Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Nope, not Belissima. I am talking about the seminal Kevin Bacon bike messenger movie of 1986. You see, before Kevin started tackling gritty, difficult roles like he did in the ominously titled, 'The Woodsman' ("His performance was so powerful, it was amazing how he really entered the paedophile, made you feel his pain so vivdly"), Bacon was a stalwart of the 80s genre movie. From 'Footloose' to 'Animal House', and even taking in such classics as 'Diner' and 'Tremors', this guy was never far away from something that could just as easily morph into a franchise as it could become the genre-defining movie of a generation.
And then we reach 'Quicksilver'. You see the 80s was a great time to make films, not because filmmakers were blessed with a particulalrly fine crop of actors (or at least no better than any other time in cinema history), and not because there were huge advances made in the technical side (although there were, these advances were more limited to blockbuster fare such as 'Terminator 2' and 'Alien' - that sort of thing). Instead, there were so many more new sports (and by this I mean sporting subcultures) for filmmakers, well, to make films about.
Quicksilveer tells the story of Jack Casey, a super-trader based out of San Francisco. Jack is riding the tidal wave of success, that is until it all goes tits up and he loses everything a la Nick Leeson. In desperate need to find some new way of focusing his life, and seemingly reduced to the bottom of the labour force pile, he takes a job as a San Francisco bike messenger. It is only here that he realises this is what he truly needs, the freedom of the open road, the wind in his hair, and not the false trappings of wealth he had become so accustomed to. But it is only once he is at peace that the past will come knocking again and force him to make a choice that will impact his future in ways he cannot even imagine. So far, so standard.
But is it? Or at least is this paradigmatic structure, one which is employed in myraid other films, a timeless, Aristotelian structure, or an 80s, extreme sports meets coroporate America 'Point Break' structure that us children of the 90s are now just completely anaesthetised to? Just think of other similar movies, most made between the late 70s and early 90s: 'Breaking Away' (about a small town in America obsessed with an Italian cycling team!), fellow bike title, 'American Flyers', 'Rad', also about cycling but this time BMX, and finally 'Winners Take All', this time about Moto X. The last three movies were made within two years of each other - a coincidence? I think not. And how can we forget 'Karate Kid'?
We still see the legacy of these pioneering movies today. 'Blue Crush', 'Lords of Dogtown', and the list goes on. It is not so much the sport that matters each time, but rather the structure, the sport's gradual movement from the marginal to mainstream and back again. The only tragedy is that every time the new extreme sport gets given the Hollywood treatment, it arguably loses some cachet amongst its respective community.
Nonetheless, these movies and by extension their sports, should be celebrated. These 80s testaments to the sheer novelty of the sports and those who practiced them remain pleasing if not a little dated. And to a certain extent (if we can include the slightly camper posturings of 'Footloose') were the making of Kevin Bacon, and for that we should all be thankful.