Friday, April 12, 2013

Smart Guys


Alright, no one saw the movie The Big Bounce. I take that for granted. Also, Elmore Leonard, the man who wrote the novel upon which the film was based, didn't especially like the move. Strike two.

Regardless, the movie displays the spirit of Leonard, if not the cinematic taste. Especially present is the hard-bitten worldly-wise realism we often find in Leonard. Let's call it: Refined Relational Realism. This type of realism is Leonard's gift to literature: he minted a certain kind of hero, the smart guy, and decreed, "Nice guys don't finish last because there are no nice guys, but there is such a thing as a smart guy, and smart guys finish first." Leonard's heroes are not especially good; they are, however, especially smart.

What is Refined Relational Realism? It's a willingness to live in the real world and relate, in the most advantageous way, to real people -- not as we wish they were -- but as they actually are. We are tempted, especially in relationships, to bend reality to our liking by, for example, trusting people who are not trustworthy simply because we "like them." Smart guys know that nice guys are not so nice; smart guys live in the world that is there, and relate with people as they are, not as they wish they were; hence, smart guys finish first. While I don't wish to endorse all of Leonard's worldview, or every component of this film, I do find it refreshing to see characters in film who -- if not innocent as doves -- are definitely wise as serpents.

What does the smart guy know? What does his wisdom entail? 1) Certain people, no matter how admirable otherwise, cannot be trusted; hence, don't trust them, 2) Nice words don't make for real friendship, 3) For the sake of expediency, and due to circumstances, there are forms of relating outside friendship that must sometimes be embraced 3) We must judge persons more on what they do than what they say (Jesus, "Every good tree brings forth good fruit."). Or, as Walter Crewes put it, "Sometimes, (people) are exactly what they seem."

What follows are examples of Smart Guy Thinking from The Big Bounce.

Frank Pizzarro: I'm desperate for this money, and we're friends, right?

Jack Ryan: Yeah, we're friends. But, you know, it's the type of friendship where if you're in trouble, I probably won't be there for you. Just like I wouldn't expect you to be there for me. It's a more honest friendship. It's not this like phony thing. It's a genuine friendship. I can't trust you. You can't trust me. I'm not gonna take a bullet for you. I'm not gonna jump on a grenade for you. I'm gonna...


(From a Deleted Scene)

Nancy pulls a gun on Jack, but Jack manages to calm her down, and wrest it from her. Leading to this gem of an interchange:

Nancy Hayes: What kind of girl do you think I am? 
Jack Ryan: The kind of girl who had a gun on me thirty seconds ago.


Walter Crewes: No! And if you think you're gonna be able to control this girl, or control yourself with her, you've got a mind-breaking realization coming, son. She's nothing but trouble.

Jack Ryan: The problem is, Walter, a lot of the stuff you say makes me kinda want to be around her.


Walter Crewes: Getting in deep, aren't you? 

Jack Ryan: I don't know about this girl. A part of me thinks she could be the answer. Then, a part of me thinks, you're gonna open up the paper one day, and it will (say): The body of yours truly was found floating in Waimea Bay. Nancy Hayes sought for questioning."


Walter Crewes: Sometimes, things are exactly as they seem.

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