From Criminals

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 4: “Down Will Come”

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 4: “Down Will Come”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Other Lives” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Maybe Tomorrow” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.48.35 AMPoor Frank (Vince Vaughn). He not only can’t deliver a child for his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly), his avocado farm is having a rough go of things. Frank seems to be struggling, though, he hides it well beneath the calm exterior; in a weak moment, he slips into quasi-racism and berates one of his gardeners before Jordan tells him to stop.
One thing with Frank is, starting with Episode Three, we’ve really begun to see the animal side of him come out. The fight with his gangster buddy in the last episode was intense, so were the moments afterward when Frank collected the gold teeth out of the guy’s face. I hope Frank rages on, honestly, because I think he’ll become a force to be reckoned with.
I like the whole idea of dirty and semi-dirty cops versus the character of Frank, who is trying to go legitimate. Jordan argues with Frank about how they’re “back to this”, referring to the old ways of being a street-made man. He tries to instil the concept in her that present situations require serious measures. It’s clear, regardless, that Jordan and Frank have a lot of tension between them, from the hopes of having a baby to Frank’s business dealings. Still, their relationship is strong, yet nothing is ever rosy in the world of True Detective.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.47.38 AMI knew right from the beginning Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) was closeted. It could’ve simply been erectile dysfunction for all I knew, but that first scene we saw him in during Episode One where he couldn’t stay hard with his girlfriend spoke volumes. Just in the way the camera closed in on him; he was concentrating, trying his best to stay interested and keep an erection. Now with this episode, Paul wakes up at his old army buddy’s place in bed. They’ve had a passionate night. Paul flees in a cab and then scolds himself on a city sidewalk – the pain of what’s going on inside him rages, and it’s actually painful (in the right way because of Kitsch’s acting) to watch.
Even worse, as Paul yells at himself and seems to fall apart right in front of us, then reporters swarm him asking about allegations against Black Mountain Security, and one reporter actually shouts out at him wondering if he has a history of violence against women. Very, very interesting stuff. I was interested before, but this episode really brought some heat for Paul’s storyline. I think Taylor Kitsch is doing a great job so far, though, I’ve liked him since seeing The Grand Seduction last year.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.48.05 AMI thought the scene between Kitsch and Farrell early on in the car was fantastic. Two good actors playing off one another. Especially because Woodrugh reveals so much to Ray Velcoro, in a way. The whole angle of Paul’s sexuality doesn’t come out, so to speak, but Ray can see the pain inside the younger cop. First, Ray offers some hair of the dog for Paul to cure the hangover. Then Ray recognizes that Paul has “seen some shit”, and tries to lend a little support. But Paul is cracking at the edges, he tells Ray: “I’ve been listenin’ to them so long I don’t know who the fuck I am”.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.48.51 AMMy feeling is that Paul represents a particular generation of young men nowadays, much like any young men from any time. Young men who have been fooled into believing everything the government tells them – be a good student, be a good soldier, be a good cop, be obedient… but most importantly, be obedient and be what we tell you. Young men who’ve been lied to, told they’re fighting for one thing when it’s really another; they are military men, young guys, going overseas fighting for causes to which they have no allegiance, for politicians sitting at home on their asses while real people die everyday in a desert on the other side of the planet. As Paul says, he’s listened so long that he has no real idea who he is, no true sense of identity. He is denying himself every step of the way and there’s maybe something dangerous brewing inside.
Furthermore, Paul and his girlfriend Emily (Adria Arjona) meet. They talk about how things were left between them. Then Emily reveals she is pregnant and is against abortion, so she plans to keep the baby. Paul, denying his true self worse than ever before, abruptly asks her to get married, to keep the child. There’s no telling what repercussions this will have throughout Paul’s storyline the remainder of this season.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.49.13 AMWe get lots of Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) hovering around her family in this episode. She talks with both her sister Athena and her father Eliot, the enigmatic cult leader. I like the juxtaposition of Ani’s family members; she wants to keep tabs on her sister, but does not like Eliot, they’ve been estranged quite some time. However, the case is bringing her into contact with her crazy dad, as well as with her sister – one simply business, the other personal and business simultaneously.

Now, Ani also faces heat at work for her relationship with the hurt cop. I can see how Ani has become a fighter. She lives in a man’s world, and having to become more like the men around her has lead to becoming more wreckless just like the other lost souls – Velcoro and Woodrugh. If anything, Ani stands to show men and women are no different; we all fuck up, we are all reckless.

