Friday, February 24, 2012

GOOD FOR NOTHING (2011) - in the old west, shooting and raping is how men expressed their feelings

A naïve young Englishwoman named Isabella (the lovely and effective Inge Rademeyer, albeit with a wavering accent) heads to the American west to live with her uncle on his ranch after the death of her father. Two men escort her by horse carriage, and they stop at a saloon along the way. Sure enough, the serene desert landscape was merely a ruse, and a mysterious man enters the saloon, initiating a spaghetti western stare down that ends in him shooting and killing Isabella’s escorts. “The Man”, as he is credited (Cohen Holloway, doing a really solid Clint Eastwood impersonation) steals any immediate valuables, Isabella included, all while never uttering a single word. He ties her up and rides away, later stopping to rape her, tearing patches of her dress off in the process.

Up until this point, you’d never know that Good for Nothing isn’t completely serious; maybe an austere but brutal revisionist western influenced by spaghetti westerns. A Kiwi High Plains Drifter, if you like, with an anti-hero that rapes a woman in the 1st act and goes on to be the cog that drives death and destruction in a small western town. However, The Man doesn’t go though with the rape. Instead, he ties Isabella to a tree, rides into town, and tells a doctor “my dick’s broke…and I need you to fix it”. I hate it when that happens. Anyway, Isabella escapes and alerts the sheriff, but he just assumes that she’s a whore (what with her lascivious ripped dress) and tries to rape her too. It’s just not her day, I guess. The Man shows up and blows away the sheriff, as she is still his "property". The rest of the movie consists of the kidnapper dragging Isabella along as he tries to find a cure for his sad little member so he can finally "give her a poke", as he puts it. Meanwhile, they are both hunted by a gang hired by the brother of the dead sheriff, as they assume her to be his “whore” accomplice.

Like I was saying, most of Good for Nothing would pass for a “normal” western, beautifully shot and scored for a film with an apparently low budget. However, little askew scenes and bits of dialogue change the entire context of the movie, and it ends up being a covert comedy with numerous ironic twists on the genre. “The Man” should be the villain of the piece, but his impotency prevents him from carrying out his evil deed. Instead, he becomes an anti-hero of sorts, placed in the position of protecting Isabella from the bandits through no valor of his own. This subversion of western myths unfolds quietly, allowing the viewer to question these ideas on their own, rather than being beaten over the head with a simple message.

While this may seem rapey and misogynistic at first glance, Good for Nothing ultimately presents this male dominated world as a moral wasteland governed only by penile whims. I’ll let the reader insert their own connection here between gun and penis. Isabella may be a passive heroine, but it’s not through any fault of her own. She’s constantly struggling to get away, but when you’re tied up and held hostage by a deadly gunfighter, there’s only so much you can do. Even so, this leads to the film’s funniest sight gag (which I won’t give away) when she convinces two workers to try and help her escape while The Man is busy trying to obtain an “ancient Chinese secret” to help with his “problem”. Some friendly advice for the reader: those “ancient Chinese secret” cures that people shill don’t work. If it was really such a secret, would they be blathering about it for an hour during some late night infomercial? I rest my case.

P.S. Good for Nothing currently has a 1.8/10 rating on IMDB. Even if I try to look up the most incompetent movie I can think of, it’ll have a higher score than 1.8. Not that I put much stock into things like that; I just thought it was strange.

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