|Finally, another reason to use this "Jeremy Piven is a Crotch" picture I made in 2008.|
Full disclosure: I actually quite enjoy the film I'm about to eviscerate for your mild amusement or bored dismissal. It still has a few moments which beg to be mocked, though. Turn on the DVD subtitles and there are multiple times where the onscreen text suddenly reads [WHAT IS THIS SHIT. ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BE ROOTING FOR JEREMY FUCKING PIVEN TO HAVE ANYTHING HAPPEN TO HIM WHICH DOESN'T INCLUDE THE PHRASE 'CHEMICAL CASTRATION'?] or some other such extemporaneous commentary from the caption writer.
And he's right. But it's still kinda badass, even when I'm NOT seeing it at age sixteen. So consider this an affectionate and loving roast more than either of the hateful dissections I've done before in this space.
|Except for this asshole. Fuck him.|
Let's get one thing straight, off the top. The soundtrack for this movie is unimpeachably badass. I love it unironically, and at no point will I even jokingly be blaming it for some of Judgment Night's considerable shortcomings.
|Seriously, it's wall-to-wall awesome. Check it out.|
And it kicks off the instant the film begins, with a nice head-bobbing tune to begin our epic tale depicting sheltered white filmmakers' ideas of "the inner city" and its dangers. I assume the producers unfailingly use the term "urban" to describe black people.
|"I'm cool, though, right, Jamal? Let's go hang out somewhere where my friends will see!"|
We descend to street level to watch a sporty red sports car, which I'd identify by name if I had the slightest clue about cars...
|[INSERT PICTORIAL REPRESENTATION OF MY FATHER'S DISAPPOINTMENT]|
Gooding has arrived at the home of his good buddy Emilio Estevez, who in 1993 was still living in the delusion that he was going to be a bankable movie star after riding that Mighty Ducks career gravy train. Estevez is embarking on a guys' night to the chagrin of his wife, who will be left at home with their baby daughter and who, with only a half-dozen or so lines of dialogue, manages to sound like a joyless nag AND the voice of foreshadowing for the hellish night her husband is about to endure as penance for not staying home.
|"I'm just SAYING that one of you might end up suffering a horrible death, and it MIGHT not be the one everyone HOPES dies a horrible death. If you REALLY want to roll the dice, then I SUPPOSE..."|
Estevez assures her that they're just going into the city to attend a boxing match, and that no bullet point on their itinerary includes "bang some skanks that you're guaranteed to have paid for." Her seeming disbelief of this claim is immediately founded when Estevez' next buddy pulls up and we all realize with horror that he's Jeremy Fucking Piven. Driving an RV up a residential street while honking a General Lee horn and screaming over a loudspeaker, as you'd expect from Jeremy Fucking Piven. It's truly shocking how well he played against type as a worthless douchebag piece of shit.
|Pictured: a worthless douchebag piece of shit.|
And when they finally left, Jeremy Piven chose to leave a DVD set of his shitty TV show Entourage as a tip.
My buddy chased them into the street, waving the DVD set and loudly asking what was wrong with the service for him to have gotten utterly shafted on the tip. Piven, surrounded by his crew and visibly embarrassed, had no real answer to this; he then looked genuinely stunned when my buddy threw the DVD set at them and into a messy pile of discs and packaging in the middle of the street. Later Piven would save face by injecting a pure strain of syphilis directly into the eyeballs of a number of adorable orphaned toddlers.
I may have slipped into embellishment briefly there, but I won't tell you where.
So the guys pile into the RV, filled with hilarious signs of the times like a cassette deck and a bright orange NES Zapper light gun, and prepare to head out. Estevez and Gooding ask Piven how he got the RV, and he answers NOT that he time-traveled to the mid-eighties but rather that he sweet-talked the dealer into giving him a test drive for the entire evening. Astonishingly, the foley artists didn't put in an ominous piano tone at this moment, nor did they redub Piven's lines in the voice of Estevez' lovely wife, The Foreshadowing Lady.
|I guess they figured they'd blown our minds enough already.|
Estevez says their fourth buddy canceled at the last minute, and no sooner does Piven ask what they're going to do with an extra ticket to the fight than Estevez' little brother arrives, screeching his car to a halt approximately eleven inches from the RV to freak Piven out.
