Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Romeo Is Bleeding

Another film that was ahead of its day, Romeo Is Bleeding was a violent noir homage with a charismatic antihero and sociopathic villainess.
 Don't worry: She's all fucked up and bloody because she just killed a couple dudes.

Romeo Is Bleeding got bad reviews and was something of a flop in its time, but i think that's just because no one got it. I'm not sure everyone would get it now, but hopefully at least the odds are better. If anything, some of the tropes that seemed weird at the time have become a bit overused by now...
So, Gary Oldman plays Sgt. Jack Grimaldi, a corrupt New York City cop who's in bed with the mafia and sleeps around. Don't worry, he'll get his. Everyone does.
Smoking is not sexy.

Lena Olin's Mona Demarkov is both femme fatale and evil mastermind combined--imagine Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas in Out of the Past rolled into one or Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin in The Big Heat being the same person. Like Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction, she is not just a heartless monster, but a heartless monster that derives genuine, visceral enjoyment from watching her victims squirm. And die.
Nope. Not at all.

While the title is taken from a Tom Waits song, the film has nothing to do with it. Oldman-as-Grimaldi is a bored policeman who wants a taste of the good life he sees all the criminals around him devouring. He's got a beautiful brunette wife and a sexy blonde mistress and a bungalow in Queens. He's making a little extra cash selling out informants to the mob. He tells us all of this in third-person voiceover in case we don't get the noir thing (Actually at one point he gets so involved in the monologue that another character has to lean over and interrupt him.) but it's obvious that this a pawn who only has delusions of being a king.

So, Grimaldi sets up one informant, only to get tangled up with the mob's toughest assassin, Mona Demarkov. She's not just bad, she's a psycho killer. Literally: A lunatic who murders people while laughing hysterically. Usually dressed in lingerie, always in stiletto heels. She is smarter, tougher and meaner than any man around. Some crooked cop criminal wannabe self-styled ladies' man? She can eat him for lunch and still ask to look at the dessert menu.
Grimaldi tries to play Mona against the mob, the NYPD against the Feds and is not nearly smart enough to do so. The dipsy mistress starts hassling about marriage, the compliant wife has been wised up all along and he's still got Mona to deal with. She may be crazy, but he's an idiot who can't think further ahead than the tip of his dick. Grimaldi and Mona spend the whole film trying to kill each other or fuck each other or fucking kill each other. And you know who's going to be on top....
Romeo Is Bleeding also has some fabulous New York City location shooting in the last days before Giuliani wrecked everything (Or began: Bloomberg finished the job.) everything from a nightmare dream sequence on the Wonder Wheel to a backyard overlooking Cavalry Cemetery to a Greenpoint car crash to shallow graves in the shadow of the World Trade Center. Actually all the cinematography is beautifully done. The soundtrack is also atmospheric and evocative of classic noir films (brushed drums, wailing saxophone).

Gary Oldman is compelling and sympathetic while being an in-over-his-head jerk and pulls of a damned convincing New York accent; Olin is over-the-top as the voracious Mona Demarkov, but that's the way the role is written and she plays it to the hilt, a woman who takes no bullshit from or for anyone. Romeo Is Bleeding is certainly not a great film, but it's a fun watch...

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