Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049: "There's not as much there as you think"

Last year Denis Villeneuve made Arrival, which was probably my favourite movie of the year; there were a couple I enjoyed more, but Arrival is the one which I’d feel happy recommending to absolutely anyone, without knowing what kind of movie they liked. So Villeneuve directing a sequel to Blade Runner carried me right past “why the hell would anyone want to do that?” and into “you know what? That might just work.” 

Well, maybe. Famously the original tanked at the box office and got recut about five times, so it’s probably best to stick a pin in my first impressions and see how the revisionism goes.

Still. It’s long. It’s slow. It’s not very focused  - well, everything’s IN focus, because Roger Deakins. It’s got Jared Leto in it (Ryan Gosling won big time here by not having to share any screen time with Leto, who seems to have been at full-on creepy form for the fortnight he spent on a soundstage in Hungary; sure, Ryan got punched in the mouth and relentlessly mocked by Harrison Ford, but at least he didn’t have to put up with Jared Leto). It’s great looking without having the sheer novel punch of the original. It’s full of important themes, but at the same time it’s kind of full of itself about how it’s messing with important themes. As Mackenzie David’s Mariette says “I've been inside you, and there's not as much there as you think.” 

It probably wouldn’t have been so long if it could have picked a plot and stuck with it. There’s a perfectly serviceable plot about Ryan Gosling’s officer K and his alienated relationship with a computer simulation. K’s a replicant, and he’s in love with something even more artificial than he is. That’s a perfectly good movie right there, and a good place to jump off if you want to spend a whole movie brooding on the nature of humanity and identity. Sadly, that’s just the B plot. The A plot is all about finding the mysterious child of Deckard and Rachel from the first movie, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the mysterious child (who would be at least half replicant depending on your position on the whole Deckard question) is going to be leader of a fresh replicant revolution. Oh, no, it’s the end of the world. Again.

Because Blade Runner 2049 has loads of the end of the world already. In the thirty years since we checked in with Rick Deckard, things have got worse. The world’s food supply has collapsed, people have been chucking nukes around, trees are so gone that wood is worth a fortune, and weather is available in original “continuous rain” and new “permanent dust storm” and “snow? How is it snowing?” The weird thing is that after a while it just gets in the way.

Watching Villeneuve and Deakins layer on more and more detail to their world, I realised how economical Blade Runner was. It’s wet, tight, urban and claustrophobic. There’s a consistent background which tells us enough about the world and then the characters just get on with it. The background doesn’t become the foreground, no matter how impressive and immersive it gets. In 2049 minutes go by just looking at stuff. And it’s the exact opposite of immersive. At one point, K trips over a bunch of beehives, full of bees. There isn’t a scrap of green, let alone any flowers, for as far as the eye can see. What are those bees living off? Villeneuve wanted a shot with a beehive, so that K could stick his hand it and get covered in bees. Whether it made any sense or not. But because the movie is sleepwalking, I had all the time I needed to figure out how dumb this was, while it was - happening doesn’t even feel like the right word.

So there it is. A good looking movie, which I went I wanting to like. It’s well acted, by a whole swathe of good performers. Gosling is excellent. K doesn’t make a button of sense, but Gosling somehow still makes him feel like a person. Ford is the same old grumpy Ford he’s been for the last ten or so movies. Robin Wright is great, as usual. Mackenzie Davis continues to be an overlooked treasure; all I can do is hope that with Halt and Catch Fire winding down she’ll start getting more chances to break hearts without saying a single word. And there are three more women in completely schematic roles who I’ve never seen before and hope I see again; Ana de Armas, Sylivia Hoeks and Carla Juri are playing walking plot points and they rise above the writing to give you people who feel real. How can all that be happening and somehow I’m not happy?

I don’t know. But I can’t help thinking that if this goes into the same cycle of re-cuts as the original, what comes out of it will have a lot less scenery and a lot more acting.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle; he was dead, but he got better

We hold some truths self evident; if you’ve got a mini-gun and it isn’t the first thing you use to solve your problem, you shouldn’t have brought it. This struck me in the first few minutes of The Golden Circle, when the baddie’s henchmen butt into a fist fight with three mini-guns. Nothing’s made much sense up to then - and nothing’s going to make much sense afterwards either - but that felt joltingly dumb. Just when the movie was trying to overwhelm me with sensation, it was jolting me out of the moment.

