Saturday, September 23, 2017

DOUBLE REVIEW: 'Abacus: Too Small To Jail' / 'Goon: Last of the Enforcers'

How about this for diversity: one flick about Chinese-American bankers getting the screws put to 'em by the feds and another about American actors pretending to be violent, retarded Canadians?

By: Jimbo X

A couple days back my good biracial buddy DeKeith stopped by my humble abode and started banging on the front door. 

"Jimbo, Jimbo, you gotta' come quick!" he yelled while I finished my morning bowl of Count Chocula and limited time only Halloween-themed Oreos. "There's this new thing you gotta come check out with me - it's called foot golf."

Now, right then and there I shoulda' known better. As we all know, the only kinda golf that means Jack Shit to anybody is the kind where you whack balls inside a giant clown's mouth, and obviously, that wasn't the kind of golf DeKeith was talkin' about. 

Alas, I put on my finest mildly worn Los Angeles Kings jersey and yesterday's cargo shorts and hopped in DeKeith's 1993 turqoise Hyundai Elantra and about an hour later, there I was listening to some spiky-haired fruit basket named Chad telling me the ins and outs of kicking a goddamn soccer ball around a golf course.

Boy, I wish I was being facetious with ya, but honest to goodness, this "foot golf" claptrap DeKeith dragged me outta bed at noon for was exactly what the name implies. It's on a golf course, they give you a regular old soccer ball and then you take turns punting the sumbitch until you make it to this big old bucket underneath a flag. Rinse, repeat and regurgitate 9 times and voila, that's foot golf for ya. 

It was at that point that I began questioning the authenticity of DeKeith's supposed half-black ancestry, 'cause I couldn't think of anything whiter than this shit right here. Being a member of the Ku Klux Klan while drinking a glass of skim milk isn't as white as foot golf. Listening to Perry Como while hockey's on the tube and you're eating a mayonnaise sammich isn't as white as foot golf. The Osmonds and the Romneys discussing the merits of L. Ron Hubbard's bibliography isn't as white as foot golf. Hell, every single albino person in the world getting together and having a gangbang and cumming at the exact same time isn't as white as foot golf. Just saying the name "foot golf" makes your teeth a little bit sparklier and makes you just a smidge more suspicious of the Meskins. It's the figurative embodiment of whiteness, something genetically engineered to only appeal to the most Caucasian of Caucasoids. It's a pastime created for people named Tanner and Madeline who think recreational suburban biking is a little bit too ethnic-sounding for their liking. 

But for whatever reason, DeKeith was all about this waste of time, effort, and greenspace fertilizer. He really thought he was hot shit when he boomed that little rubber ball 10 feet in the air and watched it sail across the field in a 30 yard arc. He was so damned happy, you'd think he just booted a Super Bowl-winning field goal, or finally found out who his real biological father was. But me? The first time I stepped up to the plate, I felt about as excited as a Jew at a broken ATM machine. I barely wrenched back my left leg, took a five-yard step back, jogged for about 1.3 seconds and laid into the soccer ball's hide with the very tip of my Reebok dead goddamn center. The thing went zooming about 30 feet in an upward trajectory, like a Delta jet taking off, before suddenly plummeting out of the sky like God himself gave it the old Macho Man Randy Savage elbow drop. The ball goes straight up, then it goes straight down. And I've got another football field ahead of me before we can move onto the second hole. The shit took three fuckin' hours to finish, and I ain't even yanking your chain. And the worst part? I paid $20 of my own money for such nonsense, and DeKeith didn't even have the common biracial decency to pick me up at least $20 in Taco Bell produce afterward as a repayment.

What's the deal with all these new recreational activities, anyway? Why the hell are 30-year-olds out at the park wearing $200 sweat-resistant, NASA-engineered polymer jerseys playing ultimate frisbee and disc golf instead of doing more adult things, like betting their week's paychecks on the outcomes of real sports played by real athletes? That these tools even have the time on their schedules to put on their fruity Atlanta United jerseys and juice up their Nissan Leafs to spend half a Saturday kicking a soccer ball across a golf course tells you exactly what kind of people you're dealing with. They've got too much money, they've got too much leisure time, and they're way too obsessed with recreational tomfoolery. In other words, they're the new WASPS - white assholes playing stupid sports.

