Siegel™’s review published on Letterboxd:
was gonna write an official article about this but then it got cancelled so here is what I had already written. it's mostly finished I guess lol I dunno
The conservative orthodoxy of action movies of the 70s, as silly as it may be, is one of the most endearing characteristics of the genre. The constant indoctrinating messages and the little subtlety with which all those characters who escaped the codes of conduct tolerable by Judeo-Christian morals were condemned was part of the naive romanticism and reactionary spirit inherent in Hollywood in the decadent modern era. But it is undeniable that this ideology is tired and outdated, and Shane Black parodies it not with irony but with a fully-developed and respectable depiction of the era, complete with the hyper-masculine antiheroes so inextricably linked to the period – while being careful to never revere or even respect their thoughtless brutish tendencies.
It is thanks to the absence of a responsible female figure (a role little Holly tries to fill throughout) that we better understand the chaotic universe through which Jackson and Holland wander erratically. Both protagonists appear cut by the same pattern; the loss of each of their wives, for different reasons, has led them to assume a very negative attitude towards life, a fact that has inexorably impacted their professional performance and on the lack of rigor in their deontological codes. On one side is Jackson, a hired thug with no more friends than his inseparable brass knuckles, who expresses the anger, impotence and shame generated by the sudden and humiliating abandonment of his wife with a hyperviolent attitude, detached from any form of empathy towards other beings humans; on the other hand is Holland, a laconic failed detective who entered a self-destructive spiral after the death of his wife. This event, from which we can intuit a certain degree of negligent responsibility, plunged him into a depressive and painful self-inflicted condition that he drags like a daily burden, while indulging in the excesses of tobacco and alcohol, unable to take responsibility for a 13-year-old daughter.
Children are depicted as devoid of all naivety, and represented as alienated beings by the pernicious context of the frenzied Hollywood addicted to fame and debauchery from long nights full of glamor and other drugs that contaminates and robs them of the most precious asset: childhood. In the mixture of sex, pornography, violence and drugs, children are not a very pleasant sight, and it is Holly's presence that allows us to distinguish more subtly that criticism of the loss of values. Against all odds, she is the moral backbone in a film that otherwise lacks one, holding the entire city accountable, and particularly the 2 men and the methods they use in their attempts to do the same (and thusly, all of the virulent macho hotheads of the genre's history). Admittedly, it is more of a calculated exercise in ingenuity than an outright work of genius, but Shane Black proves once again that he is capable of twisting his personal touch into imaginative new ways.