The Sunchaser (1996) Michael Cimino
Production Budget: $30 million
Gross: $30,000 domestic
According to IMDb this is Cimino’s biggest box office flop. Now with inflation I don’t think you can ever beat Heaven’s Gate however, I have to applaud Cimino for taking the bar and just lowering it even further. Bury that bar Michael; bury it deep!
Now I have stuck up for Cimino in the past going so far as to defend Heaven’s Gate and say it is a very good effort. My generosity has come to an end. I…f*cking…HATE The Sunchaser!!! Hate is too soft a word but it is what I will go with for the moment. My hate might even transcend the film itself to people that would have balls enough to admit they like it. I’m not sure.
The story is about is stuck up oncologist played by Woody Harrelson. A juvenile prisoner (who murdered his father) named Blue is being treated by Woody. Blue escapes, kidnaps Mchael and make their way to Arizona. Apparently Blue believes in some medicine man uncle who can take them to a lake on top of a mystical mountain that has the power to cure any disease. Now this sounds like a road movie and not even that one which is all that original. I mean I can even think of Little House on the Prairie taking this concept and running with it. The problem is every single aspect of this movie fails and fails on an epic scale.
Subtlety seems to have flown out the window in this movie. Take for example when Michael and Blue go to a gas station for supplies. The attendant has a baby next to her and is blowing all the smoke in the babies face (and I mean she is all but blowing all the smoke directly in her mouth). Michael as politely as possible tells her that might not be the safest thing. But Michael is painted as the stuck up prick so everything he says no matter how rational is wrong. Same as when they are driving by the site of a drive by shooting and Michael asks “How can people live like this?” Blue gives Michael a look like “How dare you sir! This is the perfect life!” Or how about when they stop at a diner for food. Blue gets pissed off when Michael gets a little squirrly about getting kidnapped and all that trivial stuff. Blue decides to go off on his own and screws Michael over. How? He yells out “Help me, he tried to get me to suck his dick in exchange for breakfast (like the bastard scene from the Wizard where the girl shouts “he touched my breast!”) A group of bikers overhear this, beat up Michael, and one says (I sh*t you not) “Well, you can’t suck his dick but you can sure as hell suck mine” and starts to whip it out in a crowded diner.
All of the characters are the same way. Michael is a pompous dick. Every restaurant he goes to he asks for carrot juice and goat cheese and is always lecturing people on health and is concerned with status and money. His wife is a one dimensional money grubber. Blue is a free spirit, yada yada yada. Everyone is just a one dimensional annoying loser. And as I mentioned before, despite all the logical and rational things Michael says and does he has to be wrong because the script says so and because he is a dick. He is just the ignorant white man keepin’ the brotha man down. No, just because he is self centered and arrogant doesn’t make him wrong.
These plot holes just piss me the hell off! I’m sorry, I don’t want to be that guy who rants and raves and won’t shut the f*ck up but this movie is so frustrating! Blue beats up a cop, escapes from custody, and takes Michael by gunpoint. People don’t hear from Michael and they list him as a missing person. The cop interviews his wife and asks “Does he have any mental problems? Any excuse why he would run away?” ASSHOLES, AN ESCAPE CONVICT KIDNAPPED HIM! This was not done in some vacuum here? The cop personally witnessed Blue kidnap Michael at gunpoint! In fact you have dozens of eyewitnesses because the kidnapping happened in public. What the hell is the matter with you people!? THIS PLOT MAKES NO SENSE!!!
The ending and the message are also offensive to say the least. I say offensive, but that is because I could not think of a word more bile ridden. Blue and the doc go to Arizona and find a mystical mountain. Of course living in Arizona I can safely say we don’t have a snow capped Mt. Kilimanjaro hidden away somewhere. This place must be like Brigadoon or something. Anyway along the way doc robs a hospital to get Blue meds to sustain him on his journey. Now the ending can only be interpreted by me in one of two ways. 1 Blue ascends to heaven when he finds the lake and our good doctor goes to prison for the rest of his natural born life showing how f*cked up the morality is of this movie. Or 2. This is a visual interpretation of Stockholm syndrome where he goes mentally insane siding with his kidnapper.
Now onto the message of the movie. The movie’s message is clear as Anne Bancroft flat out says it. All you need to cure cancer (and all diseases) are faith. Yes people, if you are dying of cancer it’s only because you people don’t BELIEVE enough. Oh and doctors like Harrelson’s character that want to cure people and heal them; they are the REAL problem. Don’t be fooled, they are the ones really making you sick. Can you really think of anything more grotesque or malicious? Saying the Haitians made a deal with the devil is pretty bad not quite in my opinion. It is moronic but coming from the source you are not surprised. You are surprised when you are torpedoed by the message of the Sunchaser.
The direction of the movie (coming from the director of The Deer Hunter) is surprisingly sophomoric and it shows how little Cimino gives a f*ck now that no one is paying attention to him anymore. The music is also crap as evidence by a disco cover of “What a Difference a Day Makes” blaring over the ending as the biggest example. The acting (even by Harrelson who I love as an actor) is so over the top it is mind numbingly frustrating. What is worse though is I have no idea how we are supposed to connect with either of these characters on any level. This is a road movie and we are supposed to enjoy the experience and root for the characters. Michael is way too over the top playing the arrogant prick and Blue is despicable as a protagonist. He full out attempts to murder Michael on several occasions only to be saved by random chance and yet Michael still feels compelled to save him and spend the rest of his life in jail for him. Are we really supposed to be on Blue’s side on this!? Is anyone else getting the frustration here?
You know I am a person not prone to hyperbole. I am not someone who overblows something or throws out phrases like “This is the worst” whatever at the drop of a hat. But The Sunchaser is among one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I don’t want to put a number like top 10 or 20 because quite honestly I’ve never really thought about it but it is among them right now. It is not something like a Uwe Boll movie or the pleasant incompetence of a Ed Wood movie. This is a movie that is bad because of not just of its sheer incompetence and ineptitude, but of its utterly insane and offensive message. F*ck this movie!