Monday, June 29, 2015

Detecting True

I'm feeling a bit better about the next Star Trek movie now that I've seen its director's work on a couple True Detective episodes. Before this, all I knew about Justin Lin was that he'd directed at least one of the Fast and Furious movies, none of which I've seen. But I think the second episode of this second season of True Detective shines more for its performances.

I appreciated Colin Farrell's generosity as a performer. He's really subtle in this episode and his best moments are when he creates moments for other characters, like when McAdams asks him how "contaminated" he is and he just stares at her. And somehow that communicates everything, to us and to her.

On the other end of the spectrum but also, and surprisingly, good is Ritchie Coster chewing more scenery than Pac-Man as the sinister mayor with subtly bizarre physical mannerisms.

The standard detective show format of detectives continually interviewing new people is unavoidable and being creative with these scenes tends to mean trying to make the interviewee interesting, someone that compels you to study and read them along with the cops. So far Lin and Pizzolatto are succeeding this season, with the mayor as well as with a numb faced spa/clinic/rehab owner, and of course David Morse as Antigone's father.

Taylor Kitsch continues to make his character eerily committed and walled off. He's bad at communicating with his girlfriend, his mother seems to be coming on to him, and it's suggested he's repressing homosexuality with overt homophobia. Which doesn't seem as weird as what I'd hope for though I did enjoy his exchange with the slightly sleazy detective, Teague (W. Earl Brown*), from Velcoro's (Farrell) department. His calling the younger man's story about wanting to punch a gay man a "dynamite anecdote" is Raymond Chandler-ish needling, subtle mockery with a more modern sensibility.

But mostly the episode seemed to be treading water to me. The scene of Antigone surfing a porn site seemed like kind of a non sequitur. I guess this further establishes her hypocrisy in busting her sister over the web cam thing but I'm not really sure if Pizzolatto can make worthwhile hay from this. Along with Paul's repressed homosexuality, it seems like Pizzolatto is constructing a portrait of how people's sexuality may be more varied and untraditional than they're ready to admit to themselves. Which . . . is okay. I don't know. I guess I wasn't particularly into Woody Harrelson's marital problems in season one, either. The mundane stuff isn't really where True Detective shines. But by the way, I'd like Velcoro to be a little badder.

We're clearly picking from the idea in the first season where Rust said the world needs bad men like him to keep the others in check (not that Rust was especially bad himself) and we have Velcoro's wife directly calling him a bad man in this episode. Beating up a kid's father in front of him in retaliation for the kid bullying Velcoro's son seems certainly seems like improper procedure. But just like Velcoro killing his wife's rapist, whom we never see, the show doesn't take any steps to show us exactly what's morally ambiguous about Velcoro's actions. When all we know about his victims are that they rape people or have brought up bullies, there's not much separating Velcoro from the protagonist of a bad Clint Eastwood movie or a movie like Death Wish. Velcoro getting tough with his own son in the first episode was a good step but to make the challenging proposition that Velcoro is a genuinely bad man we nevertheless need I'd like to see him do something genuinely, definitely bad.

My favourite part of the second episode's writing was the dialogue about the fictional town of Vinci--I love that Pizzolatto decided to give the place character, telling us about how rich capitalists exploited the place, how it produces extraordinary amounts of toxic waste, and Antigone's observation that the place only has something like 93 official residents yet thousands of people seem to be coming in every day going to who knows where.

*Who played the villain in season one, a guy who liked to do impressions. Are they meant to be related? Or the same man reincarnated by Carcosa?

No comments:

Post a Comment