Che: The Roadshow Edition
Che Guevara was an asshole. Besides providing a romantic poster for college boys who don't know the first thing about revolution, he was also a brutal intellectual willing to get lots of peasants killed in order to liberate them. He reminds me of the Duke in SHREK telling his soldiers, "Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make."
Rush Limbaugh could say the same thing in much less time than it took you to read that paragraph, and probably has again and again ad nauseam. But Steven Soderbergh takes four hours to show us the same thing. FOUR FRIGGIN' HOURS! The "roadshow edition" I saw combines two features, and even though they moved the credits to a booklet, it still comes to a total of 257 minutes, plus intermission. Your ass will be in dreamland.
The movie predictably glosses over much of the extreme ruthlessness Che was capable of, but there's still plenty of violence for the Zach Snyder audience. At times it plays like a spaghetti western, though without the cheap photography, annoying music and obscure Italian actors. And there's even a scene with one of the most shameless war-movie cliches: when Little Cowboy, the kid who insisted on joining up even though Che thought him too young (WHATEVER do you think will happen to him?), gets killed, Che gets told "They got Little Cowboy!" and says "They'll pay for this."
Yet God knows four hours is a long sit. Between the action scenes there's endless, endless talk about revolutionary strategy. You'd think the structure would be foolproof: in the first half Che lands in Cuba with Fidel Castro, achieves a battlefield victory, achieves another, then another and another until he finally wins the war; in the second half he sneaks into Bolivia (disguised as one of those enemy-agent guest stars they were always foiling on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), achieves a battlefield defeat, then another and another until he's shot dead. But Soderbergh still manages to mess it up with lots of those arty touches he loves, like black & white flash-forwards of Che visiting the United Nations, 270-degree camera arcs and a wordless final scene showing him on the boat to Cuba at the beginning of the story.
Most actors have some kind of specialty: Jennifer Love Hewitt looking scared, Daniel Craig trying not to blink, Jessica Alba just standing there looking pretty. And Benicio del Toro's specialty is looking perplexed. (Who's Keyzer Soze? What can one man do about the Mexican drug trade? What am I doing in EXCESS BAGGAGE?) As Che, he gets to trot out that puzzled expression once again, though here it's more along the lines of "When the Bolivian army comes to town, why don't the peasants reciprocate my love by risking their lives to protect my guerrillas?"
I paid eighteen bucks admission, but he who steals my purse steals trash. That's four hours of my life that I'll never get back, time I could have spent with my Playstation, or clipping my toenails or something. As Che seizes food from a mother who was saving it for her children, his deputy tells the townsfolk, "We want to end injustice." I'd settle for ending boredom.
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