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Joe Bob's Drive-In: 'Men Cry Bullets'

By JOE BOB BRIGGS, Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas   |   April 11, 2002 at 12:34 PM
Hey, let's make a movie where every single character is repulsive, but repulsive in his or her own way, and then let's have 'em all hate one another and maybe try to kill one another, until they decide to love one another, which happens only when they're cross-dressing or painting their toenails, and hey, let's have a lot of kinky sexual performance-art transvestites in between the scenes of excruciating self-hatred and screaming, redeemed only by moments of drunken catfights.

Sure we've seen it before, but have we seen it with a woman who uses a giant state-fair hog as a substitute for the son she never had, only to see it butchered with a hatchet by her beauty-queen debutante cousin from Texas?

I think not.

This movie is called "Men Cry Bullets," and it reminds me of one of those Off-Off-Broadway plays in Soho where everybody is dysfunctional, suicidal, homicidal and wears really cool costumes for two hours until the grisly, really depressing ending that sends the audience staggering out onto the street like extras in "Motel Hell."

It's what Hollywood calls a "niche" film -- hell, it's won prizes at six film festivals -- and I guess "niche" in this case means that avid movie-going audience of Prozac-popping gender-confused masochistic fashion models who want to die.

I would love to see the test-audience response cards on this one. The top score would be, "Yes, I must put on a party dress and hang myself in the closet now."

Fade in on the baby-faced innocence of young Billy, who is seen retching into the backstage toilet of a scuzzy fetish bar where emcee Freddy Fishnets promises "an endless galaxy of freakish pleasures."

It seems that Billy has opening-night drag-queen jitters, but his nightmare has only begun. A loudmouth bipolar Bettie-Page-ish brunette named Gloria becomes outraged when her paperboy boy toy (would that be paperboytoy?) goes up onstage and kisses the novice transvestite. Soon there is the humiliation of . . . forcible wig-removal! Not only that, she refuses to apologize! Not even the solace of a 300-pound man in a diaper reciting Emily Dickinson can console the devastated Billy.

But Billy does what any self-respecting aspirant to Wigstock stardom would do. He seeks out Gloria the next day, picks a flower, and demands that she give it to him as a peace offering. Soon she is dragging him into the house and planting kisses all over his face--oooo! icky! he hates it! -- and inevitably they're involved in a confusing pants-swapping relationship involving lots of broken crockery, Billy's blubbering and Gloria's self-loathing violent streak.

Enter the gorgeous blonde twit Lydia, visiting Gloria from Texas, who butchers Gloria's child-surrogate pig, causing Gloria to run into Billy's lovelorn arms and goad him into murder with the promise of marriage. At the moment of truth, Billy fails in his attempt to drown Lydia in a dinghy accident, and Gloria suspects that in fact he loves the airhead debutante more than he loves her.

After much weeping and whiskey-guzzling, interrupted only by an elaborate performance-art piece in which a woman in an evening gown dines on live worms, Billy poisons a bottle of cheap wine, lures Lydia to his apartment, almost kills her, gets interrupted by Gloria, who drinks the wine before he can warn her, then drinks the wine himself in suicidal despair. As the three of them wait to die, they group-kiss, then skip rope in a sunlit-park version of heaven while French art songs are growled by a mangy guy who looks like he sells drugs on the playground. "I'm sorry I killed you," says Billy. But who did he apologize to? Gloria or Lydia?

It's all decided, of course, on the vacant-lot gun range, where Gloria tries to cheer Billy up -- he's lost the only thing he cared about, his profession as a singing dancing glamour queen with too much lipstick -- by demolishing beer cans with a revolver. Soon Gloria is slapping around the gun-shy wussy-boy while Lydia screams at him about his self-respect, then walks away, only to be chased by Billy, who thinks he could have real happiness with this lacquered-nail softie. They escape in a hail of gunfire, punctuated with Gloria's empty promises ("I'll be nice! I'm sorry!") and are rewarded one scene later with Billy getting his job back and deciding to do a whole new act dressed exactly like Lydia, as a token of his love.

But alas, the luckless Billy will never make it to the stage. Haunted by confusing childhood flashbacks involving a mysterious sister, he takes his place in the fetish club only to be traumatized by Gloria appearing in drag, complete with pencil mustache and lips that can't synch, writhing across the stage and into his lap until a horrified Lydia drags him away. He fondles a handkerchief in his apartment, only to find Gloria in his closet, still dressed as a man, offering her love but, when rejected, slapping him, threatening him with a gun, and strangling him into silence. Fade out on a black drag queen singing a lounge dirge.

Ahem.

Huh?

Which?

My only regret is that they didn't all die.

One dead body. One dead pig. Four breasts. Upchucking.

Tummy-punching. One catfight. Silver cellophone body-stocking aerobics workout. Pork-hacking. Pork-roast-hurling. Nipple-lifting (don't ask). Multiple boyfriend-slapping. Gratuitous arm-wrestling. Gratuitous lingerie dancing. Kung Fu. Lip-synch Fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Harry Ralston, as the jaded puffball club owner who says "Try putting foie gras before a pack of mongrels" and "You could be the next Ru Paul!"; Steven Nelson, as the would-be drag queen who does full-frontal naked jumping jacks to prove his devotion; and Jeri Ryan, as the Texas party girl who says "It's so tiresome everyone thinking I'm beautiful" and "My toes make people happy, Gloria."

One stars. Joe Bob says check it out.

"Men Cry Bullets" website: thelastman.com.

(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebob-briggs.com or email him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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