Review: THE LOVELESS (1982) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Review: THE LOVELESS (1982)


RATING: 2/5


Before director Kathryn Bigelow became widely recognizable with her later effort in 1987's NEAR DARK, 1991's POINT BREAK, 1995's STRANGE DAYS and of course, right down to 2009's Oscar-winning war drama THE HURT LOCKER, she made her first feature debut in a low-budget independent drama called THE LOVELESS when she was still studying in NYC as a film student. THE LOVELESS is a stylized and eccentric genre movie that pays homage to 1950s biker movies (notably Marlon Brando's THE WILD ONE) with arthouse sensibility. This movie is also notable as Willem Dafoe's first lead role.


Set in 1950s, the story centers on Vance (Dafoe), a leather-clad biker who rides into a small Southern town where he supposes to meet up with his fellow motorcycle gang at a cafe somewhere at Highway 17. Their plan is to head over to Daytona Beach for the races, but they forced to postpone for a while when one of their motorcycles breaks down. While waiting the broken motorcycle to get fixed in a nearby garage, Vance and his motorcycle gang hang around at the cafe. Along the process, Vance flirts a bit with a widowed waitress named Augusta (Liz Gans). She also hooks up with Telena (Marin Kanter), the rebellious teenage daughter of a psychotic father, Tarver (J. Don Ferguson).

THE LOVELESS is also co-directed by Monty Montgomery, who is best known for producing David Lynch's WILD AT HEART (1990). Both he and Bigelow favors a lot in fetishism (mostly close-up on leather outfit, motorcycle, chrome) that it's quite mesmerizing to watch their stylized eroticization of a '50s biker culture. Somewhere in between, you can also see Bigelow's earlier attempt in lurid direction that will later becoming one of her trademarks in her subsequent movies. Despite its low-budget standard, the visual is adequate enough for this kind of genre, while Robert Gordon's (who also appeared as an actor here, playing one of Vance's motorcycle gang member named Davis) rock soundtrack is a standout. As for Willem Dafoe, he made quite an impression playing a stoic lead character.

But most of the movie is a disappointment. Despite clocking at a brief 82 minutes, the movie can be excruciatingly tough to sit through. The pace is deliberately slow to a crawl, especially in the long-winded first hour. Here, the movie lingers in a circle as we watch the characters sit around and talk about nothing in particular. Other times we see them stare silently into space, waiting for something to happen, and all the mundane tasks that goes on and on. The purposefully-stylized dialogues, which meant to be cool, are mostly borderline into self-parody. Meanwhile, the sudden burst of violence that occurs in the final act, fails to deliver any would-be shocking impact.

Suffice to say, THE LOVELESS isn't much of a recommended effort, other than those who always curious to see how Bigelow and Dafoe get started during their early careers.

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