Where there’s smoke

Dangerous beauty.

Dangerous beauty.

Dead man talking: People often ask, “Why is Bites so angry? Could it be the nonstop diet of violent films?” It’s true that Bites prefers cinema of the blood-drenched variety, the latest case in point being “Sacramento” Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces, now available on DVD. Bites is happy to inform that Aces, while not recommended for those unaccustomed to ceiling-to-floor splatter and gore, is as fast and as violent and as funny as they come.

The bloodbath begins when Ben Affleck, who plays a bounty hunter, is gunned down by a trio of neo-Nazi hit men, one of whom holds a tender conversation with the decedent by manipulating Affleck’s jaw like a ventriloquist dummy’s. It’s sick, creepy and somehow totally hilarious, adjectives that can be applied to the entire film.

This may confuse readers who recall Bites’ somewhat tempestuous relationship with Smokin’ Joe, mainly for implying that his latest film, which stands to net an estimated $80 million, was a financial flop. Carnahan, currently promoting the film’s European release, is pleased with Bites’ belated critical re-evaluation.

“I’m in France right now and the reception over here is bonkers,” J.C. informs via e-mail. “They truly get everything the film was going for. The more I listen to the questions coming from the European community, the more I realize how dismally backward ass popular American cinema has become. We must right the ship and fast.”

Oldboy network: But alas! American cinema has run aground upon the rocky shoals of Puritanica, where every screenplay is suspect in the latest school shooting. Consider Bites’ second favorite violent film of the moment, Oldboy, the 2003 Korean martial-arts masterpiece that has been implicated by critics of film violence in the Virginia Tech massacre in much the same way that Columbine was blamed on The Matrix.

Oldboy represents one-third of director Park Chanwook’s vengeance trilogy, and while it is an extremely bloody film—in one scene a man cuts out his own tongue—its theme is the futility of violence.

Nevertheless, while there is no evidence that Korean-born student killer Seung-Hui Cho ever saw the movie, the movie-violence-causes-real-violence crowd continues to link an image of Cho menacingly gripping a hammer with a similar scene from Oldboy and Cho’s massacre of 32 students.

Forget that tragedy might have been avoided had Cho received competent mental-health services from the university. The movie done it!

Irony deficient: Mainstream America seems to be totally unfamiliar with the concept of irony—in this case the use of violent depictions in film to condemn violence in real life. Thus most viewers missed the importance of the post-Guantanamo era’s first anti-torture flick, The Devil’s Rejects, hard-rocking musician-cum-filmmaker Rob Zombie’s 2005 slash-fest.

In a film ostensibly depicting the gruesome misadventures of a band of murderous, mutant hillbillies, Zombie manages to convey what six seasons of the Fox TV series 24 have not: that employing the tactics of the bad guys to win the battle between good and evil is a losing proposition for everyone involved.

Likewise Carnahan, by arming one of the lesbian hit-chicks in Smokin’ Aces with an M107 .50 caliber long-range sniper rifle, isn’t suggesting that viewers of his film purchase similar weaponry to go after, say, Dick Cheney—although come to think of it, if someone were to go after Cheney, which Bites is not advising, since it’s totally illegal to even think something like that let alone write it—the LRSR, which can accurately fire an armor-piercing projectile at a target more than four miles away, would be just the ticket.

What Carnahan’s maybe saying, by showing the carnage such a weapon can wreak, is that perhaps the Senate should vote in favor of Dianne Feinstein’s bill to prohibit the sale of M107s at your friendly neighborhood gun show. There’s beauty in this weapon’s awesome display of firepower, and as at least some of us know, beauty can be dangerous.