Nude Memphis Movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens sounds like a movie with an impossible premise - aliens attack a western town and cowboys have to battle it out against flying space ships and alien laser guns. Surprisingly, the story worked out in a relatively believable fashion, more or less. But I still disliked the movie for a few very specific reasons.

Jake Lonergan, played by Daniel Craig, wakes up in the middle of the desert with no boots and only his underwear. He is also wearing a strange metal bracelet on his arm which he doesn't seem to recognize. He has no idea how he got there or who he is. Three men ride up and attack him. He defeats and kills them with surprising skill. Then he takes their clothes, guns, boots and horses and rides away to the nearest town.

Once in town, he encounters a young bully, Percy Dolarhyde, who declares that his father is the most important man in town and nobody had better get in his way or his 'pa' will be angry. Everyone cooperates with the bully except Jake Lonergan. Jake sexually assaults the bully in a decidedly cowardly and unmanly way, which was despicable instead of heroic. He could easily have punched the young idiot in the throat or headbutted him like a real man, but he didn't. He sexually assaulted him like a girl or a pervert or a perverted girl. It was at this point that I knew I wasn't going to admire or even care about this anti-hero who was the main focus of this movie.

A little further into the film it is revealed that Jake Lonergan is a wanted criminal, a dirtbag who not only robs and kills people, but who robbed his own gang for a woman whom we are told is a prostitute. What a great guy Jake Lonergan is turning out to be. As despicable as the town bully was, Jake is no better. He's actually worse.

Percy the town bully, meanwhile, accidentally shoots a deputy in the shoulder and is arrested. He immediately protests that his father, being the most important man in town, is going to be angry and fire the sheriff for the outrage of his arrest. The sheriff, played reasonably well by Keith Carradine, says he doesn't care because he is sending the boy off with federal marshals to deal with. Meanwhile, an Indian man who was with Percy Dolarhyde, yells to Percy that he's going to go tell his dad and get help. And then he rides off.

Jake Lonergan, meanwhile, goes into a bar and proceeds to drink as fast as he can. A woman who wears a dress equipped with a holster and revolver, walks in and tries to talk to Jake. She identifies herself as Ella Swenson, played by Olivia Wilde. Jake tells her to fuck off. About this time, the sheriff discovers that Jake's face is on a wanted poster in his office and that he is quite an accomplished criminal and first class dirtbag. The sheriff and his deputies proceed to arrest Jake. Jake resists, defeating them all with the same ease that he defeated the three men in the beginning of the film. And then, out of nowhere, Ella Swenson clubs Jake on the back of the head and knocks him cold.

Jake wakes up in a prison cell, adjacent to Percy Dolarhyde who is spitting on him through the bars and taunting him about the cowardly way Jake sexually assaulted him earlier that same day. Percy, being a young fool, presses up against the bars as he taunts, and Jake grabs him and jerks him backwards and then forward again, slamming his face into the bars and knocking him out. The sheriff comes in and takes both men and puts them into a prison wagon to be taken to the federal marshals. But as he does so, Percy's father, Woodrow Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford, rides up with a gang of armed men demanding that his son be let go.

Percy, meanwhile, is inside the wagon chained directly to Jake, and whining about it, before he starts shouting like a little girl to his father to get him out. Woodrow Dolarhyde sees Jake and immediately recognizes him as a piece of shit thug who robbed him of a great deal of gold. Woodrow quickly shows himself to be an unpleasant and dislikeable man who is obviously accustomed to bailing his son out of trouble and getting his way. He is the very reason that his son is the type of person that he is. Woodrow threatens the sheriff, but the sheriff won't back down and let his son go.

And then suddenly aliens ships fly up and start blowing everyone to shit. The cowboys all shoot their guns at the aliens, but it seems to have no effect. Meanwhile, the alien ships whip out long cords and grab up various people, including Percy Dolarhyde and Ella Swenson. About this point, the metal bracelet on Jake's wrist springs to life and begins shooting the alien ships, bringing one crashing down to the ground. This weapon on his wrist, whatever it is and wherever it came from, is the only thing that has any effect on the aliens.

