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The Economy of Violence

The fact that Hollywood often releases certain types of movies ‘en glut’ has led to conspiracy theories that it is manipulated by our old friend ‘dark forces’, but the truth is that this hermetic industry has always had a copycat nature. It’s just that things have sped up in tinseltown. Scripts are pirated so swiftly now that if there is one Snow White movie on the way there will soon be another hot on its heels.

The loaf that you bought this week is probably a tiny bit smaller than the one you purchased last week for the same price.

Your favourite restaurant is, even now, looking closely to see how it can reduce the cost factor on the ingredients of your favourite dish. Service people you may have known for years are, with great discretion, looking to cheat on you, just a little. They can’t afford not to.

These good people are being hit by rising prices for commodities but if they raise their prices, you, and your business, will move on. Since the onset of the great Decession we all have less disposable in our pockets and are slowly learning to be a great deal more careful about where we spend it.

I have noticed that Cinema prices don’t go down, but the violence quotient is on the up.

Those zany, eye-poking vaudeville entertainers, The Three Stooges are currently showing the kids how to do it in the latest money spinner from the Farrelly Brothers. The tough cops of The Sweeney are back, cheerfully smacking heads onto toilet seats while delivering cockney-style banter.

Everybody’s getting in on it; the hordes of old stagers in Expendables 2 are busy launching unmanned motor bikes into the windscreens of incoming helicopters and shoving villains into propeller blades, before poor old Sly Stallone is forced to watch Claude Van Damme kick a knife into the heart of his young and handsome protégé. Thompson sub-machine guns spray bullets wildly in Nick Cave’s bootlegger/30’s gangster project Lawless.

(Technical note: those nasty little blood sprays you have been seeing for the last few years every time someone gets shot or has their throat cut with a machete are CGI, and a hell of a lot cheaper than fake blood with all its messy and time-consuming implications for costume and wardrobe).

Dredd is back, fighting his way through an entire city block of drug-enhanced psychos. Old ‘I AM THE LAW’ is a creature of the seventies recession, so his return to the scene at least makes some kind of twisted sense.

The Gangster Squad (1940’s LA cops go outside the law to get their man) should have been blasting all and sundry at your local by now. Unfortunately the release has been postponed until 2013 as it contains a scene where the renegade cops open fire on an entire cinema audience with machine guns. In the wake of the recent Dark Knight Rises shootings it was thought best to hold it back.

They will not, of course, be deleting the offending scene from the film.

DKR itself masquerades as a violent movie, but, due to pressure to keep its kid-friendly rating, and its profitable marketing opportunities, the action is light on the sadism and relatively claret-free.

the next few months should see a bigger body count than World War 2

Tarantino, RZA and Eli Roth will soon be presenting the overweight bruiser Russell Crowe in a martial arts epic The Man With the Iron Fists and extreme violence hits the high school movie in Here Comes the Boom when a concerned teacher is forced to become a cage fighter in order to raise cash for his budget-slashed high school! Factor in the upcoming James Bond, Resident Evil, GI Joe, and Mortal Combat sequels and the next few months should see a bigger body count than World War 2 in the cosy confines of your local Odeon.

There is no attempt here to cheat you out of your hard earned wages. Action scenes on a grand scale do not come cheap and large amounts of wedge are invested in these cruel screen ballets. Ever alert, the Hollywood Studios had already downsized before the Decession by undercutting the power of ‘star’ actors and ‘name’ directors who were hoovering up a large slice of the profits. Paramount sent out a powerful message when it canned Tom Cruise’s lucrative contract a few years back. They now put most of the money onscreen, where it belongs.

In a conversation with the editor of this esteemed journal about this article, he mentioned that in times of hardship the movies usually go for romance and escapism. Why this seemingly orchestrated outburst of savage brutality? Why now?

Both the Aztecs and the Ancient Romans suffered from extreme bloodlust at the arse end of their respective civilisations. In his book The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius commented that Emperor Claudius (generally regarded as one of the milder Caesars) regularly watched public executions and passed a law forbidding Gladiators from wearing masks as ‘he liked to see the death agony on their faces’.

gore, body horror and cheerful sadism

Perhaps we moderns have also become desensitized to gore, body horror and cheerful sadism. As a reformed video game addict I have personally slain thousands of digital assailants without a trace of regret.

The fact that Hollywood often releases certain types of movies ‘en glut’ has led to conspiracy theories that it is manipulated by our old friend ‘dark forces’, but the truth is that this hermetic industry has always had a copycat nature. It’s just that things have sped up in tinseltown. Scripts are pirated so swiftly now that if there is one Snow White movie on the way there will soon be another hot on its heels.

The only dark force that manipulates the Studios is the smell of potential box office receipts and right now it is the New Brutalism that is filling their nostrils.

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