So if any of your pals invited you to a round of "foot golf," I suggest you do the same thing I wished I would've done to DeKeith - invite 'em to play a new activity called "My Foot Up Your Ass Golf," which as the name implies, involves burnin' plenty of calories walloping Millennial keisters up and down the back nine.

Let's see - we've got dragons, people doing kung-fu and guys smoking in front of Buddha figurines; looks like somebody's about to win "Stereotypical Chinese Iconography Bingo!"

Speaking of things everybody ought to do, you really don't have an excuse to not check out Steve James' latest documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. That's primarily because the thing just got picked up by PBS and you can stream it online any damn time you want for free right here.

Never heard of James before? Well, next to Errol Morris or Werner Herzog, he's probably the best documentary filmmaker alive right now, a guy with an uncanny ability to make surprisingly engrossing movies about the blandest sounding subjects. He's prolly best known for making 1994's Hoop Dreams (about poor ass kids from the hood getting bussed into the 'burbs of Chicago to play basketball for rich-ass private schools), but he's also responsible for giving us two of the best documentaries of the decade - The Interrupters (about a bunch of community volunteers trying to convince Chicago's eighth-graders to quit shootin' each other over their sneakers and callin' each other's mamas bad names) and Head Games (about people getting concussions playing football and soccer and the professional sports industrial complex trying to cover it all up.) Hell, even his documentary about Roger Ebert was about 100 times more enjoyable than it prolly had any right to be, and that's coming from a guy that pretty much hates old Egg-bert's guts. The important takeaway here is that this James fella knows how make a damn documentary, and this Abacus movie is no exception.

As the name suggests, it's about the Abacus Federal Savings Bank, this firm in Chinatown that got indicted by the feds for mortgage fraud back in 2015. It starts off with Sung family - led by bank founder Thomas Sung, who gives all his daughters high-level jobs working for his business - watching It's A Wonderful Life and talking about how their dream was to come to America and open up a bank so fellow Chinese people can start restaurants and not pay taxes, either, Well, they buy live crabs on the streets of Chinatown and there's a whole bunch of stock footage from the 1950s showing what banks in New York used to look like and Thomas talks about how much he hates driving from Greenwich, Conn. to NYC every day, and then, we're introduced to this guy named Ken Yu, who alongside two other loan officers tried to take some money from a couple of closers. So the bank hands over their books to the feds, and the prosecutors decide the loan department is corrupt as fuck, so they arrest the whole family and chain 'em together and make 'em walk to the drunk tank in the classic "Gracie Train" formation while shielding their faces from the newspaper people. Then this snaggletoothed journalist talks about how the D.A. wouldn't have done that with black clients and this one Chinese women working for the D.A. gets so pissed about it she turns in her resignation right then and there. Then this guy named Don "Community Activist" Lee does some rabble-rousing, and he's got a James Brown haircut that looks even better than the one Maxine Waters has.

So the formal case begins in Feb. 2015 and the Sungs know what's up so they hire this one Jew lawyer who says calling Fannie Mae a victim is like calling a dog's tail its fifth leg during his opening statements, and then Tom gets mad at him for not emoting enough in front of the jury. Then all of the Sungs get together for some egg foo young and yell at each other, but they're such workaholics that they keep doing their normal paperwork even though they're all on trial for 80 counts of grand larceny and conspiracy. Naturally, this leads to plenty of witness stand dramatizations, complete with jurors from the actual trial being brought in, like this one blonde white girl who's all like "so, uh, how long did you guys KNOW he was doing this shit again?" while the snaggletoothed journalist is all like "well, yeah, what they did WAS wrong, but Chase and CitiBank did WAY worse, so we better just forgive 'em and forget all about it."

Then we get to the scene where I (and prolly everybody else watchin' the movie) got *yay* close to shutting the thing off in disgust; when MATT TAIBBI gets some screentime to flap his big fat gums about Wall Street. Thankfully, he's only in the movie for about 15 seconds, but still, that's 15 seconds too many of Matt Taibbi than it's safe for anyone to be exposed to. Then we get some bar graphs about the big banks costing America $22 trillion in the Great Recession and this one Chinawoman from The New Yorker talks about the seating arrangements at Abacus and then the blonde, white juror that wears too much lip gloss is like "how could you NOT know this shit was going on when you were literally breathing noodle breathe on each other all day?" and then Sung formally gets indicted and he talks about a scandal in 2003 when a banker stole a million dollars from his company and almost got the whole outfit shut down then.

