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Our third and final salute to Rip Torn: HBO’s Flashpoint (1984)

Flashpoint (1984) is a film starring Rip Torn, Kris Kristofferson, Treat Williams and was William Tannen’s directorial debut.  Flashpoint was also the first film produced by Home Box Office (HBO)—on a side note, it was thought-provoking to see the original HBO introduction again when the revolving HBO letters came at you against the outer space background.

Williams and Kristofferson are jaded, yet prankish border patrol officers fighting a pointless battle against the steady flow of illegal immigrants into Texas.  Kristofferson is a gentle cynic, highly decorated veteran with quiet personality that hides his resentment for “the system.”  Williams is a younger idealist and bit of a hothead who foolishly speaks out against injustice and corruption.  Their friendship and camaraderie is profound and real in a way few movies from Hollywood are ever able to depict.  For whatever reason Treat Williams and Kris Kristofferson are a pair of actors whose talents haven’t always been well utilized by the Hollywood machine though they should have been after their performance in Flashpoint.

On the dark side of the force, Flashpoint has characters like “Department of Public Safety” (i.e. Texas Ranger) Rip Torn and other malevolent government agents that show us how true villains are simply focused career men who ruthlessly believe in the perverted values they’ve espoused.  However Torn, at the end of the day, changes and is willing to sacrifice his life for it.  In the last scene Torn, looking back on his own life and anticipating Kristofferson’s edgy future, shouts “Do it!  Be the one who got away!  Whatever happens, should’ve happened years ago.”  Taking responsibility for his past and seeking redemption by staying behind to hold off the government killers to “buy time” for Kristofferson’s get away.

Now back to the story.  Kristofferson and Williams discover a Jeep buried in the desert with a skeleton, a fishing box containing a high-powered rifle and $800,000 in cash.  The bills and the skeleton’s driver’s license are dated circa 1963.  Soon, the two guards find themselves running for their lives from Federal agents who are determined to kill anyone in connection to the discovery.

The two reason that since the cash has been ignored for that long, they have as much right as anyone else.  Kristofferson wants to split the cash with Williams and immediately head for Mexico.  Williams is tempted but it doesn’t pass his smell test or his nagging personal code of honor.

To appease Williams, Kristofferson does some detective work to see whether or not the cash is clean.  They come to the shocking realization that they are against forces much bigger than they ever imagined—and Williams pays the ultimate price of it: that the driver of the Jeep was the true assassin of John F. Kennedy, not Lee Harvey Oswald, and that the Government, with help from the Dallas Police Department, were involved with the assassination.  VHS viewers (for you younger people out there those were large cassettes which, when placed into a machine called a VCR, would play movies) who rented the movie in the 80’s, the mystery was revealed on the back cover of the cassette box.
Sneer all you want that Flashpoint is “just another JFK conspiracy movie,” and has been virtually ignored by critics and audiences since Reagan was President, but the film is one of the best movies of its time.  Rip Torn’s sagely advice for a shell-shocked Kristofferson at the end will stick with you.  “Don’t be a martyr.  We already got enough of those.  Be different.  Be the one that got away.”

My advice to you—don’t let this one get away.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Next in our Rip Torn Series: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)—If Torn was not in this, you would be wise to dodge the film.

Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) is the owner of “Average Joe’s,” a small and financially disastrous gym with a handful of loyal but non paying members.  When the gym’s mortgage slips into default, the mortgage is purchased by his competitor White Goodman (Ben Stiller), a fitness “sage” and owner of the successful behemoth Globo-Gym across the way.  Average Joe’s has to raise $50,000 in thirty days to redeem the gym’s mortgage otherwise it will become an auxiliary parking garage for Globo-Gym. Attorney Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor (Stiller’s real Wife)) is working on the transaction for White who unsuccessfully attempts to charm her, and she instead develops a rapport with the Average Joe crowd while reviewing its financial records.

