They Live (1988): Breakdown by Rantbo
Rowdy Roddy Piper fights the forces of evil, that none of us can see without sunglasses.
America. The land of opportunity—if you’re an alien. As for us lowly working class humans, the ladder of success is a little bit harder to climb when your hands are filled with the heavy tools of manual labor. Such is the case of our hero, Nada (Piper). The film follows this man amongst men as he just tries to eek out a living in the slums of Los Angeles. And things only get a tougher when he inadvertently uncovers a resistance made up of aid-the-homeless volunteers that have a plot to overthrow the upper class. Who on top of being overbearing greedy yuppies, happen to be a race of aliens in disguise bent on world domination through brainwashing corporate advertisements, subversion and promises of riches and fame. Too bad for them, Nada isn’t buying what they’re selling. And not just because he has no money. With little more than a pair of sunglasses and a shotgun, one man will open the eyes of sleepwalking Americans everywhere, and save us from the tyranny and oppression of our corporate alien masters.
Simply put, I love this movie. Absolutely and completely. It’s one of my top ten favorite action flicks and served as the inspiration for the title of the website you are now viewing. THEY LIVE was a statement of the times: The Upper-Class have all the money and control, The Middle-Class obey and the Lower-Class serve to scare the Middle-Class into showing up for work. Don’t worry though action fans, that shit gets put on the wayside soon as Nada finds out that aliens are making the working man suffer. It’s payback time.
It’s an ironic turn of events, as the film becomes about dismantling, through gratuitous violence and destruction, the very machine that made violent action films popular. The Reagan era of conservatism which glorified the right-wing homoerotic heroes of the 1980’s is being confronted and disabled by one of their own. It’s poetic, and more importantly, it’s fucking bad ass. This flick will blow your balls out your asshole and sling-shot ‘em right back into the bag. Any self respecting Action fan will have this film in their DVD stable and worship it regularly. Nuff Said.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper is Nada
Nada drifts into L.A. without a dollar to his name and everything he owns strapped to his muscular manual-labor defined back. But, he’s an optimist. Nada believes in America and an honest days work, for an honest days pay. The man is the salt of the earth, all-American, working-class hero defined. Could there be a better heroic archetype to battle the tyranny and oppression of the upper class, than a homeless patriot? I think not.
I was never really into wrestling in the 80s, but I knew who Rowdy Roddy was. The bad-ass mother fucker in a plaid skirt, right? Damn right, I’m right. So it seemed only natural to slap a shotgun in this guy’s hairy-knuckled hand and have him unload it into the chests of unsuspecting villainous outerspaced vermin on the big screen. And not only did the Gods of Action make it so, they did it in a John Carpenter film, where Roddy got to throw down with Keith David and blast round after glorious round into yuppie alien scum. This guy is pure un-filtered, 150% mother fucker and deserves his own national holiday in remembrance for the boot he so vehemently shoved up the Reaganites’ collective asses.
[THE BODY COUNT: 46]
The filthy extra terrestrial corpses don’t start to stink up the joint until almost an hour in, but after the first two alien-pigs bite some bullets, it’s all about the count, baby. Nada himself racks up an impressive 23 alien meat-slabs, many of whom are in authoritative uniforms like the police and national guard, so there’s some icing on this bloody cake of badassness.
Nada’s buddy, Frank (Keith Fucking David), gets his fair amount of licks in too, capping off an additional 8 outerspace invaders before succumbing to a traitorous bitch. Frank isn’t the only good guy casualty either. The bad guys rack up 15 resistance fighters while trying to snuff out Nada’s flame of righteousness. This film delivers like next-day air.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Even though there is no blood, I still have to go with Nada plugging the cunt that betrayed the human race and sucker-shot his butt-buddy Frank. Die, you contemptible creepy-eyed shrew! DIE!!!
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Roddy gets Rowdy for a portion of the film, when he peals off his exterior flannel skin to unveil the beefcake beneath. His glorious blonde mop-top turns out to be the only natural growth of hair on his body, outside of his palms. Everything else is dirt and grease. What a man. Nada slaves away, sweatily shoveling shit with his chiseled physic and even manages to catch the eye of Frank, a man on the fence with his sexuality. Who only needs is a little back-alley nudge to go gay the 80s way.
Frank keeps saying that he has a wife and kids, but there is no evidence to support it. In fact, it’s one of the very first things he says to Nada, which I believe he does as a nice way of saying, “Hey, man, you’ve got a sweet bod, but I‘m just not ready to leave the comfort of my closet just yet.” But Nada is nothing, if not persistent. He will be Nada’s, oh yes—he will be Nada’s.
Later on, the two end up getting into a one-on-one brawl of epic proportions. For over five and a half minutes the two heavyweights exchange blow for blow, body-slam for body-slam, groin-kick for groin-kick and tackle for tackle. It’s ludicrous in it’s length, but every second is classic. The entire fight is a metaphor for gay lovin’, with one-man’s stubborn refusal to except something new and scary, and another man’s urge to find a partner to share his secrets with.
Frank doesn’t want to upset his world view, (that men belong with women and women only) and Nada is driven by the need to have someone to relate to, and make relations with. It’s quite touching really. The duo end their tissy with a sweaty bruised embrace that creates a bond stronger than Frank’s made-up marriage. He never again brings up his supposed family and that night the two of them check into a flop-house motel and soon as the door closes, Nada says to his new recruit, “Ain’t love grand?” It surly is.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
There is but one named woman in the film and not only does she try to kill Nada, she later re-gains his trust, betrays him again by killing Frank and then tries to convince him to betray his entire race at gunpoint. Women. Thankfully, Nada sets this skank straight by pumping her Lando-ass fulla lead. I’m sure if he had had the time, he would have pissed on her corpse for good measure. I know I would have.
There is a couple more small instances that I should mention as well. Shortly after Nada dons the glasses, he enters a grocery store and verbally unloads on an upper-class cooze.
“You know, you look like your head fell in the cheese-dip, back in 1957.”
This manages to piss off an entire supermarket of bargain-hunting alien bitches, which is of course, very funny.
And the last thing we see before the credits roll are the bouncing breasts of some blonde bimbo as she slowly realizes the “man” she is humping is an alien. “Whatsa matter, baby?” Classic.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Nada has been found out as “one who can see” and is being pursued by the long arm of the alien law. He makes short work of a couple of alien pig-tails by using their own guns against them. Then acting fast, takes one of their belts, a walkie-talkie and most importantly—their squad-car shotgun. His next move is to a nearby bank where he drops off a deposit of sheer awesomeness.
Nada sashays into the building and soon all attention is on our burly hero. Spotting a handful of aliens mixed within the crowd, Nada doesn’t fuck around with the pleasantries of introduction. He cuts straight to the point.
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Copyright owned by Universal Pictures
This is one of the greatest moments in Action Cinema history. And as an added interesting factoid, Roddy ad-libbed the line and Carpenter let him put it in the show. These guys can do no wrong.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
When Roddy Piper tells you to put on the sunglasses, you WILL put on the fucking sunglasses.
[THE CHECKLIST: 15 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[ ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse*
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
*“Whew, it’s like a drug! Wearing these glasses makes you high, but whoa you come down hard.”
“Brother, life’s a bitch—and she’s back in heat.”