25 February 2013

Live And Die On This Day

Owning a dog for the first time is such a strange experience because suddenly you become part of a club. Other dog walkers insist on saying ‘hello’ as though we've instantly bonded over the shared chore of the night time stroll and the burden of picking up shite. They say that a dog is man’s best friend but if that's true then we wouldn't be cleaning up after them. I mean, as much as I love my dog, and I do, if my actual best friend decided mid-conversation to squat down and take a dump, then our relationship would probably come to an abrupt end… not only that, but the crap that my dog does is seriously huge. All she eats is biscuits and yet somehow she manages to squeeze out something larger and more rank than I could manage after overfeeding at a buffet, after a joint. I am definitely her best friend.

As well as making instant friends with like-minded animal lovers, the other thing you'll find yourself doing more often is kicking strange, other dogs square-in-the-face. Basically what tends to happen is that some stupid fucking cunt raises their pet to be like one of the knobhead hounds from Hell and then lets it off its lead. My dog on the other hand is a docile, happy little thing. She just bounds around banging her face into doors, staring at me expectantly and moving her toys into the most inconvenient place possible. So when we're out, if one of these bastard mutts comes charging at her with no empathy from the owner, the poor little bugger just panics. Don’t get me wrong, my dog has other doggy friends, but on occasion, rather angry and aggressive canine-kick-offs appear like Zubats in a dark cave. When that happens you'd be surprised how therapeutic hoofing an angry dog right in the chops can be. So far I think I've had to do this about four or five times and on each occasion I've gone home feeling just that little bit better about life.

"Get away from my Jews, you bitch!"
Knowing how enjoyable this experience is, I couldn't help but ponder the inspiration for the film The Grey or as it was known on the internet Liam Neeson: Wolf Puncher. It was released in 2011 and directed by Joe Carnahan who some pitiful fools might remember as the director of The A-Team. The film begins with a depressed Neeson sticking a gun in his mouth having presumably just seen the reviews for Taken 2. However in an attempt to make the film last longer than three enjoyable minutes, he obviously chickens out of this suicide attempt and decides instead to take a trip on a plane. By this point it should be obvious that Neeson is in full on gruff-man mode and is not the same badly mulleted Jedi that once rescued over a thousand Jews before failing a plot to destroy Gotham City.

Another textbook landing from Jeff.
Having chosen to fly with some cheap Easy Jet style airline, the plane has a slightly bumpy landing when it smashes nose first into Alaska leaving most of the passengers either dead or mutilated. Here, the crash sequence is truly terrifying and possibly the scariest thing in the whole film. When I go on a plane, I'd like to think that their alien-quim gunk-meals will be the scariest thing I'll experience but now I think I'll also be getting flashbacks to this scene too. I know they say that flying is the safest form of travelling but is it really? If a cars engine fails you pull over and wait for assistance. If the same happens on a plane then you'll fall from the sky like an iron turd from Heaven and end up with your teeth poking out of your arse. I'm not particularly afraid of flying but I do sort of live under the assumption that I'm statistically less likely to die in a plane crash if I simply refuse to go on a plane.

Once awake, the passengers split themselves up into two groups with those alive attempting to survive and the dead ones deciding to remain at the crash to fester and decompose. Unfortunately for Group A, surviving in the isolated, arse-end of the world after being involved in a major accident isn't as easy as it sounds. Quickly they find themselves at the rapey side of nature as temperatures reach as low as Katherine Heigl's cold, stoney heart and they're hunted by a pack of angry ravenous wolves. Of course Liam Neeson becomes the gang’s leader because firstly he's the most famous actor here and secondly he's Liam Neeson -- who wouldn't want to follow him? Oh and by sheer coincidence, his job before the crash happens to have been hunting wolves which is fairly lucky. None of my jobs have been as exciting as that so if I was in his position, my survival skills would extend simply to shitting my pants, puking down my tits and then slitting my wrists on a bit of broken aeroplane.