 

Average Joe’s employees Dwight (Chris Williams) and Owen (Joel David Moore) and members Steve “the Pirate” (Alan Tudyk), Justin (Justin Long), and Gordon (Stephen Root) initially try to raise the $50,000 with a carwash, but actually lose money in that endeavor.  Gordon reads in Obscure Sports Quarterly about the annual dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas with a $50,000 prize.  The Average Joe crowd bands together and to get a feel for the game, watch a 1950s-era training video narrated by dodgeball legend “Patches” O’Houlihan (in the 50’s film played by Hank Azaria).  Despite watching this black and white reel to reel instructional movie, Average Joe’s is whipped by a Girl Scout troop in the qualifying match, however, due to steroid use by the Scout team, Average Joe’s win by default.

 

Enter Rip Torn.  Aging and wheelchair-bound Patches (Rip Torn) approaches Peter and declares himself the new team coach.  Patches’ has a tough training regimen that includes throwing wrenches, dodging oncoming cars and consistently berating them with outrageous insults.  Kate demonstrates skill at the game and eventually joins the team and is branded a “lesbian” by Patched et al.

 

Patches unique training methods pay off as Average Joe’s manages to advance to the final round against Globo-Gym.  The night before the match, Patches is killed by a falling sign in the casino.  The untimely death is a heavy blow to the team and fear is in the air.  In a moment of weakness, White offers Peter $100,000 for the deed to Average Joe’s which Peter accepts and then tries to skip town. As fate would have it, Peter runs into Lance Armstrong at the airport—who has been following the tournament on ESPN’s 8 “The Ocho,” and expresses his hope that Peter & Co. beat Globo-Gym.  Peter confesses to Armstrong that he is quitting and Armstrong wishes him well and hopes that this incident does not haunt Peter for the rest of his life.  Peter decides to play but arrives too late as  Average Joe’s has already forfeited.  Gordon finds a loophole in the rules that can overturn the forfeiture by vote of the judges, and (thank you) Chuck Norris casts the tie-breaking vote to allow the team to play.

 

 

After a fierce game, Peter and White face off in a sudden death match to determine the winner. Inspired by a vision of Patches, Peter blindfolds himself and is able to dodge White’s throw and strike him, winning the championship and the prize money and  Peter opens youth dodgeball classes at Average Joe’s, while White becomes morbidly obese by drowning his sorrows in junk food.

 

Like I said in the title, without Torn as Patches, this movie would not be half as funny as it is.  There is no way I am going to sit here and tell you that this movie is for everybody and I’m sure many highbrow types will see it as a juvenile.  Cameos from Hasselhoff, Norris, Shatner and Lance Armstrong are all amusing and, just like Best in Show, commentators Gary Cole and Jason Bateman do great job as second rate sports analysts and have some great lines between them.

Rip Torn was the main reason I looked forward to this film, and after it was over my anticipation was vindicated.  If only this movie were about his character “Patches O’Houlihan,” then it would unquestionably deserve its large success.  Pretty much everything involving Patches works extremely well; and works for both the Hank Azaria and the Rip Torn versions of the character. In fact Torn has some of the greatest comedy and dialogue bits I have seen in some time. “No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste” or “You’ve got to grab it [Dodgeball] by its haunches and hump it into submission.”

While more original than most, you do know the ending before it happens, the savvy watcher evens knows most of the jokes and the dialog was probably written as a prequel to most of the comedies of the relatively recent past.  As I have said before, Hollywood ran out of ideas around the mid-Nineties and has to look to its successful past to get “new” material for the future by repackaging them for an unassuming public.  The worst part of my analysis is that most of the viewing public is ignorant of this scheme and seem to resign themselves to such a fate by not investigating older movies and truly comedic films that deserve their money and attention.  Which is what we here at JPFmovies are all about.

Despite my mixed review and general bitching, I do like this movie—mainly because of Rip Torn.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Rip Torn, Richard (“Shaft”) Roundtree, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in “City Heat” (1984) or City Heat—better turn on the air conditioning to watch this one.

