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Friday, May 24, 2013

Wired to Kill



Wired to Kill
1986
Francis Schaeffer

Post-apocalypse movies are still crawling out of the shadow of the The Road Warrior (1981).  Even a more prestigious movie (i.e. not marketed as a science-fiction or action film) like the The Road (2009) still draws some of its aesthetics and ideas from George Miller’s creation.  This often results in post-apocalypse films having to push things further and further to differentiate themselves. Many Italian films of the 1980’s went more outlandish and camp; 2019: After the Fall of New York, The New Gladiators (1988), while the 1990’s included a dose of satire; Hardware (1990), Tank Girl (1995).  Wired to Kill separates itself by using both these elements and more interestingly, constantly setting up tropes and clich├ęs inherent to the genre and then resolving them in ways you don’t expect.

It’s the future and, as usual, everything has gone to hell. There is no law enforcement, the government seems to operate entirely through toll free help lines, people live in squalor (kinda) and drugged-up maniacs roam the streets in a giant dump truck. A particular gang , led by Shakespeare enthusiast, Reegus (Meritt Butrick), rob a house and in the process, knock grandma around, poke mom in the eye, and break her son’s legs. The son, Steve (Devin Hoelscher), along with his girlfriend Rebecc,a (Emily Longstreth) vow revenge on Reegus and crew. Rather than attacking them directly, Steve employs a few sneaky tricks like an adorable remote control drone, fake cocaine, and a booby trapped motorcycle seat. Sadly for Steve and thankfully for us, Reegus isn’t going to let these attacks go on without some reprisals.

Wired to Kill sets itself up like every other revenge tale. The bad guys strike at our hero unexpectedly, ruin his life, hurt those he loves, and push him to extremes to extract vengeance.  Although this is more or less what happens, it doesn't quite play out as you would expect. The initial attack is vicious, but Reegus leaves every one alive, if not intact. It’s only after Steve talks to the beleaguered police that Reegus takes lethal action. Steve’s use of stealth and technology while remaining largely hands off, or even worse, getting his girlfriend to do the dirty work (well, his legs are broken but still…) also makes for a much more engaging story.

Steve and Rebecca are  never particularly remarkable. I understand that Steve’s family has been put in danger, but I never really get a sense of him being passionate or angry enough to do the things he does. Rebecca makes even less sense, since she meets him for all of a day before getting tangled up in his revenge scheme. Every last member of the gang is completely demented to the point where I don’t even know how they operate as a gang. 

Even the setting is odd. Wired to Kill has its share of rusted out industrial hellscapes, but these appear to be nestled right next door to well-kept suburban neighborhoods, functioning shops and hospitals. Rag wearing mutants occupy the same world as lawyers in flashy suits.

Perhaps the strangest and most startling thing is how fluid and dreamlike the whole move feels. There are washes of music, slow dissolves, and many shots where characters are held at a distance. Action scenes often lose a sense of geography and take on a nightmare quality. The hazy transition into the climax of the film is so odd at first I was convinced it was a dream sequence.

If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic revenge film that isn't an adrenaline fueled action piece  but instead is something a lot quieter and weirder, Wired to Kill stands out from the rest.

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