FF84 - Hacksaw Ridge

Intro by John Roderick

Friendly Fire co-host Ben Harrison hates Mel Gibson. How can we tell? Well, it is like that old joke about firefighters: ”How do you know when there is a firefighter at your party?" - "Oh, he will let you know!” Ben hates Mel Gibson so much that at the mere mention of his name he lets out an indignant half-laugh to indicate that whenever you get done saying what you are saying he is going to remind you, in case you had forgotten since the last time he did this, the last time someone mentioned Mel Gibson's name, that Mel is not approved for consumption. This is a bit tricky for us since Mel Gibson has made quite a few war movies, some edge-case, some not, and the old Friendly Fire 120-sided die has been mercilessly serving them up lately. Did you know Mel Gibson is an antisemite? No? Well, listen for the half-laugh!

Mel likes to make big bloody movies. Remember in Road Warrior how he maintained a completely low affect through the whole movie? He was playing a guy who had seen some bad shit and as a result he hardly raised an eyebrow as all around him Australian repertory-theatre actors dressed in the classic post-apocalyptic uniform of leather and feathers were impaled and burned alive. But by the time he made Braveheart he modified that acting technique slightly so that instead of hardly raising an eyebrow he contorted his mug into a clown-mask of crazy-face such that his eyebrows danced like caterpillars in a frying pan. That became his action movie signature, but by the time he got to The Patriot he had settled his face back down into a mask of sad and constipated for most of the film.

Well, he doesn't really appear in Hacksaw Ridge, but he manages to fit all the blasé leather and feathers, the crazy-face caterpillars, and the sadness and constipation into this movie with enough budget left over to hose us with gore and send us home with a tote bag (I don't even know what that means, but I said it and I'm sticking to it). Unlike the rest of his catalog where he loosely bases a film on a cartoon patchwork of semi-fictionalized historical personages and sets them at one another across a landscape of broadly drawn clichés and simplistic rectitude to conclude that good is better than evil, in the case of Hacksaw Ridge he has undertaken the far more difficult task of recounting the true story of a real man who did documented things within living memory.

Desmond Doss is a Medal of Honor winner whose admixture of aww-shucks Appalachian corn-crib herpa-derp, an obstinate world-defying pacifistic martyr-child, is so soda-fountain-gee-whiz, it makes Audie Murphy look like Hunter S. Thompson. Getting his story right would be nigh on impossible even if you trusted it to Ken Burns and the Library of Congress. Mel Gibson does not make any attempt at restraint. There were boot camps out there where an Italian guy, a Jewish guy, a Texan and a couple of other guys including Mel Gibson’s son (Milo) all hazed the misunderstood Nobody until he was revealed in the heat of battle to be the hero they needed all along. I'm sure it happened.

I bet, there were tons of real life soldiers who kept a picture of their faithful sweetie in their Bible and looked at it all the time for inspiration and weren't fazed at all when the other guys rag them about it. I'm even sure that there were plenty of Japanese soldiers on Okinawa that, when shot with a machine gun, immediately bounced on a trampoline and somersaulted through a curtain of flamethrowers while somebody sprayed SpaghettiOs out of their shirt through a hidden hose, but how many of them single-handedly rescued 75 men and then flew up to heaven on a stretcher without even being dead? On today's Friendly Fire: ”Helped me get one more!” as we discuss the really actually based on a true story 2016 World War II biopic Hacksaw Ridge.

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