Since we are transitioning from our tribute to Burt Reynolds to Rip Torn, City Heat was the first movie that came to mind.  It has Reynolds and Torn as well as what looks on paper to be a strong supporting cast.  Until I watched this film again to write this review, I forgot just how bad this movie really is.

City Heat is a 1984  (purportedly) action-comedy film. Pairing Eastwood and Reynolds in a Prohibition-era action-comedy probably looked like a good idea at the time and it did make money in spite of itself (earning $38,300,000 at the box office on a $25,000,000 budget).

Set in Kansas City in 1933, a police lieutenant known simply by his last name, Speer (Eastwood), is acquainted with your template former cop turned private eye named Mike Murphy (Reynolds).  Of course Speer and Murphy served on the force together and were once good friends, but now can’t stand each other.  Oh, we are just setting this one up for some hilarious scenes with this original story line.  Be that as it may, these two chums have eyes for Murphy’s secretary Addy.  Addy loves both and (tries) to prove it when she kisses Murphy goodbye and then goes on a date with Speer.  Murphy, however,  has a new romantic interest in a  rich socialite type named Caroline Howley (Madeline Kahn).  Speer takes Addy to a boxing match on his date at which the mob boss Primo Pitt (Torn) is present. Murphy’s partner Dehl Swift (Richard “Shaft” Rountree) is also there and is sucking up to Pitt and his gang.  Swift has a briefcase that Pitt and his boys want—badly.

Without skipping a beat, Swift is shot by Pitt’s thugs who are there to get the case, but there’s nothing inside.  One of the goons throws Swift’s body out of the window and lands on the roof of Speer’s car.  As is required in all police-action-comedies, Murphy vows revenge on Pitt for killing his partner.  He asks Speer for assistance and they form a reluctant alliance.

After a lot of needless filler, final showdowns occur in a warehouse, where Speer “humorously” pulls out a weapon larger than Murphy’s, and in a brothel, where Murphy shows up in costume.  Again, this film category requires that the men again have become friends, at least until a casual remark leads to them stepping outside and bickering, face to face.

I can’t think of another cliché that could have been added to this movie, although I have been trying. If you can come up with one, please send it to me in a comment. After all, the film already contains such original subplots and devices as an about to be dead guy who is warned by his girlfriend ahead of time “Dehl, don’t do this,” a girlfriend who is kidnapped and held hostage by gangsters (in fact every woman in the movie is kidnapped by gangsters at some point), gangsters in search of “goods” that must be delivered in a suitcase, a P.I. who eats dinner every night in the same diner, the bathtub gin stored under the sink, a devoted secretary who never leaves her post even at night (as a sole proprietor myself I have to wonder how he pays her), Congressmen turning up in a brothel, gangsters who spend all their spare time playing poker, a henchman named “Lefty”…the list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Likewise, the running gags in City Heat come to a complete standstill. For example, it quickly stops being funny to hear Reynolds ask, after someone bursts in a door, “doesn’t anybody ever knock?”

This movie had problems both on and off the set.  Reynolds seriously injured his jaw, the morons at the marketing department opened “City Heat” against “Beverly Hills Cop,” and Eddie Murphy cleaned the clocks of both Eastwood and Reynolds.  Reynolds would never be a top star again. Adding insult to injury, the ad tag line “The Heat is On!” first used by “City Heat” was shifted to “Beverly Hills Cop” (and to Glen Fry’s song) when “City Heat” mercifully disappeared from theaters.

I’ll almost always take a good story over “stars” and if you ever needed proof that superstars aren’t as important as a good screenplay then look to City Heat.  Apparently Blake Edwards (Pink Panther Series) was set to direct this movie but got fired sometime during the filming because he couldn’t agree with the two stars on what this film’s end product should look like a/k/a “creative differences.” Maybe the loss of Edwards was a material factor in the abortion this film turned out to be, but whatever the reason it’s doubtful you’ll see Eastwood in a worse movie.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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I’ve decided we need another tribute–a trifecta of flicks wth Rip Torn!

What do you think? I am open do suggestions but have a couple in mind. We’ll see if we can’t get the initial review out tonight.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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