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Alex Cox - Straight to Hell (Cover Artwork)

Alex Cox

Alex Cox: Straight to HellStraight to Hell (1987)
Island Pictures

Reviewer Rating: 2


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Sometimes loving an artist means obsessing over his/her missteps. As an unapologetic Joe Strummer fan, I've made it my duty to see every film the Clash frontman appeared in before his passing. I would argue that, much like his solo work, Strummer never got enough credit for acting abilities. Granted.


Sometimes loving an artist means obsessing over his/her missteps. As an unapologetic Joe Strummer fan, I've made it my duty to see every film the Clash frontman appeared in before his passing. I would argue that, much like his solo work, Strummer never got enough credit for acting abilities. Granted, I have thus far seen exactly one Strummer film worth revisiting, Mystery Train, but still, the guy knew how to put on a show.

As you probably saw in the above header, though, this review isn't for Mystery Train. I'm here to talk about Straight to Hell, a movie Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy) and friends when a planned concert in Nicaragua fell through.

The story: When three hitmen (Strummer, Sy Richardson and Dick Rude) and their tagalong lady friend (Courtney Love. I know, right?) miss their mark, they dodge their boss' wrath (Jim Jarmusch) by robbing a bank and fleeing to Mexico. There, they fall in with a band of coffee-loving degenerates (The Pogues… with sombreros?). But with fingers always near triggers, it's hard for anybody to trust a body.

Straight to Hell was completed in about four weeks. I mean the entire thing, from conception to post-production, took about a month. That's not a good sign, and whole chunks of superfluous and/or badly recorded scenes attest to the ramshackle production. This movie could only appeal to devoted fans of Strummer and/or writer/director Cox, and even then it's not a sure thing. Hole fans are going to be let down by a screeaaaaaaacccchhhyyyyyy performance by Love.

Given its cast, I wish Straight to Hell was a lot better. Strummer, Elvis Costello, Dennis Hopper, and the Pogues all turn in performances (Grace Jones too, but she's terrified me ever since I saw Conan the Destroyer). But without a coherent script, it's an awfully painful viewing experience.

Yet at the same time, I intermittently appreciated the film. When it bothers to be funny, Straight to Hell's absurdities are actually pretty great, from the ridiculously profanity-free dialogue to the bad guys' addiction to… coffee. It's so much sillier than heroine or cocaine, which I suppose was the point, as Cox intended to parody spaghetti westerns. Strummer's actually not half-bad here, although Richardson is the one who consistently delivers the best takes (That he recalls Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction is a nice plus). The best thing I can say about Straight to Hell is that it made me feel OK with checking out Strummer's performances in Mystery Train and Cox's Hell follow-up, Walker. Straight to Hell has since gained a sizable cult audience, and even a 2010 HD transfer, but I can only handle so much bad cinema at a time.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
lushj (April 19, 2012)

This is an atrocious movie- it's astonishing how bad considering the excellence of the various ingredients....

MN_DrNick (April 17, 2012)

I suppose you have to be a big Italian western fan like me and Alex Cox are to really appreciate this one. I really enjoy this film.

But on that note, I'd suggest people to see Repo Man and Walker first before seeing this one. Repo Man, Walker, Sid and Nancy, and Straight To Hell are really the only movies one needs for Alex Cox's work.

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