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Re: First Blood (aka Rambo); Shooter (the Bob Lee Swagger, Stephen Hunter movie)
I rejoiced when First Blood was released: 1982: a Vietnam vet returns to the US, has a mission to contact his buddy’s widow, gets mistreated by the local patriots (who of course don’t know shit from Shinola about anything), defends himself, using his Vietnam-mythology skill set), thereby depopulating the great northwest in a serve-them-right fire storm, taking everything Sheriff Brian Dennehy throws at him, turning it, and shoving it up the good citizens’ collective ass. Good job, Sly Stalone, good job Brian Dennehy.) This movie, rather belatedly, brought Vietnam home to America (serve-us-right) holds a special place in my heart; and it was damn-well made too).
Then in 2001 I became addicted to Stephen Hunter novels: Bob Lee Swagger, Earl Swagger … They too brought war home to the US: obsessed with fire arms, home-grown heroes, seemingly truly based in the hard-scrabble ground, shoved them up our ass. I couldn’t get enough of it: read Hot Springs first, then burned through the rest: Point of Impact second … I’ve read that one at least three times by now, forced it on relatives, friends.
At some point in the last half-dozen years I became aware that Hollywood had made a movie of Point of Impact (maybe my favorite Hunter novel): Mark Wahlberg … a few Hunter novels squeegeed together) . Had you asked me yesterday if I’d seen it, I’d have grumbled, Uh, yeah, I think so: but streaming it last night, to great pleasure, I see, No, I’d never seen a single frame of this film: consequences of chronic sabotage, sanctioned poverty, strip freedom from the guy who offered us a free internet forty-four years ago. The pleasure of it felt familiar: like First Blood, Shooter brings the wars, all the wars, home to America.
Shooter establishes Bob Lee as a super hero by showing him, a sniper teamed with his spotter, dispatching hundreds of Vietnam soldiers. They attack, he kills. Hallelujah, Shooter how shows us Bob Lee, back in the US, not home in Arkansas but on a hill in Tennessee, Kentucky, some hillbilly place, and killing one hundred or so US military goons: they attack him, he (with his spotter) kills them. (This spotter is suddenly Hollywood-liberal “black”! Hispanic, I guess, with a distant hint of African.)
(Then an unanticipated pleasure followed: apparently Mark Wahlberg had been a home-Boston-grown racist delinquent Nazi before he became a rock star, a Hollywood-porn star … (Now I wonder if jail is where he started pumping iron. Good job, no matter.))
Hunter’s (depictions of) Byzantine betrayals of trust, of belief, of everything are subtle and require hard-reading (at novel-length) in the books. Jammed together into a feature length, the subtleties are indecipherable. This movie can’t be too popular, no matter how much fire and guts it shows; but I’m reminded of how bewilderingly popular First Blood was: in 1982 and since. How’d that happen?! Same way the war, and public bewilderment, and indignation was manipulated: by what magicians call a switch, wedded to what magicians call a force: we live in a culture that spends capital to defy commandments, while spinning it flatteringly: blowing people up, destroying the earth, doesn’t mean you’re evil, it means you’re good! The war machine misrepresents every possible thing so the material junkies will keep their pedal to the metal, accelerating to extinction. The clear meaning of the movie is we don’t know shit from Shinola; the spin force on it was we’re righteous patriots: who want our prisoners of war back.
Don’t start me. That was an amazing era. No one has yet explained to me how we could blather about our prisoners of war as though we were helpless political babies, when our prisons of war, our prisoners of all kinds, were in our prisons: we could release them whenever we wanted to. But of course we never mean what we said, we meant the opposite, we meant their prisoners of war: their prisoners / our soldiers. If we wanted our soldiers / their prisoners home, why did we ever send them abroad? to napalm little girls?
One point shoved to the hilt in Shooter was that the US denied having military forces in country after country after country in which our thugs were blowing their thugs to hell and gone. While all the dutiful tax payers don’t know shit from Shinola. We grew up believing (as told) that at Judgment God would establish the truth, and we’d all follow it, completely, perfectly: the damned, now corrected, as sentient as the saved. No, no: God might as well behave dictatorially and in camera: we wouldn’t follow one syllable of it.
Science is neigh impossible under the best of circumstances; once the state handles all funding, forget it, impossible, never happen.
Oh, they’ll have something, something encrusted with gold, that they’ll call science … just as the Jews had a box, all in gold, that they called the Ark of the Covenant.
You know, I take that back: God shouldn’t need any duty at Judgment other than marking wrong labels. We label something “freedom”; God need only draw a big black mark through it.
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