Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Politics and the Summer Flick: A Note on the Climax of THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD (2017)

Note: I'll get into an important plot-point here; if that's a "spoiler" for you, and you intend to see THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD (2017), stop reading now. Also, please note that I came out to California in part to become a Hollywood Whore but never made it beyond Burbank Bimbo, Toronto Trollop, and, arguably, Chicago Chippy; I was not consulted on BODYGUARD.

THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD is a fairly-well-received, fluffy summer romantic comedy, just with language coarser than usual and a very, very high body-count. It also has an A-list cast, good production values, and handles more seriously than usual — i.e., more than tangentially — Interpol and the International Criminal Court in the Hague. BODYGUARD raises the question precisely of international criminal justice and the possibility of justice under law as opposed to vigilantism.

The climax of the movie is a moment of choice by the Hitman between do-it-yourself justice and law; and if I had been asked for Notes — and recall that I definitely was not — I would have complimented the script for drawing the choice so starkly and pointed out that the writers and film-makers in turn had a political choice to make. Should we have a change in the Hitman, bringing him over to justice under the law, or should he continue to cooly continue — and this is Samuel L. Jackson cool — continue to continue in doing his murderous thing?

You have one guess.

Jackson's serial-killer Hitman, of course, kills the mass-murderer, tyrannical motherfucker villain, for part of the traditional comic happy ending.

See ROBOCOP, the original one, and cf. Shakespeare's romantic comedies and what we might call The Challenge of the Alazon. Tragedies move toward isolation of the hero, often — well, *always* in Shakespeare — the final isolation of death. Comedies move toward integration, with a new and somewhat better society coalescing around a central heterosexual couple (that's a formula out of Northrop Frye, with me correcting the chemical image — Frye suggests "crystalizes" — and nowadays specifying sexuality). Comedies tend to incorporate as many people as possible, but that "possible" doesn't always include everyone. Often there's an "alazon": a guy (usually) who demands too much, the comic villain who can be expelled and not included in the final comic "Komos": revelry, party or, often in Shakespeare, a dance. That gets tricky, and Shakespeare finally gets it totally right with Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT, who exiles himself.

BODYGUARD could have made Jackson's character more dynamic and on its way to the final happy ending — with dancing — could have made a small but real contribution to popular ideas of justice under law and international norms. A lot of very smart, very talented people, with prodigious resources to work with, missed or passed up that opportunity. I'm not sure I want to hear any of them any time soon mouthing off in public against real-world political violence.

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