And said little brother is played by Steven Dorff, who looks grungy and unshowered and pretty far removed from his star-making turn as a golf instructor and kneepad enthusiast.
|The Larry the Cable Guy of his generation. Discuss.|
The plan to make it to the fight is immediately imperiled by what appears to be the worst traffic jam in history, with all lanes of the freeway at a standstill. Piven attempts to merge in the RV, pissing off some blow-dried douche in the car next to him; they exchange insults and threats, and Dorff exhibits his most dominant character trait of "constantly ready for a fight" by hopping off the RV and preparing to punch the dude in the second lane.
Amazingly, this freeway fight is averted at the last second as the Urban in the group steps in and does Urban moves on the blow-dried douche, defusing the situation with some sort of martial arts armlock that I'm assuming the director coaxed out of Gooding on set by instructing him to "kinda pop-lock, but with this dude in the way."
|Okay, maybe it's not THAT much of a leap. Guy was pretty ripped back then.|
And admittedly, we aren't shown a clear depiction of time passing, so perhaps this isn't fair. But it appears that the RV is clear of the off ramp by roughly ninety feet before we're treated to our first image of squalid desolated inner city wasteland, with tons of old newspapers blowing all over the ground and the universal white filmmaker shorthand for the rough inner city.
|Seriously, you can't go a block in the inner city without seeing a trash can fire.|
The gentlemen on the street pretend they're pulling a gun, and Piven responds by diving for the glove compartment of the RV in which he's got a hand cannon of his own, surprising the other guys and inspiring admirable restraint by whoever scored the film.
|"Jeremy's got a gun... Piven's got a gun..."|
The Law Firm of Estevez, Dorff & Gooding discover a bleeding man lying a short distance away, and carefully carry him to the RV around all of the other bleeding men the filmmakers assume are constantly strewn about the ground "in the hood." The man is delirious, has a bag of bloodied hundred dollar bills on his person, and is sporting a fresh gunshot wound. He's also inconsolably terrified, and the guys don't know what to do to calm or help him.
|"Maybe this DVD set will help. Dorff, hand this to him. Tell him it's Season Three."|
|Only depriving me of the weapon. Never of the hatred.|
|"Give it to the Dorff, ease his pain."|
|The Ministry of Sinister Walks|
The black car pulls up and we're introduced to the film's main villain, Fallon (or possibly the film's main fallon, Villain), played by Bill Hicks. He talks some shit ("Rule 1: Don't steal from me..."), careful to keep the shadows falling ominously across his face, then shoots the bleeding guy again, getting much more immediate results this time. He then gestures to his lieutenants to follow him to the RV, with "Rule 2: No witnesses."And thus we're provided with the dramatic thrust of the film's remainder, which is the cat-and-mouse chase of our four dudes by Bill Hicks and his goons.
The RV fills the entire width of the alley, so our guys inside think quickly and kick out the windshield to climb out the far side. Estevez, belatedly granting my molotov cocktail wish, promptly sets fire to the interior so the thugs can't follow them.
Squirting through the windshield and sprinting to the end of the alley, the guys are stunned when the RV explodes in a dramatic gigantic fireball, and somehow Piven manages to bitch about having to pay the dealership for it as Gooding shoves his ass over a chain link fence.
|"Plus, I totally forgot to record Cheers! It's literally the worst thing that could ever happen to me!"|
They flee to a creepy trainyard, filled with old train cars and tetanus, and stand around panting while they discuss what to do next. At the sound of Bill Hicks' approaching car, they frantically yank on train car doors until they find one that opens, and they pile in and try to remain silent.
This upsets the indigenous homeless dudes trying to sleep in said car, and a tense standoff ensues wherein our four guys are fleeced of their wallets, watches and chains in exchange for the hobos' continued silence as Bill Hicks, Redfoot, Everlast and Lead Singer of Creed roam the trainyard, pounding on random cars and yelling taunts.
The scene was actually pretty effective, and was doing just fine without the addition of a mentally retarded homeless guy, Buck (described as having "the brain of a chicken" by another hobo, and quite possibly portrayed by Jerome Bettis if the glimpse offered is indicative), who insists that he's a college graduate, that he used to play football in college and that he had amazing hands.