Kingsman was a vaguely enjoyable mess with all sorts of good performances thrown almost randomly into a script which couldn’t decide if it was satirising the class system or glorifying it. I remember saying that Colin Firth was great and that I’d been hoping that the entire Kingsman organisation would be wiped out to make room for social workers.

On that front I have great news. The Kingsman organisation is wiped out to the last man, pretty much, and at no extra charge, Colin Firth is back from the dead. On the one hand, Colin Firth was the single best thing in the first movie even though he wasn’t even trying and had exactly one tone the whole way through. On the other hand, he’s still the single best thing in the second movie, but this time he’s actually got something worth his time. There’s a whole, legitimately good, movie they could have made about Colin Firth’s character coming back from the dead, and Colin gives us a pretty good taster for it. I have to say that it would be scientific bullshit, because amnesia after head trauma doesn’t work the way movies would like it to, but with Firth selling the bullshit, it would have been something to see. As it is, we get a few minutes of real pathos as we see him knocked back to the happier person he could have been if he’d never joined the Kingsmen, and it starts to sink in that the only way forward for the plot is for this gentle, slightly bewildered person to be swept aside. As if that weren’t enough, he’s hallucinating butterflies all the time, and it’s genuinely beautiful and immersive in a way that most of the stunts just aren’t.

So, lots of good Firth in there, and a nagging sense that if they’d bothered, they could have made a good movie. Then you look at the rest of the cast; five Oscar winners in total, and poor old Taron Egerton gamely hanging on in there trying to be a real boy while everyone else coasts. Halle Berry is there and I swear she worked harder when she was playing Catwoman. Channing Tatum shows up for just long enough to register and then gets put in a fridge before he gets in a single action scene. Michael Gambon is there, and on and on it goes. There’s a lot of great actors on screen and yet Elton John, of all people, is given more to do than most of the big names.

And man, the tone is all over the place. On the one hand, Eggsy’s actually making a go of a relationship with the Swedish princess who looked like random Bond-babery at the end of the first movie. On the other hand, I stopped counting how many different callbacks they had for the anal sex joke from the first movie (including Elton’s cheery offer to give Colin Firth “a back-stage pass” if he saves the world). It was like they had Liam Neeson’s cop from The Lego Movie writing the script and they just kept everything from both sides of the head. Half the time they’re being sweet and decent and the other half they’re being horrible, and none of it makes any logical sense.

Which leads me, as though by magic, to the plot. Which is stupider than the plot in the first movie; briefly, so that it doesn’t hurt too much, Julianne Moore’s Poppy the drug smuggler has somehow taken over the whole world’s illegal drug supply, and has contaminated it with a completely ridiculous lethal virus so that she can hold the world to ransom. She’ll hand over the antidote if the US President makes drugs legal. The President, bless him, thinks this is the best deal ever; all he has to do is play along until every drug user in the world is dead from the virus and hey presto, the war on drugs is over. Yes, the US President is horrible. I don’t know where anyone could have come with an idea like that.

So many logistical problems. The US is somehow able to quarantine all the infected in football stadiums full of individual cages stacked hundreds of feet in the air. Where were they keeping all these cages up until then? How has society not completely collapsed with that many people dying on their feet out of nowhere? How is TV even working if all the drug addicts are dying in cages?

And then there’s Poppy’s business, which she’s running out of a hideous cross between American Graffiti and Apocalypse Now, except with robots. It’s never clear how Poppy has all these robots or how she can get deliveries that far into the jungle, but long before you start worrying about that, there’s the fun of wondering how she keeps her help and isn’t in jail. The first henchman we meet gets stuck in a meat mincer - by the second henchman we meet - after about four minutes. Bonus, it’s a meat mincer which can somehow separate all his clothes along the way so that the meat which comes out - and gets turned into a burger that henchman two is forced to eat - doesn’t have strings of blue fabric running all the way through it. This is the kind of thing which really gets in the way of employee retention. Then there’s the employee makeover plan, where everyone gets their fingerprints lasered off and their teeth ground smooth to make them harder to identify before being given a solid gold tattoo which makes it trivial to identify them as member of the Golden Circle. Poppy’s notions on management would see her in a meat mincer some time during the second week, and not head first either.

