Skip to content

Limitloo Sunset

I watched Tommy Lee Jones’ adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy play “The Sunset Limited” last night. Been watching a lot of movies of late after scoring a free year of Netflix with a new television purchase. (Actually this production was on ‘HBO-Go,’ but I’ll include that in a future posting “How I Cut The Cable Cord And Stuck It To Time Warner .. Sort Of.”)  Jones stars with Samuel L. “Who Put These Snakes On This Motherfuckin’ Plane?” Jackson. You come to appreciate your personal tastes in movies with a Netflix or HBO subscription. I can find a good reason to hate just about anything, starting with seeing Mark Wahlberg’s name attached. This eliminates forty percent of everything on HBO and unfortunately includes some decent programs that his production company, “Closest To The Hole,”  has funded. “Closest To The Hole” .. start with that bullshit. Yeah, I get it. You’ve made it huge by parlaying a good set of abs and some boy band money into a decent role in Boogie Nights and an extended frat boy fantasy sequence based on your own life and rendered tolerable only by the ironic performance of Matt Dillon’s forty-something kid brother. Yet you still have time to play eighteen holes several times a week with Taylor Kitsch or Amare Stoudemire. Do you really have to wave that in everyone’s face with a pin on the green logo and name like “Closest To The Hole”? Might as well drop the pretense and call it “More Pussy Than You Productions.” You’ll still always be sixteen year-old Marky Mark from the neighborhood, prowling Dorchester and attacking middle-aged Vietnamese men with a stick.

But Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones – that’s another story, and not just because neither stooped to a cameo shot on “Entourage.” “The Sunset Limited” is a ninety minute one-act dialogue between two men whose paths cross when one (Jackson) saves the other from throwing himself in front of a subway train at 155th Street and 8th Avenue in New York City. This action takes place offscreen and the only setting is the one room interior of Jackson’s shabby Harlem apartment where they discuss such things as life, God, and suffering. I’d never heard of it before and started watching only because it starred these two actors, unaware that Cormac McCarthy was the writer. Knowing this fact probably would have removed some of the play’s pleasant surprises, specifically how it embraces troubling ambiguity and avoids easy answers. As conceived by a lesser writer or handled by, say, Steven Spielberg, Jackson would be allowed to save Jones’ soul via a transcendent act or just a good, old-fashioned talking to. He dominates the first two thirds with powerful presence, making a good argument for Jesus through redemption, simple soul food and John Coltrane, while Jones sits and mostly listens. But when the atheist is allowed his say it’s equally powerful and voiced with the words of the only god who matters here, the writer. It does end with light, but the stark light of a cloudless morning following a sleepless night of no answers. I would have included the standard parenthetical “spoiler alert” at the top of this paragraph, but the only real spoiler here is knowing that Cormac McCarthy wrote the play. The way he chooses his words is always a surprise.

Not everybody liked “Sunset Limited,” and the New York Times referred to the film version as “dramatically inert” and “rhetorical.”  I’d have a difficult time conceiving of any work concerning an argument for or against God’s existence that wasn’t largely rhetorical. And while some may find ninety minutes of action-free, open-ended dialogue “dramatically inert,” I found it a refreshing switch from the bulk of bullshit being peddled these days. I saw a TV ad for some New York based cop/crime film the other day that began with the dramatic voice-over “In a city under siege ..” and killed it instantly with the remote. I’m sure it concludes with all the strings nicely tied, there’s a good chance that it stars Marky Mark, and by the very nature of its existence it adds to the argument against God. But come on .. In A City Under Siege? I’ve been doing this shit for too long and just don’t have it in me anymore.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *