Saturday, June 19, 2010
There's a masochistic / sadistic streak that runs through all of Mel Gibson's movies: The Man Without a Face -- a disfigured protagonist; Braveheart -- Gibson lingers on the horrifying torture of his hero; The Passion of the Christ -- essentially an excuse for a lot of gruesome make-up effects. Apocalypto is Gibson's only good movie (good, that is, but not great) because whereas his other films eventually reveal themselves as little more than excuses for sadism, Apocalypto is sadism that eventually coalesces into a film. It starts in torture and disfigurement (and a village raped and pillaged -- the ultimate "Gibson touch") and then goes from there, instead of delivering that vicarious violence as its conclusion. There's always an underlying cynicism to Gibson's directorial work (he assumes that deep down, movie audiences just wanna see a guy get stabbed), and the ending is definitely about as fake-wise as it gets, replicating the conclusion of Mann's Last of the Mohicans while simultaneously undermining it with some facile dramatic irony, but at least it's a movie with movement and people, instead of martyrs and inertness.