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Calling Sergeant Roger Murtaugh

If nothing else, Anne Rice taught us that vampires are sexy, and that sucking, licking, and drinking blood is a particularly good form of oral sex. This leads me to some of the feelings of disappointment I felt while watching Lethal Weapon 5 tonight.

There is plenty of blood, and due to its connection to virginal sex, menstruation, and birth, I would have expected a higher level of eroticism in the film. Unfortunately, with the exception of one or two vampiric moments, we are left with forced and stagnant fetish scenes, particularly in connection with BDSM and feet.

Regarding blood, after the first letting of the fluid, Mary2 get on their knees and wipe it up, but clearly there are pools of it available, silky, smooth, and glistening, but we are not allowed a single shot of tongue touching stone. For all of the “eat of my flesh, drink of my blood” talk, this moment comes across as especially sacrilegious, for both scraps of skin and muscle as well as blood cover the square. Only at the end do we have Mary approach and kiss some blood from Riggs’ toes (again the foot fetish), and all we are left with is a little blood on her lips. I contrast this with Lestat letting Louis suck on his wrist, and not just a drop. One could even cite Anne Bishop’s Saetan, Janelle, and Daemon, who willingly shed blood for one another. I thoroughly expected the main character to rise from the grave at the end, for this is what his type of beings do, but a film like this needs to tell us more about those who have shared his blood—are these the type of vampires that achieve immortality only after being drained and touching the brink of the abyss? or are they the type more easily converted? Thus, as a vampire movie I think the script and editing are a real let-down.

In addition to the foot fetish scene mentioned above, we also have the bathing of feet (distinctly homo-erotic, but rather passive and languid in mood), and younger Mary reaching for the protagonist’s foot during a stoning session. The subtlety is greater here than elsewhere in the film, for there is little release (contrast this with Shinjii’s masturbation scene at the beginning of End of Evangelion), but I will side here with the critics who point out that often such fetishes are less about having, and more about observing and wanting (thus, for example, few foot fetishists resort to amputations to procure the objects of their desire). This is exemplified in Mary’s scene, where she only manages to stretch her hand and fingers for the sandaled foot, but it remains an object out of reach.

So it is that the film’s greatest potential lies in its bondage and sadism scenes, but even here the execution is all wrong, the blame for which rests squarely on the shoulders of the editors and the director. For some bondage is a practice, for others more a fantasy, but the film leaves little to the imagination; in this age of lowered standards and computer generated effects, the wisdom of Classic Hollywood has been ignored—what is not shown is often sexier, more erotic, and more tempting than full exposure. This emphasis on the money-shot (and in a sense this movie provides several) is indicative of a culture obsessed with quick-fixes and instant gratification. Similarly such fetishes often rely on a level of role-reversal, but here the heavily muscled soldiers administer all of the so-called “punishment” to a much weaker male; a genre-appropriate act would have been to co-opt Claudia or one of the Marys to take over the whipping (adding a mixture of shame, as well, a common component in many sexual fascinations). By the end of the beatings that the main character receives, the audience is numb and flaccid—hardly a satisfactory state of affairs.

This overbearing lack of subtlety, as evidenced especially in the BDSM scenes, spills over into the music, which is likewise heavy-handed and lacking in variation. It was once said of Wagner that his music consisted of stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of genius, but here those moments of genius are lacking completely. With the exception of seveal extreme-angle shots (e.g. Mary’s hand-foot scene, above), the photography is at best workmanlike, the characters flat and stereotypical, and many of the scenes themselves cribbed from other sources (the post-death scene where Mary holds Riggs reminded me of several paintings and statues I had seen). Similarly the costuming will win no awards, though dressing the clerics and Romans like drag-queens should raise a few eyebrows and draw criticism.

All-in-all I consider this a freshman effort, and the director is not without talent. With better developed characters, a script that is not so flat, and a better mastery of technical aspects of film-making I suspect his future projects could show some artistry. The lack of suspence and the monotone nature of the emotions presented make the film unengaging and non-arousing, but those looking for a quick bloody thrill will find buckets of blood to whet their appetite. Peter Jackson, take note!.

—March 4, 2004