I am not a friend of the term “guilty pleasure”, but I do not think it is a completely disposable expression of vocabulary when we want to define certain emotions that leisure awakens in us. One of the great exceptions to use it would be the new series ‘The final list’ (The Terminal List, 2022), which has caused a sensation since it arrived on Amazon Prime Video and has already become a number 1 hit. Nothing surprising when starring Chris Pratt.
Pleasure and guilt are two antithetical terms and normally I have no problem admitting that I enjoy cinema-accident masterpieces like ‘Troll 2’ (1990) like a pig, so I have no guilt for it either, nor am I afraid to say it in tall. But with an action series starring a military man out for revenge who ends up taking some of his own ideological dictates seriously it is something else. Well, practically the same thing as enjoying ‘The city’s vigilante’ (Death Wish, 1974), with nuances.
Actually it happens with almost all the Cannon movies, both those of Charles Bronson, as well as those of Chuck Norris and even those of ‘Rambo’, ‘Cobra’ and all the ones you want to count in the 80’s. armed macho action has a reactionary background that when viewed at certain ages does not soak through, however they were the favorites of our parents, because they had action, violence and ridiculous lapidary phrases that turn them, voluntarily or involuntarily, into something hilarious, comic and unreal. They are crazy but we like them.
But when we grow up it is easy to find the political nuance of an entire era and we need a layer of irony to enjoy something that is nothing more than a product of its moment, and that’s where that “guilt” ends. In a normal world, there would not have to be an instruction manual to explain that watching ‘Commando’ (1985) is not synonymous with being convinced that the best solution in the world is American interventionism and being nostalgic for the Reagan era. The operation with series like ‘The final list’ is a bit similar.
Ideological guilt or allergy to action without superheroes?
Much has been written about the new Amazon original, but its main feature is that it is based on real experiences and seeks to be also realistic in its action. The critical reactions on Rotten Tomatoes are very low in percentage, however the viewers’ score is much more impressive, reaching 94%, there, 9 on Metacritic and passing the score of 8 on the more demanding Imdb. In fact, not even any of my colleagues have found it too noteworthy. And up to a certain point, on a strict and academic level, you can agree, but the public has had a different opinion.
According to former Navy SEAL and author of the book on which the series is based, Jack Carr, the lukewarm reception has to do with the current political climate and how it’s affecting entertainment, and may not be misguided, which some way recognizes that its product has a strong ideological charge, however much more hidden and intuitable it may be if we compare it with the cinema of its genre in other times. It does not help a Pratt in the eye of the hurricane for having been part of a controversial church, which he now says he is not part of.
However, it is not so clear that ideology weighs as much as that ‘The final list’ is a series with the same pretensions or lack of them as the action cinema of its timeand today that cinema cannot be seen in the same way if it is not covered with a layer of sarcastic humor, a “jijijaja” that tells us that the action is “fun” in some way. This is the only way to explain why such competent and well-finished products such as ‘The passenger’ (2018) or ‘Without remorse’ (2021) have been received very coldly. That is why a mediocre Guy Ritchie like ‘The Gentlemen’ (2019) goes better with his humor and music than his best film in years, ‘Awaken the Fury’ (2020), much more sober and to the point.
Ganan action cinema without ironic alibi
For this reason, it seems that it is difficult to see ‘Reacher’ as a tremendous return to the great American slap thriller and ‘The Terminal List’ as the perfect equivalent of the popcorn video store rental pack that the clerk recommended although it was not preceded by commercials on TV. In addition, it comes with the direction of a master of this type of cinema, Antoine Fuqua, who marks the pulse that he has recently given us in modern films as powerful as ‘The Equalizer 2’, which had an amazing neo-western climax, one of which they will never put you in the best of the year on Indiewire.
The Amazon series is what would happen to a Frederick Forsyth novel that dreamed of being a 1990s Steven Seagal movie, almost an unintentional quasi-parody of Chuck Norris’s cinema that cares not about its clichés but about its offer a good coverage of butter, gunpowder and violence. a lot of violence. You will not find in it a catalog of subtlety, but a revenge story as basic and patriotic as it is bloody and, often, stupid.
Chris Pratt plays an unpleasant “antihero” —did Seagal or Norris like him?—, close to psychopathy, a man in a spiral of mental collapse whose actions keep a reactionary residue that makes ‘The Final List’ a dark work , perhaps too recurrent on the theme of trauma and the mourning of a man, sometimes taken to the cornybut in reality its drama has more in common with ‘Combat shock’ than with ‘Born on the 4th of July’, sometimes even reaching the terrain of the psychological thriller of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’.
That cinema that is no longer made
There is no denying that it starts rough, the conflict is not that great and the supporting characters do not have enough charisma, or receive memorable script lines. But when the necessary change of the character is passed and the gears are lubricated, the thing is still a one shot from ‘Punisher’ a ‘Kill Bill’ with a lot more people on the list, and it’s an unstoppable crescendo to a second half turned into an old-school widescreen action-festreaching the giddy catharsis of hemoglobin and people jumping through the air, perfect for unwinding on a Friday night.
And it is that another thing that cannot be denied is that the budget is powerful and this translates into great, memorable action scenes, such as the spectacular attack in San Francisco, or the entire 6th episode, a reformulation of ‘Corneralado’ (First blood, 1982) tremendous, a healthy dose of brutal murder —one with explosives that recalls the best moments of ‘The Fire of Vengeance’— and the final climax, which returns to none other than Pratt’s father-in-law’s ‘Commando’, arnold schwarzenegger.
Given this, the recipe is to entrust oneself to “they lose it” and coat oneself like a pig in the ajopringue of the agenda redneck and sing the mea culpa tomorrow, that there is no action cinema to shoot rockets or the stage of the series, increasingly full of green screen and superheroes with tights, enough to let go of this return to blood-spattered hands, winning soldiers and sequences shot in tangible placeswith the lens of the camera full of particles from the environment and the texture of the cinema that is no longer made.