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Vital Signs (1990)
An 80s drama? A really bad dream? Punishment for a crime? No it's Vital Signs!
I can just picture Larry Ketron sitting in a producers office pitching this film. "We'll use a bad 80s medical drama as our base line.We'll get a director with no experience and no talent, a cast that could have been rejected from "The Hightes" and stick Jimmy Smits right in the middle of it just for fun." Vital Signs makes scrubs look serious by comparison. The pacing of this film is so slow that at times it feels longer than all the Lord of the Rings movies put together. I have seen Italian operas that felt shorter then this movie. It's partially the director, Marisa Silver's fault. Hey Marisa, can you say An Alan Smithee film? The film looked like it was cut with a chain saw, and it was incredibly disjointed. I don't know if the writer of this movie was UN-knowledgeable or just didn't care about facts, but the factual errors in this movie would have ruined it had it been filled with the greatest actors on earth. The movie is about 3rd year med students, but they are doing things that only residents and attendings can do. Pluse why is everyone referring to these students as "Doctor"? They aren't doctors! Far worse however is the acting. This cast has shown up to do one thing, and that is collect their pay checks. When Jimmy Smits is the most talented man on the team, you know you are in trouble. Diane Lane is good to look at, but that's about the best I can say for anyone in the movie. Even her one love scene, though hot, comes at the wrong time in the film, thanks again to our friend the editor. I bet this is the film on which William Devane finally realized his career was over. I rented this movie for .25 cents from the video store down the street, and I am thinking of asking for my money back.
More then just an action film. A statement on greed.
Robocop is a film that almost didn't get made. Most people loved the concept, but hated everything else, especially the title. Some say this film is about violence and it is violent. (30 people are killed in the film according to this site)The film has to be violent to get the point across that something like Robocop is necessary, but the film is not about violence. It is more then a bloody action film. Paul Verhoven has stated that he intended this film to be more about death and resurrection then anything else. To state the idea that the sort of everyman that the character of Alex Murphy embodies could overcome death to rise again. Only to find that it is not worth the trip. Although that is felt throughout the whole film, deeper than that is what Edward Neumeier said he wanted to make the film about. What would life be like if Reaganomics had kept going? What if the yuppie population had continued to grow? What if the whole world became populated by guys like Dick Jones? (played so superbly by Ronny Cox that it is hard to tell where Cox ends and Jones begins) Alex Murphy lives in a world just like that. In a world where mans unchecked greed is finally starting to consume him. In Murphy's world there are no people, there are only consumers. Those who cannot afford to consume, become themselves consumables and are consumed. O.C.P could be any number of corporations. It is a symbol of everything that is wrong with our country. It is accumulated wealth and power, it is the big unfeeling beast that devours everything in it's path, including our friend Alex Murphy. They do not rob Murphy of his life, but of his death. They remove his dignity and strip him down to nothing more then another product, but Murphy fights back. Murphy retains something more than the memories they took from him, he retains the feelings of being human and becomes more than a machine with a human face, more then just Robocop the product. Peter Weller gives him that face and that emotion. Even behind the face shield on the helmet that Weller wears thought most of the film we can still feel his pain. We can see the hurt in his eyes, even though his eyes our covered. Alex Murphy is as Verhoven has stated a futuristic Christ. He bears the weight of our greed and the sin of or lust for wealth. We can see ourselves as the victimized Alex Murphy and we can wonder how much it would take for us to become the victimizing Dick Jones.
What was the point?
This is easily the worst remake in film history. I have never understood the idea of a remake at all. If a film, like Psycho, is so good to start with why on earth do you want to try and improve on it? If you insist on tampering with perfection, why then do you have to try to recreate it in it's whole? There is nothing original here. Gus Van Sant put nothing of himself into this film. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but this is ridiculous. There are a lot of sides to a character as complex as Norman Bates, and I suspect that Vaughn may have wanted to explore them. Instead Van Sant forced him into sticking to a cheap imitation of Anthony Perkins. Perkins turned in a performance that lead to one of the most memorable characters in film history and it would have been impossible for any actor, no matter how good to recreate that. The rest of the characters are stuck just as tight to similarly wooden imitations of the originals. It is almost painful to watch very talented actors (namely William H Macy) have that talent stifled. In the end, Gus Van Sant set out to pay homage to a great film. Instead he cheapened it, and created a movie that is not worthy of late night cable.
Case study in perception.
As I sat reading the other reviews about this film it occurred to me how much it is a case study in human perception. Everyone who sees this film will view the same material, but they will all see it differently. Some viewers feel that the people who where shown in the film where exploited and I can see there point. Some of the people shown in the film do come off as weirdoes, oddballs, and nut cases, but I don't feel that is necessarily the film makers fault. Some of these people may really be weirdoes, oddballs, and nut cases. That is why I say the film is a study in perception. For every person who thinks the people shown in the film are crazy, there is another who feels that they are perfectly normal. The film presents these people as they are and lets you decide whether or not they are abnormal in their love of Star Trek. After having seen the film a few times myself I am still trying to figure it out myself. Although I do think some of these people cross the line from fandom to insanity, I can't tell you who does and who doesn't. That is what makes the film so interesting. It's capacity to make you think. As a Star Trek fan myself it made me look at my collection of Star Trek action figures and wonder "How far am I from the guy who wants Spock ears implanted in his skull?" So whether the people in this film make you laugh, think, or just give you the creeps you must admire there passion for Star Trek and there willingness to share that passion. In a world where there are so many violent things people can be passionate about, being passionate about Star Trek is a pretty benign thing. So as far as I am concerned this is a solid film, that gets 6 out of 10 stars from me. "Live Long and Prosper".