Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Noir Week Day 2: The Sniper

Get out your sniper rifles and hand bandages, we're reviewing The Sniper!

Eddie Miller (Arthur Franz) can't stand to be around women. There's something wrong with his head. When he can't get the help he needs, he grapples with it the only way he can: by murdering young ladies from afar with a rifle.

I've been putting off watching this move for a year, because it's the last one in the Film Noir Classics 1 collection, and so far they've been hit and miss. But, guys? You guys, this movie is kind of amazing. It is the story of a guy who has a mental disorder in which he hates women. As in, can't stand to be around them, at all. HE HAS MISOGYNY AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDER and I kind of love it. It is just SO crazy and amazing.

The movie starts off somberly with some statistics about how many sex crimes occur against women (at the time), which seems weird at first. (But makes sense later) Then we meet Eddie, who – oh man, this guy – just cannot catch ONE BREAK from women. There are women everywhere – at the store, at the carnival, on the streets. There are mothers, daughters, girlfriends – HE JUST CANNOT GET AWAY FROM THESE DAMN WOMENS. It's like they're literally half of the human population, or something! And he just can't STAND their incessant women-ing. It takes all the restraint he can muster not to start shooting them randomly. He even gets guff from the tiniest of womens, mere GIRLS! He tries to get help, but is turned away from the hospital. He thinks he's going to be ok when he talks with his crush Jean, (played by the amazing Marie Windsor again!) but then he is HARDCORE FRIENDZONED and that's enough to push him over the edge and start him on his he-man, woman-hating killing spree.

I love the first half of this. His inability to stand women had me cracking up so much. I would legitimately love to see this remade in modern times with an MRA as the main crazy protagonist. It's a real treat to watch and imagine how actual misogynists must feel all the time. OPPRESSED BY THE WOMENS. And then there's an amazing part later where the police bring suspects into a line-up and start shaming and making fun of rapists, peeping toms, and creeps! It's a hoot, you guys.

And if it was just two hours of a crazy misogynist going on a rampage because he can't stand those womens, that would be great all on its own. I thought it would have a gut-busting hilarious ending, but the movie takes a more serious turn (well I guess the whole movie is serious but I found it hilarious) with a frank discussion about psychological disorders and how they are so prevalently untreated (at the time, but we still have problems, I think). The chief and higher ups all just want this one guy caught and dealt with, but a doctor and police inspector want to make more legislation for criminals with psychological disorders. It's an interesting discussion. The politicians don't want to talk about medical care, because that would cost more tax dollars and the people don't think their tax dollars are being used well enough as it is, but as a result criminals are slipping through the cracks and not getting the help they so desperately need, and worse, some are getting off completely. It's a discussion you wouldn't expect in a noir movie and one that could stand to be had again today.

This is a movie that's definitely opposed to crimes against women. Disappointingly, they don’t have any strong female characters. None. Just men solving the problem of men killing women. It’s really a missed opportunity. This film doesn’t conquer the problem of the lack of female characters in noir, but it does address the problem of hate crimes against women. Also a real shame is the casting. Other than Franz and Windsor, there aren't any standouts in the cast. The police, especially, are interchangeable. I have a hard time remembering who did what. Franz at least sells his psycho. You can tell when he's about to snap and when he's just barely holding on.

When the police aren't discussing what should be done with disturbed criminals, the rest of the movie is focused on them trying to hunt down and catch the sniper, while the sniper is picking more targets to shoot. There are lots of suspenseful moments, and they are all helped with the great dramatic score that kicks in on beat one and never lets up. It's one of the better dramatic noir scores out there. A lot of the film is shot in the day time, so the suspense is really carried heavily by the music.

I suppose someone could just watch this straight and think, "Oh, he's just some crazy guy who has a mental break." But if you know how terrible it is for women still today in the comics industry/movie industry/games industry/society in general, and know that there are a ton of huge misogynists out there who seem to hate women as much as the protagonist of this film, you will get a good laugh out of this movie. It is not a leap to supplant a misogynist/Men's Rights Activist into this role. If you wanted to see a misogynist go crazy and then have a discussion on mental health, The Sniper is just for you!

THE GOOD: Hilarious if you think of the main character as an MRA, frank discussion of mental health, great score, some good casting, good suspense.

THE BAD: Not many good characters other than the main protagonist, no strong female characters, not a lot of great cinematography.

THE VERDICT: $$$$ Watch it! Y'know, it might not be for everyone. It's clearly a different creature than your regular noir heist, detective, mystery, etc. But that's what I kind of like about it. I think if you're someone who thinks misogyny is still a huge problem, you will get a kick out of it.

MOVIES LIKE IT: The Killers, Murder by Contract, Detour, M

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Eddie feels that need to kill again creeping up, and while he's outside waiting for his next target to appear, he starts slowly wiping down his rifle. YOU GUYS. I THINK THE SNIPER RIFLE IS HIS PENIS.

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