Then we get a bunch of lib-uh-rul talking heads that blame the borrowers for misleading the bank, with one gal saying "I don't think any of the borrowers think they are really committing a crime, even if some of these loan documents are falsified." Then there's this story about a couple making $24K a year combined getting approved for a half million dollar Abacus loan and that dentally-challenged investigative reporter form earlier gets a solid 10.0 in freestyle mental gymnastics coming up with an excuse for why cultural differences on what constitutes a loan makes it OK for Chinatown workers to not pay federal income tax. 

Then the Sungs eat a big plate of Kung Pao chicken while drafting a "race card" heavy press release in anticipation of being found guilty, and the movie starts to dip for a bit while they keep yammering on and on about how great their default rates are and they kinda' sorta' admit that most of the time they did lie about loans, but even if it is a crime, is it really the type of consumer fraud we ought to be going after? Naturally, this leads to one lib-uh-rul white talking head comparing Abacus employees committing millions in mortgage fraud to jaywalking, because they really gave up on critical thinking about 35 years ago.

Well, considering the Sungs are still around to star in the documentary, I reckon I'm not spoiling too much when I say they DON'T get sent down the creek at the end of the trial. In fact, the movie ends with Tommy Sung telling his wife she can finally start showing emotions again and then an investor says "you had the revenge for us - ha-ha!" while drinking champagne and eating cake in their executive boardroom. Which, naturally, is a segue into the film's concluding quip-cum-moral of the story; when it comes to fighting the feds in court, "you still have a chance, but it'll cost you $10 million."

So yeah, it's a movie with some painfully obvious biases that prolly paints its subjects in far too flattering a light, but there's no denying it's a great procedural courtroom drama and a solid sociocultural analysis of something that seems like it would be about as interesting as watching slugs sleep. That, and it's got a tremendous finale that all modern day action and horror movies could learn a thing or two from; if you want to see some tense-ass story-telling, you definitely need to stay tuned for the final 15 minutes of this flick. 

We've got no dead bodies. No breasts. No car chases. One massive bank run, with pushing, shoving and police harassment. Gratuitous It's A Wonderful Life references. Chopstick fu. Family bickering fu. Perjury fu. Tax Evasion fu. And the thing more or less responsible for the movie existing in the first place, some serious dramatic recreation fu.

Featuring Thomas Sung as the head honcho of the embattled Chinatown bank, who says "yes, I do need a haircut to make me feel more energetic, especially as I grow older"; Polly Greenberg as the ice queen high priestess of the New York D.A.'s major economic crimes bureau who says "Abacus was not exonerated ... exoneration is when a person is proven innocent"; Ken Yu as the disgraced loan officer who perjures himself about 50 times during his own cross-examination; Jessica Woodby-Denema as the blonde juror that don't buy the Sungs' chop-suey; and David Lindorff as the "investigative journalist" who actually has a monologue explaining why subprime loans are a good thing if you only give 'em to the Chinese.

I give it three stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, because you might as well since your tax dollars are already paying for it to be on Frontline.

It's amazing: how can a country into a sport so violently awesome have the most cucked politics west of the Euro Zone?

Speaking of signs and symptoms of communism, for whatever reason our second feature of the week - Goon: Last of the Enforcers - has been limited to about 20 screens across the U.S. and Canada, and it's a shame, too, because it's easily the best low-budget, blood-soaked comedy about concussion-addled Nova Scotians saying "fuck" a lot and beating each other into temporary comas since, well, the first Goon movie, I suppose. 

I still think the original Goon from 2011 is one of the best sports comedies of the last 25 years and probably the best hockey movie anybody's made since Slap Shot back in '77. While Last of the Enforcers doesn't exactly surpass its predecessor, it's pretty dang close to it, especially when it comes to the on-ice fisticuffs and lines about Slovenians saying "we are brothers, we power fuck your mother" before giving teammates sperm-tainted hoagies.