Then there’s the virus, with its improbably instant cure being flown in by drones at the drop of a hat, leaving me wondering how the drones would know where the infected were. Just too many problems.

Amazingly, the version is theatres is eighty minutes shorter than the initial cut, which boggles my mind. Is it eighty extra minutes of Colin Firth being noble and Eggsy being thick but sweet, or is it eighty minutes of queasy sex jokes and nihilism? Or forty minutes of each? Or cut scenes which explain away all the logistics problems? With anyone else, you could at least guess, but with this team, who knows?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Victoria and Abdul; some of this really happened

About a week after I saw Victoria and Abdul I was asked what it was like and said “No battles, and I don’t think that ANY of the uniforms were authentic.” Which does as a review for a certain kind of audience, but the movie isn’t really aimed at wargamers.

I’m not sure who it is aimed at, other than people who like Judy Dench in Mrs Brown and wanted a second bite at the cherry. Cue this, which is stuffed full of good actors giving good performances without me being able to arrive at any clue about what they were trying to achieve. Make Victoria’s court look like a shower of creeps? Definitely managed that. Call the Raj into question? Are we still in doubt about that? Make Victoria look like someone who didn’t realise what was happening in the Raj? Yes, that comes across, but it’s slightly hard to believe that Victoria was quite that clueless about the biggest part of the Empire. 

Mostly, though, it’s a confusing movie, because nothing changes and no-one gets any older, so that the whole Abdul deal looks like it unfolded over the course of a couple of years in Victoria’s dotage. In reality, Abdul came over for Victoria’s golden jubilee, and was part of the Royal Household for fourteen years. Ali Fazal doesn’t age a day from one end of the movie to the other, which given how dreamy he looks straight out of the box is a completely understandable decision, but it makes the movie more or less silly as a story. It also passes up the opportunity to tell the real story, which seems to have boiled down to a wily Indian self-promoter doggedly outlasting the pettiness of a whole building full of equally wily English self-promoters. Instead Abdul Karim is shown as a wide-eyed innocent charming the Queen while being almost oblivious of the malice of the English Court. It makes for a simple story of evil aristos stomping lovable exotics, but it’s not what happened and it’s not even the story which today’s audience really needs to hear.

As it stands, Victoria and Abdul is a condescending fantasy about how the Raj was really the best thing which could have happened to the child-like Indians; sure, the movie’s full of petty English villains (none more villain-y than Eddie Izzard’s Bertie, the royal it’s been OK to hate through most of my adult life), but the order of things is never questioned. There’s nothing wrong with having aristos running things, just that these ones weren’t very nice. Maybe it’s just a cheering story for the times we live in, where much of England is harking back to the empire and most of it is in a permanent state of panic about dusky islamists showing up and disrupting things. Certainly Victoria and Abdul isn’t going to put any of that audience off their kedgeree.

What’s annoying is that there’s a stealth version of the right movie hidden in Adeel Akhtar’s Mohammed, Abdul’s doomed comedy sidekick. England literally kills him, and along the way he treats us to a bitter commentary on the Raj and everything wrong with it before succumbing off screen to Hollywood coughing-up-blood disease. We should have had a lot more of Adeel Akhtar, not least because he’s a very good actor.

Logan Lucky; Soderbergh is back, baby

Logan Lucky is one of the most straightforwardly enjoyable movies I’ve seen all year. Soderbergh went to unheard of lengths to keep all the control of the movie to himself, selling off just about every right other than the profit from cinema screenings so as to keep the final cut. That’s how far you to have to go now to make a movie that looks just like the kind of movie they don’t make any more, a simple caper movie of the sort that got churned out every week when I was a kid.

Of course, it was never that easy to make a good caper movie. Most of them have too much caper and not enough to care about. Logan Lucky works because Soderbergh got himself a talented cast. Channing Tatum once again took me by surprise with Logan himself, a guy who looks far too dumb to plan anything much beyond Netflix and Chill, but turns out to be a patient canny plotter who faithfully follows every step of his ten step plan. And unlike Chris Pine’s bank robber from Hell and High Water, Logan’s likeable all the way through and has a plan where no-one really loses, except for the diffuse cloud of people whose insurance premiums went up a little after the Motor Speedway claimed back their losses.

