Sunday 12 January 2014


(Joey Figueroa, Zak Knutson, 2013)

John Milius is a fascinating, important figure in New Hollywood cinema. Luckily for the directors of this documentary, he's also a charismatic, self-mythologising contrarian, whose life was filled with colourful anecdotes, interesting incidents and incredibly glamorous friends. He wrote the most famous speeches in the likes of Jaws ("Black eyes, dead eyes, like a doll's eyes"), and Dirty Harry ("You've gotta ask yourself the question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?") and latterly Sean Connery loved his writing so much he had Milius rewrite every one of his parts. He was part of the circle of Movie Brats whose work defined the 1970s - friends with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Paul Schrader and Francis Ford Coppola, all of whom are interviewed here - he was the first to find work in Hollywood and the best writer. His screenwriting allowed him to begin directing his own work, and his first four films are a startlingly consistent run of quality entertainments: Dillinger, The Wind & the Lion, Big Wednesday and Conan the Barbarian are all big, mythic, violent films, as was his fifth, the controversial Red Dawn.
Figueroa & Knutson concentrate on that period (indeed, his subsequent work, including the underrated Farewell to the King, is almost entirely ignored) but spend more time on Milius the eccentric; gun-toting, a right wing "zen anarchist"who commanded immense loyalty from his friends all his life, a dazzling line of directors and actors appear to discuss his persona and work (Eastwood, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Michael Mann, Harrison Ford, Sam Elliot, etc). But that is the film's shortcoming. It shows and tells, but remains resolutely superficial for that reason, never really getting inside Milius' head.
What it does superbly well: makes you want to watch Milius' films...

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