Monday, 25 April 2011

Deal of the Century (1983)

A hand-to-mouth sleaze-go-round of sweaty handshakes in bare lightbulb Tex-Mex border cantinas and attaché cases left in the laundry rooms of Tijuana loveshacks...
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Deal of the Century (1983, William Friedkin)

Starring: Chevy Chase, Sigourney Weaver, Gregory Hines, Wallace Shawn, The keyboard player from The Doors, Bradford English.

Box Notables: 'Property of Grand Rapids Public Library' sticker.

Tagline: ‘Chevy Chase and his partners are arms dealers. They sell second-rate weapons to Third World nations. But they’re no out to stick it to anyone’

Trailers: TR-7 – The Movie, Des Moines or Bust!, Pedro the Pig

Cherrypick: “This place is hotter than Dolly Parton’s minipad.”

While the kudos sandwich of The Exorcist and The French Connection hardly hinted at a lightness of touch that might extend to comedy, their director - erstwhile Wunderkind William Friedkin - could at least reasonably argue that with a number of different genre scalps already toupeeing the Oscars on his groaning mantelpiece, a stab at the warm arts might not be so far beyond his reach. Such wilful overburdening would, however, prove the straw that not so much broke the camel’s back as turned that luckless ship-of-the-desert into a honking mound of fecal slurry topped by a surprised and, frankly, rather stereotypical Bedouin.

Nevertheless always adroit in casting such top-notch second bananas as that emetic moppet in his pea-soup horror opus and the ever-dependable Roy Scheider as Gene Hackman’s gurning sidekick, the wingmen Friedkin cherrypicks to shepherd his Deal star’s misfiring chopper through the moral DMZ of the Yanqui military-industrial complex are six-foot stone fox Sigourney Weaver - fresh from Indonesian midget-cuddling sleeper hit The Year of Living Dangerously - and a Gregory Hines taking the first steps towards small-screen royalty that would culminate with eventual coronation during ‘Will & Grace’ season 3.

Unfortunately for both, said star is Chevy Chase, and he’s fiddling with the ejector seat.
Jonestown II
Chase vacantly renders Eddie Muntz, a wisecacking arms dealer wholesaling dodgy RPGs and hollow-point nightmares to the moveable feast of Aviator-shaded Juntas Bar-B-Qing in Uncle Sam’s backyard; that continent shaped favela otherwise known as $entral America. Muntz’s life is a hand-to-mouth sleaze-go-round of sweaty handshakes in bare lightbulb Tex-Mex border cantinas and attaché cases left in the laundry rooms of Tijuana loveshacks until the day that one of his Retail Carnage partners (and Weaver’s screen husband) drinks a hot lead cocktail from his own Glock. This paves the way for Chevy to dust down his three-pleat chinos and take over the titular Deal that his box-bound buddy had cooking.

This being a satire, the ordnance in question – an AI controlled jet fighter intended to be hawked to the highest bidding gaucho despot - must bear a satirical moniker, and so, wistfully recalling the sidearm those famously arch gunsmiths Colt created more than a hundred years earlier in a saucy post-modern attempt to destabilize the hair-trigger moral equilibrium of the 7th Cavalry’s unwashed, hollering proles in their whiskey-soaked genocide of The Red Man, we are presented with ‘The Peacemaker’. Not that D. Cent. tarries long on the shores of historical irony when there are beachheads of predictable persiflage to be stormed; nor does it aim for the safe, verdant harbours of taste or logic that lay beyond the cliff-faced peninsula of mendacity that demands just-widowed Weaver fall for Chase’s dead-eyed drollery.
Did you class it up, Chevy? Yeah, you classed it up!
Up until Year of Living Dangerously, Weaver had been slipping back into the Off-Broadway marmalade she had thought she had escaped when, as Alien’s Ellen Ripley, she straddled the cosmos into submission with naught but panties whiter than Mary’s milk and a mouth like a 12-gauge Mossberg. Here she picked up a script that, by all accounts, placed her at the heart of the action as a determined widow forced to (sell) arms by the debts of honour willed by her dead husband. We can only ever speculate over the notes that were taken in the intervening script meetings, but by the time the time DoC hit the screen Weaver’s character had transmuted into a chiseling grifter metaphorically lubing Chevy’s missile tube with the still-warm gore of her departed spouse’s brainsplat.

Hines is rammed into this sidewinding dollargasm as the God-bothering pilot lined up by Chase to convince Generic Spic Dictators that the Peacemaker is the shiznit when it comes to furthering their barely constituted countries’ national interests. Quite why a top-of-the-range death-from-above spewing drone jet is required to subjugate dissident poverty-line coca farmers armed only with pick-axe handles and mistranslated copies of ‘Das Krapital’ is explained to no-one’s complete satisfaction; nor is it immediately apparent why a Jesus-freak song-and-dance man is essential to fly a computer-controlled techno-wonder.
Bromance & Genocide
But it is the little hoofer who nonetheless saves the day when, at an air show designed to impress Los Top Brass, the Peacemaker turns on its creators and Hines becomes Kasparov to the shakily-animated war-bird’s Deep Blue. Chillingly foresitical, Dot Century thus hints that even when human error is jacked from the equation, the USAF still can’t help slotting their buddies on the deck. Aerial bun-fight expediently concluded, we’re left with a curiously high-fiving conclusion to what was conceived as a biting indictment of Death Inc.

To this day Weaver claims she finds it impossible to watch the film. Well, Ripley, a word from the ERH Book of the Dead - empirical evidence confirms that eight cans of Norbecker Hi-Life and a dope-laced Domino’s Five-Alarm Fanfare should easily see you through the first fifteen minutes.

After that, love, you’re on your own…


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