|04.07.07||Alamo Downtown||This Screening is part of event: Grindhouse All Nighter|
The Losers (AKA Nam's Angels) is a biker film fused with a Viet Name war film. The whisper-thin conceit of the film is that the army cannot officially cross the boarder to retrieve an imprisoned CIA operative so they hire a bunch of scooter trash to carry out the mission. Led by Link (William Smith as muscle-bound and seething as ever), the motorcycle club that calls themselved The Devil's Advocates (best biker gang name ever, by the way) also includes the biker-ubiquitous Adam Roarke as Duke, Paul Koslo (Whitey from Freebie and the Bean) as Limpy (because he has a limp), and other gang members named Speed and Dirty Denny. It's pretty much the ultimate badass biker gang, very similar to Arnie's crew in Predator except with less ammunition and more anti-authoritarian angst. Jack Starrett directs the film, which should ring a bell to any fans of Race with the Devil, Cleopatra Jones, Slaughter, or QTfest favorites Hollywood Man and the amazing Dion Brothers (AKA Gravy Train). According to Lars' intro, Starrett was like a king director in the exploitation world yet completely unheard of in mainstream cinema. His impeccable technique and unique style, while somewhat obscured by shoestring budgets and limiting schedule restrictions, nevertheless begins to shine through as you visit more of his films and compare them to others in the same genre. He was also a pretty decent actor, often appearing in his own films as well as others such as Richard Rush's seminal biker flick Hells Angels on Wheels and Tom Laughlin's Born Losers (the dramatic first screen appearance of Billy Jack!).
Basically, these guys are there to kick ass, so they do it. But first they need to soup up their bikes with aror and guns and grenades in the saddlebags and a rocket launchere here or there. And along the way, why not enjoy some of the local entertainment. And get into bar brawls and backyard wrestling matches using uprooted trees as weapons. Like all good biker movies, The Losers gets the distinct feeling about a half hour in that it's completely off the rails. At one point, Link has to get physical on Dirty Denny in order to get him back on track. If you watch that scene and replace "fix up the bikes" with "get back to the script" and "go to Mama San's and get laid" with "fuck you," you get a real sense of chaos and freeform structure that all biker flicks seem to value.
The tonal transition from the anarchic Revenge of the Cheerleaders to the casualif not meandering vibe of The Losers took some time. Coupled with the time slowly drifting from late at night to early in the morning, the lengthy drinking and womanizing sequences officially required of any biker flick eased a lot of the crowd into the semi-hypnotic state of exhaustion spiked with caffeine jitters that makes up a large part of the all-nighter experience. It's not a real marathon if the last two films make complete sense, or you don't turn over to see the guy sitting next to you trying desperately to keep from nodding off. At 4AM, it doesn't take much to set this off. While The Losers is a good film, and really picks up in its third act with its unique fusion of men on a mission war movie with biker fetishism and ethic, the langurous pace as they put off their planning to get drunk and laid had a nice effect. It put us all in a somewhat dazed state ready to receive the next film, which Lars warned will not fuck around.
|12.06.06||Weird Wednesday|| AKA Nam's Angels, this biker movie was pretty unique to me because it's also a Viet Nam men on a mission war movie. For whatever reason, they bring this Biker gang into the jungle to helm a mission to infiltrate this camp and rescue some POW. The problem comes when the army dudes uncover the bikes and they're girly Yamahas instead of Harleys. Afterward in the lobby, we all talked a bit about why they weren't hogs because of budget or availability in the Philiphines or whatever... but whatever the reason I thought they handled the Yamahas in the movie pretty well. After all the bikers make fun of their pansy ways and someone mentions that street bikes probably don't do too well in the jungle, the spend a large portion of the movie either working on the bikes to make them more badass or waiting for parts to work on them and make them more badass. I guess it's a prerequisite that these bikes be suitably badass before the gang can mount a speed-is-the-essence rescue mission. This is where the staple biker movie drink/whore/fight sequences come in. I don't really know the whole deal of this job or anything but it felt like the most laid back urgent mission ever.|
That's alright though because it brings up the interesting aspect of this movie to me. As a genre study, it's a pretty faithful blend of both the men on a mission war movie and a biker film. The biker gang's made up of characters with interesting names like Limpy and Dirty Dan, one of which is just a bastard that the others hang out with for no reason. They hang around a lot, get drunk a lot, fight a lot of random people, and get some love on with their old ladies whenever they can (plus the obvious fetishism with the bikes themselves), but while they're doing all that there's the steady undercurrent of souping up the bikes for the mission, planning out strategy (including an incredibly detailed scale model of the camp), making connections with interesting side characters who give them supplies, and ultimately you root for them during the grand action scenes and wait to see who lives and who dies. For a biker movie there's a surprising amount of jungle, guns, shooting, explosions, and plot but for a war movie there's a surprising amount of laziness, tangents, bar brawls, weed, greasy long hair, and anti-authoritarian guff. The movie sticks to this very precise line throughout, even going so far as to make the bikes themselves the weapons that the bikers use to attack. Why have them charge in while holding a gun when they can mount the gun onto the front of the bike itself? Even when this creates certain logistical problems like, say, shooting someone not directly in front of you, the film would rather create interesting uses of the bikes than taking the easy way out and having someone just hold a gun. There a guy up in a tower giving you crap? Just pop a wheelie at the correct angle and shoot away! I think this is an important point which may suggest that there's more of a plan to this movie than what some may thing.
For Starrett to make a Viet Nam biker movie in 1970 is just badass. Never mind making the leader of the gang William Smith. Actually, I think the leader may really be William Smith's engorged triceps, but Smith speaks for them so he's like a leader by proxy. Throw in Adam Rourke and name them The Devil's Advocates and you've got a pretty amazing biker gang. I wish they made a prequel to this movie to show what kind of mischief the gang got up to in the States with their personalized hogs before shipping back out to the jungle. I think it could've been almost as interesting to have the movie be about a gang full of vets rebelling against society because of how they were received in homecoming... but hey, that's a different movie and this one kicked enough ass.
So... Vic Diaz. I don't really know that much about this guy... I've really only seen him in three movies I think. I already love seeing him on the screen and hearing him talk but I have to wonder... because every role I've seen him in it's like a Philipino Where's Waldo... He's not really a major presence and never really does much but he's so clearly having a good time... smiling and whatnot, that I want to know more about him, whether he's a Vietnamese grease monkey or an alien cultist or a vampire pimp's flatulent ghoul. I don't really know where he came from or if he could even speak english or what, but I'm also not sure I want to know.
so there are some pretty great moments in this one, like the black seargent reconnecting with his ended whore affair and seeing his baby or Vic Diaz's very good Albanian friend or most of Limpy's lines or the incredible falls that everyone takes when they try to negotiate a barbed wire fence during the attack or Dirty Dan's 8-man ass-kicking extravaganza and the black army dude's use of a palm tree to help him out or Jack Starrett's role as the POW CIA agent presumably gone in undercover to try and divert Red China's involvement in the war or something and how he seems to have all kinds of information regarding William Smith's character that comes out really late in the movie in this bizarrely emotional scene (stuff like "and what about those young girls you raped?" huh!??) or the final end montage of poignant moments from the past 90 minutes, but I also really enjoyed (on a completely separate level) the idea of the film itself and the unique blend of genre. It was a tad slow but there was more than enough there to keep me interested.