It’s a cheerfully ramshackle plot, and Logan’s sad sack brother painstakingly explains how unlucky the entire Logan family has been for generations, so most half-awake viewers will sit there waiting for everything to go calamitously wrong. The first hint that it won’t go that way is that the plan is never really explained. The first law of caper is that if you hear the plan, it will fail. If you don’t hear the plan, it will probably go fine. That’s just good story telling, which is about trying to surprise the viewer. If you get told the plan, there’s no surprise when things unfold according to it. 

Once things do unfold, it’s all very satisfying. All kinds of apparent mis-steps turn out to have been very clever misdirection. And nothing goes to waste; every single little nagging worry is sorted out before the credits.

Except for one. In a shout out to the ending of Ocean’s 11, Hilary Swank’s FBI agent shows up at the last moment, just as everyone thinks they’ve got away with it. I really hope there isn’t going to be some kind of Ocean’s 12 to wreck all the good will from this one.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Wind River: Men are the worst

Wind River is a movie I went to on the strength of the writer. It was Taylor Sheridan’s first chance to direct one of his own scripts, and I’d been impressed by both Sicario and Hell or High Water. The buzz I was seeing in reviews was that Sheridan wasn’t ready to direct, but what I took away was that he’s more or less OK at that, but that I’m getting tired of his writing. Specifically, I’m getting tired of his men.

Lets recap briefly. Sicario is a pretty good movie about the way that men are toxic and use violence to make things worse while pushing women off to the margins. Hell or High Water is a pretty need modern western about how bank robbers are still jerks no matter how much you think banks are the worst, and yep, it runs on the engine that men are toxic and violent.

Which is why Wind River really started to hack me off after a while, despite a solid cast. Jeremy Renner is almost scarily good at playing toxic men, but in Wind River he’s practically set up as the only person in the movie who’s got his act together. He really doesn’t, but the pacing and the staging would make a lot of people think, sure it’s fine to be toxic as long as you’re reflective and in touch with your emotions. The person I found truly admirable was Gil Birmingham’s world weary reservation police chief, whose “This thing is practically solving itself.” was true to both his character and the agressive simple-mindedness of the plot. There’s no complex murder mystery here; the obvious suspects are the bad guys, and the only mystery is how the hell they thought that they were going to get away with it.

The reality is that they had one pretty good reason to think they were going to get away with it; they were white guys on an Indian reservation and they killed an Indian. Reservations don’t have the resources to police themselves properly, and the US government rules on what the tribal police can and can’t investigate when outsiders come onto the reservation mean that there’s practical impunity for outsiders in the empty spaces Indians have been herded into. All this ugliness is hinted at in the script and the playing, but I don’t know that hinting is enough. 

Two other things bothered me even more. One is that once again Sheridan’s given us a plot in which a woman is trying to do her best to make the right thing happen, and gets sidelined by men. Elizabeth Olsen’s FBI agent is brave and committed, but in the end she’s overwhelmed by events and has to be rescued by a manly man. Up until then, she was a fascinating mess in some ways. I thought she was an idiot to go into an unknown building with a violent clown in it who’d just half-blinded her with pepper spray so that she couldn’t even see where she was going, but I admired her commitment to putting him down, particularly the bit about how you keep shooting at the hostile until you can’t hear any shots coming back. But all her efforts come to nothing; at the climax of the movie, she tries to keep the peace and it still turns into a massacre.

Which leads into a puzzle; by the time Jeremy Renner’s schwacked the last of the bad guys, there’s no-one left alive to explain what the hell happened, but the whole cast carries on as though they’ve seen the flashback the audience gets. That’s just lazy. I think we’re supposed to understand that Jeremy Renner, magical hunter, has figured it all out by reading tracks and everyone just takes his word for it.

