Western Watchins #82
Kid vengeance, it’s one of the best kinds of vengeance there is to be had. Remember in A Christmas Story when Ralphie snapped and beat the shit out of those bullies who’d been hounding him mercilessly? Same thing basically happens in this week’s movie. Just replace the snow-bound slap fighting with a snake in a saddlebag, a bow and arrow gut shot, one slow asphyxiation, a relentless cranial stoning and a final gundown that is the very definition of awesomely angry overkill and you’re there. See, back in ’77 Lee Van Cleef (not yet ready to leave Israel) and Leif Garrett (not yet ready for rehab) decided to follow up the visual nails on a chalkboard that was God’s Gun with another Golan-Globus backed production because there was really nowhere to go but up (or to rehab).
Kid Vengeance improves on every aspect of that film and even excels in some. It is powerfully mediocre yet still innovative and both because a child is at the center of the payback driven plot. It’s the bloody journey of a “man with no name” who just happens to be a kid. Who has a name. I forgot what it was but it doesn’t matter. Once Leif goes all Hunger Games on the gang who raped and murdered his mom, did not rape but still murdered his dad and then kidnapped (and often threatened to rape) his almost barely legal sister names no longer matter. At that point only the blood spattered actions of a pissed-off pre-teen matter. And that he goes about it mostly all by his lonesome avoids cliche and adds interest to an otherwise forgettable film. I say “mostly” because Jim Brown does help out a little.
Jim Brown is a former Cleveland Brown turned fairly accomplished actor. According to IMDB he is also black. I can’t tell because I don’t judge people based on color for the most part. I judge them based on whether they’re pieces of shit or not. And in the spirit of transparency when I say “pieces of shit” I mean everyone I’ve ever know who turned out to be pieces of shit. You know who you are! And so does Jim Brown. All he ever wanted to do was prospect and had been doing a damn good job of it until two separate shit piece gangs decided to mess with him. Jim Croce probably said it best when he sang “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask on that old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim…or that kid he met early in the film who you totally figured would end up needing his help but oh no! That kid went fucking psycho nuts vigilante all on his own and even calls Jim out for sort of being a pussy right before he empties an entire Winchester into just one bad guy I mean Christ’s crispy corn fritters was that brutal or what?”
You’re used to a weak and traumatized victim of frontier violence stumbling into or directly seeking out someone to fight their fight for them. Kid Vengeance shatters that platitude with a breath of fresh air that fucks you twice in your vengeance hole. And you’re left wondering “did air just fuck me?” But it did and with a vengeance! Sadly, while the script is taking juvenile justice to the next level Leif Garret’s acting isn’t doing any justice to the script. His entire bag of acting tricks boil down to this face…
And this face…
What could have been a tour de force ended up being a tour de fuck me. These were the same folks that had just made God’s Gun so they should have know more than anyone that Leif’s range was, well, limited. Bane from Dark Knight Rises with that stupid steampunk diaper on his fucking face had a greater goddamn range of emotion than Garrett. I do think someone on set actually realized this and thus filled out lots of footage with several supporting characters to distract us from the master’s class of mouth breathing that was Leif Garrett’s every non-violent interaction. That’s why, over the course of the film, we had this Mexican guy and that Mexican guy and then every Mexican guy.
This particular Mexican guy is laughing because the horse behind him just told the crew a joke.
You want to hear it?
So, the horse says “what’s the difference between Leif Garrett’s talent and diarrhea? Answer: One’s an unending spray of complete shit and the other is diarrhea!”
Ah man that was harsh, harsh, harrrrrrsh. I shouldn’t be so hard on the kid. You’d spend most of your adolescence with a perpetual look of “duh, whaaa, ahhh, fuuuggghhh” on your face too if your parents had made you do shit like this:
Dear God…the things that dinosaur must have seen. Is this cover one after-school detention and a roofie away from being an episode of Law and Order: SVU or what? Save us Lee Van Cleef, save us!
What the hell? He’s not even wearing a cowboy hat and he has the mange? The guy who played Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly looks like a fluffer on the set of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Tongue (or dick) in cheek aside he’s still the best thing in the movie. This heroin-chic hombre cuts a swath of sordid savagery across the landscape and saves a bit of surprise character development until just before the third act. That soft sucker-punch along with Garrett’s unexpectedly resourceful and kill focused kiddo are two shining aspects of an otherwise ho-hum affair. Having someone so young best an entire brand of brigands was a great hand to play but creatively the producers seemed to fold after coming up with such a winner and thus never realized the potential that was at their fingertips.
3 rounds in the cylinder for Kid Vengeance. It’s a far cry from God’s Gun but so is a drunk donkey trying to sodomize a watermelon and I don’t want to watch that either. Plus I’m not even sure watermelons have holes to sodomize. I’ll check IMDB, they know everything. Poor Kid Vengeance thought he knew what he wanted too. A life ridden true is full of knee jerk reactions and the jerks that caused them. Once you start with a curb-stomp though it’s hard reel it back in so amigos, make damn sure you’re ready to go the distance fore you put that first step down. Kid Vengeance wanted revenge and a modicum of peace. But did he manage to find all that?
I think Leif Garrett’s finale face says it best.
Even if it’s not saying that much at all.