Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blind Justice (1994)

I'm a big fan of IMDB. Usually, they get things right. I especially enjoy reading their film trivia and sometimes I'll even check out their "goofs" link. Basically, someone takes the time to point out continuity errors or plot holes. This can be fun to read but also disheartening when a favorite picture is picked apart. Anyway, they have one plot hole listed for this movie I watched called Blind Justice: "Most of the activities that Canaan (blind hero of Blind Justice) performs throughout the movie, especially shooting and keeping his horse on course, would be impossible for a blind or nearly blind man to do". This is an idiotic point to make. I mean, the point of the picture is that the guy is blind. His other senses are heightened; smell, hearing, etc. Next they will say that Zatoichi, or Nick Parker for that matter, can't wield those swords for the point of anything other than comedy. I suppose it would be funny, and a completely different movie, if Canaan never hit anything with his guns. It would also be a good message to send out to the blind. I guess IMDB probably thinks the blind ain't reading their site. I don't know if braille computer screens have been invented yet. Maybe there's some kind of audio component they can use? Anyway, it's ridiculous to point out a plot hole when that plot hole is the point of the movie is my point.

This is a good one, an HBO original production, bigger than TV, somewhat smaller than a real movie. Armand Assante stars as Canaan, a bounty hunter traveling across the West with an infant in tow. A Civil War veteran with an axe to grind. Also, Blind. His purpose is to return the infant to her mother. His character is like a cross between Al Swearengen (similar mannerisms and also similar voice) and Fenster (mumbles a lot), minus the cocksuckers. The picture was inspired, loosely, by Jonah Hex (DC Comics bounty hunter of the old west, soon to be a movie starring Josh Broilin). They're both disfigured Civil War vets working as bounty hunters in the Old West. That's about where the comparisons end. I guess he's also sorta like that Zatoichi guy, being blind and all. The difference is that Canaan's blindness isn't really played for laughs. They even threw in a little Ogami Ito (Lone Wolf & Cub) into the mix except Canaan carries around an infant as opposed to a toddler. Also, no babycart. Also, this infant is a girl and doesn't help Canaan out the way little Daigoro helped out Ogami. Is this picture sexist or just pointing out that infants are useless? Well, this is a pretty fun performance by Assante. In his first scene, he is circled by some banditos. They make fun of his disability, shoot their guns in the air, cackle, etc. The leader gets off his horse and Canaan asks him to hold the baby. He then shoots the horsed banditos (I think there were four of them), turns to the leader and says "much obliged" as he takes the baby back. Good introduction to the character.

Well, those banditos had ties to an even larger band of banditos led by Robert Davi. Davi is a guy you'll be familiar with even if you don't recognize the name. He's been in Predator 2, Die Hard, Raw Deal, Action Jackson, and so on. A member of the "that guy" action hall of fame I'm sure if such a hall of fame exists. It's a pretty juicy role, something Davi's not used to. His gang comes across the guy humiliated by Canaan in the opening scene (and left alive). The guy begs for water and Davi tells his #1 enforcer (MC Gainey, another "that guy") to "give him a drink". He dismounts, unbuckles his pants, and pisses all over him. This guy has had a terrible couple of days. Embarrassed by a blind man and now on the receiving end of a golden shower from a guy that doesn't look too clean. To top it all off, Davi blows his head off with a shotgun. Crappy way to go out. Speaking of crap, Davi also said "he looks hungry too" after Gainey pissed all over him. I'm glad we didn't have to put up with a brown shower scene. That would have been pushing the envelope a little too much.

Like most westerns, this one involves a town under siege (by Davi's banditos). Canann sides with the town (in exchange for 200 silver pieces courtesy of the U.S. Government). The town is occupied by some calvary led by Adam "I'm not a Baldwin" Baldwin (he was in "firefly"). Also, Elisabeth Shue is in this before she was in Leaving Las Vegas and after Cocktail. She should probably stick to playing hookers or cocktail waitresses or something because she's pretty bad in this role. We do get to see the nipple on her right breast though so that's something. The town's also got a priest and an Indian. The Indian wasn't really a character at all. Just someone we could laugh at I guess. Every town in the old west needs one, a drunken bafoon who never really speaks, makes funny faces, and so on. He does save Canaan's life at one point, so that's something. Jack Black appears briefly as a calvary private. It's crazy that this guy, before he was even a name, could land a part in a western where he pretty much just plays himself for two minutes. I mean, I like the guy, think he can be funny. Still, this is a fucking western. Why have Jack Black appear for two minutes, do his shtick, and then just disappear from the movie entirely? It was a little strange.