Which leads me to the thing which bothered me most. Sheridan’s exercised, and rightly, by the way that Native Americans are being treated right now in the USA. Which makes it grate that the hero of the hour is Jeremy Renner’s white guy who married into the tribe. And is practically a magical Indian with his tracking skills and stoicism and discount Patrick Swayze aphorisms. Men are terrible. White men are particularly terrible. They treat women and minorities like dirt. Fine. That’s all true. But if it really bothers you, then stop treating them like Homer Simpson treats beer. You can’t call them the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. Not if you want the victims to believe they can stand up and face them down.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

American Made: something we haven't seen before

I find Tom Cruise confusing, since he does his most interesting work when he plays assholes, but I don’t know if he thinks he’s acting in those moments. And it’s not like he picks movies specifically so that he can be an asshole in them, with the possible exception of the deliberate cartoon in Tropic Thunder which I’ve always assumed was some kind of in-joke payback against a producer he knew and hated. For all I know, Tom thought he was the hero in Edge of Tomorrow, when by far his best contribution to the movie was being a weasel.

Something similar is in play in American Made, a movie where Tom Cruise plays a superficially charming man who flies guns and drugs for the CIA, the contras and the Medellin cartel. This is not a job where anyone with even a sketchy understanding of right and wrong could possibly think he’s the hero, yet the whole thing’s set up to make Barry Seal a breezy, fun guy to be with, just trying to scrape by as he makes millions ferrying death in all directions for people who’ve killed more people than ebola.

At some level, you know that this is nonsense, even before you take some time after the movie to read up on the real Barry Seal, who seems to have been a much bigger jerk than the movie version. For example, he didn’t walk off the job with TWA because he was bored, but because they fired him after he got arrested on the edges of a conspiracy to smuggle explosives to anti-Castro Cubans. Sure, everyone’s got a story to tell in their own minds about how they’re nice guys really, and if they weren’t doing it someone else would be, but that only works for them, because they need it to work for them if they’re going to be able to live with themselves. It’s not going to work for anyone watching from the outside.

And a truthful movie could have been made about that contradiction, with Cruise being a perfectly credible weasel; he can do weasels. But Cruise’s Seal is a likeable schmuck. He muddles through almost everything except flying. Half the time he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and the rest of the time he does it anyway and gets it wrong. And it’s fun; he’s an engaging enough person, and it rings true that he grins and blusters his way out of scrape after scrape.

Right up until he doesn’t. There’s a moment about half way through the movie when you see something which we’ve never seen in a Cruise movie before; a missing tooth. That perfect, not-quite-symmetrical, grin gets a gap put into it. For ten minutes, there’s a little black space there as Cruise struggles with everything falling apart; then everything magically starts coming back together again for him, and somewhere off screen he gets to the dentist, and it’s back to shucking and jiving for another hour and a bit, and then the chickens REALLY come home to roost.

And Tom gets shot. Dead. This is not quite as novel as his teeth not being absolutely perfect, but usually Tom can walk off being shot dead. I’ve lost count of his moments of resurrection at this stage. This time, Tom stays resolutely dead. Which pretty much comes out of nowhere. We never see the cartel or the contras at their business; all the deaths [1] have been airbrushed out of the wacky action, making it easy for us to pretend that this is all harmless. Then boom. 

At the time my main thought was “Well, that was mood whiplash.” Happy clappy fun movie about drug smuggling, and then downer ending as our narrator gets killed. Did not see that coming. But there’s a weirder angle to it when I brood on it a bit. We’re given just one death that really matters, and it’s the star. And it’s carefully choreographed to be a martyrdom, almost an act of nobility. Tom knows he’s a marked man and that he could run, but if he did, the cartel would go after his family. So he sends them off, far away, and stakes himself out there to take the consequences of his life of crime. 

Which leaves me retrospectively annoyed with the whole exercise. We’re rooting for, and then supposed to be sorry for, a guy who was smart enough to know that every load he carried was going to kill dozens of people. The US government is set up to look sleazy and inept, and all the deadly consequences of the idiocy are airbrushed out of the narrative so as not to complicate our reaction to that one numbing kill at the end. It’s a perfect modern American movie that way.

And one small story telling quibble; for no particularly good reason, they hire Jesse Plemmons to play a small town sheriff who completely misses the whole conspiracy which has practically engulfed his county. And then when every federal agency EVAR shows up to arrest Barry Seal, the director missed the chance either to include the sheriff as one more law man screaming “nobody move” in all directions, or cut away to him sitting in his office wondering why all the police are suddenly in town. I hope there’s a deleted scene of that somewhere.


