I have seen neither of these movies till now, and I knew nothing of them, much, except their directors and a vague notion of Nicolas Cage being in the former, not the latter. And now it’s been months since I have seen these movies, so my recollections of them are almost as informed as my preconceptions of them were: That is to say, not at all.
Wild at Heart is one of Megan’s favorite movies. Strangely, it took almost two years of dating before we watched it, even though she referenced the movie often (even in the face of my obliviousness, since I had no idea what she was referencing).
Here is what I carried away from Wild at Heart.
I thought I wouldn’t like the movie because of Nicholas Cage. I never want to see a movie he is in. At least that’s the way I used to feel. Now, I see Cage being in a movie as a sign that the production may be a glorious wreck, all the more glorious because Cage is so… well… crazy. I mean, watch this movie and you’ll see some of the insanity leak through. Cage throws himself so much into his characters that he bursts right through the other side of them, becoming uber-Cage instead of an exemplar of the Method.
I tend to shy away from David Lynch movies. Sure, I liked Mulholland Drive, but I can’t name a single other film of his that I’ve seen. I never saw Twin Peaks. Although I know what Lynchian means, that’s all through cultural osmosis, not any firsthand experience. But wait, my subconscious is saying now, what about Dune? I must admit, I love Dune, and that is a David Lynch vehicle. But who doesn’t love Dune?
(Okay, I should give Lynch more credit. I think it’s just that everyone else likes him so much that causes me pause, some instinct in me that wants me to search out and test what’s untested rather than digging into the ore everyone says – and has proven – is gold.)
I had no idea what this movie was about. All I knew was that it was Lynch, that lots of people liked it, and I assumed it would be something like Raising Arizona – a far stretch in tone, I’m sure, but it’s also another Cage movie that I’ve never seen. But I liked what I saw. I liked the struggle to find the right thing to do, then to do it, to fail, and to try to do it again. Also, I loved the blatant absurdity of the ending where a knock on the head brings to Cage a deus ex machine that brings the movie to a happy conclusion by convincing Cage to do what we already know he wants to, and should, do.
As for Assault on Precinct 13, this is what you’ll be tested on.
I knew I would love the movie because of John Carpenter. I have to say that Carpenter is perhaps my favorite director. I love and/or find merit in and/or find interesting everything he’s ever done that I’ve seen. Mostly. I’m not sure where to put Ghosts of Mars on my Carpenter-scale, though I’ll probably be seeing it again to expose Megan to the movie and I’ll be forced to revisit my opinion then (and also because I’m writing a series of poems on Carpenter’s movies). But his earlier work I often find entrancing because it’s so… real? Against the grain? Strange? Unbeholden?
Truly, I was going to have other bolded paragraphs, but the truth is that this is all about Carpenter. Yes, I found the acting well-done and loved the main characters. But I couldn’t tell you any of their names. I loved the script (Carpenter) and the music (Carpenter again). I didn’t know what this movie was about – you know, other than there being an assault on precinct 13 – but that didn’t matter. It’s Carpenter!
I haven’t seen the 2005 remake, and I confess that, Carpenter-obsessed as I am, I only saw his version late last year. But I imagine that the remake sped up the tempo and probably took out a lot of the idiosyncrasies that make the original so interesting (just like the remake of Death Race 2000 took out all of the parts that made the original a B-movie classic).
Perhaps my favorite scene: the ice-cream truck murder which starts this whole ball rolling. A child is killed by accident in a gang hit and her father finds the men responsible and kills them, but then is chased by the others in the gang to, you guessed it, precinct 13. It’s a nice bit of narrative that emphasizes the chance nature of all of the events in the movie, and reinforces Carpenter’s focus on people doing their best in a world that doesn’t make sense, where effect may follow cause but those two things aren’t related in any meaningful way.
So there you have it. Wild at Heart and Assault on Precinct 13, fully-digested and expunged from my brain for your approval. And to fight to the death.
Final Verdict: Carpenter’s film wins. They always win, even when they lose. And Wild at Heart wasn’t half bad, neither.