I just got done watching season three of True Detective on HBO, and I have to say it was a big disappointment. I thought the writing and the direction were pretty weak. Direction because a guy like Mahershala Ali, who just won his second Oscar comes off like a third rate community theater actor trying to act like an old man (the make-up however was first rate), not very convincing to me, and if it was to the director, then he should look for another job.
Stephen Dorff as Detective Roland West, on the other hand was great. He pulled off the old cynical depressed alcoholic with great charm. I guess it’s harder to act like a doddering old man on the brink of full-blown Alzheimer’s than just an angry old fool. I even liked the scene where he goes into a biker bar looking to get his ass kicked, his dialogue was so sharp (the woolly mammoth you’re fucking) that he had to be ad-libbing, because the writers were so lazy they stole actual dialogue from other movies.
In the final episode’s last scene Carmen Ejogo, Mareshala Ali’s love interest in the series walks into the VFW post bar where his Detective Wayne Hays character is drinking his depression away and approaches him. When he asks her without looking up what war she fought in (you’re not supposed to be in a VFW bar unless you qualify as a veteran of war) she retorts:
“I don’t let people talk to me that way, few women and no men at all…”
I sat up straight when I heard that, it’s a rip off of a line from Charley Varrick.
Charley Varrick is a Don Siegel crime thriller from 1973 if you don’t know it, and it happens to be one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen it many times, first when it was released in theaters and then on TV whenever I came across it on late night re-runs. Sometimes I would catch the whole movie and sometimes somewhere in the middle, but I always watch to the end.
The main adversaries are Walter Matthau, a bank robber and stunt pilot, and Joe Don Baker, and enforcer for some kind of Southwestern Crime syndicate. I’m not going to relate the whole movie, but if you like crime movies like me, it’s a must see- especially the last scene where Charley shows why he is “The last of the independents.”
Early on Baker’s character, a hit man called “Molly,” is asked to repossess a car from a black man. It’s a brand new Cadillac the man has defaulted on. It’s to be his transportation during his pursuit of the bank robber Varrick, who has inadvertently stolen $765,118 of the mob’s money from some tiny bank in New Mexico.
As he walks up to the car key in hand, the unnamed debtor reaches for Molly’s arm and says,
“You pink punk ass you…” And Molly quickly swings around and punches the guy in the face, knocking him down. As he continues to the car, unlocking it, he says, “There are few men that speak to me in that tone, few Caucasians, and no Negros at all…”
Now if that’s not a practically verbatim rip-off of dialogue, I don’t know what is. Maybe the writer loves the John Reese novel, since I’ve never read it I don’t know if that bit of dialogue is in it. Most likely the screenwriter (Howard Rodman) put that in. But it’s a great line, the whole script crackles with great lines.
So here I add T.S. Elliot’s take on plagiarism:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
To me it’s most certainly defacement.