Saturday, April 23, 2011

Politics at the Movies: Rutger Hauer Goes Feminist

Partners in Crime offers that unusual experience:  Politics underlies its script and characters, but Art triumphs here, even hauling political correctness.  Released in 2000, this film begins with a timeless sequence: a snow-covered rural landscape saddled with an abandoned vehicle.

The setting asks the question which the movie will resolve.  Who abandoned this vehicle on his mysterious quest through life?  The director of this work knows exactly how to engineer the cinematic experience, with not a scene wasted on excessive rhetoric or red herrings.
A body emerges later, AFTER the audience absorbs its meaning.  Following the critical theory of Edgar Allan Poe, that master of mania, the killer stands before us all along, unrecognized and apparently guileless.  Viewers can watch this film repeatedly, and still be seeking giveaways.
Rutger Hauer bestrides this movie like the poor schlep’s John Wayne.  Outspoken and macho, he confesses early on that his “personality” has crippled his law enforcement career.  Too forthright for administrative positions, and too astute for gumshoe plodding, Hauer captures Everyman’s Wannabe.
Hauling his past around has left him cynical but not bitter—no small achievement for a man whose dream career landed in his ex-wife’s lap like the proverbial bowl of cherries.  Both applied to be FBI agents, but only one stayed home to become a dedicated family man.
He could have ended up hating women, accusing them of stealing his birthright.  He doesn’t.  He could have ended up resenting his daughter, the legacy of a second go-round on the marriage circuit.  He doesn’t.  Instead, he dives headfirst into loving that child like the most important man in her life.
His ego suffers a knock-down nonetheless.  Twice now, women abandoned him to appear the inveterate loser.  Yet not once does this word escape his manly lips.  He plays the Chinese waiter to his daughter’s amusement in a scene which deserves trailer status.  No failures can kill his joie de vivre.
Encountering his first ex-wife as a superior in the professional environment tests his equanimity to the limits.  Will he stalk off, wounded beyond endurance?  Will he refuse to cooperate and dump the responsibility she sought completely in her unaided jurisdiction?  At every step of decision, the audience senses his deliberation.
“So, do you have any kids?” his ex-wife asks, delivering the turning point in the movie’s plot.  Obviously, if she’s gadding about on FBI assignments, she wouldn’t have been home long enough to foster an heir to a failed marriage.  Miraculously, the man of the house has produced this phenomenon without a petri dish.
Even while sewing—mending his errant life—the macho Hauer tucks into domesticity, without missing a beat.  Reading to his daughter demonstrates his faithfulness to his nightly duties.  No one can miss this fact, though:  Hauer’s character does what he enjoys, and he enjoys being a good man and father.
Will he mend more than laundry?  This film keeps the audience wondering and wishing until the last lovely minute.  Credibility is never at stake here.  Love is.    

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