Friday, 28 February 2014

Hummingbird: homeless Stath goes London

I tend to watch the Stath in ad hoc double bills when his movies get cheap on DVD and I buy a couple at once. So this follows hard on the heels of Parker, a nice straightforward heist’n’revenge story which didn’t stretch the Stath at all and was all the better for it. Hummingbird has ideas, unfortunately, what with the Stath being a homeless veteran struggling with PTSD and getting his act together briefly for one summer before realising that he’s less trouble for everyone drunk and on the streets than he is with his head on straight. Think of it as a more serious take on the preposterous homeless narrative of last year’s Safe, replacing the Chinese moppet McGuffin with a fey Polish nun who runs a soup kitchen. Which is to say, it’s almost as stupid as Safe, it’s just trying to pretend it’s not.

Hummingbird started out being called Redemption; I don’t know why they changed the name, but I’ve ruled out the idea that it was because they wanted to be subtle about the movie’s message. It’s explained so carefully that I was expecting an on screen title crawl at the end going back over the main points in a Powerpoint presentation. Instead it ends in a bit of fake ambiguity as the Stath vanishes back into the faceless homeless crowds of London - or maybe he doesn’t at all, since he’s being watched from the sky by surveillance drones.

You may have been wondering if any of these things are bad: ubiquitous surveillance, homelessness, lynching civilians, PTSD, the war in Afghanistan, people trafficking, prostitution, pimping and sex slavery, sadism, drug dealing and big city trading. If so, Hummingbird is the movie you’ve been waiting for; it sorts all those questions out once and for all with a rushed scene here and a rushed scene there. If, on the other hand, you’ve already made your mind up on most of those points, you’re going to be sitting there wondering if any of them are going to be explored in a way that’s anything like as deep as this movie thinks it is. Hummingbird is a bit like someone you’ve met in a pub about ten minutes after he’s realised that something is terrible in the world and a lifetime before he’s figured out why it happened or what needs to be done about it; you find yourself nodding and moving down the bar and towards the door, because you know you’re going to get nothing useful out of the conversation, and neither is he.

And of course, by being so serious about all these things, and so serious about how little the his character can really change in the world without making everything worse, Hummingbird takes all the fun out of watching the Stath loping around in perfectly cut suits and beating the snot out of people. That’s just a waste of a natural resource.

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