[1] OK, all but one. The cartel whack Seal’s worthless brother in law with a carbomb, but it’s been set up in such a way that you pretty much wish they’d done it twice.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Atomic Blonde: John Chick

As I may have said earlier, I was really hoping to like Atomic Blonde. The trailer is all highlights and cool fights, and Charlize Theron was the motor that made the last Mad Max movie hum. Surely, I said to myself, the woman behind Furiosa could carry a spy movie over the line?

Not so much, which is all the weirder when I read that she spent the last five years kicking people so that someone would make an adaptation of a comic book she liked. Somewhere along the line did she not think about how to make it a movie about people rather than just a daisy chain of stunts? or at least try to make sure that she hadn’t green-lit for director half the mind behind John Wick?

Well, who’s to know. It went the way it went, which is stunt heavy. There are a lot of fight scenes, and at one level they’re impressive as hell. Lorraine Broughton is just whup-ass in heels, a non-stop beat-em-up machine who can take a kicking and stand up afterwards to hand out something even worse. And the movie tries to put a sense of consequence into it by piling on the bruises and damage she builds up as the fights keep going. I can see the plan, but if you want the audience to care what happens to a character, make her a character, don’t give her an ever growing collection of contusions. 

The problem for the movie in trying to make Lorraine a character is that the plot requires her to be a cipher. It’s Berlin in 1989. Everyone’s motivation is suspect, no-one is what they seem, anybody can be a double agent and not even know it. So we can’t know what Lorraine is really thinking. Nothing we see is the real person - or at least we can never be sure that anything we’re seeing is the real person. This is a perfectly good angle for a narrative, but it’s a real problem when the movie badly needs us to care about someone. Most dumb movies bridge the gap by making someone funny, whether it’s a wisecracking hero or a glib villain (or both - Die Hard runs on that engine). Atomic Blonde doesn’t exactly think that wisecracks are beneath it, but it’s not well enough written to make them funny.

Which all boils down to something which doesn’t quite work. Even something technically impressive somehow fails to register; Lorraine gets into a running fight up and down an apartment building which is edited to look like a continuous take, but which somehow hangs together so badly that I couldn’t even get caught up in the frenzy of the action. This, I remind you, is half the team that made John Wick, which nailed the whole diea of extended action scenes so well I forgot to breathe in places. Something did not go the way everyone had a right to expect that it would.

Which is a shame. There’s a perfectly good movie to be made about the world of spying in late 80s Berlin. More than one got made at the time, if it comes to that. And a good double agent movie can really sing. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy worked just fine as more than just a nostalgia piece. And things like John Wick have shown that you can make a perfectly good movie out of a series of setpiece fights; choreography for its own sake can work. And Atomic Blonde looks good all the way through. Charlize looks great, and Berlin looks just right from moment to moment, even if they probably did most of the East Berlin backstreets with bits of Budapest. 

And on the subject of setpiece fights, the running conceit in Atomic Blonde is that Lorraine doesn’t need a gun; she improvises from whatever she can find; a bunch of keys, a hosepipe, pots and pans … Even when she actually gets her hand on a gun, it’s dismantled and she winds up having to use it as a club. That’s a great idea. The late great Adam Hall ran a twenty book series off the back of it, starting with The Berlin Memorandum (as chance would have it). Quiller was a great creation, and Adam Hall would have enjoyed the fights in Atomic Blonde for their brutal simplicity. Quite why they didn’t work in practice, I still don’t know.

But I think, in the end, that it fails because it couldn’t give the characters room to act. Charlize couldn’t. James McAvoy, who completely can act, was directed to chew every carpet he could find. Sophia Boutella, who has died in every movie I’ve seen her in at least finally gets some lines, though not enough to let me figure out if she can really act, or just looks so exotic that it doesn’t matter if she can. The one person who seemed to me to hit the proper tone was John Goodman, who only has a few minutes of screen time, but brings exactly the feeling of worldweary ambiguity everyone else should have had.

Mind you, there’s always an avoidable niggle. Early on, Lorraine is briefed on how a colleague got whacked in Berlin. Shot in the head, she’s told. And they dug a 7.62 mm bullet out of the body they dragged out of the River Spree. Clunk the slide projector to a picture of a cartridge case. The thing which would have been left behind on the road where he was shot before his body was dropped from a great height into a river. Yeah.