Now Jake is upset because the hot girl, Ella, has been taken by aliens. Woodrow Dolarhyde is upset because his son has been taken. And the most important man in town, the bartender, is upset because his wife was also taken. Everyone of any importance now has reason to put aside their differences and go after the aliens. So one way or another, they do.

While riding off together after the aliens, the whole gang runs into a group of robbers who ambush them in the desert. The robbers immediately recognize Jake and declare that he is their boss. Jake has no memory of any of them or anything they're saying about him, so he tries to wing it and tells them to take him back to their camp. Back at camp, the gang of robbers has a new leader and he is not at all happy to see Jake. He pulls a gun on Jake and declares that Jake stole all their gold and gave it to some whore. So Jake kills the new boss. Then Jake, once again showing what kind of scum he is, sexually assaults the new boss' right-hand man in his now typical cowardly fashion when he could easily have flattened the man in any number of manly and admirable ways.

It was at this point that I began to wonder if the director of the film, or perhaps the writers, were all gay. Before watching "Cowboys and Aliens" I had just watched as much as I could stomach of the movie "Made of Honor", a film in which Patrick Dempsey is asked by Michelle Monaghan to be her maid of honor and he oddly agrees to do it. While watching this terrible movie, I couldn't ignore how effeminate and totally unmanly every single male character in that movie was, and how they had clearly been written by someone who doesn't know what real men are like at all, or who doesn't like men. All the scenes of man-on-man sexual violence in "Cowboys and Aliens" gave me that same feeling of something being terribly wrong with whomever was responsible for creating those scenes. They were either a woman or else they were gay, whether openly or closeted, and have serious issues.

So Jake escapes the gang and they all ride on looking for the aliens. Blah blah, the film rolls along, and as it does so it tries to transform the anti-heroes of the movie, both Jake the gay sex offender and Woodrow the former colonel and current town overlord, into sympathetic and more heroic figures whose pain we are supposed to sympathize with and thus forgive them for being total dicks all the time.

Aliens attack. Ella is hurt badly. Jake is forced to carry her, bleeding, back to camp. When he reaches camp, Ella dies. Indians attack. They throw Ella into the fire and she rises from the dead, naked. We see a brief glimpse of her bare back. This is the "nudity" the movie warns about, even as it gives no warnings about the 2 scenes of sexual violence against men we saw earlier. You can't see anything that can't be shown in television at any hour and there is no reason to warn about it. Ella then says something about not having been sure if she could repair "this body" and not being from this place. She tells the Indians she comes from a place above the stars. Then she tells Jake she believes him to be the only one who can kill the aliens. She goes on to tell the story of how the aliens came to her planet in search of gold and killed everyone there except her. She says they will do the same to the people of Earth unless Jake and his posse kill this group of aliens who are apparently just a scouting ship. She says if they kill this group of scouts, the aliens won't return.

So they go find the alien ship and there is a big scene of fighting and the aliens are slaughtering them, but suddenly they aliens seem to almost disappear and the cowboys and Indians together win and Ella heroically blows up the alien ship. And thats pretty much it. Whoopie.

Honestly, the story wasn't so terrible. It was far more believable as a movie than I had expected. But with every hero being an anti-hero and more of a villain than anything else, and the main anti-hero being such a perverted and unmanly dirtbag, I can't like this movie.

Katharine Hepburn wrote in her autobiography about the rise of the anti-hero in the 1960s and how she despised them and their low, cowardly, and decidedly unmanly tactics, even as the drug-addicted baby boomers in the film industry seemed unable to get enough of them. I agree with everything that she said. There is nothing to admire about these anti-heroes who sexually assault men and act like homeless heroin addicts from the sewers of LA. I like Daniel Craig, but I disliked almost every so-called hero in this film.

So, for the 2 totally unnecessary groin shots, I take away 1 star apiece. For both main heroes being despicable anti-heroes I take away another star. For making a seemingly impossible idea, cowboys versus aliens, seem to work, I give back a half star. In the end, all I can give this movie is 2 1/2 stars.

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