Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, Gabriel Byrne, Loren Dean, Traci Lind, Daniel Benzali, K. Todd Freeman, John Diehl, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Peter Horton, Udo Kier, Enrique Castillo, Nicole Parker, Rosalind Chao, Marisol Padilla Sanchez, Marshall Bell, Frederic Forrest, Henry Silva, Samuel Fuller
Written by: Nicholas Klein, based on a story by Wim Wenders, Nicholas Klein
Directed by: Wim Wenders
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 122
Date: 09/12/1997
IMDB

The End of Violence (1997)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Stranded Camera

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1997, Roger Ebert gave Wim Wenders' The End of Violence a thumbs down, and Gene Siskel named it one of the ten best films of the year. I have been curious to see the movie ever since then, but I did not catch up to it until 2015 when Olive Films released it on Blu-ray. I have to say that, disappointingly, I fall right in the middle of the two extremes. Ebert's point, that the movie is muddled and illogical, is a good one. But Siskel is also right that the movie has many tense, dreamlike moments that soar.

Bill Pullman plays Mike Max, a jerk of a Hollywood movie producer, and Andie MacDowell is Paige, his dissatisfied wife. A beautiful stuntwoman (Traci Lind) is injured on a movie shoot, and then hired thugs kidnap Max and fail to kill him. He wakes up in the care of a family of Mexican landscapers and decides to stay with them. Meanwhile, Ray Bering (Gabriel Byrne) is busy building a comprehensive surveillance system to cover all of Los Angeles, planning to use it to prevent crime. He falls in love with his new maid. Paige takes over her husband's business duties, and has an affair with a rapper named "Six" (K. Todd Freeman). A police detective (Loren Dean) pokes around and falls in love with the stuntwoman. Characters go to poetry readings. Udo Kier turns up as a director, and the great filmmaker Samuel Fuller gives a sad little performance as Ray's father (it was the last movie Fuller ever worked on; he died just a month after this movie opened).

It's impossible to describe the plot without making it sound like a bunch of threads that stretch all over the place, and that's basically what happens. The characters never develop, and the plot never grows tense. It's one of those movies that wants you to live in the moment that exists right in front of you, and try not to think too much about what came before and what's going to happen next. We are not trained to watch movies like that, unfortunately, because if we were, The End of Violence does have many potent moments. They don't seem to connect to anything, necessarily, but they are still potent moments. Either way, it's a bit of a stretch to make an argument for this as one of Wenders' better films, but his die-hard fans may want to get lost in it for a while.

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