Friday, June 5, 2009
Degrees of Cool (II)
It's always time to hold one's breath whenever David Edelstein offers one of his ostensibly sympathetic yet invariably tin-eared "dedications" to an artist's passing (Heath Ledger, Anthony Minghella). Yet while the conflicting reports surrounding David Carradine's death would seem to give David E.'s gossipy smugness an opening, he resists admirably: "No matter how it turns out, I’ll try to think of David Carradine going out like Bill in Kill Bill: quietly accepting the absurdity of his fate, making himself presentable, getting centered, and walking tall into he knows not what." I concur: Carradine was wonderful in Vol. 2 of Tarantino's opus -- which Charles Taylor characterized, oddly yet succinctly, as a comedy about fidelity, "of people who can't get free of each other emotionally and do so only knowing they are entailing great regret" -- had great chemistry with Uma Thurman, and uttered more dialogue in the final thirty minutes than every episode of Kung Fu combined. He's also quite good as Cole Younger in The Long Riders, Walter Hill's 1979 western with the gimmicky hook of real-life brothers cast as the siblings in Jesse James's outlaw gang. (Keith and Robert Carradine play the younger Youngers, James and Stacy Keach are the Jameses, Randy and Dennis Quaid the Millers, and Christopher and Nicholas Guest pop up as the Fords.) It's a story told countless times before, but Hill's customary passion for moviemaking gives the images a feverish poetry, offset nicely by Carradine's unflappable cool and rapport (again) with his leading lady, a spikey Pamela Reed. Not a great actor, but an icon who will be missed.