Ed. Note: In “Give it to Jeremy — He’ll Watch Anything,” Jeremy blindly selects a movie from Netflix using the Netflix Roulette app, watches it, and records his reaction. It’s arbitrary. It’s chaos. It’s awesome. Warning: Spoilers.
Like a fiery bird rising from the ashes — I’m talking about the sparrow that flew into my grill the other day; what are you talking about? — welcome to the dramatic return of “Give it to Jeremy — He’ll Watch Anything!”
Where have I been? Oh, just hiding — grieving, sulking — behind the disappearance of Netflix’s “Random Picks” category. Apparently the maintenance for a category with a single, unchanging algorithm was too much to keep it around? I don’t know. I only know my savior: Netflix Roulette (heroically created by Andrew Sampson). The app has some nice filter options for folks in search of a random pick from a narrow stream; but I’m all about the firehose. My one and only filter is “Movies.”
Dad Savage (1998)
Strange, clumsy name. Tulip farmer. Patrick Stewart. Exactly average rating. Ah, I’ve missed that sweet smell of randomness.
Establishing shot: A possum crosses a road with a truck approaching from the distance. (Is it possum or opossum?)
Today I learned: Possum is short for opossum, which itself is an Americanism.
Well, hold on then, I’m not so sure that was a possum.
Those are some very British accents.
Nope. No, that was a hedgehog, a popular inhabitant of England. (Yes, the truck did swerve to miss it.)
A secret vehicle compartment hiding a stockless shotgun and stacks of cash. Also known as the universal symbol for CRIME! CRIMINALS!
What the bleeping pile of bleep is happening in this movie? Two things to note:
1) A new scene is established with a shot of a basement. We hear shouting from above, and see heavy dust falling from the ceiling. Then, through that ceiling falls a pickup truck, as well as several people, one of whom bursts through one of the truck’s windows. We don’t know who these people are, where this basement is, or why it should matter to us, but it all happens in short cuts interspersed with slow motion as if we’re seeing a dramatic moment 40 minutes into the movie instead of four.
2) The filmmaker’s favorite technique so far (edging out closeups of hedgehogs): Playing loud music over barely audible action and dialogue.
Bleeping bleep. Patrick Stewart, the bleeping badass. Pointing a shotgun at a young man trying to flee up over top of the truck and out of the basement, the British Clint Eastwood growls with a grin: “From this angle, I could blow your balls clean up into your lungs. One more move, I might try it. What you say, lad?”
Cut to Patrick Stewart in flannel, a denim vest, and a cowboy hat. What is happening? This movie is amazing. Hoping against hope that Ian McKellen suddenly wanders on scene in a sheriff’s uniform and a shiny star-shaped badge.
Patrick Stewart is captivating. I don’t know what in the world this movie is about, and it doesn’t yet seem very good, but man, Stewart steals a scene.
Interesting structure so far. The movie opens (after the hedgehog) on an intense action scene at a point that feels like the end of a story, then jumps backward to what feels like the beginning of a story. Usually that means most of the movie is going to run linearly from that point, telling the story of “how we got here,” perhaps with occasional and brief jumps back to the end scene (think Usual Suspects). But in this case, at least so far, it’s jumping back and forth at a frequent rate. A couple minutes in the past, a couple minutes in the present. It’s disruptive to my rhythmic expectations for a movie.
The filmmaker’s favorite technique, expanded: Use any distracting noise at all to muffle dialogue as much as possible. Earlier it was music, then it was a guy screaming from a horrifying leg injury in the truck-smashed basement, now it’s a baby crying in a diner.
The filmmaker’s favorite technique is conspiring with heavy British accents. Time for subtitles.
Here are some questions that seem fair after 20 minutes: What are the stakes in this movie? Who are these people? What’s their motivation, besides money? How do they know each other? Why do I care? This reminds me of the awful Reindeer Games a bit, which came out not too long after this.
Everybody clear the room, I’m going to attempt a reach: Were movies like these just a sign of the times (late 1990s)? Before 9/11 and the 2000s recessions, did thriller dramas like these naturally lack stakes? Things were generally hunkey-dorey in the western world, so in a present-day movie about stealing money, the only tension came from the characters’ intense, criminalizing desire for… wealth?
Okay, reach over.
Every scene without Patrick Stewart is uninteresting. Aimless dialogue about money without any emotional heft. And occasional attempts at jokes that fall flatter than my joke about needing to buy more furrow for my brow. (This movie’s jokes are using up all of my furrow, you see.)
Is there really a country-western subculture in Britain, complete with American flags? If not, it was definitely worth inventing to see Patrick Stewart line dance in a black cowboy outfit.
The only relationship that’s actually been explained so far is Bob and his sister, Chris. And I’m still not convinced they’re actually siblings. The movie has been hinting pretty hard and clumsily at the possibility that they aren’t. (Hello, Reindeer Games? Your British predecessor is calling.)
I’m just so confused, especially about Vic. He always has a dead, vaguely angry look on his face. But what is his motivation? Why is he so hell-bent on getting this money? Is he a sociopath?
