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Alex Cutter (John Heard) came back from the war minus an eye, a leg and an arm. He drinks a lot and abuses his wife, who also drinks a lot. Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) is a friend who witnesses a murder. From this point John is "after" the killer, alongside the diseased sister, while Jeff doesn't really want to get involved in it. Written by
Ostensibly this film appears to be a buddy movie from the 1980s, but it is actually something much more interesting. Employing standard Hollywood clinches with its thriller/ investigation narrative and many of of its "stock" characters and situations, the little guys - Heard and Bridges - take on Mr Fat Cat Capitalist who rules the peacetime world like an untouchable and corrupt monarch. The film, though well-executed and enjoyable, at first seems no more than a well-scripted, well-acted (Heard is particularly good as the embittered, crippled Vietnam Veteran) genre piece. However, what emerges by the end is something far more exciting and radical - an indictment of US politics and power relations, and a genuinely bleak reflection on the impossibility and rarity of real justice both at the micro and macro levels.
Vietnam and its true significance is used to great effect in the film, as is the interplay between the two buddies. Whilst Bridges won't accept that he has witnessed the ultimate, bleak truth of US power relations until the film's abrupt, punchy end, Heard knows the truth intuitively and automatically because he understands and hates the world from the the start. He has given up on notions such as forgiveness and even the need for legal process, and seeks only revenge on the rich and the powerful. He understands, correctly, that is the only way a kind of momentary justice is possible, since everything else is either controlled by the elites or made to protect them. Without wishing to spoil the film's brilliant final moments, it is here that the whodunnit story is stripped away and the guilt they have been seeking to prove, as Richard Bone realises, becomes entirely political or metaphysical, and the the crime itself becomes irrelevant.
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