Saturday, January 30, 2010

The vigilante

Starring in a film for the first time in eight years -- or, more importantly, the first time since he went on a drunken, anti-Semitic rant -- Mel Gibson decided to return to something familiar.

Something very, very familiar.

In fact, I didn't realize how familiar until a Facebook friend of mine posted a question in his status update earlier in the week. This guy is a working journalist who, I suppose, was trying to come up with a story related to the release of Gibson's Edge of Darkness. I'm only assuming that, because this was the exact phrasing:

"A little pop culture help, please: can anyone think of any other movies in which a dad wreaks bloody vengeful havoc after his child or wife is hurt and/or murdered? A la Taken, Death Wish? What movies am I missing? And no, I am not curating a film festival."

What turned me on to the Gibson angle was the responses to this post. One commenter said "Isn't that the plot of every Mel Gibson movie ever made?"

The answer is, yes, pretty much. With the exception of Bird on a Wire and Forever Young.

(And sorry to steal your idea for a story, if this was in fact what your idea was, o friend of mine. But blogging anonymity prevents me from giving you any more credit than I already have. Besides, you'll never read this anyway. Nor will many other people.)

Let's consider, chronologically, all the way back to when Mel Gibson was just a glint in superstardom's eye:

1) Mad Max (1979, George Miller). Gibson plays a police officer whose family is murdered by a gang in retaliation for the death of one of its members. After this, Gibson's Max becomes mad.

2) The Road Warrior (1981, George Miller). Same Max, still mad.

3) Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985, George Miller & George Ogilvie). Same Max, but not quite as mad anymore. Tina Turner guest stars.

4) Lethal Weapon (1987, Richard Donner). Gibson may have become something of a jolly court jester in later Lethal Weapons, but not here. This deadly serious movie features Gibson as a suicidal, nearly psychopathic cop who is stewing in his own misery after the death of his wife. Will act crazy for food.

5) Lethal Weapon 2 (1989, Richard Donner). Martin Riggs is a lot funnier in the second installment, but he still gets a chance to go fist-swinging, gun-blazing crazy after they deposit his new girlfriend at the bottom of the bay.

6) Braveheart (1995, Mel Gibson). William Wallace becomes a freedom fighter after his intended is murdered, but don't think his eyes don't go into the back of his head in apoplectic rage in a couple slightly less noble moments.

7) Ransom (1996, Ron Howard). This is probably the first one everyone thinks of, though neither his wife nor son is actually killed here. However, Tom Mullen gets so pissed about his son's kidnapping that he actually puts a ransom on the kidnappers. My friends and I were saying "Gimme back my son!" in loud, spittle-filled Gibson rage for several years after that.

8) Payback (1999, Brian Helgeland). In this film, Gibson is perhaps more a strict vigilante than in any of the others -- what prevents it from fitting the terms of my friend's query is that his "payback," from what I remember/can glean from the internet, doesn't have anything to do with a wife or a child. However, I've called this post "The vigilante," so it certainly fits into my own modification of the theme.

9) The Patriot (2000, Roland Emmerich). Gibson's Benjamin Martin is a pacifist until one of his sons is killed by the British during a skirmish at his plantation. After that he gets all angry with his muskets and gunpowder.

10) Signs (2002, M. Night Shyamalan). Yep, this even fits into the theme, sort of. Although Gibson's Graham Hess is a reverend and most certainly a man of Godly non-violence, his wife was killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel (Shyamalan), and it's at least implied that Hess wants to do this man physical harm.

11) Edge of Darkness (2010, Martin Campbell). I don't know if Gibson's detective goes all Charles Bronson on anyone after his activist daughter is murdered, but the hopelessness and screaminess of a lot of his dialogue from the ads certainly suggests that possibility, doesn't it?

Okay, so it's not every movie he's in. But 11 movies is more than a trend. And besides, it's not really satire if you don't exaggerate a little bit.

Now, five movies in which Mel Gibson should have played the grieving dad/husband:

1) Mystic River (2003, Clint Eastwood). "Is that my daughter in there? IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THEY-UH?!?"

2) Taken (2009, Pierre Morel). "What I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

3) A Time to Kill (1996, John Grisham). But he'd need a race change. "YES they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!"

4) The Limey (1999, Steven Soderbergh). "You tell him, you tell him I'm coming. Tell him I'm FUCKING coming!"

5) Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott). "At my signal, unleash hell."


Don Handsome said...

How about a Mel Gibson version of Straw Dogs where he could meekly stumble over the line "I I I'll give you one more chance, and if you don't clear out now, there'll be real trouble. I mean it." before getting all huge and mad.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

So I've seen this one before? Good. Then I won't feel too bad about not seeing this one.

I haven't gotten over Mel's anti-Semitic rant or the fact that he never really apologized for it and still gets defensive about it.

He's not getting my money or my time.

Vancetastic said...

Agreed, DGB -- Gibson's behavior falls outside any normal idea of forgiveness. It's funny how we'd be more likely to forgive him if he beat the shit out of somebody. Rightly, I think, we're more capable of forgiving a rash physical mistake than a rash mental mistake, because the mental mistake says more about the kind of person he really is.

Perhaps he spent so much of his career playing mad people that he really did eventually become quite mad, in both senses of the word.