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Butch "Bullet" Stein is a Jewish junkie from the mean streets of Brooklyn, is paroled after eight years in prison. Butch rips off a runner for local drug dealer, Tank, and is soon right back into his old habits of snorting coke and shooting up heroin with his best friend Lester. Enraged by Butch's affront and already determined to get revenge on him for a past wrong, Tank sets about getting even with his old enemy by hiring a hulking brute, Gates to beat Butch. When the confrontation occurs, however, Gates breaks his hand on the battle-hardened Butch. Besides Lester, the only people in Butch's corner are his two brothers, the mentally-unhinged Vietnam War veteran Louis and aspiring artist Ruby, neither of whom can be counted on to help him in the inevitable showdown. Written by
A lot of people bitch that "Bullet" is far from standard Hollywood fare, but what that means to you depends heavily on your personal opinion of Hollywood fare. If you, like myself, don't think too highly of it, then consider this your first boarding call.
The "Bullet" spoken of in the title is the film's central character, a 35-year-old Brooklyn heroin junkie (Mickey Rourke). The film begins with his release from the pen after serving an eight-year sentence, and then proceeds to closely follow the lives of him and those around him -- the parents, an eccentric little brother, a completely shell-shocked headcase of a big brother (Ted Levine, creating yet another standout psychotic), as well as various players in the substance supply industry (Tupac Shakur makes his last screen appearance as the druglord Tank, and does a decent job in a rather thankless role). I'd summarize the plot more clearly if I could, but the fact is, these people's lives just aren't that simple.
"Bullet" is one of those rare movies which somehow leak through the cracks and make it into production with their soul (or lack thereof) intact. One of the few who dare pay attention to the dregs of society. Worse still, actual dregs of actual modern day society. The REAL dregs. The "uncool" dregs which are far less likely to break out the one-liners after offing someone then they are to strip the corpse of all valuables and sell them for drug money.
"Bullet" wastes no time whatsoever on making it's characters presentable. I admit it, there's no way this film could ever have raked in the cash. On the surface, the majority of scenes depicted in "Bullet" are the furthest thing any decent human being would classify as entertainment. But below this poverty and violence is a complex and intriguing world filled with complex and intriguing characters.
The film's craft cannot be faulted. The direction is superb, the soundtrack appropriate -- at times eerily so -- but even despite all this, most viewers will recoil in disgust at the request to tune into the lives and minds of characters as genuinely vile, violent and emotionally unstable as these. Characters that would instruct packs of ten-year olds in mortal combat. Characters that can no longer see the future beyond their next hit. Characters that assault their own image in the mirror. This is ground most viewers aren't willing to tread, and why this film was doomed to fail commercially. But that by no means makes it bad. Those who can stomach the imagery and see beyond it will not be disappointed... with the *movie*. How you'll feel once it sinks in that these kinds of things happen on a daily basis in what is supposedly the most civilized country on the planet is anyone's guess.
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