Once again Seann William Scott turns in a five star performance as probable retard Doug Glatt (who is very loosely based on a real person), quite possible the greatest Jewish defenseman in the history of minor league Halifax hockey. This time around the NHL is on strike so all the hockey-hungry Canucks are anxious to see Glatt and his semi-pro squad pummel the fuck out of teams from Reading, Penn., but on opening night he gets into a brawl with this towering brute named Anders Cain, who roughs up Glatt so bad it forces him into temporary retirement. And since his moon-faced wife from the last movie has a bun in the oven, he really doesn't have much of a choice with his career options and winds up working for this one insurance firm where his boss makes him work out of a storage closet next to a window where homeless people blow each other and piss against the glass all day.

Well, one night Glatt and his buddy Ronnie from the first movie go to this thing called the "Bruised and Battered Hockey Tournament," where retired hockey players punch each other in the teeth for a $400 grand prize. As it turns out, that's how Glatt's old mentor Ross Rhea (played by Liev Schreiber, who, considering he also played the titular character in the comedy biopic Chuck, is apparently the new go-to-guy to play past-their-prime athletes in violent sports comedies) is making his bread nowadays, and it isn't long before Doug is sneaking off in the middle of the night so he can be retrained on how to hit people with only half his tendons in his right arm working anymore.

After that Glatt's old team goes on a losing streak and the owner decides, what the hell, why NOT bring in this Anders Cain kid, but even though his dad owns the squad, he keeps going psycho on the ice and gets suspended. So naturally, Glatt decides to rejoin the team, but only after promising his wife he isn't going to get in any more fights. Without giving away the ending, let's just say Glatt does a pretty good job obeying his wife's wishes ... that is, until Cain gets traded to the team Glatt's team is going to play on the last day of the season, and in the first period Cain decides to take Ross out with a nasty blindside swipe.

All I'm going to say is in the final ten minutes of this movie, we've got more blood sprayin' around than I've ever seen in a flick where somebody doesn't immediately die from plasma loss five seconds later. And you better believe the CGI incisors and bicuspids are gonna' be flyin' at 'ya, fast and furiously.

We've got no dead bodies. No breasts. Thirteen fist fights. One five-on-five battle royale. One broken stick. One atomic wedgie. Teeth roll. Semen-contaminated sandwich eating. Gratuitous headbutting. Gratuitous vomiting. Gratuitous energy drink chugging. Gratuitous autoerotic asphyxiation subplot. Gratuitous slow-mo blood spewing. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place, extremely lax enforcement of instigator penalties fu.

Starring Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, the hockey-defensemen-turned-insurance-salesman-turned-hockey-defensemen-again, who begins the movie by saying "one time I had a dream I was captain of a monkey ship" and describes hot dogs as "it's like a sausage sandwich, it looks like a penis."; Alison Pill as Eva, the preggers wife who says "me and this baby are going to eat the shit out of this pad thai."; Liev Schreiber as veteran ass kicker Ross Rhea, who remarks "holy shit on Mary's tits" and teaches Glatt how to wallop people one-handed; Kim Coates as Ronnie Hortense, who says "Mazel Tov, in your ass" and "kids today, with their YouTube and their fucking ISIS" and spends literally the whole movie wearing a hat that reads "fuck white people"; and Wyatt Russell as the big bad Anders Cain, whose terrifying battle cry is "anybody here like fucking sunflower seeds?"

Co-written by Jesse Chabot, who probably deserves a Best Screenplay Oscar for simply coming up with lines like "animals don't eat in peace, animals eat pieces of shit," "it's tighter than a nun's cunt in there" and "we're going to stick this power play right up their sphincters, no KY," and directed by first time director Jay Baruchel, who you can tell is going to be a force to be reckoned with in degenerate cinema over the next few years because when he makes his actors say "I got two balls, not two pieces of pussy," and "I suppose there's no rule about drinking the opposing team's Gatorade," you believe them

I give it three stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out - it ain't quite as good as the original, but it still knocks the teeth outta' the mouth of just about every other wide release comedy Hollywood's cranked out this year. And it gets bonus points for being the first movie this century to unironically feature the music of both Nazareth and Stan Bush, not out of desperate nostalgia, but because that's probably the kind of music the director actually listens to.


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