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DVD Review: Thursday: Unrated Director's Cut

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Thursday: Director’s Cut

Written and Directed by Skip Woods

Starring Thomas Jane, Aaron Eckhart, Paulina Porizkova, James LeGros, and Mickey Rourke

Released by Universal and USA Home Entertainment

Unrated, 87 minutes




If one combined a great ensemble cast, over-the-top and visceral acts of violence and the witty yet dark humor of “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”, stirred them all together in the belly of a modestly-budgeted independent cooking cauldron, and sprinkled it liberally with a first-time director’s best intentions, they might find themselves with a concoction not unlike Skip Woods’ Thursday (1998).


But like so many of the films of this nature that have been released in the wake of “Pulp Fiction”, after one hearty helping you might soon realize that the Tarantino-esque seasoning (and the long shadow the wunderkind auteur’s work casts) will ultimately prove too overpowering. The bones have literally been picked over and sucked dry at this point, young and new filmmakers. Try something else already.


Thursday, like many of its predecessors, tries almost too hard to be the smart and hip crime noir that “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” are. Skip Woods, writer of such awe-inspiring Hollywood fare as Swordfish, seems to have his heart and camera in the right places. All of the right ingredients are present and accounted for but the end result is yet another film that borrows heavily from but can’t quite capture the same magic and tone as its inspiration. It’s very much like looking at a completed jigsaw puzzle where all of the pieces are there but are forced into positions where they don’t properly fit; disjointed and jagged fragments jutting upwards presenting a twisted version of what should be.


The line can be traced from Thursday to Syd Field’s Screenplay and Tarantino in the film’s first five minutes, a somewhat humorous opening sequence that concludes with a bloody double homicide. The murder is senseless and unexpected but at the same time once you realize and accept the sort of fare you are taking in, it becomes strangely expected. Thursday doesn’t let up from that point on.


Thursday begins in a surprisingly sterile and spotlessly white convenience store. Nick (Aaron Eckhart, perfectly cast as the same type of smug yet charming bastard he played so well in “In The Company of Men.” Unfortunately, he’s rarely seen and completely underutilized here. A shame considering he was the main reason I picked this movie up) is being hassled by the late-night clerk, Luck Hari (who you may recognize as the waitress at Café Nervosa on NBC’s “Frasier”). The two bump heads continuously over the size and price of his coffee and then over his eligibility for a free pastry to accompany his beverage. Nick grows increasingly frustrated as every time he attempts to procure a bargain or take advantage of a special, the crafty clerk exploits a new merchandising loophole that simultaneously raises the stakes and the price of the goods on the counter. The final straw comes when Nick agrees to pay but the cashier refuses to take the only money he has, a $50 bill, because she isn’t allowed to accept anything over a $20 after 10PM. The confrontation concludes when the hapless employee is shot dead due to plain impatience on the part of Nick’s cohort, the racy Amazonian Dallas (supermodel Paulina Porizkova, sporting a high-school-styled varsity letter jacket with the word “CUNT” emblazoned in huge letters on the back). When a police officer happens by the scene, he too is killed when he notices the clerk’s life’s blood oozing from beneath the counter and under Dallas’ high-heeled sneaker/boots. This is definitely quite the opener and serves to start the movie off with a bang but there is one problem: it has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Thursday makes no more sense with or without this scene attached and it comes off feeling as though someone tacked a stand-alone short to the beginning of the piece.


Woods’ protagonist, Casey (Thomas Jane) is a hunky blonde architect living and working in a quiet idyllic Houston suburb. The technicolor lawn, white picket fence and beautiful wife (Rockville, MD’s own Paula Marshall) are all representing lovely; it appears that Casey has a picture-perfect life, the American Dream that we’ve all been sold and programmed to pursue. But upon closer inspection we see that Casey isn’t really happy at all. Casey looks uncomfortable as he picks up the morning paper in his bathrobe and unsure of himself when he exchanges pleasantries with his rotund Asian neighbor. Instead of rancid leftovers and imported beer, tofu and soymilk line the innards of his refrigerator. Casey wanders around in a daze, lost in this new existence he has fashioned for himself, one that he believes is right and for the best. But something seems to be simmering under the surface of this peaceful façade as Casey struggles to keep things interesting between he and his wife. His marriage is falling apart before his very eyes because he can’t tell his mate about his unlawful past and days of drug dealing in Los Angeles before he met her. He keeps his past improprieties shrouded in secrecy from his wife and protects them at any and all cost.


