Thursday, October 23, 2008

Film Review: SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981, Walter Hill)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 106 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Keith Carradine, Brion James, Fred Ward, Peter Coyote, Powers Boothe, T.K. Carter, Michael Kane, David Giler, Ry Cooder
Tag-line: " The bayou has its own law... and they just broke it. " AND "It's the land of hospitality... unless you don't belong."
Best one-liner(s): "Voulez vous fuck me!"

Casper: "There's supposed to be a river here... "
Spencer: "Them ecology boys must've moved it."

Walter Hill strikes again. Along with John Carpenter, I would say Hill is one of the few working directors to truly continue the 'men bonding/entertainment as art/but with surprising depth' genre laid out by the likes of Howard Hawks and John Ford. Imagine DELIVERANCE meets APOCALYPSE NOW meets ALIENS, and you have a pretty good idea of what this film is like. And if it doesn't warm your heart to see Powers Boothe as leading man material before playing scores of skeazes and miscreants, then you probably don't deserve to see it happen, and here's a rap on the knuckles for good measure. The cast is immaculate: Boothe, Keith Carradine, Fred Ward, Peter Coyote, the cook from THE THING, and Brion James (the android from BLADE RUNNER who says 'Wake up, time to die'), among others.

The film also manages to have one of the most cogent commentaries on the whole Vietnam imbroglio I've ever seen. It brilliantly adheres to the whole Rod Serling school of thought whereby injecting elements of the fantastic and the familiar (while still retaining your subtext) can give the subject far more weight and poignancy than if you actually focused entirely on the topic at hand. See Twilight Zone episodes like "I Am the Night- Color Me Black" and "The Invaders" if this sort of commentary appeals to you. But don't worry, it's not as heavy as all that. It's also a slam-bang survivalist picture with enough paranoia, character development, and drably hypnotic bayou visuals to hold the non-theorist's attentions. It also goes damn well with some Cajun cookin' and couple of swigs of everyone's favorite bubble gum-smellin' whiskey-tastin' south of Mason-Dixon liqueur, which happens to share its name with the title of this fine picture.

-Sean Gill


skeelo said...

This was amazing. I'm so happy you brought this and The Wanderers to my attention. Bubble-gum drink... I'll pass tho.

Sean Gill said...

Glad I could be of assistance. And one can certainly not be blamed for watching SOUTHERN COMFORT without the aid of that ever-so-lovely beverage which happens to share its name.