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Harvey Weinstein Renounces Earlier Renunciation of Violent Films?

Friday, September 5, 2014

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” files comes an update on heavyweight Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

As we reported in January, the movie tycoon and Obama fundraiser had, at that time, announced his intention to “make a movie with Meryl Streep” that would make the NRA “wish they weren't alive ….”  We had suggested that perhaps Weinstein was not the best person to lecture the rest of America on the evils of firearms and how he doesn’t “think we need guns in this country.”  Among other reasons, he himself has a well-armed retinue of bodyguards and has gained his fortune largely from sensationally bloody films.

Even Weinstein himself seemed to realize his limitations as an anti-gun spokesperson.  Speaking to fellow gun-ban advocate Piers Morgan on Morgan’s now-defunct CNN program, Weinstein said of those who accused him of hypocrisy, “They have a point.  You have to look in the mirror, too.”

But Weinstein went further, vowing to turn over a new leaf as a filmmaker:  “I have to choose movies that aren’t violent or as violent as they used to be,” he said.  “I know for me personally … I can’t continue to do that.  The change starts here.  It has already.  For me, I can’t do it.  I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite.”

Reporting on Weinstein’s claimed change of heart, The Guardian noted that it could well affect the highly-lucrative partnership Weinstein had forged with director Quentin Taratino, whose filmmaking is characterized by envelope-pushing violence:

Weinstein's vow to abandon over-the-top violence could signal the end of one of the longest-running and most critically successful partnerships in 21st-century Hollywood.  It would presumably preclude him from working with Quentin Tarantino, whose films Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained were all brought to the big screen by Weinstein-owned companies.

Writing on the story, a certain Hollywood blogger was more blunt in his assessment about the apparent effect of Weinstein’s alleged soul-searching and his working relationship with Tarantino:

Doesn’t that mean he and that bloated, over-praised, low-rent hillbilly known as Quentin Tarantino are pretty much done?  Is there any major Hollywood director who has demonstrated more conclusively that he’s incapable of making a film without blowing people away or roasting them alive or beating them to death with baseball bats or what-have-you?  Tarantino has never written or directed a film that deals with anything intimate or emotional or humanly vulnerable — he basically directs “covers” of ’70s exploitation-style genre films in which bad guys get killed, period. [Emphasis in original.]

Well, if Harvey Weinstein has been looking in the mirror lately, we can only imagine that what he sees looking back at him are dollar signs.  The entertainment press is abuzz this week with news that Weinstein will produce and distribute Taratino’s upcoming “post-Civil War actioner,” The Hateful Eight.

To be fair, the movie has not yet been released.  We, of course, have to at least allow for the possibility that Weinstein and Tarantino will discard their tried-and-true formula of portraying graphic onscreen carnage with stylized cool and memorably ironic soundtracks.  Perhaps their new collaboration won’t have male rape, like Pulp Fiction, or one woman gouging out another’s eye, like Kill Bill: Vol. 2, or scalpings, like Inglourious Basterds.

Then again, several critics who attended a reading of an early script for The Hateful Eight did make a point of mentioning the story’s violence [caution: spoilers].  One described the story as “profane, bloody, and darkly humorous.”  He mentioned details such as a character introduced “sitting atop a pile of dead white men in the snow and smoking a pipe” and another “describing the sexual brutality he inflicted upon [a general’s] son after the war.”  Another attendee described a climax in which one character after another meets a gruesome fate:  “Kaboom, shotgun to the gut and Tim Roth is left writhing.  His belly wound means dying will take a while.”  Yet another critic opined, “As you’d expect from Tarantino, the script is violent, bloody, laced with profanity and vomit.”  But hey, Tarantino emphasized to the audience that it was a “first draft.”  Isn’t Weinstein himself proof that things can change?

Judge for yourself, but we have our doubts.  Even if The Hateful Eight takes a more redemptive turn, Weinstein is currently producing several other projects that seem likely to be at odds with his vow to renounce exploitative movie violence.  These include Halloween III, Kill Bill: Vol. 3, and Amityville: The Awakening.

As for the movie Weinstein insisted would make NRA and the gun industry “crash and burn”?  It is said to be “in development” with no projected release date.

As we said before, we’re not here to be movie critics, and we’re not making a judgment about the potential artistic merit of violent films.  Weinstein has a First Amendment right to make any kind of movie he wants … including ones that will lead some to believe he’s a cynical, exploitative, money-grubbing hypocrite.

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