While his wife is at work, Casey receives a visit from his ex-partner in crime, Nick (Eckhart from the opener). Nick is in town claiming he has cleaned up his act and gone legit. He asks to stay with Casey for a few days and Casey reluctantly agrees. Nick borrows Casey’s station wagon to run a few last-minute business errands and leaves his luggage and briefcase under Casey’s roof and care. While Nick is actually out attempting to tie up loose ends with the drug-dealing cops he has ripped off, Casey opens his briefcase and finds bricks of heroin. After years of "getting his shit together", he is none too pleased. In fact, Casey is furious. From this point on, his Thursday will be chaos from beginning to end; his household effectively turned upside down by the ensuing turn of events.


As Nick goes about carrying out his plans, Casey is visited by character after colorful character; enemies and former allies alike that Nick has double-crossed, all looking for the drugs and money that they know Nick has in his possession. Unfortunately for Casey, in a fit of rage, he put every milligram of the dope in his garbage disposal.


Among the rogues who show up on the transplanted suburbanite’s doorstep: a pizza-delivering rasta with musical aspirations (Glenn Plummer), the hyper-sexual and red rubber dress-wearing former partner of Nick, Dallas (Porizkova), Nick’s other partner, the fast-talking master of various forms of torture, Billy Hill (James LeGros), a slimy leatherfaced corrupt cop, Kasarov (Mickey Rourke) and a buttoned-down adoption agency psychologist, Dr. Jarvis (Michael Jeter). Casey and his wife are planning to adopt a child and Casey’s one-on-one evaluation happens to be today. Casey is forced to call upon all of his old tendencies, murderous ways and cutthroat instincts to survive the day and dispatch each visitor. However, insisting on adhering to his new moral code, he finds an often-humorous way to subdue them and goes about his dealings in a violent yet non-lethal manner.


Woods attempts to deftly juxtapose the moments of extreme violence with the moments of black comedy ala “Pulp Fiction” and throws in garish, gritty and grainy flashbacks of Casey’s criminal past, including the incident that convinced him to call it quits. Casey is a complex and sympathetic character whom Jane plays with great skill, but he still remains an empty cliché we’ve all seen a thousand times before. Their past transgressions and sins never remain buried and come to light at the most inopportune of times. Woods apparently believes that using this tried-and-true formula against a backdrop of sex, drugs, murder and his heavy-handed indictment of stereotypical suburban married life will elicit chuckles. At times it does, but not enough to make up for the thin “reformed convict” plot device. Thursday suffers because it lacks substance and instead chooses to be long on shock value and generous with its body count. It’s simply not funny when a characters head is blown off in Thursday, leaving chunks of blood and brains strewn about (like Travolta accidentally shooting ‘Marvin’ in “Pulp Fiction”). Here it is done just for the sake of doing it and it is just disarming and gross. This happens far too many times; where the story goes for a laugh and instead gets a gasp.


“It’s pretty hard to offend me but a film named “Thursday” crossed the line at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month,” says Roger Ebert. “Watching it, I felt outrage. I saw a movie so reprehensible I couldn’t rationalize it using the standard critical language about style, genre or irony. The people associated with it should be ashamed of themselves.”


I wouldn’t say I was that offended and I tended to enjoy everyone’s individual performances (especially Porizkova as the slutty and uninhibited Dallas). If Thursday is truly guilty of anything it would be being shockingly dark and ultra-violent but just as equally flawed and unoriginal.




O.R. Polk, Jr.

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