Tag Archives: police violence

Tombstone

The climactic scenes with lawmen riding at breakneck speed while firing on fleeing suspects over a family vendetta in Tombstone haven’t aged well, now that we can mostly agree that even the police don’t have the right to shoot a fleeing suspect in the back. But in my book, this Western is still a cinema classic, if only for Val Kilmer’s iconic performance as Wyatt Earp’s cardsharp friend Doc Holliday.

This poem, based on the 82nd Psalm, doesn’t have any of Val Kilmer’s magic in it. It’s just about the Earp brothers’ conflicted feelings about going into business as private security men at a saloon, in a mining town where law and order operate only at the discretion of the local outlaw gangs. In this scene, Wyatt’s brothers make their reluctant decision to resume the role of lawmen – a role they thought they’d left behind for good when they moved west to settle down together with their families.

The youngest of them stood before his brothers,
and under Wyatt’s stare he spoke his mind.
“How long can we subsist on infamy,
and smile at outlaws over decks of cards?
Women and their children live here, too.
We could stand between them and these gunmen,
we are all they need for safety’s sake.
They don’t know where to turn when we hang back,
their desperation blinds them now to hope.
Everything we’ve built here is a sham.
When I was younger, I looked up to you,
I thought you stood for something more than this.
But in the end, you’ll let them slit our throats,
for we’re as mortal as the ones they’ve killed.”
They mayor slapped his back and thanked the Earps,
for making good the writ of Tombstone’s laws.

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Filed under Acting, Corruption, Poetry, Roll Credits

L.A. Confidential

Recent headlines have come out about a sequel to L. A. Confidential with Chadwick Boseman, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce attached to it that Warner Brothers inexplicably turned down. That would’ve been a movie to remember, and a timely one, too. Nothing speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement like the script of this 1990s movie, where the longstanding hidden curriculum of police work is spelled out in black and white. Would’ve been another instant classic, but it’s just like a big studio to turn down a thought-provoking script in favor of King Kong vs. Godzilla and the like.

But at least we still have the original. And at long last, I’ve found a Psalm that captures the chemistry between Russell Crowe and Kim Bassinger in L. A. Confidential. This poem is based on the 63rd Psalm.

You would know, Lynn. I came to see you.
My throat went dry when I saw you smile,
and my skin tingles to stand near you
in this wasteful city of strangers.
Just so, in your dressed set, I saw you,
a vision – a nyad in satin.
For an act of kindness from you, I’d lay down my life.
Your name haunts my lips.
With soft curses I lay at your door
all the troubles L.A. thanks no one for.
The sight of you is an opulent feast,
and to meet your lips is a show of praise.
Yes, I am thinking of you in my work.
Through the pale night-watches I dwell on you.
For you would have tried to ease things for me,
in your tender resentments I sensed real love.
My restless body clings to yours,
for your sensuality feeds mine.
Men with hidden agendas stalk me now –
a worthless lot who will feed the worms.
The mock justice they dragged me into
will be their undoing – death on the street.
And Hollywood won’t bat an eye,
old L.A. will keep to its sultry ways,
and the lies they planned to tell will be forgotten.

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Filed under Corruption, Dream Ensemble, L.A. Confidential, Poetry

L.A. Confidential

The critically-acclaimed L.A. Confidential was a milestone in Russell Crowe’s career, marking his first Best Picture nod at the Academy Awards, of 6 and counting. (He likes to tell people he’d rather be congratulated on playing Bud White in a movie the cool kids dig, than hear fans shout “Are you entertained?!” at him across the street in public.)

It’s a film you can go back to on its 20th anniversary and still feel carried away by. His brief cameo in War Games as ‘Bob White’ feels like a tongue-in-cheek fan reference, and his slapstick hit The Nice Guys (also starring Kim Bassinger!) sometimes feels like a spoof of this Hollywood classic. (It’s hard to describe any film starring Kim Bassinger without using the word ‘classic,’ isn’t it?)

This poem, based on the 52nd Psalm, is in Jack’s voice (played by the inimitable Kevin Spacey) and addressed to newly-minted detective Ed Exley (admirably played by Guy Pearce), warning him that the finesse with which he’d snagged a big promotion would rub a lot of other police officers – and significantly, Russell Crowe’s Bud White – the wrong way.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet and are thinking about it now, be warned, it should come with trigger warnings for police violence, racially motivated police violence, and police-involved murder. This is a film that doesn’t pull any punches, and it lays the hidden curriculum in police work out on the table in plain view. I can see experts on police reform screening this film at a seminar to just talk about the implications for reformers – what sort of cultural landscape they’re up against, both in police lore and in pop culture’s reflection of it.

Sure, you can boast of the Night Owl.
But no one forgets what you’ve done.
Politics may be your forte,
but to them, you’re a back-stabbing fraud.
You want laurels, and at any price;
street justice means nothing to you.
You mince out your ten-dollar words,
and make scapegoats of men who bleed blue.
Bud White won’t rest til he’s stopped you;
he’ll beat the bushes for cause,
and he’ll root you out, badge and all.
The righteous will marvel to see it,
the rank and file cops will laugh last.
A man who forgets the blue line
cannot count on his badge in the end;
perhaps you believe in your wits,
but mere cleverness won’t save you then.
Our brotherhood shelters the bitter,
as trees shelter snakes in the grass.
One trusts in no power beyond us.
Today, we acclaim your good name:
early promise, a fine legacy.
Tomorrow, though, Bud White will see.

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Filed under Acting, Directing, L.A. Confidential, Poetry, Roll Credits