While standing in a lobby waiting to see Pulp Fiction back in 1994, a friend’s husband said to me, “You actually liked Reservoir Dogs? I’ve never known a girl who liked a Quentin Tarantino film. They usually find them too gruesome.” I simply smiled and said, “I’m not like most girls.” This has been reiterated again and again in my lifetime; my friend Meredith calls my interests “boy movies”. And that’s true, I guess, if I must put labels on films. I’m rarely interested in sweet fairy tales with girls swooning over guys and men modeled after Prince Charming (with the exception of maybe Hugh Jackman in Kate and Leopold). I prefer the messy realities of life. The relationships that are doomed from the start. The Greeks termed it “tragedy”, but modern-day stories of this type are filled with just as much romance and emotion as chick flicks, only mixed in with violence and suffering. It’s simply presented with hard edges and gut punches and moments that rip the heart out. And I love these stories. I will generally wade through all the gunplay and gore and profanity just to see a story told well and told realistically. Rage and angst and despair are much more interesting emotions to me than happily-ever-after. I’m fascinated by the depths of the human soul, and I find the journey riveting and provocative. And my most recent excursion into this realm provided much to ponder.
The recent DVD release of Hide came to my attention through its lead actor, Christian Kane, though it was released independently last year. It is the story of Billy and Betty, sociopathic lovers in the vein of True Romance and Bonnie and Clyde, who struggle to rediscover their relationship after a seven-year prison separation as a result of a killing spree. The film begins with the fallout of the initial crime spree — a scene quite reminiscent to me of Pulp Fiction‘s opening diner scene between Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer — and then it switches to the reunion of Billy and Betty and their attempts to track down stolen cash that was hidden during the initial takedown. The film is, in essence, a road trip in which Betty attempts to restore their past glory as lovers and partners while Billy wrestles with a desire for redemption and penance that came upon him during the prison stint. He is in every way torn and broken, and yet Billy is also a man in love. His struggle is just as much against his lover as it is against his own self. As the story progresses we see just how Billy became the man he was and the man he is at present, and we come to understand the vast chasm that has developed in his psyche. The character of Billy is fully evolved, with all credit to Christian Kane for what I consider the best performance of his career. There is a depth to the character that would not exist in the hands of some actors, and, by his own admission, Kane chose to own every aspect of Billy and tap into some dark personal traits in order to portray him fully. Rachel Miner, as Betty, is equally astounding, allowing herself to disappear before our eyes so that all we see throughout the film is a fearless, volatile and deeply dissonant woman in search of something to ground her. Without these two performances, alongside the stunning landscape of Argentina, Hide would not carry as much depth as it does.
Were this the expanse of the movie, Hide would be nearly perfect. Instead, there is a subplot that plays like a horror film and there is a final scene that is so mind-bending I had to watch three times and still did not understand. The pieces just don’t fall into place as they should. I’m guessing this is a writer’s issue, for the actors truly embraced all that was asked of them and the director shot the film with languid beauty. Which makes the unraveling of the story so disappointing. I found myself a little dumbfounded when I stopped the disc, then decided that I needn’t tax my brain about the story’s details. Instead, I’m embracing the characters and the themes of forgiveness, redemption, and good-versus-inherent-evil. And for those elements I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will watch it again and again through the years. It’s not for the faint of heart or mind, and it’s not even for those who simply enjoy violent films. Instead, Hide is a character study packaged with psychological brokenness and tumultuous relationships. My kind of movie, no doubt, but not something I would recommend to just anyone.
film image via Starz Channel