Straight To Hell (1987)
It’s the same old story: a young director helms a critical or
commercial hit and then, because he now has the clout to direct whatever he wants, foists a disastrous vanity project onto the unsuspecting public. I present to you Alex Cox. Cox was the creative mind behind the cult hit Repo Man, and in 1986 directed Sid and Nancy, one of the greatest films about rock ever made. Then came 1987, and Cox released not just one, but two of the worst movies of the decade: the dreadful historical epic Walker, and the unwatchable Straight to Hell. His career never recovered.
I would love to tell you what Straight to Hell is about, but I haven’t the foggiest idea, and I suspect, if put to the test, Cox wouldn’t be able to explain it either. We begin with a quartet of criminals played by Dick Rude, Sy Richardson, the late front man for The Clash Joe Strummer and the future Mrs. Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love (who literally screeches her entire performance). They rob a bank and takeoff in their Volkswagen Rabbit (this is important because it sets up what is probably the least funny visual running gag ever) and find themselves broken down and stranded in the desert. After they bury the loot they find a small, isolated desert community which is occupied by dozens of bizarre citizens, most of whom arrive in Rabbits (See? Continuity!).
So, what happens? Nothing. Or should I say as close nothing happens as is possible while still being considered a movie. Yes, there are actors, and they were filmed, but beyond that there is just a void. For the full run of Straight to Hell we are treated to endless scenes of all of these characters running around the dusty road, entering and exiting ramshackle buildings until a group of them stop and talk tough (the dialogue is so empty I have to wonder if there even was a script written prior to filming) before guns are drawn and fired and someone dies. This happens over and over and over and…over….and….over again.
Occasionally all of this mayhem is interrupted by a random song performance, such as the one sung by the local hot dog vendor (don’t ask) about ketchup and salsa. Also in the mix are brief cameos by the likes of Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones that add nothing except to further highlight that nobody, not even well-known stars, know what they are supposed to be doing.
The last final shot of Straight to Hell is of a truck pulling away from the town with the dead bodies of all of the
characters, although I suspect the corpses were those who were unfortunate enough to sit through a preview screening of the movie itself.
Rarely has a movie’s very title been more indicative of what it actually feels like watching it.