Celebrated director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) brings Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, and Gabriel Byrne together in an electrifying suspense-thriller that is an "audacious and seductive" (Los Angeles Times) tale of paran... more »oia and murder that Gene Siskel calls "one of my favorite filmsof the year!" Manufacturing on-screen violence has created an entertainment empire for fast-lane Hollywood producer Mike Max (Pullman). But when Max comes into possession of details concerning a top-secret, anti-crime satellite surveillance system, the information turns this master of imaginary mayhem into a real-life victim. Escaping into L.A.'s shadowy underworld, Max is forced into a heart-stopping confrontation with forces beyond his comprehension and violence beyond his deadliest fictional creations. Is this the end of violence...or just the beginning?« less
"It's clear why some people hate this movie. A very important plot twist that happens early in the movie is shown one third in sequence, one third as flashback, and one third in the viewer's imagination. It's okay for a movie to be about a mystery, but for it to be intentionally mysterious in its exposition of the plot infuriates many in the audience. I rated the movie down a bit for that reason, or rather, because its intentional mysteriousness did not seem to add anything to the movie. If my confusion ("what happened after that! ") contributed anything positive to the viewing experience, I am unaware of it. Combine that with the rather cerebral approach and the fact that the "good guys" don't really win at the end, the "bad guys" pretty much get away with murder, and it's no surprise that this movie was not a big boffo box office hit.That said, I loved this movie. It is the thinking-person's "Enemy of the State". I rented it and wanted to buy it the next day (though I could not find it anywhere!). Some of the little bits are hilarious (the woman with the gun takes off her clothes) and the whole take on paranoia and government invasion of privacy made it very interesting. The central character goes through some changes that are not overdone, though they easily could have been turned into heavy-handed pc propoganda. So the director isn't spelling everything out for you. Do you really need him to?"
The End of Freedom
jammer | Laramie, Wyoming United States | 02/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In George Orwell's masterpiece "1984", Oceania is one of three new-world-order totalitarian governments that are in a perpetually mutual state of war. Oceania's propaganda motto is, "War is Peace", "Freedom is Slavery", "Ignorance is Strength". The Ministry of Truth, where the protagonist works, controls the dissemination of all information, and constantly rewrites the historical record. "Newspeak" is the re-formulated and politically correct language used in this process, designed to obliterate all original thought and any past or present events perceived as adverse to the health of the State. Government surveillance is everywhere, even in the "private" rooming houses for example, where all residents are forced into morning calisthenics under two-way television monitoring by BB - Big Brother. This reviewer can't know where Wenders got his inspiration for this way under-recognized film, but one must conclude that he was deeply aware of Orwell's and other such work. After seeing this film in 1998, this collector prematurely dismissed it, perhaps having little appreciation of how prescient it would shortly become; and having considerable disenchantment with Wenders' previous artsy, unrealistic and truly awful "Wings of Desire". Yet despite this reviewer's negative view of "Wings", the themes and method of depiction in "The End of Violence" became, in retrospect, increasingly haunting. One could consider this film as being a more nuanced and updated "1984," or a more constrained and intellectualized "Enemy of the State" (another great movie). The pacing is just the opposite of Enemy's frantic activities, rather being (almost maddeningly) leisurely and surrealistic.The basic plot is this: A computer development expert (Gabriel Byrne) is deeply involved in the test development of a highly classified FBI prototype in Los Angeles, a system involving city-wide surveillance webcams and spy satellites to constantly monitor all citizen activities. Developing major ethical concerns about the use of this system to commit political murders, and knowing he personally is being monitored, he tries clandestinely to email the secret details of the system to an acquaintance, a casual though (in desperation) trusted film producer who probably has the public connections that could facilitate action as a whistle-blower. In the parallel and converging plot lines, the film producer (Bill Pullman) realizes he is in mortal peril when he survives a bungled (and attempted disguised) assassination attempt. Confused as to why, but knowing his life is in danger, he flees to anonymous refuge with a mom-and-pop Mexican gardener troupe, from whence, with the occasional help of troupe members, he conducts his own pathetically limited fact finding. He discovers that the perception (by whomever) that he has come into possession of a highly classified FBI report via his email has motivated the assassination attempt, thereby forcing him to go into hiding indefinitely.This is not science fiction! And this film doesn't go far enough! The technology for this sort of stuff exists today. All that's lacking is access of and coordination between the information pools and data bases which already exist or are coming into existence. There is feverish pursuit for such programs through enabling legislation like the "Patriot Act". One hears terms like ECHELON, CARNIVORE, Total Information Awareness, and "facial recognition technology." There are spy satellites too; as one character says: "Watching the skies from the earth is easy. Watching the earth from the skies is more difficult." There are spycams everywhere on major highways, at traffic-lights, gas stations, shopping malls, and ATM machines. Using current or developing computer technology, such programs propose to expand and integrate these data sources to support an ever-widening surveillance network. In Wenders' parlance, the result is an "end of violence" - by whatever means necessary! The film's leisurely, surrealistic quality makes it all the more chilling. Wenders makes one feel that if an "Oceania" is not already here, we are heading pell-mell in that direction: His ending prognosis for freedom as we have known it is not very upbeat.Some viewers may be put off by Wenders' artsy techniques. For example, he likes to keep viewers off balance by cutting abruptly away in the middle of an important event to one of the other several interconnected threads, then revisiting that event after the fact to examine the consequences. But Wenders assumes viewers of his films have some measure of intelligence (a dangerous presumption perhaps?) and can follow these multiply inter-connected threads. To those who must have every detail spelled out in sequence by the numbers, with spectacular (frequently impossible?) action sequences like car chases, gun battles or explosions, this film is emphatically not for you! Perhaps your viewing habits should be limited to flicks written by 13-year-olds for 13-year-olds. This dual-sided disc has the theatrical release widescreen (2.35 to 1.00) presentation on one side, a standard pan-and-scan on the other. The widescreen's day and night color, detail, and composition cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful, a work of the highest cinematic artistic merit! Stereo sound is excellent and at times startling. The intellectually-challenged or those with their heads in the sand can skip this thoughtful, highly entertaining and challenging film."
Searching to Define the End of Violence
Moldyoldie | Motown, USA | 10/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm curiously drawn to movies which seem to be panned by the majority of working and amateur critics, yet are staunchly defended by a small coterie of reputable adherents. What is it that most so disdain and compels but a few? Case in point: The End of Violence -- 26% on Rotten Tomatoes' "tomatometer", just 10% on their "cream of the crop"; not to mention a very mediocre average 3-star rating here on Amazon and a mere 5.5 out of 10 on IMDb. Yet, it received a glowing review from Stephen Holden of the New York Times who writes: "...with 'The End of Violence' Mr. Wenders has made a film as resonant as his most memorable work." At the time I first read that I wouldn't have known Mr. Wenders from Mr. Pibb, but the die was cast -- I had to see this film!
The End of Violence effectively weaves the strands of two tenuously connected main storylines and a few intriguing subplots to culminate in a profound meditation on the effects (real, imagined, and potential) of unfettered government, entertainment, and technology. We experience this theme in the epiphanies of one of the film's two main protagonists: a successful independent "violent movie" producer named Mike Max (Bill Pullman) who loses wife, home, career, and nearly his life as a result of his chosen profession. We also see the theme's manifestation in the thoughts and actions of the other main protagonist: an ex-NASA software engineer named Ray (Gabriel Byrne), an ostensibly innocent overseer of a new state-of-the-art government surveillance system in Los Angeles who discovers that the apprehensions he once had concerning the system are being made frighteningly valid.
In lieu of a plot summary, I'll just say that I was thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. The two storylines bend, weave, and intersect in a compelling fashion with a few neat twists. However, as compelling a narrative and argument that the film puts forth, a nagging hole exists [PLOT SPOILER!]: Following his escape from the carjackers/kidnappers, how does Mike Max end up on the hillside where he's spotted by the Mexican gardeners? His Mercedes was left at the scene under the interchange; why didn't Mike drive off in it? If the surveillance system was so omnipresent, how was it possible for him to NOT be followed by the cameras? [END OF SPOILER]
The film is somewhat marred by Mike Max's noirish off-screen first person narration, the likes of which are the equivalent of an antecedent-consequent in music; e.g. "Sometimes those who you think are your friends are your enemies, and those you think are your enemies are your friends." Such lines are also present in some of the dialogue; e.g., the government bigwig says to Ray: "Watching the sky from Earth is easy; watching the Earth from the sky is difficult." For some reason, such lines feel like a copout meant to lend an intentional vagueness, which is irksome. The thoughtful whimsy of such lines are, however, consistent with the overall tone of the film.
Also, some of the acting leaves much to be desired; the doofus & goofus carjacking-kidnapping duo being the worst example. I'm not sure if this was meant as comic relief or not! Another example is Andie MacDowell as Mike Max's disaffected gun-toting wife in a livingroom tete-a-tete with her estranged husband---awful! Fortunately, the film can absorb these shortcomings; I dismiss them as mere diversions. Otherwise, the generally understated acting is quite consistently fine.
Among all the film's beautifully composed shots and staged scenes in and around L.A., the most poignant is a simple shot of Ray's aging father (Sam Fuller), alone in his study staring aimlessly at the camera following the film's jarring and sudden culmination. This one brief silent emotion-packed shot conveys so much that it's almost impossible to put into words. As to not spoil things for potential viewers, I won't even try.
The End of Violence invites thoughtful contemplation of serious issues in a very stylish (dare I say European?) manner. In that no one I know has heard of it, this film is shamefully overlooked. I must agree with Mr. Holden of the N.Y. Times; the film does indeed resonate. As for Mr. Wenders' "most memorable work", apparently Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas should be next on the viewing list.
P.S.: For those who care about such things, the DVD is dual-sided with full-screen and cropped wide-screen versions. The full-screen version displays discreet male frontal nudity."
If only I had watched the full-length movie...
emk | Chicago | 01/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As I read the reviews, many people feel like Wenders has left much out of End Of Violence. This is true because the version we saw at the theatre and bought as a VHS copy is the short version of the movie. The rumour is that many Festival de Cannes (movie festival in France) officials want short(er) movies. Wenders has a knack of producing long movies (Until The End of the World was supposed to be MUCH longer!), but to be considered in the running for a prize, he had to reduce his movies' lenghts. Hence the version we know of The End Of Violence. In the longer version, Wenders goes in greater depth into the characters' relationships with one another.With all of that said, I agree with most of the reviewers on this page about this movie. It is a must-see and seeing it a few times you will take away something different every time... as in all of his movies."
Almost really great
Moldyoldie | 12/27/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's refreshing to watch movies which don't spoonfeed you all the information. Although this is not Wenders's best work (I recommend "Until the End of the World" or "Paris and Texas"), it's still worlds better than most of what's being made today. You won't lose any IQ points watching this movie, which is more than I can say for most of the popular movies out this year. Bravo to Ry Cooder's soundtrack."