Dorff, predictably, wants to fight the bums.
|Which, once again, would be goddamned hilarious.|
|Dude, calm down. You worked with Ben Roethlisberger. There's nothing you can't handle.|
|As any commencement speech that's worth a shit should end.|
|Then again, a replica of his picture ID comes with every wallet.|
Finally they spot a high-rise with lights on inside, and head toward that hopeful beacon. Think about this for a moment. They're in a hellish urban wasteland so desolate that they feel great relief at finally seeing a building with lights on inside, and evidence of human life. Mad Max wouldn't even bother looking in this area for gasoline.
|"I'll bet the country clubs in this area only carry domestic beers."|
A black kid on a swingset watches as Cuba Gooding, presumably the group's expert in breaking and entering, finds a point of ingress to admit the group to the building to find a working phone. Inside they knock on a bunch of doors and are met with exactly the sort of hospitality you'd expect from folks who have to live behind iron-barred doors in this seventh circle of Hell. The men are all surprised that no one will help them, which is one of those moments where you stop hearing the characters speaking and just hear the screenwriter's voice instead.
|"The Homeowner's Association will NOT be pleased when we tell them how we're being received!"|
Wandering up a couple flights of stairs, they come across a lady who is frankly way too hot to be hanging around in this dangerous hallway, dressed in a robe and with only a baseball bat to defend herself as she uses the garbage disposal chute.
|"Oops! Again! This happens every time! I have GOT to get a better-fitting robe!"|
Improbably, the lady grants these four strange men admission to her home, despite that the security system inside her baseball bat perimeter consists solely of her lesbian lover and their young child. With this kind of trusting manner, I'm kinda glad we don't stay with these characters for long, lest we bear witness to their horrible ends three or four days from now.
|"Wait, you DO have a photo of you verifying that the blood was indeed cold? Well, that was gonna be my next question. Come on in, I guess."|
Meanwhile, outside, Bill Hicks and his goons encounter a young gang of teens, having been summoned by the black kid who watched our heroes and Piven enter the high rise earlier. The gang leader and Bill Hicks square off in what is by far the coolest dialogue exchange of the film, as each is an alpha determined to look dominant in front of his entourage.
|Season Four, now available strewn in a gutter in Manhattan!|
Gang Leader: "Man, if I wanted your money, I'd take it."
Bill Hicks: "You can't take my money... but you CAN... take my money."
(holds out the wad of bills the Bloodied Guy was carrying earlier)
Gang Leader: "...that money's got blood on it."
Bill Hicks: "You ever see any that didn't?"
|"Maybe we as criminals can LAUNDER the money, as criminals are wont to do! Drive-by!" said the gang leader in an early draft of the script, before the writer showed it to his black friend.|
|It's a default look, but still.|
|"C'mon, DrinksomeDranO. Gimme the gun, buddy."|
For that matter, why were Estevez and his friends a no-go while politely knocking on each door, but folks are answering their doors for the dudes stomping around shooting doors off of their hinges and screaming about how they're quite clearly on a manhunt?
What could possibly be the defining difference between two groups of four guys, which might make one group less suitable to be allowed into your home, knowing what we know or can infer at this point about the filmmakers?
|"I get what you're hinting at, and it's not cool, man. Not cool at all."|
|Yeah, that looks up to building code.|
Gooding goes first, shimmying across with relative grace and disappearing into the far building to look for a continued route. Dorff, utilizing his incredibly low center of gravity, makes it across as Gooding shouts football-based encouragement ("you're at the forty yard line! The twenty! Come on, you're almost there! The five!").
|Even though he has to know birdie/eagle/par references would resonate much more.|
|When he's not waving a gun at him, that is.|
They then look expectantly across at Piven, as if the ladder had more than a forty percent chance of supporting his crossing now anyway, and are stunned by his shoving the ladder off of the lip of the building to crash onto the ground below.
Piven's decided to make a stand and negotiate his way off of the roof. The other guys voice their understandable doubts about the worthiness of this plan, but are forced to retreat into their building as Bill Hicks and his crew arrive on the rooftop and encounter Piven in full-on oily used car salesman mode.
|You'd be forgiven for not being able to distinguish a difference.|
|"I'M AN AUDIENCE SURROGATE RIGHT NOW! Do you have any clue what they want me to DO to you!?"|
Redfoot makes a little whistling sound, and Everlast uncocks and lowers his gun from where he'd been training it in the direction of the three heroes across the gap. Lead Singer of Creed continues his streak of doing nothing memorable, and Bill Hicks raises an eyebrow at the brazen new offer from Piven.
|Devilishly, of course.|
Turns out it's all a feint, though. Bill Hicks is just toying with Piven by lulling him into a false sense of security, even letting Piven turn and give his buddies a thumbs-up and make one final, relieved, hilariously ironic remark that "I'm getting off of this roof in one piece," before living the dream of millions by shoving Jeremy Piven to his death from a high rise rooftop.
