They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)

There’s a telling moment in this film when its nonponymous protagonist (Roddy! Piper!) glances through purloined sunglasses at a television on which a ghoulitician mouths empty Reagan-era doublespeak, and sighs, “figures it’d be something like this.” Very soon after this epiphanic moment, he steals a shotgun and a massive loaded bandolier, enters a bank, and starts, famously (and rowdily) kicking ass in lieu of chewing bubblegum. This is a complicated film, one that simultaneously fetishizes alien technology and wants us to be afraid of it, and this move, to have a character see the workings of ideology, only to rely on their prowess with powerful firearms (and ham-sized fists, since there’s a truly amazing no-stuntman bare-knuckle brawl in the proceedings), is one marker of its dunderheaded intelligence.

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