One great bit happens while Ani and Ray are visiting her dad. Eliot looks over for a moment and says Ray has the biggest aura he has ever seen, that it “fills the room”. Then he tells Ray: “You must’ve had hundreds of lives.” Ray replies: “Well, I don’t think I can handle another one.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.52.08 AMI won’t go into lengthy details about the main plot’s path. Mostly, I think it’s pretty solid. Another sordid tale of sex and perversion and murder, with a few steady dashes of confusion to spice things up.
The element I enjoy about the main plot, concerning the investigation into the death of Ben Caspere, is how Detective Ray Velcoro truly straddles the middle of the line – he and Frank regularly meet, Ray gives over the information required, and at the same time he is still being bent under the thumb of the police department heads, forcing him to do what he does not want to do. Problem is, Ray is the reason Ray ended up where he is, ultimately. Though, I feel he sees some light at the end of his tunnel.
I still hope to see him break free of the ties which bind and I want to see Ray get some form of redemption. Maybe he’ll have to die by the time it’s all over. I think it’s heading steadily towards that conclusion for ole Detective Velcoro. He certainly doesn’t have much to live for – his own son, possibly the genetic son of his wife’s rapist, is slipping through his fingers. Ray meets with his son, out in the shadows of his ex-wife’s backyard, and gives the kid his own father’s police badge, set in an ornamental case after the old man’s retirement; the sadness in Ray is evident, as he backs off into the shadows while the boy’s mother calls him inside.
I imagine a world where Ray does get what he deserves – I like him, but I think the man has done extremely questionable things along the way believing they are true justice. He knows it, we know it. We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. Either way, I think Ray might intentionally throw himself into the fire for a good cause in the end simply because he is craving so badly a taste of redemption.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.51.08 AMThe last ten minutes is a pretty thrilling bit of action. Detectives Bezzerides and Velcoro, along with Officer Woodrugh and other cops, go on a raid which quickly flies south. Gangsters with automatic weapons begin blasting out the windows of mid-sized building; soon, the gunfire makes the building’s top floor explode, sending everyone outside to the ground and no doubt killing everyone inside. More gangsters light the streets up, as Woodrugh, Bezzerides, and Velcoro each try to clear them out. It’s intense, and several cops take bullets – plus a bunch of criminals. As a gangster moves towards an ammo-less Bezzerides, Officer Woodrugh pops a couple rounds into him an takes the guy down.
I really enjoyed the climax of this episode because while the detectives and officer are all on different wavelengths, this massive shootout almost bonds them together. They’re all shocked with the end results, no doubt a departmental investigation will begin to sort out everything that happened, and as the episode fades out there’s nothing but a little awe; the frame freezes, the black crowds in and a song plays over the credits.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.52.19 AMBasically, the aftermath of this shooting will cause some things to happen.
Velcoro is going to pressured into making it look like they’ve got their man in the big rampage at the episode’s finale. However, Frank is still going to know better than to believe that line of bullshit. So we’re going to see the criminal really step up and become the lead in the chase towards an answer to who killed Caspere, and who killed Frank’s man in the same way.
Rolling Stone has already criticized the ending’s freeze frame. I dig it, totally. Part of what I love is how Bezzerides, Velcoro, and Woodrugh each stand around baffled at what has happened – then the frame sticks, fades out. It’s perfect, it captures that moment and literally snapshots it, making it stick. Because you know it’s going to stick to each and every one of them. Certainly Woodrugh, no doubt he has seen enough while with Black Mountain Security to last a lifetime. Can’t wait to see the next episode.
There’s also something else Rolling Stone got wrong – keep this in mind. Detective Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) took a shot to the head. Now, the Stone would have you believe it doesn’t matter, as if Dixon was totally inconsequential. That is not the case. Do you remember when Woodrugh was first leaving from meeting his army buddy, back in Episode Three? Teague was sniffing around, even making a comment before that, and had been taking pictures clearly from a bridge above where Woodrugh and his army friend/lover were together. Could we perhaps have reason to believe maybe Detective Dixon was following Paul again? Maybe he followed Paul to his old buddy’s house – of course Paul wouldn’t know anyways, even if Dixon weren’t sneaky, because he’d clearly been wasted before heading over to have some secret sex with his friend.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.49.50 AMWhat I’m wondering is: now that Dixon is dead, will someone find his camera, and if someone does will there be incriminating pictures of Officer Woodrugh on there? We shall see. I mean, it’s clear that Dixon looks at Woodrugh with a sense that he can see through that outer mask – he can tell Paul puts on an air of false masculinity, almost trying to overpower his true self, his true sexual orientation, by being foolishly macho and clearly pretending. I can’t believe that Nic Pizzolatto would lazily have Dixon being suspicious, even with his looks, and then doing all that secret detective work on Woodrugh without it leading somewhere.
Don’t forget – in the very First Episode, as Detectives Dixon and Velcoro quietly investigate Ben Caspere and visit his home, Dixon tells his partner that if anything happens to him, to go and clear his stuff out quickly. Right there and then, I’d wondered if that would have any significance. I think now, it really does.
Will Ray Velcoro go to Teague’s place, remove anything possibly damning, and come to find the camera – complete with pictures of Paul, possibly in compromising photographs?
I can’t wait for whatever happens. Next week should be wild with the fallout of the shooting and the deaths therein.

