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The Movie: Live Wire (1992)
A big reason I wanted to do this column was to find some diamonds in the rough. It’s always exciting when you discover a movie that works so well for what you love about cinema. I figured I would be knee deep into Movies No One Mentions before that happened. Nope! Lo and behold, the standard has been set by a little movie called Live Wire, and it’s going to be a tough standard to match up to because I loved this picture.
It should be known that is the kind of action movie you can’t make anymore. The age of irony turned these kinds of films into punching bags for losers who think they’re as clever as the gang on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (spoiler: they’re not). The joy of these flicks being ridiculous became co-opted by trendy snobs who feel superior to movies and treat the on-screen lunacy as ignorant idiocy. So, if you want to tear apart Live Wire, it would be an easy target but you’d be bullying the kid who runs around on the playground making explosions sounds, happy to be lost in his own little corner of imagined awesomeness.
And Live Wire is awesome. The entire premise of turning people into bombs is so much fun and Live Wire gets incredible mileage out of it. You’ll see multiple dummies get blown up, guys on fire, and a surprising amount of gore. Seriously, as the movie progresses, you’ll get to see some fizzy blood and skin tearing open. It’s a delight. And most importantly: one of the victims is dressed as a clown. He is wheeled into a stage by Pierce Brosnan and that Pennywise wannabe gets Michael Bay-ed like a motherfucker. You can see it in the trailer above at around the 0:49 mark.
Speaking of Brosnan, he is going full Die Hard 2 Bruce Willis in this and it’s more fun than anything in any Marvel movie. Considering how middle-of-the-road his Bond was, this shows off an actor who could have been better known for playing outlandishly cartoonish characters. When he’s not making sly comments, he’s getting over-emotional to a degree that wouldn’t be tolerated on The Young and the Restless. You want a broad action caricature like we used to get all the time in the ’80s and ’90s? Brosnan’s Danny O’Neill is that caricature.
But the whole movie is just as bombastic (HAR FUCKIN’ HAR) as Brosnan’s performance. The villain played by Ben Cross is only missing a mustache to twirl. When we meet him, he murders the scientist that invented the bomb water (folks, bomb water. This movie is eleven Christmases) by stabbing him in the neck with a pen. There’s even a scene where he asks his henchman, “Sometimes I wonder, what’s it all for?” Henchman replies, “Really?” To which Ben Cross turns, smiles, and sneeringly says, “No.” What more could you ask for in an action movie baddie?
There’s so much to love about Live Wire. How about a stereotypical sex scene lit with candles and scored with a wailing sax? How about when the sleazy senator that is trying to shtup O’Neill’s wife gets handcuffed to O’Neill during the climax, and when they jump off a roof together he just gets impaled by a fence? And no one gives a shit?!? How about Pierce Brosnan killing off henchmen in the finale by creating explosives and cannon weapons using Vaseline (check out his nail cannon in the trailer)? How about the practical title sequence that involves fire and water on some steel plated title frame? How about Philip Baker Hall making this goddamn face?
I could go on but I’d just be describing the movie to you and there’s more about Live Wire that you should discover on your own (just wait until you see how O’Neill’s introduction and denouement are done. It’s unbelievably sexist). Watch Live Wire and start talking about it. This one deserves it.
And in case you forgot: a clown explodes.
Is It Worth Mentioning?: Not only is it worth mentioning, but I am befuddled as to how this doesn’t get brought up more often. This is action movie insanity in all its hunk-of-cheese greatness. A cult classic that’s only missing a cult.
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