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Search and Destroy (1995)
Movie Making the Easy Way
DETAILED PLOT SUMMARY AND SPOILERS (if that's possible for a 1995 movie)
The first time I saw Search and Destroy, I disliked it. I thought it was trying to jump on the Pulp Fiction bandwagon by putting words like "off-beat" and "eccentric" on the video cover. Then I thought about what I'd seen and it truly affected me the way the lead character in the film is affected by a certain book he reads.
His name is Martin Mirkheim, played brilliantly by Griffin Dunne, and he is a truly unique film character in that he believes in himself. He truly believes in the power of himself and his ability to create dynamic change within a static environment. It is exciting to watch the process of each of his failures and successes.
The book that inspires him is similar to a Dianetics type of book but without the cult-like following that Scientology implies. The book is about a child who goes on an adventure to find his strengths, test & eliminate his weaknesses, and learn about the world the way it really is. Most importantly, having learned about the world the child now can understand his place in the world and how he can initiate change.
The author, Dr. Luther Waxling, played by Dennis Hopper, is a down & out cable access show host who wrote the book many years ago in his glory. Back then, Waxling may have believed in himself but now he just wants to make money through his TV show and from his self-improvement classes. At that point in the movie, I figured I had the plot down: Martin was going to show Waxling where he went wrong. You know; the ol' student-teaches-the-teacher gag (yawwn) but I was glad to be wrong.
Instead, Martin wants to buy the rights to Waxling's book and make a movie out of it but Martin doesn't have any money to give him. Martin calls Kim Ulander, played by Christopher Walken, whom he met earlier at a party. Walken is the type of actor who doesn't get bothered at the fact that he's typecast as the wacko. Walken has accepted it and I think at this point in his life he embraces it. And what a wacko he plays. There's one scene where he's in a kareoke bar and he performs a lounge song that made me want to slit my wrists. Martin and his assistant Marie, played by Illeanna Douglass, hook up with Kim. Together they try to raise capital to buy the rights to the book.
Martin's journey to reach his goal mirrors what's portrayed in the Waxling book but that's the obvious side. There is a second variable that makes it more interesting: Walken. Walken's character, Kim, has read the book too. Kim is also a big Waxling fan but he has interpreted the book's message a little more literally than Martin. Kim is a businessman who's tired of the rat race; he wants to test his strengths in a different venue. With each new conflict we get two different reactions; Martin's and Kim's. The interaction between these two characters is what makes the movie shine to the very end.
Watching Search and Destroy is a bit like sitting through one of those inspirational seminars. At the beginning, you're convinced you won't enjoy it and that it's all a sham. At the end, you're ready to inspire others.