There's not too much backstory on this Canaan character and that's just as well. It's better to be mysterious. What little we learn, we get through his dream sequences. There's a battle. He's fighting for the north. There's a little girl caught in a crossfire. Canaan wants to help her but his commanding officer orders him back into formation at gunpoint. Then an explosion, girl dies, Canaan is blinded I guess. So, we can understand why he has such a low regard for authority figures, why he tends to work alone, why he cares for this mysterious infant, and, also why he's blind. All wrapped up neatly in a 2-3 minute dream (spread throughout the film). Luckily, this guy sleeps a lot. He gets shot, crucified, plenty of time for fever dreams. We never did find out how the guy can get his horse to go to the right place (IMDB may have been right to question this I begrudgingly admit). When first we see him, he's on foot. He's not completely blind though. He sees things in shades of milky white, not dark, so who knows? Could just be a really smart horse or maybe Canaan talks to him like the Beastmaster?

I wanted to comment briefly on Canaan's gunfighting skills. He's no "man with no name" I guess in that he moves around a lot, as if he can actually dodge bullets. He does a lot of rolls, etc. Eastwood characters were smart enough to know you couldn't dodge the bullets, you just had to be a quicker draw than the other guy. I guess that's one aspect of Canaan I didn't really get into. I mean, he's blind so he's probably pretty quick like Daredevil or Zatoichi. What's with all that movement? I like an economy of action in my blind characters is what I'm saying. This guy can be a bit of a show off. Having said that, I still enjoyed the character. He overcame a lot of adversity to get where he is today (150 or so years ago). Also, a bit of a drunkard and cigar addict. Two solid traits in a western hero.

This is the part of my review where, if I was smarter, I'd discuss the religious implications of the picture. Canaan is a name from the bible I believe. Was he blind in the bible? At one point, the Indian is stoned by some racist townies. Canaan is crucified. The priest is duplicitous. Profit, not compassion for your fellow man, rules the day. I don't know, it's all in there. You figure out what it means. I'm not the right guy to ask. Haven't read the bible since the time I brought it to school in the 5th grade to read during study hall and then the teacher called my Mom to see if I was ok. Not a normal thing to do I guess, so I never picked it up again. I think I barely made it through "genesis" anyway, so no big deal. Comic books were the way to go is the lesson I learned. I should have read some "Jonah Hex" come to think of it. Instead, I kept reading that same issue of Yusagi Yojimbo that I had. Religion played no role in that one from what I remember, but he was a bunny, whatever that means.

I'll wrap this one up by saying it's worth a watch. It's not going to blow your mind or anything. It's not one of the better westerns I've seen but it's got a great central character, a disreputable villain, a Jack Black scene, and also Elisabeth Shue's right breast so we know it could be worse. If you don't mind your westerns with lots of close up shots and limited shots of John Ford-ish wide open vistas then this one gets a pass.


F-Stop said...

Do they also point out that there is a mistake in Star Wars because people don't actually live on other planets?

Nice story about a 5th grade boy investigating his religious roots. I love that the teacher called your mom, like she caught you reading The Story of O or something.

According to my information Canaan is both a place and the name of one of Noah's grandsons. I don't know what it means either.

F-Stop said...

Okay, I looked it up. After the ark thing, Noah got drunk on his own wine and was sleeping it off completely naked (as you do.) His son Ham saw his shame and went around blabbing it to everyone left on earth (that'd be his brothers and maybe his mom.) The two other brothers covered him up without looking at his privates. When Noah woke up, he blessed those two sons and cursed Ham and Canaan, saying that Canaan would be a servant to his uncles and their line.

Does that make sense in terms of the movie? Maybe you missed the scene where he saw his grand dad's wee-wee and was blinded for it? The whole cannon thing exploding was just how the character chose to remember it.

brian said...

Nope, doesn't really make sense at all. I guess they just liked the name.