I suppose I should mention that, yes, Patrick Stewart is Dad Savage. But I refuse to call him that. The other characters are four younger men (Vic, Bob, Sav, H), plus Bob’s sister. I think I just figured out that Sav is Patrick Stewart’s son, whom Vic apparently kidnapped, tortured and possibly killed.
Has a torture victim ever in all the history of real life actually spat in the face of his or her interrogator?
Vic’s plan is to let Sav slowly bleed to death, until he tells Vic and Bob where the money is. Vic and his dead eyes either really, really, really needs that money (there’s been no indication of that being the case), or, again, he’s a sociopath.
It seems that Sav, Vic, and Bob all went to school together.
Tagline time: “His son’s schoolmate chums conspire to steal his life’s savings. One of them might be, but definitely is, a sociopath. It’s Dad Savage!”
An all-timer on the list of “where is the light coming from?” night scenes. Patrick Stewart wakes up on his couch at four in the morning and what the camera doesn’t show is the tanning light that must be hanging on the ceiling above him.
But it gets better. He gets up and looks out the window, where everything is in a soft gray glow as if dawn is in full swing. Does dawn come at four in the morning in England?
Nope, apparently not, because now he’s walking outside and suddenly everything is in a very black glow.
This has been gnawing at me, and I’m finally going to say it. I think Bob and Chris are not siblings, and that they’ve been conspiring. That they actually killed Sav and are setting up Vic. They’ve just been too dang innocent. Bob not wanting to hurt Sav, Bob claiming never to want to drag Chris into things, Chris claiming she’s just scenery earlier, saying that Bob could never murder someone (her reasoning: “Look at him!”). Cahoots, I tell ya. Seen this all before.
Patrick Stewart and Vic just eviscerated an extended period of boring boredom by exchanging angry, lunatic yee-haws. A timely reminder of why I’ll watch anything.
So much contrived tension in this movie. Visualize, if you please:
With no prelude and no reason, during this movie-long stand-off scene in the basement where the pickup truck crashed, Vic decides to put a tape in the cassette player of the truck. Moments later, he kicks the truck, which of course by rule of Fonz Law makes the tape play. Chris, up to this point desperate to defuse the standoff, uses this gift of startingly loud music to grab the shotgun from Patrick Stewart. Stewart’s next move in this new balance of power? “Come here, Chris, let me show you something.”
Did Chris ask, “Show me what?” Nah. Instead she slowwwly lets Stewart lead her on as he gestures for her to follow and as Bob screams, “No! It’s a trick!” (And a clever one at that.)
But you know, that whole insane kicking-the-truck-to-make-the-loud-music-start routine is making me wonder if Vic and Chris are actually an item. Sav said in an earlier scene that he “heard a rumor.” I mean, something interesting has to happen eventually, right?
According to The Savage Guide to Buried Treasure, a book that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist in real life, if you need to hide something valuable, you should bury something worthless on top of your treasure, because people will stop once they find something. But why stop there? Why not bury your treasure, then something worthless, then something of a little bit of value, then something else worthless? Somebody might go two deep, but FOUR deep? No way.
Ridiculously anti-climactic reveal of the killer during one of the flashback scenes. (It was H. The guy who flew through the truck window at the beginning of the movie and has been slumped over unconscious ever since.)
Biggest laugh of the day: Patrick Stewart, driving a pickup truck with horns on the hood, shooting a shotgun out the window, screams: “YEEE-HAWWW!”
Chris finally delivers the real tagline with this line: “What is it? I mean — I mean, look at us. I mean, guns. Money. I mean, look.” Dad Savage!
Whoops, may have spoken too soon. Here she is with it: “Can anybody tell me what the fuck is the point?” Dad Savage!
After stabbing Bob in the neck and shooting Vic with a shotgun, Patrick Stewart was just pinned under a support beam that broke free from the ceiling and fell on him. The quietest, least dramatic death of a lead character who just savagely (SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE) murdered two other characters in the history of all movies, ever. Creak, slow fall, pin, grunt, dead.
So, to recap, the only two people left alive now are Chris, who has had nothing to do with any of this, other than being Bob’s sister and getting asked to drive him and Vic to this house, and H, who was the one who actually killed Sav and stole the money. Turns out my theories about Chris and Bob, and Chris and Vic, were completely wrong. Turns out my hopes for this plot to ever get interesting were also completely wrong.
“Disappointing.” (You couldn’t hear it, but I said that with a British accent.) The opening scenes had me excited about this movie because of Patrick Stewart, but it turned out to be a sad waste of his talent. It had the same “I know they’re trying to be intense, but this just seems contrived and silly” feel as Reindeer Games, but without the zany plot twists. There were a few glimmers of unintentional comedy, but on the whole I would say this movie isn’t worth your time, even to laugh at. (Though you should absolutely watch that clip of Stewart’s “YEE-HAW”.)
I’ll be driving my truck through another Netflix Roulette spin soon. Stay tuned!