Friday, January 15, 2010

The Art of Dying (1991)

I've only heard bad words about Wings Hauser as a person, but as an actor I like him a lot. Now I've also seen The Art of Dying, a very wicked little movie that he starred and directed in for PM Entertainment Group. The colorful script is written by Joseph Merhi, the "M" in PM. In away this is both the opposite and the perfect movie to accompany (the brilliant) Vice Squad. There's the gritty, sleazy LA, seedy characters and a lot of sex and violence.

Wings is Jack, I police working for the vice squad (I guess). He's really a nice dude to those that deserves it, and has always strong and funny female partners. He's also a bit to violent to people who attack him, and starts the movie with throwing a woman out from a window. But the girls on the street like him because they can trust him, and he also want to help them to a better life.

But LA is LA and a city like that without a perverted murdered or two isn't a real city. In this case we have a psychotic gay couple, Latin Jerry (Mitch Hara) and Roscoe (Gary Werntz). Roscoe is a director, a real autour, and tries to catch the reality on celluloid. So together with Latin Jerry he finds young people who wants to be movie stars, recreate famous movie scenes and kill them for real in front of the camera.

When two of Jacks girls is found dead, he's going after the last person he saw them with, Latin Jerry...

Don't expect a normal thriller, or horror, or cop drama. Wings Hauser and Joseph Merhi has created something very odd. It's close to a black comedy, but not funny, and it borders to European arthouse... maybe, or maybe not. It's hard to describe The Art of Dying, but it's damn fine movie. I like this way of playing with conventions and genres, because it surprises me. It's a weird love song to LA, but still a slightly pessimistic view on what became of this old glamour-town. At the same time it's a satire over pretentious directors, the silly autour-myth and over those who come to LA to find fame and money.

Wings Hauser smiles in most scenes here, even when it's more dangerous stuff going on. I'm not sure if it Wings himself that showing how fun it is, or if it's Jack who actually enjoys his job so much. After seeing Wings going after women like a bloodthristy predator, it was fantastic to see him doing the opposit thing here. In smaller parts we see Sarah Douglas and the weird Michael J. Pollard, both are more extended cameos and are fun. The killers, Mitch Hara and Gary Werntz, are delicious over-the-top and playing the gay-angle both with realistic tenderness and like characters from a comic book. It's a tough job, but they made it without making it seem homophobic or cliché. 

It's also quite violent, with some minor gore and blood, for those who like that, and of course there's nudity and sex in a lot of different forms. But what stands out most is the love for LA, the freaky, sleazy, wacky LA.

In the final scene Jack and his girl is walks away, and a man in pink tangas and on rollerskates flies by into the night.

Just another day in LA, baby.


Randy Scott's Ghost said...

Great post!
THE ART OF DYING is my favorite PM production for all the reasons you state. It fits nice next to VICE SQUAD, SAVAGE STREETS, FEAR CITY, STRIPPED TO KILL and other sleazy neon street city thrillers. Wings is great as is the rest of the cast.

If you haven't already be sure to check out DARK BREED, one of PM's sci-fi actioneers. It's not sleazy and is probably safe for kids to watch but it's alot of fun with some swell production design and action set pieces.

Ninja Dixon said...

Thank you so much! :D

Have you seen the other two movies that Wings directed for PM? Coldfire and Living to Die? I'm really interested in them, after seeing this fantastic little movie.

Yeah, Dark Breed is one of my favorites! I reviewed it here somewhere on the blog. Great action and not boring for one second!

lizzardking said...

I have those to but haven´t gotten around to see them yet... Actually it´s been to long since i saw a PM movie... shame on me :(

Randy Scott's Ghost said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy Scott's Ghost said...

ND, no I haven't seen Wings other PM movies but I'm always on the lookout for 'em. The trailer for COLDFIRE on the ART disc looks great. I really should go ahead and order 'em.

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