There are moments when the universe lets you know that it loves you, and that it’s protecting you, and that it wants you to be happy—and if not happy then at least not sad. I’ll give you an easy example: One time, back when I was about 17 or so, I was going to go to a party that some people I halfway knew were throwing. It was going to be great. I’d gotten confirmation that a girl I liked was going to be there, and also I’d just gotten a good haircut so I was really feeling myself, and also both of my parents were out of town that weekend, so I felt like I was all the way free, so again: It was going to be great. Except that it never was. In fact, it never even got the chance to be. Because when I got into my car to head over there, it wouldn’t start. I put the key in and turned it and nothing. There was no real reason for it not to work—it had been working fine earlier that day. But it just wouldn’t turn over. I tried for a good 15 or so minutes. I even tried opening the hood and jiggling some of the wires, which was (and remains) the extent of my car-servicing abilities. Nothing worked. I called a few friends to see if I could get a ride, but most everyone was gone already (and nobody had a cellphone because we were all poor and cellphones were only for rich people in 1998). So I was just stuck there, at home, for the whole night, like a chump.
But here’s the thing: I found out the next day that the party was a total disaster. It’d started out well enough, but then a big fight broke out, and then several of the cars there had their windows smashed by someone (or someones), and then one of the neighbors called the police, and then a bunch of people got tickets, and two of them even ended up getting legit arrested. (There was a rumor that a separate person ended up getting tasered, but I’m pretty sure that was a lie.) And on top of all of that, the girl I was hoping to court never even showed up. The universe spared me so many different forms of heartache that night by draining my car battery of the will to start, is what I’m saying.
I’ll give you another example, and one that’s more relevant and also more timely: The entirety of this work week, Monday to Friday, is a five-count anniversary of a wonderful movie. Listen to how incredible and perfect this is: Monday is the 25th anniversary of Under Siege (which, just as an unrelated aside, isn’t my favorite Steven Seagal movie, but it’s definitely the most successful one). Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of Boogie Nights (which, just as another unrelated aside, isn’t my favorite Mark Wahlberg movie, but it’s definitely his best one). Wednesday is the 15th anniversary of Jason Statham’s The Transporter. Thursday is the 10th anniversary of Joaquin Phoenix’s We Own the Night (Mark Wahlberg is also in this one, but Joaquin blows him off the screen). And were it not for the 2012 leap year, then Friday would be the fifth anniversary of Colin Farrell’s Seven Psychopaths.
Have you watched all of those movies? I have watched all of those movies several times. In fact, when I noticed that all of their anniversaries were this week, I watched them all again, in the order they were listed above. I thought that doing so would maybe help me unlock some sort of secret code; perhaps I’d realize they were all tied together by some central theme, or by some grand meaning larger than each individual movie’s own meaning, or by some byzantine (but still discernible) existential conundrum that was really a byzantine (but still discernible) existential revelation. That didn’t happen, though. Mostly I was just sitting there, scribbling notes down trying to connect things that probably weren’t meant to be connected, looking very much like a less handsome version of Russell Crowe during the middle third of A Beautiful Mind. (A Beautiful Mind will celebrate its 16th anniversary later this year.) (Russell Crowe was 16 when he decided to pursue acting as a career.) (It’s all connected.) (Even when it’s not.)
The most ridiculous but still good scene of all the scenes in Under Siege, Boogie Nights, The Transporter, We Own the Night, and Seven Psychopaths is the one in The Transporter where Jason Statham has to fight eight different guys while covered in old motor oil. Look:
Three things here, arranged by order of importance, least to most:
1. Statham is shirtless here because, about two minutes prior, a bad guy ran up behind him and grabbed him by the shirt. Statham slid his way out of it, then used the shirt to tie up two bad guys while fighting them, and after he tied them up, he knocked them both out by punching them at the same time, one with his right hand and one with his left hand. Here’s the double punch:
2. You have to be a real and legit genius to, in the middle of an oil fight, come up with the idea to remove the pedals from a bicycle so you can use them as grip during the rest of the fight. It’s far more impressive than the time he used the construction scaffolding during that big fight scene in The Transporter 2, or the time he used his shirt and jacket and tie during that big fight scene in The Transporter 3.
3. The Transporter is a fun movie to think about because it came during this curious period when action movies didn’t really know what to do with themselves. They wanted their heroes to be intimidating and cool, same as they always had and always will be, but they also wanted them to be reluctant and forced into action (like what started happening right after Die Hard), but they also wanted them to be serious while also being completely ridiculous (which is how you end up with a scene where someone covers a garage floor in oil and then uses bicycle pedals to give himself grip while everyone else slides around helplessly). I don’t want to say it’s a pivotal movie, because it’s not, but it for sure came during a transitional period.
The best scene of all the scenes in Under Siege, Boogie Nights, The Transporter, We Own the Night, and Seven Psychopaths that prominently features a penis is the one at the end of Boogie Nights*, though I suspect you already knew that, and the best scene of all the scenes in Under Siege, Boogie Nights, The Transporter, We Own the Night, and Seven Psychopaths that prominently features a nipple is the one at the beginning of We Own the Night, though I suspect you already knew that, too.
*After seeing Boogie Nights, I often thought about the casting call that must’ve gone out for that final scene. I wondered how many different penises were sorted through before selecting the stunt penis. I wondered if the casting director (Christine Sheaks) looked at them in real life or just through photos—and if it was photos, then was there, like, maybe a manila folder or something that she had somewhere in her office. The oral history of Boogie Nights, though, which ran on Grantland in 2014, revealed an answer that was somehow even more entertaining and hypothetically hilarious: it was a giant prosthetic penis that Wahlberg wore over his actual penis.
The worst scene of all the scenes in Under Siege, Boogie Nights, The Transporter, We Own the Night, and Seven Psychopaths was, somewhat surprisingly, basically all the scenes in Under Siege, an action movie where Steven Seagal plays a cook on a battleship that gets taken over by Tommy Lee Jones in a rhinestone jacket. One of the key plot points of Under Siege is that Seagal’s character, Casey Ryback, gets locked in a meat locker, if you can even believe that, which you should because it’s a Steven Seagal movie. Another of the key plot points is a stripper falls asleep inside of a giant cake for 30 minutes. That’s the kind of movie we’re talking about here. I was honestly taken aback by how bad it was. It was like someone said, “Let’s make an action movie, but let’s leave out all of the parts that make action movies fun.” The only halfway good part of it is near the end when Seagal rips a guy’s throat out with his bare hands, but even that part is just a retread of what Patrick Swayze did at the end of Road House.
The best opening scene of all the opening scenes in Under Siege, Boogie Nights, The Transporter, We Own the Night, and Seven Psychopaths is the one in Seven Psychopaths when the two bad guys stand around waiting to murder a woman only to end up getting murdered themselves. Look:
Two things here:
1. Seven Psychopaths is a very fun movie to watch. There are just so many great moments and great performances in it. Christopher Walken has a wonderful part where he refuses to put his hands up at gunpoint. Woody Harrelson, who is perpetually underrated, and Sam Rockwell, who may be even more perpetually underrated than Harrelson, have a standoff that is hilarious and excellent. And Colin Farrell is excellent throughout. (Related: This might be Colin at his most devilishly handsome. It’s almost offensive how handsome he is here.)
2. Michael Stuhlbarg is the guy with the dark brown hair in the scene above. He is so, so good. Regardless of the movie he is in, he always manages to be just the right amount of charming and quick and intelligent. He was even perfect in Men in Black 3, which is an especially impressive thing given that it was Men in Black 3. (An aside: Tommy Lee Jones is in Men in Black 3.) (He’s good, too.) (He’s always good, even when he’s bad.) (Like he was in Under Siege.) (It’s all connected.) (Even when it’s not.) (Or whatever.)