Gooding flies into a rage, pulling out the gun which once belonged to Piven and spraying fire indiscriminately across the gap, managing to wing Lead Singer of Creed in a manner so superficial that no evidence of it exists for the remainder of the film, yet still providing the single most interesting thing that Lead Singer of Creed has done in this film so far.
Our heroes make their way down this new high rise, exiting to street level and taking one last look at the broken, bloodied body of Piven, lying tangled in the pieces of broken ladder and already partly submerged in the windblown scraps of paper and DVD season set packaging littering the streets.
|Trust me, I searched exhaustively for that image, to share here and to make the new wallpaper on my laptop. My search yielded this chunk of what-the-fuck instead, so enjoy, I guess.|
Our heroes find a manhole cover and quickly squeeze down it and into the sewers, then proceed to have a loud discussion directly beneath the manhole instead of moving further. I'm pretty sure that simply walking fifty feet from the manhole before they chat would have ended the pursuit right there, as there's about a three percent chance Bill Hicks would decide that THAT, of all ways, was the direction they should follow.
|"RIGHT, NOW, AS I WAS SAYING, DICK YORK WAS WAY BETTER THAN DICK SERGEANT, AND HERE IS MY ELEVEN-POINT LIST OF REASONS WHY!"|
Alas, the three guys argue directly beneath the manhole, leading to one MORE moment the film could have ended immediately with just one tiny decision. Bill Hicks announces his presence with a sarcastic "Hello, ladies!" down the manhole before he opens fire on them, giving them plenty of time to take one step to any side and be completely clear of the gunfire. Had Bill Hicks just opened fire down the hole without pausing for cute catchphrasing first, he wins. Movie over. Witnesses dead in a pile, already out of sight and not needing to be disposed of.
As it is, the heroes escape into the sewer system with Bill Hicks' men clambering down after them. And from what we've seen of the city, it must be said that this sewer system is remarkably clean and tidy. Suspiciously so. Almost a water park, really.
|Someone needs to go tell those nice lesbians and their little girl to come live down here instead.|
At exactly the 1:10:30 mark on the DVD, Gooding picks up a length of pipe and tosses it to Dorff. It passes within about two inches of Estevez' head en route to Dorff's hand, and Estevez flinches backward in what looks like genuine surprise. What I want to know, with my fingers crossed, is whether there is ANY chance that this was Take 35 of the scene, with the mood on set strained at best, and the director pleading, "Just try not to hit Emilio with it this time, okay? He's on the verge of hiding out in his trailer and refusing to come out if you hit him again. He thinks his looks are going to land him acting jobs for some reason. Just... be careful, okay?"
|"He's almost certainly gonna have to grow a creepy Amber Alert mustache to cover the bruising, at this point."|
There are three exits to this subterranean wonderland, so each of our heroes takes a post near one, brandishing a weapon in the knee-deep water and waiting to attack whoever enters. Dorff, for reasons known only to him, loudly gets Gooding's attention solely to tell him "I've got your back," which is such heavy-handed foreshadowing that he may as well have yelled "PSYCHE!" afterward.
Sure enough, Redfoot arrives through Dorff's entryway and instantly spots Gooding with his back turned. Pulling his gun, Redfoot wades silently through the water toward Gooding as Dorff sees the whole thing unfold but freezes up, doing nothing about it.
Just as Redfoot is about to cock his gun at the back of Gooding's head, Estevez saves the day by somehow slamming Redfoot into the wall without making any sound on his approach, and they wrestle his gun away and gather around him. Redfoot is cocky, remarking that Gooding has never shot anyone before (despite that it seems like an Urban thing to have done at some point), but Gooding has heard enough, and shoots Redfoot in the chest at point blank range.
|"In cold blood!," Estevez would later breathlessly tell everyone.|
But evidently this particular gun is like Smeagol's ring, as it turns everyone crazy who touches it. Granted, that assumes Jeremy Piven wasn't already a prick before coming into contact with it, but just look at how quickly it's turned Cuba Gooding into a crazed bloodlusting murder machine. He now wants to stay down here and "finish them off," which sounds utterly insane to Estevez. He tells Gooding to go it alone, and he and Dorff climb up to the street to continue searching for some sign of civilization. Gooding snaps out of it a bit and follows them.
