Friday, March 17, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #41: "They Live" (1988)

Movie Stats:
Released 1988 (USA)
American, in English
Director - John Carpenter
Stars - Roddy Piper, Keith David

Plot Summary:
Homeless, unemployed drifter Nada (Piper; the character is actually never named in the film but is in the credits) uncovers a vast alien conspiracy and decides it’s time to kick some ass. David co-stars as Nada’s new pal, Frank.

Violence; gore; extreme blue language; brief sexy times; brief female nudity (breasts only).

Bad Stuff:
The pacing is a little slow.

Character building isn’t very good. I realized this as I considered Nada’s reaction when he discovered the aliens. “That seems inconsistent,” I thought. But as I pondered it deeper, I decided that his reaction made sense. I feel like I shouldn’t have to work that hard to understand my movie characters. By the end of the film, we still know virtually nothing about either Nada or Frank.

The sex scene/nudity was extremely gratuitous. Not necessary for the plot at all. It’s like Carpenter suddenly remembered it was an 80s film and decided to toss in some naked boobies.

Good Stuff:
For a movie that’s nearly 30 years old, it sure feels uncomfortably relevant, especially all the “rich people band together to screw over poor people” stuff.

It’s quite funny/entertaining.

I really enjoyed David’s performance. I’m just now realizing that he’s in everything (he has 260 acting credits on IMDB and he’s only 60).

The Verdict:
First, a story. I regularly attend a trivia night. Each week, there’s a themed visual round. One week, I don’t remember the theme, this movie was one of the answers. At that point, I hadn’t seen it in 20 years, so I didn’t immediately recognize it. “I think that’s ‘They Live,’” one of my male teammates said. “I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen the fight scene.” Later, when one of our other male teammates arrived, we asked if he recognized the picture. When we told him that we thought it was this movie, he said, “Oh yeah! I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen the fight scene.” LOL.

To be fair, now that I’ve seen it again, I have to agree that it’s a very memorable fight scene.

I do like this film. I think it’s a different, refreshing take on the old “alien invasion” trope. I like the open ending. It’s got some great pithy one-liners. There’s a good mix of action and intrigue. It’s not nearly as cheesy as one might expect. Plus, how can you go wrong with a glorious mane like Roddy Piper’s?

I give it 3.75 stars.


Patricia said...

I think it's got a really great name, too.

IMDB has two Keith Davids, both of who have a lot of acting credits. I had to cross-reference to figure out which one you were talking about. But yeah, that guy! He's been in everything!

Whereas Roddy Piper's main credit is this movie.

balyien said...

Yes, in the pantheon of "wrestlers who transition to acting," Piper didn't even make it into the top 10 success-wise, I think. I always had a soft spot for him, though. I think that's due in part to the fact that he wrestled during the time I watched wrestling as a kid and in part due to this film.

Keith David was also in "Pitch Black," which was way back in the 90s on this list. It was after that viewing (I'd seen it before, albeit a long time ago) that I began to realize how prolific he is. He's the very definition of a "that guy" actor.