No chance thatÂs a mistake?
Okay, so if thatÂs a happy ending of sorts, why does the movie choose to head back to the pawn shop one last time?
Alton has to confront his demons, does he not? So the big black truck thatÂs been following him around townÂ we need resolution, no?
Fine. What happens?
The mysterious driver of the truck turns out to be a midget. He buys a baseball bat, clubs Alton, but is soon chased out of the store by the guy who originally stole Matt DillonÂs wedding ring.
The creepy kidnapper?
No, the other guy.
Why does he have the ring again?
The stories are all intertwined. What is old is new again. Back in time is also forward. You know, itÂs why the exploding meth lab was seen in the background at the Elvis show. Or how the meth guy said he had a vision of an army of naked zombie women, and poof, there they were! ItÂs an ode to Pulp Fiction.
IsnÂt it a bit late to be ripping off Pulp Fiction?
Not when the screenplay has been sitting in a drawer since 1997.
One last thing: Lukas Haas Â still creepy as fuck?