America 2028 Movie Reviews, #3
Also posted at Medium.
There I sat, the closing credits scrolling up, each letter a foot tall. Like the rest of the crowd, I am dabbing away tears with tissue after tissue, my mind only beginning to wrap itself around the emotional journey of a cinematic voyage that just finished. As I gathered my radiation suit and readied to exit the theater, footage from the 2016 Presidential Election popped onto the screen. Candidate Trump (Donald, not Eric), making fun of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, a man who suffered from a condition which limited use of his limbs’ joints.
I love it when directors include historical footage at the end to concretely tie their fiction to reality. Some think the move is crass and political, not me. Then again, I’m the type who likes sappiness that others call trite. We are who we are, right? Personally, that clip brought Assaulting the Handicapped: A Fathers and Sons Story full circle. And damn: so much has happened since the moment that Donald Trump mocked the reporter, I forgot all about it. Twelve years ago. Wow. Seeing the first Commander-In-Chief with the last name “Trump” again brought back memories.
Back to the review. Before going any further, I need to say a few kind words to the parents of the child actor who played Billy. I don’t know what you folks are feeding your boy, but whoa-nellie. He can punch! If acting doesn’t work out, you need to sign the lad up for boxing lessons.
That scene, where his dad, Manfred, told him he could look at his vintage Playboy collection if Billy dropped the disabled man with one swing—I still think that they deployed CGI special effects in post-production. After Billy stepped into his swing and let out a war cry like a five-time draft-dodger, that loud “thump!” and string of “oomphs!”—even if they didn’t create visual effects, the expert sound design needs to be pointed out.
To summarize, Assaulting the Handicapped is a day-in-the-life intersection of three sets of fathers and sons in one of the few remaining towns in the American Midwest. The first two sets, Manfred/Billy and Angryman/Angryboy (frickin’ great names, BTW), the sons are school-age while the third duo, Old Man Bananahammock and Gunhumping Gary, are adults. Gunhumping Gary lost his petting zoo franchise and desires to rekindle the relationship with the man who sired him. While face-punching disabled citizens, the two rebuild their bond in the final years before Old Man Bananahammock heads to the Gun Show In the Sky.
(Not to spoil the ending, but Old Man Bananahammock dies, about ten minutes before the end. It’s really, really, really sad. Not “sad” like the “old” sad we used to feel, more like our “2028 sad”… that feeling we get when we encounter weakness and pity it in order to ensure that the weakness juju doesn’t infect us as well.)
The other two father/son relationships in the story also take you through their personal struggles and, ultimately, triumphs. Manfred’s soul experiences devastating pain thinking that precocious, seven-year-old Billy could grow up to be a liberal, while Angryman had a dream that he caught Angryboy trying on a dress. Ever since Angryman dreamt that dream, he’s been obsessed with the idea that Angryboy might grow up to be a liberal.
Fittingly, Angryman/Angryboy open the story. The boy’s mom is leading him through a haze-filled department store-type setting. (The haze special-effect should’ve tipped me off that this was just a dream, I guess I am kind of dense sometimes.) Like the whole theater, I sat there in horror at the sight of a ten-year-old boy eyeing the dresses on the rack. I wondered if this was one of those bait-and-switch types of stories where the director wanted to fool us viewers with subliminal messages. But, ten seconds into the movie, the department store vanishes and Angryman shoots up from his slumber to sit upright in his bed and stare at the camera in sweaty horror, notifying viewers that this was indeed a vision only.
Watching these three pairings of males bond with each other while assaulting various disabled and handicapped folks, I remember thinking, “This movie is so 2028. So ’28. If they tried to make this movie a few years ago, I bet the Motion Picture Ratings people would have said something. Good thing we made America great again.”
Like one movie I reviewed, Full Metal Jacket, Part 2: The Legend of Dickie, this story’s portrayal of the 2028 white male and his approach to violence felt honest. And similar to another movie I reviewed, Demerit Dance Party, ATH celebrates the act of putting weaklings in their places instead of shying away from it.
Probably one of my favorite ATH scenes, a scene that should be remembered in the cinematic canon, happened near the end. Angryman, full of new father-son bonding energy, receives an inspiration for his family’s Christmas card theme. Wrapping the movie with a still of the photo really worked, as a technique. The freeze-frame picture of Angryman’s wife and two girls with their mouths taped shut, while Angryman and Angryboy stand over them in triumph… I felt like I had seen that picture before. Then, I remembered that I had.
Another reference to simpler times by the directors and writers—and BTW: this script is bursting with nostalgia.
Even non-parents like me can appreciate the power of Assaulting the Handicapped: A Fathers and Sons Story.
As always, I thank our mighty President, President Eric Trump, for selecting scripts such as this one and ordering Hollywood to make them into movies.
Also posted at Medium.