Ban this lying filth!
When the film was released there was bizarrely a lot of controversy surrounding it's depiction of the wolves. As it turns out, animal lovers don't have a sense of perspective and so started moaning about “the facts” which seems like a fairly pointless thing to do. I mean sure the animals are portrayed as blood thirsty killing machines but at the end of the day it's just a movie. I know fuck all about wolves but even I know that their aggression is obviously an exaggeration for the sake of the narrative. The fact that they are even wolves is clearly irrelevant as they're simply just a device used to extend the metaphor of ‘nature’ as the film’s main villain. If this was an Attenborough documentary then sure I'd agree that maybe they should inject a little bit of truth here and there but that's not what this is. I mean, since when was there a law passed that stated animals must be portrayed with absolute authenticity? Lets face it, if that was the case then Disney would be well and truly fucked. Also the last time I checked we humans couldn't shoot super-strength, stretchy-spunk from our wrists but I don't remember anybody protesting against the reliability of Spiderman.

"I want that, but with ham and pineapple..."
Films do not claim to be a medium in which facts are crapped out so let’s not get too upset when they start to squeeze out a little bit of bullshit too. Having said that I don't think Neeson did the defence any favours when he admitted to having eaten wolf meat in preparation for the movie. Considering he said this at the height of the controversy, you can look at it in one of two ways; either you could be enraged by his eating of an animal that we westerners would deem too endangered and too cute to chow down on as though it was a particularly rare and hairy chicken nugget… or you could take the opposite approach and instead simply admire just how few fucks Neeson actually gives about anything. I know actors like us to think that they're tough, but you've got to admire the credentials of a man who would see Harry Potters Professor Lupin as a potential pizza topping.

Whatever you think though, there's certainly no denying that it's Neeson's gravitas that makes this film exactly what it is. Contrary to what you might expect, The Grey is actually a grim, nihilistic journey into introspection and existentialism and that just happens to be something his baggage allows him to do. Apparently Bradley Cooper was originally cast in this but in all honesty I couldn't see myself being led by somebody who thought The Hangover Part 2 and Valentine's Day was a good idea. There's a scene here in which the characters have to literally jump over a huge ravine which, if suggested by Cooper, would seem really fucking stupid. Would I listen to a friend if they told me to jump over a cliff? Well, probably not, but if I was mates with Liam Neeson I'd certainly give it a consideration. There something about him that just makes me think he's probably quite experienced at surviving in a grim and hostile environment. I suspect it's the Irish accent.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the online joke title for this movie was Liam Neeson: Wolf Puncher however that's really not what you get. I mean sure a few wolves get killed and I think one of them has its head ripped off, but there's no silly catch phrases about being sick of these motherfucking wolves in this motherfucking snow. Considering that's what everybody suspected it would be, I can't help but admire the genius of the films conclusion. I won't ruin it, except to say it's a lot more ambiguous than I'm sure a lot of people would have liked. Basically right at the point that half of the audience will be thinking they're finally about to get what they've paid for, it cuts to black and starts the credits. I think I liked this conclusion firstly because of it's openness but mostly because of how I know it will have pissed so many people off. I'm pretty sure they probably ended at the point that they did for artistic reasons but I still couldn't help but appreciate the huge mass of annoyance it will have caused. Imagine if you were shagging someone and right before you could spaff, they punched you in the face and knocked you the fuck out… and thats pretty much the basic structure of this film.

Someone keep those monsters away from me!
The Grey might not quite reach the Herzogian heights that it aims for, but as a bit of throwaway 70's-eaqe grimness it's still good fun. If you were hoping for something silly like a furry, four legged version of Snakes on a Plane then you're going to be gutted. If however you like the idea of watching a suicidal man try his best to make it through a blizzard of grief, then this is the film for you. The downside to this focus is that any non-Neeson characters aren't necessarily drawn with as many dimensions as him. 
Kind of like your average iPhone obsessed teenager- their personality is basic at best making it obvious that if this was a Star Trek movie they'd all mostly be wearing red. But that's a minor quibble in what is otherwise a great film. A spokesperson for PETA compared the demonisation of the animals here to that of what Jaws did to the reputation of sharks. I dunno about you but if I was in charge of marketing, that complaint would be one of the most prominent quotes of endorsement on the film’s poster. 

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