Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nomads (John McTiernan, 1986)

Let's see. How should I describe the gang of L.A. street toughs who manage to repeatedly bewilder the living bejesus out of Pierce Bronsan's bearded, French-accented anthropologist character in Nomads, John "Die Hard" McTiernan's lone stab at making an Andrzej Żuławski-style urban thriller? Middle-aged troublemakers? Mature mutants? Cretins of a certain age? Or how 'bout this: Nomadic punks... who aren't exactly youthful? What I think I'm trying to say is, I loved how the punks at the centre of this bizarre tale were all over thirty, or, in some cases, forty. Technically, I should be able to dress anyway I want. However, society has made-up a bunch of rules that dictate what people should wear. And one of these rules involves people over thirty not being allowed to dress like punks and goths. Or, in some rare cases, goth punks. Well, not only did this film make it seem okay, it somehow was able to temporarily soothe my anxiety in a way that no other film that features Remington Steele beating the lead singer from Adam and the Ants with a tire iron has ever done. You see, I feel like my time is running out when it comes to becoming the goth princess of my dreams. Yet, seeing a thirty-ish Josie Cotton and a forty-something Mary Woronov strutting around L.A. in sleazy, goth-friendly punk rock threads managed to placate a modicum of my fear. Of course, it's going to take a lot more than a non-ageist movie from the mid-1980s to fix what's wrong with the universe. But I have to say, seeing Mary Woronov dance erotically in a black slip was like receiving shot of uncut estrogen directly into my bloodstream. In other words, it made me feel good and junk.

What's weird about the gang Mary Woronov belongs to is that none of them speak. (Not even their leader?) No, their leader, played by Adam Ant, doesn't say a word. This muted display on their part gave the film a surreal, almost European quality to it. While it's obvious the film takes place in Los Angeles, no one in the film behaves like your typical L.A. resident. In fact, I'd say no film, other than maybe Into the Night or Miracle Mile, has ever made L.A. seem this odd before. But then again, a character does call L.A. the world's largest beach parking lot at one point. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that L.A. is rife with free-roaming punks and freaks...

Let's recap, shall we? Adam Ant, Mary Woronov, Josie Cotton, Frank Doubleday and Héctor Mercado play the mute members of a nomadic gang of street punks who mystify an anthropologist who is studying nomadic peoples...

How a leggy E.R. doctor, Dr. Eileen Flax (Lesley-Anne Down), ends up being a part of the story is a tad convoluted, but she... ("A tad convoluted?) Okay, fine. It doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Nevertheless, watching Pierce Brosnan and Lesley-Anne Down struggle to come to grips with their unique dilemma was pretty entertaining.

Should I take another shot at explaining the plot? Um, I don't know. Personally, I would much rather focus my attention on Mary Woronov, as this film is an outstanding showcase for the lithe actress. Of course, it does seem strange that she doesn't have any dialogue (her voice is one of her best features). But you gotta love any film that gives Mary Woronov four distinct close-ups.

The first MW close-up comes when Pierce Brosnan's Jean Charles Pommier tracks down the street punks that keep spray painting graffiti on walls of the house he and his wife, Niki (Anna Maria Monticelli), recently moved in to, to the beach. While secretly taking pictures of them, we get a great shot Miss Woronov sitting on a beach-adjacent bench.

Wearing a beige sweater over a black slip, torn black stockings, black fingerless gloves and studded bracelets, Mary looks like a middle-aged punk goddess. It's clear that she doesn't give a fuck. And why should she?

The second MW close-up comes when Pierce, who is still stalking the street punks, tracks them down in an alleyway later that night. Still wearing what she had on at the beach, Mary takes off the beige sweater and does a sexy dance for Pierce on the hood of a parked car.

It should go without saying, but Mary looks amazing during this sequence. Oh, if only my legs looked as good as Mary's legs do in this movie. Oh, if only... Wait a minute... my legs not only look as good as Mary's legs look in this movie, they look, dare I say, better. Who would thought I would turn out to be a leggy milf. Crazy world.

The third MW close-up comes when Lesley-Anne Down's friend/potty-mouthed co-worker, Cassie (Jeannie Elias), is confronted by Mary in her car. Approaching Cassie's car, Mary pretends to be selling flowers. But we all know that's merely a ruse. No, something sinister is going on. Sinister or not, this scene gives us our best view of the multitude of silver rings that adorn Mary's fingers.

The forth and final MW close-up comes when Lesley-Anne Down and Anna Maria Monticelli are hiding in the attic. Thinking they're safe from the punk onslaught that has befallen them, Mary Woronov suddenly comes crashing through the ceiling... or is it the floor? Whatever. The sly grin she gives them is classic Mary Woronov. Not allowing her character to speak is not going to prevent her innate charisma to shine through.

What's that? Why were Lesley-Anne Down and Anna Maria Monticelli cowering in the attic? How the hell should I know? I told you, the movie isn't your typical slab of 1980s era punksploitation.

Are you ready for this... the punks may or may not be related to an Inuit demon who wants to possess Pierce Brosnan's soul.

I know, what are Inuit demons doing in Los Angeles? I mean, shouldn't they be hanging out in Arctic or something. Hey, I'm just the messenger. In other words, I didn't write this flick. That being said, the film, while confusing at times, does manage to maintain an effectively creepy atmosphere for most of its running time.


  1. This movie demonstrates why Woronov is probably my all-time favorite actress; when I see her in this role, I get the impression that I'm not looking at a woman, but at something inhuman in a woman costume. Nomads is actually one of the few cases where I found the novelization of the screenplay better than the movie itself; the novel provides more much-needed explanation and therefore makes much more sense.

    1. Movies that don't feature Mary Woronov in some capacity are, how should I put this? lame. It's a fact.