Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Homeboy (1988)

... Mickey tacitly understands - with all the diamond-eyed acuity of a freebasing astronaut - exactly two things; salon-effect hair gel application and his undying love of thumping people...

Homeboy (1988, Michael Seresin)

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken, Debra Feuer, Willy De Ville, Stephen Baldwin, Morty Storm.

Box Notables: Electric blue box. ‘Win a trip to Vegas’ compo.

Trailers: Earth Girls Are Easy, Champions Forever, Major League

Cherrypick: Surely the sight of Walken bungling a diamond heist disguised as a Hassidic rabbi.

Dressed like one of those airbrushed Rodeo Drive hustlers that adorn the covers of the kind of Country & Western compilations you might find whilst idly rifling through the bargain bins of a European service station, Mickey Rourke’s Johnny Walker moseys into some unnamed, low-rent, out-of-season resort on the shabbier outskirts of Atlantic City like a beautiful denim ghost. Spitting, drooling and farting like a brewery mule, and with nothing to his name but the saddle that’s permanently slung across his shoulder and the exaggerated bow-legged gait associated with so many middleweight greats, the Mick - although he may initially appear nothing short of mentally deficient - is a half-decent journeyman prizefighter in town to form the makeweight at the bottom of some grisly backstreet boxing card.
'Yeah, I'll have a Krusty Burger with fries...'
Monosyllabic, partially deaf and with a blurred vision through which he sees the world as a dizzying slo-mo haze that’s rendered via an otherworldly amalgam of those eminently disturbing swordfishtrombone flashbacks from The Elephant Man and watching the Jacob’s Ladder effects reel on Mandrax, the Mick tacitly understands - with all the diamond-eyed acuity of a freebasing astronaut - exactly two things; salon-effect hair gel application and his undying love of thumping people.

The fight he’s in town for is, whether by accident or design, quite correctly shambolic (even if every punch - including body shots – does trigger the same crunching sound effect; a noise not dissimilar to that of someone dropping a stack of CDs onto a folding chair). Like watching two drunken Dublin pensioners whaling on each other with fresh-air haymakers before repeatedly collapsing together to engage in some listless rabbit-punching and slurred industrial badinage, it’s neither exciting nor tasteful, but it does revel in a certain Joycean squalor and at least neither of them have the puff to waste our time with more than a couple of rounds of rusty ringplay. Handed a TKO (and a mop and bucket) after his opponent, Reuben ‘Mama’s Boy’ McKenzie, suffers a full rectal prolapse following a cheeky kidney punch that slipped the ref’s eye, the battered Rourkester collects a paltry purse that would seem to include the welcome-or-not friendship of Christopher Walken’s madballs lounge singer and all-round degenerate sleaze-puppet, Wesley Pendergass.
Saddle tramp 
After swinging by Walken’s noxious nightspot only just long enough to hear him murdering The Beatles’ ‘In An Octopus’s Garden’ with the help of his understated backing band, The Hymens, Mickey waddles out to the town’s tumble-down seafront fairground in time to stop Stephen Baldwin’s gang of Pabst-crazed yoots from dishing out some generic hassle (typified here, as it was throughout the ERH-assic period, by mild shoving) to the script’s ‘Beautiful Carousel Owner’, Ruby (Feuer). A troubled tomboy, Ruby rides a 1952 Indian Chief, sports round shades and carries in tow a string of ponies along with a regulation issue backstory about some Geppetto-like grandfather who brought her up around the fairground and who “When the kids didn’t have no money, let them ride for free…” These were, we should of course all remember, simpler times.

Pretty soon this feral little grease monkey has put aside the intimacy issues that have dogged her since Grandpa’s lynching and lured the punchy Mickmeister back to the dank, littoral storage shed/subtly lit and fully working toy museum with which she shares her haphazardly bohemian mezzanine apartment for some sweet love… It’s only been half an hour (in a strange town) but Mick’s already won a punch-up, been the toast of a monster drinking session, rescued a damsel, gone on a heavily-filtered motorbike montage and spent what seemed like aeons gazing mournfully out across the ocean like a bruised lion. Man, you are going to kick yourself when you find out who wrote this self-celebratory shinola!

Leaning heavily on the acclaimed portrayal of Charles Bukowski he lent Barbet Schroeder’s wonderful Barfly (and would again co-opt for the following year’s actually rather good Johnny Handsome), Mickey seems not to have understood that what makes for an expertly mannered portrait of a dogfaced, alcoholic pornographer doesn’t necessarily translate into a romantic lead home-run any more than it serves as a bedrock for the realisation of a significantly plausible pugilist.
Off the chain
Veering between a world-weary understanding of the notorious vagaries that permeate all levels of boxing that would be worthy of a Norman Mailer or a Don King and a total lack of even a basic grasp of the corporeal world around him (“What’s a Jew?”, indeed!), his character is as hard to pin down outside the ring as he is after the bell rings. He certainly looks every inch the contender, but with a fighting style that involves charging blindly at his opponent like a drugged-up bull, it’s hard to understand how he actually stays in the ring, let alone wins any bouts.
To wrap everything up, Walken lines up a score that he needs Mickey’s muscle to pull off, the Mick, against his doctor’s advice, accepts a big money fight with the local heavy-comer (ex-IBF Light Middleweight champ Buster Drayton), and ‘Beautiful Carousel Owner’ needs a few grand to save her rickety deathtrap from being condemned. Which of the two bonehead plays will the Mickman choose in order to help her out? God only knows: by this stage we were echoing that other Great White Hope of Eighties middleweights, Panamanian loon Roberto Durán, who once threw up his hands in the middle of a title bout with Sugar Ray Leonard and hollered, to anyone who would listen, “No más, no más!” 

No more, Mickey. No more.

Originally published in Little White Lies #22

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...