Some time later, Bill Hicks comes across the body of Redfoot, and things begin to unravel. Lead Singer of Creed has been questioning this mission off-and-on all night, but now the crew has suffered collateral damage for it, and he's seen enough, and starts loudly mouthing off about how fruitless and ridiculous this whole enterprise has become. Bill Hicks, evidently on a mission to have a statue and a state park named after him as an American hero, proceeds to live the dream AGAIN by elbowing Lead Singer of Creed in the nose, then drowning him in the knee-deep sewer water. It was truly a glorious vicarious thrill for us all; indeed, I heard inspirational music in my head as I watched him drown.
|"With Lungs Wide Ooo-pan..."|
At one point Gooding even says, "Nobody out on the street." Granted, with the deaths of Piven, Redfoot, Jerome Bettis, Bloodied Guy, and Lead Singer of Creed, the population of this desolate wasteland has just been reduced by something like twenty percent, but it's still worth mentioning that no one is around to see the swath you're cutting or where you're holing up.
They're flushed from their hiding place by a metro bus, which stops at a nearby bus stop for what appears to be about .06 seconds before taking off again and refusing to stop even as the guys sprint alongside, pounding on the windows.
|"Do you think I can't see that there's an Urban in your group? No way!"|
|Though we can't rule out Mayberry.|
|Which they will regret in short order.|
Seconds later, back in the store proper, Gooding glances over his shoulder and sees Everlast aiming his gun; Gooding shouts a warning and dives for cover, barely missing being shot as bullets shatter the glass of the empty display case. The security guard isn't so lucky, taking multiple bullets and dropping like a bag of sand.
Gooding fishes the guard's gun out of his hand and shoos his buddies to a hiding place while he once again makes a stand, but we know it's okay this time since he looks calm and doesn't have crazy eyes as he says it now.
He and Everlast hunt each other in the aisles briefly, before having a Bad-Ass-Off of facing each other and exchanging essentially point blank gunfire, rendering the showdown... sort of a tie...? Although Gooding survives, so I guess he wins by default.
|Whitey Ford Sings The Blues, Bleeds Out -album in stores soon!|
|You try hitting this guy in the leg while he's scurrying away from you.|
And it appears the Final Fight takes place among All The World's Glass.
|Which is also the name of that store in the mall your aunt loves.|
|Dude, put the gun down. It's obviously not made of glass. Disqualified.|
|"You're not even in your own IMDB picture, loser!"*|
This trash talk is enough to motivate Estevez to get up and pummel Bill Hicks to the edge of the second-floor balcony of the store, where the guardrail buckles like it was built out of ladders by a bunch of kids, and Bill Hicks is left tantalizingly dangling over the edge, gesturing and asking for help. For some fucking reason Estevez immediately reaches out and grabs his hand to render aid, because evidently Bill Hicks' threat to rape his wife and baby daughter ten seconds ago wasn't enough to convince Estevez of the guy's strength of character.
They struggle on the edge, Estevez spouts some lame attempted "cool" one-liner I'm not bothering to repeat here, and Bill Hicks falls to his death.
|Okay, okay. It was "People in glass houses shouldn't throw blows."|
|Or maybe it was "Attention shoppers: this murderous scumbag is falling faster than our already low prices in the produce department!"|
|No, it was definitely "We regulate any killing on this property, and we're daaaamned so-so. Then something about geeks on the street. I was in Young Guns."|
|"...okay, then. He taped Larry Lester's buns together. It's in the report. Got it."|
And they all have a good carefree laugh about the night they've just endured as good friends do when they've lost absolutely nothing of value, only Jeremy Piven.
|Eat my entire asshole, you fuck.|
|Just learned his next role after Snow Dogs.|
PLAY US OUT, AWESOME SOUNDTRACK!
|"Yeah, right over there, walking that dog. Wanna smell my fingers?"|