• Gareth Crook

The Blues Brothers (1980)

I’ve watched a lot of films. I’ve not watched every film. Even some classics slip through the net. This is my first time watching The Blues Brothers. Shocking, I know. I can only apologise. It’s a cracking film too, Jake (John Belushi) leaving the prison gates like he’s been reborn. Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) meeting him in the clapped out decommissioned cop car from hell, that he then proceeds to jump over a drawbridge on the way to see a nun, who beats the hell out of them for profanity. It’s not what I expected. The mission is set though. The nun, needs five grand to save the orphanage, the only home Jake and Elwood ever knew, they have to help. It’s a buddy movie... sort of. The self styled Blues Brothers, play, live and dress the part. Essentially two jobbing musicians perpetually down on their luck, but as long as they have the Blues... anyway, the Penguin (that’s the nun) needs money. So they go to see James Brown, a very young James Brown, a preacher in the kind of church you’d expect The Godfather of Soul to preach in, a loud raucous one. One in which Jake sees the light! The light being The Band and the reformation of. And that’s the crux of this, music, obviously, it’s pretty much telegraphed in the title. There’s plenty else too though. Like a high speed car chase through a shopping mall, creating so much destruction I’m left a bit puzzled as to how they got the green light for filming. Then Carrie Fisher turns up as an assassin with a tricked out bazooka! It’s all very silly. Cool comedy, that feels like a spoof of something that’s never existed before. Chicago in the 70s looks like a squalid, noisy, industrial hell hole. Especially after Carrie Fisher detonates half of it. Elwood’s apartment half. This is a world of slap stick through, no one gets hurt. It’s like the ATeam in sharp suits... on a mission from god! I’m sure Chicago is a lovely place these days, but what does take me back a little is the presence of a nazi rally bang in the middle of this. Why it’s here I don’t know, but it gives Jake & Elwood the chance to run the bastards off a bridge into the river. America could really do with Jake & Elwood right now. The music is cool, especially the Blues Brothers theme, which is so iconic it’s instantly recognisable in a film I’ve never seen before. John Lee Hooker makes an appearance, as does Aretha Franklin (fucking hell could she sing!). Ray Charles, Twiggy, Cab Calloway, John Candy, writer John Landis, Steven bloody Spielberg, it’s crazy! Now the presence of Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin could be seen as cheap shoe horned crowd pleasing with no particular substance or reason, but I’m gonna forgive it, it’s fun, it looks fun and like I said, music is this films heart. It’s ability to heal. Back to the story though. My favourite is Carrie Fisher of these now famous names, her repeated yet unexplained attempts on Jakes life are hysterical. As is her studying a flame-thrower manual at a beauty shop, brilliantly called ‘Curl Up & Die’. The reveal of her purpose is a bit dull, but the whole setup is still amusing. We’re an hour in before the now reformed band actually get to play, but boy is it good. Parodied god knows how much, I feel like I know this scene well as they roll into a Country and Western bar full of rednecks, piss them off with Gimme Some Lovin’ and win them back with the Rawhide theme. It’s a brilliant pisstake at the expense of dumb fuck America. The scope, scale and carnage of this film is ridiculous. A total, barmy juggernaut of a film. Belushi and Akroyd are perfect, stone-faced, oddly believable in the midst of the maelstrom they’ve created and by the end of the film they’ve pretty much levelled Chicago. Hysterically arch and fully deserving of its classic status.


9/10



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