A tale of greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia enforcer and a casino executive, compete against each other over a gambling empire, and over a fast living and fast loving socialite.
A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
Robert De Niro,
Michael, Steven and Nick are young factory workers from Pennsylvania who enlist into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Before they go, Steven marries the pregnant Angela, and their wedding party also serves as the men's farewell party. After some time and many horrors, the three friends fall in the hands of the Vietcong and are brought to a prison camp in which they are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Michael makes it possible for them to escape, but they soon get separated again.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
I'm a big DeNiro fan and since The Deer Hunter is a Best Picture winner as well as a DeNiro flick, I thought I'd enjoy it. I did, sort of. It definitely could have been better.
In particular, the infamous wedding scene. I have no problem with long scenes: I'm a Tarkovsky fan. But they must have a point, either character development, or else setting a mood. As I see it, the wedding scene did neither. It could have been cut much shorter without losing any of its effect, and that time could have been used to give greater insight into the life of the town and the relationships between Walken, DeNiro, Streep et al.
So the wedding finally ends, and almost instantly we're plunged into Vietnam and into "the scene." I didn't clock it, but I would bet that the wedding lasted almost as long or longer than their entire actual war experience. What was Cimino thinking? He was obviously striving for some sort of jarring contrast, but it didn't work at all. It just seemed sloppy to me. It was like a B-grade Coppola ripoff followed by something from an entirely different film, like Cimino had been watching TV and changed channels while taping. I understand that that was the point. It just wasn't done well.
Then the rest of the film is based on the trauma of Vietnam and how this affected the characters. That's fine, but it's built on just one scene. It's a tribute to "the scene" that this works at all. It is very poor writing and editing though in my opinion.
The remainder of the film is enjoyable, though ponderous at times, particularly the hunting scene. I did appreciate the treatment of DeNiro coming home. Excellent understatement. Just showing him having conversations with his friends, asking how they're doing, and having them say Oh same as always was fantastic. It wasn't sententious or melodramatic. Kudos on that.
The Deer Hunter seems like a half-finished sculpture. There are beautifully chiselled sections broken up by large chunks of untouched rock. The effect is very uneven. I guess the best way to sum it up is inconsistently poignant.
While The Deer Hunter is a solid film, it's not the best Vietnam movie, as it can't compare to the inexorable emotional intensity of Apocalypse Now, nor am I certain it was even the best movie of its year.
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