Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
My Father, Die: Southern Exploitation for People Who Hate the South
is only due to the influence of his father that Asher Rawlings is the man he is
today: a psychosomatically deaf-mute introvert. However, he harbors ambitions
of becoming a patricidal killer. It would be an improvement. Revenge comes deep
fried in Sean Brosnan’s grubby My Father,
here) which opens this Friday in New York.
MFD opens with an
ultra-stylized flashback that shows us how Rawlings’ dysfunctional family ran
fatally off the rails. To teach him the birds-and-the-bees, his older brother
Chester sets him up to peep while he pays a call on Nana. She is roughly
Chester’s age, but their Neanderthal father Ivan stills considers her his exclusive
sexual property. Therefore, the biker father logically murders Chester and
beats the snot out Asher when he barges into their rendezvous.
years later, the old man is released due to prison over-crowding, leading Rawlings
to understandably freak out. Resolving the best defense is a good offense, Rawlings
saws off a shotgun and heads out to kill his father like the rabid dog he is.
Thanks to a violent encounter with Ivan’s old pal Tank, Rawlings gets the drop
on him in his scumbag motel. However, he ill-advisedly assumes the battered Ivan
is dead. You know what assuming does. Thus, Rawlings’ grudge match becomes a
MFD probably sounds considerably more
fun than it really is. Tonally, it is a bizarre mishmash, over-reliant on
black-and-white flashbacks and ponderous narration recorded in Rawlings’
prepubescent, pre-tragedy voice. They are played so achingly self-serious, it
makes you wonder if they were intended to parody pretentious indie films. Needless
to say, if viewers can’t tell if considerable portions of MFD were meant to be satire that’s a problem.
oozing contempt for the South also gets old quickly. Whether it is white power
bikers or tent revival evangelists who secretly visit pornographic webchats
wearing an S&M hood, his vision of Southern men is gothic in the extreme.
How would Brosnan (son of Pierce) like it if Southern Evangelical filmmakers
made a film in Ireland, portraying the Irish as nothing but drunks and
terrorists? Obviously, that would be grossly unjust, but it would be about as
fair as the treatment dispensed in MFD.
English Joe Anderson spends most of his time as “adult” Asher wearing shades
and his late brother’s raccoon skin hat, it is hard to connect with the
character and the performance. At least former Merseyside-born boxer Gary
Stretch is impressively fierce as the dad from Hell. As Tank, Kevin Gage (from
Wisconsin—technically not the South either, but much closer) chews the scenery
and howls in pain with gusto.
So, what about that comma between “father” and “die?”
Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. Its better off without it. Awkward
title syntax just seems to generate bad karma. As it is, MFD is already too scuzzy in the wrong, non-retro sort of way. By
refusing to fully embrace the payback genre and the bayou milieu, Brosnan
ultimately sabotages his own attempt at neo-Southern exploitation. Not
recommended, My Father Die opens this
Friday (1/20) in New York, at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Exploitation films, Southern Cinema