Dead Man Walking (1988)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
as John Luger
as Nomad Farmer
as The Body Counter
as Mr. Shahn
as Plague Victim
as Plague Victim
as Security Man
as Skin Head
as Plague Victim
as Plague Victim
Critic Reviews for Dead Man Walking
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Audience Reviews for Dead Man Walking
Brion James was one of the greatest character actors of all time. Sure, he was best known as Leon the replicant in [i]Blade Runner[/i], but the man had over two decades worth of great performances, and he was brilliantly nuts in just about all of them. James brings on the crazy full throttle in [i]Dead Man Walking[/i], giggling with glee and spending every frame of his screen time grinning from ear to ear. Is it hammy? Sure, but it's also amazing to watch, and in a movie like [i]Dead Man Walking[/i] hammy's pretty much the only way to go. The first scene immediately puts you on the right track for the events to follow. Neon lights! Junkyards! Long scroll detailing events that have happened in the world up until now that talk about great plagues and death zones! Free-form jazz music! Yes, it's the '80s future, and there's no better future in history, especially when it's a future that introduces you to it by showing you a nightclub in which people play russian roulette [i]with a chainsaw[/i]. And one of those people is a cigar-chomping Wings Hauser. Wings Hauser's cinematic legacy has been treated poorly by DVD, and I do fear that his name conjurs up the phrase, "the father of the guy from [i]Paparazzi[/i]" to today's reckless youth, if it conjurs up anything at all. Put it simply, Hauser is the white Fred Williamson. He can chew a cigar like an expert without ever having to light it. He seems cocky even when he's not. He looks like he could kick your ass and then think about laughing about it, but he wouldn't laugh, he'd just smile snidely, because he's too damn tough to laugh. The difference is that Hauser can actually act if given a proper role, and sometimes you can find him emoting as well if the film so allows. [i] Dead Man Walking[/i] does not so allow. [i]Dead Man Walking[/i] is energetic sci-fi action sleaze directed by "Gregory Brown," aka porn film director "Gregory Dark" (of the [i]New Wave Hookers[/i] series, which this shares a tone with) and erotic thriller director "Gregory Hippolyte." He's also directed Britney Spears videos, so he's not[i] all [/i]class. It's after a big plague, and some vague corporations own most of the earth, and a bunch of people live away from general society because they have the plague, but some of them aren't contagious, so they're called "Zero Men" and wander around cheaply-lit nightclubs and do crazy shit because, well, they're going to die anyway. Psychopathic Decker (Brion James) escapes from prison with two others (Joe D'Angerio and Alex Cox regular Sy Richardson) and kidnaps the daughter of a rich guy (Pamela Ludwig), killing dad and sending the chauffeur (Jeffrey Combs) into the plague zone to die. The chauffeur is actually in love with the daughter, so he hires Zero Man Wings Hauser to help rescue her, and Hauser's got nothing better to do because he's going to die anyway. The two take a crazy journey into the plague zone where everyone's face is melting off and people need pills so badly that they'll sell their sisters to be used as sex toys for former [i]Re-Animator[/i] stars*. All of the typical post-apocalypse trappings are here (Chases through deserts! Junkyard campfires! Warehouses! Warehouses! Warehouses!) but "Brown" keeps things lively enough and has enough interesting ideas to hold your interest, even on the moments when Hauser isn't acting snide or James isn't cackling like the craziest nutball the world has ever seen. It even splices in bits of a newscast in which anchors exchange brilliantly forced repartee involving suicide kits when thing start to drag. The best bits, however, are in the underground clubs, which owe a lot to Steven Sayadian's Cafe Flesh. The club seen at the beginning with the chainsaw roulette marks only the first, and as the pair of heroes make their way into the plague underground, we eventaully get to the second, a nastier piece of work in which death is conceived as performance art made by '80s New York club kids. It's Michael Alig's wet dream, replacing [i]Cafe Flesh[/i]'s displays of depressing, neon and jazz-fueled sex with similarly accented death, and it's done so satirically that it works**. Okay, so much of [i]Dead Man Walking[/i] is crap, as people wander around a desert a lot, and it has very little on-screen violence or gore, which is especially unfortunate when you're dealing with live death clubs. It's also occasionally quite inventive, and with leads like Hauser, James and Combs on screen, there's not a lack of entertainment here. This is about as good as low-rent '80s post-apocalypse movies get without a genuine visionary at the helm, and I certainly enjoyed it all will keep it in mind to be forced on friends. The remake with Susan Sarandon turns the Wings Hauser character into a nun for some reason. Whatever, Hollywood. [size=1]* -- In this case, the sister is played by Penelope Sudrow, who was in [i]A Nightmare on Elm Street 3[/i]. You know the scene where the girl is watching Dick Cavett on TV and he's interviewing Zsa Zsa Gabor and Cavett turns into Freddy Krueger and slashes Zsa Zsa and then comes out of TV and grabs the girl and is all, like, "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" and smahes her head into the TV? That's Penelope Sudrow. I'd just never seen her in anything else until now, and it's such an infamous scene you'd expect her to have gotten more work out of it. ** -- "Dark"/"Brown and Sayadian ran in the same circles, and the [i]New Wave Hookers[/i] series is often considered very similar to Sayadian's[i] Nightdreams [/i]films. And[i] Dead Man Walking[/i]'s [i]Cafe Flesh[/i]ian bar even has gaunt John Durbin as it's bartender, an actor who later appeared in Sayadian's new-wave masterpiece [i]Dr. Caligari[/i]. Sayadian gets a lot of praise, but Dark deserves some of the credit for the the new wave sex movement himself. [/size]
Silly sci-fi drama, not very convincing and a complete lack of imagination as to the future. The female news anchor has such 1980's hair and make-up! Hopelessly dated.
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