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December 18, 2020

Recommendations Thread & Review of Fatman

What have you been watching or reading that you'd recommend to others?

Here's my recommendation:

The Mel Gibson/Walter Goggins revenge drama Fatman.

If you haven't seen the trailer, but want to watch a good and strangely amusing revenge-themed violent drama, skip watching the trailer and just rent it.

Go in totally cold. Go in not knowing anything about it.

I think that would be the way to get the most of out of this -- to go in completely unspoiled. To let it be a complete surprise.

It's currently $6.99 to buy -- buy, not rent -- on Amazon, so it's relatively cheap.

Big recommendation from me. Take the chance and just rent it without knowing anything about it.

You can look up the trailer, though, if you do want mild spoilers about what kind of movie this is.


I would suggest you don't watch the trailer, because it's misleading. It's cut very rapidly in a comedy sort of way. The actual movie has long takes and a lot of room between lines, like a serious drama.

It also blows through most of the humor of the movie in 90 seconds.

Here is a spoiler-free review:

Fatman is what they used to call a "violent drama," back before movies containing violence turned into their own genre called "action films."

A violent drama is a drama, and not just a jokey buddy comedy, where the central conflict involves violence or must resolve by recourse to violence.

Like Get Carter of the 1970s. Like most movies containing violence before James Bond movies and the Dirty Harry movies created the action movie template (and cliches of the form).

Fatman is a violent drama that is very grounded and takes itself very seriously. It's shot in a dry, naturalistic way.

The amusing thing, though, is that the premise it's taking so very seriously is in fact very very silly.

But the movie never winks at you to let you know that it knows it's a straightfaced parody of a violent drama, rather than a real violent drama.

The movie doesn't know that it's crazy.

It's like a Yuletime Grand Torino, with Gibson playing the Eastwood part, an aging man angry about how the world has gone rotten and broken and sour around him.

There's a scene where he gives an Old Man Cursing Modernity speech, and he makes his eyes well up with tears as he delivers it.

It's like he's really trying for the Oscar here.

But he's not, because this is all silly nonsense.

But it's amusing that he and everyone involved in the film keeps such an intense straightface throughout it.


There's not even what I would call a real "joke" until halfway through the movie. And the few "jokes" that happen at that point are still grounded, not the sorts of things that would only happen in a pure comedy where the rule of realism was not in effect.

Despite not having very many "jokes," it's all generally pretty amusing. The tension between the concept -- silly -- and the execution -- dry, matter-of-fact, realistic, gritty, Eastwoodian -- is almost always funny and doesn't really get old.

One anti-spoiler:

As I said above, the template for this film is a violent drama of the 70s, not an action film of the 80s.

An action film is structured to have a chase or gunfight every 8-12 minutes, no matter how contrived. Usually the end is not one violent climax, but a series of escalating climaxes.

A violent drama's violence is more organic, and violence in these movies is usually sparse until the climax.

And in the climax, there's just one burst of violence, the way it would usually be (outside of organized warfare). And that violence tends to be realistic rather than spectacular.

Towards the end of Fatman, there was a simple but effective mano-a-mano fight. I started thinking in terms of 80s action movies rather than 70s violent dramas, and I wrongly expected a big action movie finale to follow that spare but effective one-on-one showdown.

There was no big stunt-heavy finale, because this isn't emulating that kind of movie.

I just mention this so that you won't wind up feeling a little dissatisfied that the film doesn't end with a big Die Hard style epic finale. It ends with a Get Carter style shootout, which is exactly how it should end.

The shootout at the end is, as I mentioned, well done. For a silly movie, it gets the violence right. One senses that they relied upon their firearms and fire combat technical experts more than the average movie.

So I think it would be a shame if anyone else followed my dumb thinking and expected something even bigger and explodier after that shootout.

If you've watched the trailer, and you like the premise, then I give it a big recommendation: It executes that premise skillfully and amusingly.

If you think the premise is dumb... I still think you should give it a chance. The movie might wind up selling you on the premise just through sheer audacity and determination to commit to the bit and never break the kayfabe that this is a serious drama intended to be Oscar-bait.

Post-the-MCU, it's now required that a movie treat the material that it's based upon respectfully.

With the exception of one PC casting choice -- 2020, man -- the movie does do that, too. The lore is honored.

And the PC casting choice is easy to get over within minutes, because the actress does a good job getting the essence of the role right.


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posted by Ace at 03:58 PM

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