It seems like the title of this episode implies a few things – just like “Down will come baby cradle and all”, down will come everything on top of the heads of criminals, cops, and everyone in the path of the destruction unleashed.

See you next episode!

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John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13: Action on a Sweet Soundtrack

Assault on Precinct 13. 1976.  Directed & Written by John Carpenter.  Starring Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer, Martin West, Tony Burton, Charlie Cyphers, and Nancy Kyes.  Image Entertainment.  Rated R.  91 minutes.  Action/Crime/Thriller

★★★★★ (Movie)
★★★★ (DVD release)8VmiPlwde02etrSHJpHrwjMEPbJAssault on Precinct 13 is one of the best action thrillers of all-time. It’s probably my personal favourite if I had to pick one. John Carpenter crafts an incredibly tight story about a band of police and criminals forced to fend themselves off from a street gang who’ve taken a blood oath against the police; all the while, the rag tag gang of cops and robbers are trapped inside a near defunct precinct in an isolated area of Los Angeles. Everything is set off in the beginning after a police ambush a number of gang members, killing them, and prompts the remaining gang members to take a blood oath against the Los Angeles police force. It’s basically a siege-type film.
Carpenter has always been an open fan of the Western genre, as well as a lot of the old & great Hollywood epics because he grew up watching a lot of classic filmmakers’ films. More specifically, he’s also a huge fan of Howard Hawkes (director of such classics as the original Scarface, the William Faulkner-written The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, & more). In the audio commentary for this movie he actually talks about Hawkes in regards to the cigarette gags ongoing throughout Assault on Precinct 13; he attributes this as an homage to Hawkes who frequently did all sorts of cigarette-related gags. The reason I bring this up is because Carpenter really wrote this movie as more of a Western, but set it in the contemporary world of a ghetto-like area in Los Angeles during the 1970s. You’ve got the story of a new cop coming into town – his first day is looking like it’ll be a boring one & then suddenly he’s fighting for his life. There are a lot of little elements in Carpenter’s film which pay homage to his love for Westerns, as well as the (excellent) tropes of the genre.
1416928139_00-23-47I think one of the things that really amazed people when this first came out was the level of brutality Carpenter chooses to show us. By now, anybody who is either a fan of his or a movie buff has seen/heard about the infamous “Ice Cream Truck Scene” – this contains one of the more shocking images in an American film during the ’70s, no doubt about it. I don’t want to go ahead and ruin for those who haven’t yet seen Assault on Precinct 13. Just know, it is a real doozy. Even now today, after all the horror and disturbing films I’ve seen over the years (4,000 films later & counting). This scene still gets me. There’s a chilling quality to it that grips you and doesn’t let go. It also really sets the tone for these brutal gang members. Yeah, sure – we know they’re hardcore. They’ve taken a blood oath to kill all the police in Los Angeles. But to do what they do in this scene is downright savage behaviour. It really sets them apart from most killers that turn up in action-thrillers. I mean, Hans Gruber was pretty god damn bad ass, but he never killed any little girls or anything.
In the best of Carpenter’s films there is a layer of tension underneath every inch of the plot. He moves the pacing of Assault on Precinct 13 along slowly, which helps build up the suspense and tension. He does this in a few of his best movies. With this one, he makes the important move of putting the time in the corner of the screen every so often in big bold white lettering – this might seem arbitrary, but it’s not. Carpenter uses this visible clock to enhance our feelings of suspense. We watch as the gang keeps moving across Los Angeles, further towards the precinct, and we watch as those in the precinct go about their night without any knowledge of what is headed towards them. The clock continues to move, and it keeps us on the edge, guessing.
ff29b6e7fd384a4b8f81f23d0e5a4449Eventually, once things start to move into the action scenes, it really works well because Carpenter throws us from a tense atmosphere into thrilling, and often pretty violent, scenes where the gang is just running the gauntlet on this rundown, ready-to-close precinct. I think Carpenter is a master at pacing. Assault on Precinct 13 is a master class in tension. Excellent work.
