Monday, March 10, 2003

In a W_rd T_is Dr_ad_ul M__ie Tr_ly S__ks

My affection for actress Sandra Bullock somehow has become well known enough that kind folks like our own Moorhead's John Trainor take the time to give me Bullock related stuff when they come across it. JT was kind enough to send down a DVD of the 1987 movie Hangmen that features Bullock's cinematic debut.

Over the years I've become a big enough Bullock aficionado that I've seen her early acting efforts in the TV pilot Working Girl (playing the Melanie Griffith role), and the made for TV movie Bionic Showdown (playing the bionic girl). Let's just say that those performances point out that Sandra is not a natural born actress. She's actually gotten better (albeit seemingly playing herself most of the time) over the years. But her performances in being the working girl and the bionic girl seem positively Shakespearean compared to her role in Hangmen.

Bullock plays Lucy Edwards, the college girlfriend of Danny Greene (Keith Bogart). Danny has the unfortunate fortune of being the son of former Green Beret Rob Greene (Rick Washburn) who happens to have knowledge of a secret splinter group within the CIA. Because his father's knowledge Danny is being pursued by members or that secret group who wish to remain secret.
The movie is embarrassingly low-budget. The camera work is amateurish and the dialog and direction is painful to watch. With its production values Hangmen looks like a bad porno movie (or how I've been told a bad porno movie might look). Its overall budget must have been around $10,000 with $9,000 of that going towards the purchase of weaponry. Much of the movie is shoot 'em up scenes with blood splurting this way and that. In retrospect the director's decision to include so much wall to wall and graphic violence probably was not so prudent. The content means the movie could probably never be shown on TV (it would be about five minutes long with the editing that would be needed) even though the movie obviously made it on to DVD for containing Bullock's first movie role.

Sandra gets the thankless job of cooing over Danny and becoming frantic when he disappears. Later she too is captured by the bad guys so she also gets to play the hapless victim who Danny saves. The scene in which she is captured by being shot in the neck with a tranquilizer dart would have made excellent fodder for a great SCTV takeoff on bad movies. She stumbles around as the camera shot becomes blurry. We see her eyes glaze over as the camera begins spinning. The whole scene seems to last for about twenty minutes.

Of course for those who know the whole story, my admiration for all things Bullock mostly has to do with how much she reminds me of a long lost friend who still after all these years haunts my soul on occasion (and particularly while watching any Bullock movie). Even this minor role, for her eyebrows alone, Ms. Bullock reflects someone who a novel could be written about (and probably has).

The only other interesting thing about Hangmen is that towards the end Jake Lamotta, the raging bull himself, makes an appearance as an eccentric arms dealer. How he was talked into participating in this crap is beyond comprehension. Maybe boxers in those days didn't have the dignity they do now- biting off ears and getting their faces tattooed. Lamotta's performance actually is kinda of amusing and it stands out from all the rest of the movie like a Vienna Teng lyric on a snowy weekend.

If there is but one ray of light from the time I wasted watching Hangmen it's seeing how far Sandra has indeed come over the years. Just because things may seem small time now and your effort reflects that, doesn't mean that some day you won't hit the big time. Lesson painfully learned.

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