America 2028 Movie Reviews, 1
Also posted at Medium.
Not knocking the late, great Stanley Kubrick, but from the very beginning, Full Metal Jacket 2: the Legend of Dickie riveted me.
Before the opening credits, we see the Parris Island mess hall and that long line of Marine recruits, waiting for chow. Between the misery on their tired mugs and the shine on their shaved heads, the atmosphere of uniform unhappiness established itself immediately. To connect to the first movie, we saw the familiar faces: Private Joker, Private Cowboy, Private Snowball. All, thanks to CGI, appearing so forlorn and melancholy.
Then—and rightfully so—the first words of the story get uttered by its hero, Dickie.
“Hey Private Pyle, if you take a jelly donut, I’ll take one, too. We can eat them in the barracks after lights out.”
The camera reveal, highlighting the smirky, cocky Dickie.
Beady-eyed, toothy Dickie, enabling the heavier, hesitant Pyle. In that oh-so-Dickie way, Dickie reassured Private Pyle that it would be okay—while also stealing two extra jelly donuts for himself when Pyle wasn’t looking, then giving the camera a knowing wink. From the opening scene forward, the viewer just knew that Dickie was a modern, take-charge type of guy analogous to the white male of 2028. I love that they took the story of losing almost 60,000 American lives and over a million Vietnamese lives and respun it to embrace predatory capitalism.
The new director effectively used CGI to catch the sense of shame in Private Pyle’s face as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman forced him to eat the jelly donut while the rest of the recruits did their push-ups—to then quick-cut to the head where we spy Dickie, victoriously scarfing down his three jelly donuts while hiding by the back toilet. In that military bathroom where Private Pyle would one day take his own life, the camera close-ups on Dickie’s snickers while he heard the anguish in his fellow recruits’ voices as they got punished with pushups … watching him scarf the food, I just knew that some type of hard-driving guitar riff would start playing any second. Sure enough, as a jelly-and-powdered-sugar-faced Dickie gave the camera a second knowing wink, the power-chord kicked in, along with the lyrics.
Who is cocky and caucasian? Dickie!
Who used the draft to go on vacation? Dickie!
He’s gonna be a billionaire… maybe a trillionaire… that’s… our… Dickie!
The fact that they timed the ending of the song with another of Dickie’s knowing winks—attention to details like this made the experience even more special.
Not only did the story line take me away, I have to commend the casting choices as well. Like the person who assigns each recruit their duty—to make this character a poker-playing, jive-talking, 300-pound, black woman… genius.
The poker scene, the night before she was to decide which recruits go to Vietnam and which recruits don’t—how rockin’ did Dickie look, finagling his way into her game? Like a future billionaire. Of course, we viewers knew that Dickie had no money and his hand consisted of a 2 and 4, but Dickie bluffed the big, bad, black lady, as we all knew Dickie would. His smirk, as he told her, “I’ll take that bet and raise it: you give me supply duty at the cushy base in San Diego…”
The go-in-for-the-kill expression on her face—watching it dejectedly transform into the vanquished soul that just got reminded of her place by the white man—as Dickie reveals his nothing hand after wagering his way out of Vietnam—I don’t know if the Hollywood studio put some type of subliminal imagery in the scene or not, all I can say is that the word “cinematic” exists for moments like that one. Whether it was Dickie’s fifty-third or his fifty-fifth knowing wink he flashed at the camera at this point, I’d lost count. But that wink brought an extra “oomph”, making me appreciate what Dickie’s character says about modern America and white masculinity even further.
I like that the film fast-forwarded to the end of Dickie’s enlistment, his stay at the San Diego base. We see the tanned, coiffed Dickie, laying in bed with his Commanding Officer’s milfy-nubile wife draped over Dickie. Her fawning, “Oh, Dickie, you’re the best! You’re so good, I’ll forgive you for the fact that the first time we slept together happened after you put that roofie in my drink. You’re the best, Dickie!”
What I liked most about the whole “military” thing with FMJ2 was that it only took the first ten minutes of the movie.
This directorial decision left plenty of time for the storyline to show how Dickie got out of the Marine Corps, then bopped and finagled his swanky way up to Silicon Valley, where he used other Marines’ Vietnam fighting stories to gain attention for himself. His embrace of vulture capitalism as the 70s became the 80s—it was like Forrest Gump only with mean-spirited, insecure, woman-hating racists.
When Dickie fooled the antisocial techie kids into thinking that the Purple Heart he bought at a thrift store was real while telling them that, as white males, they have a right to take whatever they want from this world—something about that scene and the state of the country in 2028 felt so in sync. The way that Dickie told those fellas that they had every right to stay angry at the girl from the school dance who shot them down when they were 13. Dickie, transforming tech-geeks into tech-bros by appealing to their worst insecurities—thank God the movie didn’t waste a lot of time with that Vietnam mumbo-jumbo. Late-stage capitalism is a story that needs time and breathing room to come to life. Good call on reducing that “war” stuff.
Watching Dickie operate in Silicon Valley, those scenes of him screaming through the hallways, like a talentless, vindictive Steve Jobs. It felt like Dickie pushed the boundaries of acceptability just because he could. While Dickie never uttered the words, “Just go ahead… mention the words ‘white male privilege’… mention them and see what happens, punk…” during the entire movie, I felt the character’s desire to say them as he deliberately crossed the line over and over and over. Whether the dreaded “other” was a POC or a white female, Dickie didn’t care as he passively-aggressively got passively-aggressive with them, daring them—without daring them. That fine art of challenging someone to a fight without challenging them to a fight came through in this part of the story, loud and clear.
Again, I kept thanking God that the movie didn’t waste time with that “war” thing.
We all know how Vietnam turned out and, by 2028, chickenhawk white guys now openly admit that they deep-down understand that they wouldn’t last five minutes in the real military and the sole reason for their ammosexual gun-worship is that they are insecure. In a way, it’s refreshing that the grown boys who play soldier now openly admit that their whole intent is to “play” soldier and not actually “be” a soldier and they have no desire to actual go into the real military.
Maybe that’s why Dickie seemed so right, as a leading white male character.
In the America after the election of Donald Trump, this Vietnam story felt so perfect.
If you’re looking for a movie to see after dodging the radiation storm, I highly recommend Full Metal Jacket 2: the Legend of Dickie.
Also: vote, goddammit.
Another four years of President Eric Trump just can’t happen.
Also posted at Medium.