There are a few really iconic shots in this film.  I really love the way Carpenter shot most of his films, especially the earlier work. There’s a shot nearly halfway into the movie when a man whose daughter has been murdered by the gang flees some of the members and runs to the precinct. It all starts as he stands in an isolated telephone booth. There’s nothing but the booth and the darkness looming everywhere. Carpenter gives us a nice wide shot, but tightened in a bit on the man in the booth; from behind him in the darkness suddenly appear several members of the gang, literally as if out of nowhere. It’s one of those great classic, and creepy, shots Carpenter is known for – he does this sort of thing in a few other films like Halloween and The Fog, where they are also really effective. There are a bunch of great moments where Carpenter uses the shadows, as the gang encroaches further and further onto the precinct property. It sort of kick starts the adrenaline while maintaining a slow pace. Then gradually the action ramps up and becomes more exciting. Carpenter is really one of the greats when it comes to the overall composition of a film and how smoothly things transition from one point to another.
One of the best aspects of this film is the score itself. The main theme of the film is just absolutely amazing. An excellent special feature on this DVD release from Image Entertainment is the Isolated Score from Carpenter, who did the score himself using what I’d assume to be a synthesizer. It’s really bare bones stuff, but it works for this film. There isn’t anything fancy here in the sense of ‘flash’ – anything fancy here comes from very practical means at the hands of a practical and talented director such as Carpenter. The score is perfect because it doesn’t overpower the film; it works in conjunction with the images and the pacing. It’s a great underlying layer beneath everything else, and it’s also one of those scores that will absolutely have you walking away humming. After I watch this, I always go around for a day or two humming the main theme. It’s so damn catchy. A lot of the modern retro scores you hear using synthesizer have a lot to owe to Carpenter – he made it cool to do your own low key, electronic scores. Definitely inspired more than a few filmmakers out there.
ap13John Carpenter is one of my favourite filmmakers, and Assault on Precinct 13 is absolutely one of his best films, though it’s hard to choose a definite favourite. This is a really great exercise in suspense and tension. It’s also one of the best examples in film of action done correctly – there’s no need for a massive budget or the biggest names in Hollywood or the wildest effects ever – Carpenter proves ideas and creative execution are the main components to a successful action thriller. While a lot of action is often filmed by flashy directors, Carpenter is a more subtle and interesting filmmaker who makes unique choices, and his number one focus is how to make things look good while still being thoroughly entertaining. He’s certainly one of the best in the business. I’ll repeat that as much as possible.
This DVD release is not perfect. However, the picture is really flawless, I must say – looking forward to picking this up on Blu ray soon, too. The sound is great. Carpenter’s score comes alive on some nice speakers; the Isolated Score option is a real treat, as well. I could listen to the score over and over. Gets me pumped up. A few of the effects look especially awesome on this release. Plus, we get a good audio commentary from Carpenter. Though, I wish there were a few more bits, I’m still satisfied overall.
I really suggest any fans of action-thrillers see this original – the remake isn’t horrible, but does not do this amazingly tight film justice. The DVD release is pretty good, but I bet the Blu ray is even better. Give this a chance, as opposed to the Michael Bay flashy action stuff (not to rag on him – there are plenty others less famous than he who perpetrate the crime of glossy imagery over character and plot). You’ll really be doing yourself a favour. Soak it up – everything here is pure cinematic gold, and real old school filmmaking at its finest.

Refn Looks Back on the Criminal Life in PUSHER III: I’M THE ANGEL OF DEATH

The second sequel to Refn's groundbreaking PUSHER is a bleak look at the end of the road for one Copenhagen druglord, as he juggles recovery, family, and business on a very special day for his daughter.

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Pusher II: With Blood On My Hands – One Criminal & a Baby

Refn's sequel to his 1st PUSHER film is another bleak trip to Copenhagen's underworld.

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