Starring Timothy Hutton
and Kim Cattrall
, this 1985 film is about fighting to be heard. Jimmy (Hutton) and his older brother Terry "Turk" Lynch
are best friends who became all the family they would ever know. After their father killed himself and mother drank herself to death, the two grew up in the streets of New York City
. Terry, a fireman, was at a bar after his shift when a fire broke out nearby. He ran in at a small boy's insistence that a girl was trapped inside. While Terry was in there, the fire department arrived, not knowing Terry was still inside searching for the child. When the fireman entered the room where they were, their hoses blew them out of a window and onto a car. The girl was unharmed. Terry was in the hospital for months and put on medication indefinitely for the pain. Unable to work, Terry, with Jimmy's help, applied for pension
to pay for hospital costs and medical expenses but was denied on the basis that Terry was under the influence and off duty at the time of injury
. Jimmy goes all the way to the mayor's office to appeal on his brother's behalf and is rudely denied. At this time the mayor is going under fire
for some alleged political bad stuff. Jimmy, an artist at heart who can never seem to hold down a job
, takes advantage of the mayor's poor public reception and uses it to fuel an off color
petition for his brother's case. Along with a repetitive slogan used by the mayor's enemies (namely the city at large
), Jimmy attaches his brother's nickname and fire department number, Turk 182, to the graffiti slandering the mayor's name. As with many underground messages with any meaning
behind them, the city responds, falling in love with the unknown spokesperson even though it's not known until the end of the film what Turk 182 really means. Cattrall plays Terry's social worker and once she finds out who Jimmy is, falls in love with him and what he stands for. There isn't any real closure at the film's end except for the last display of Turk 182, which comes when a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of a bridge in the city. The mayor, in his last attempt to show he can still do good
for the city, has letters displayed on the bridge that are lit up. Jimmy clambers into the grid work and rearranges the letters until they read Turk 182.
There are several moments in films that I have seen where I wish I could freeze a frame and preserve it, frame it on the wall. For this film, it would be the last scene where Jimmy, hanging from his harness on the bridge and lit up by police helicopter lights, holds his hands up Rocky style in triumph. Shortly before this scene, a brief interview Jimmy appeared for was aired, the first public admission of his identity that he uses as another platform for his brother's situation. In it, Jimmy states, "I wanted my brother to know that he mattered." After surviving the fall from the building at the beginning of the film and being released from the hospital, Terry is at first arrested for being the alleged graffiti artist. While he's in custody, he tries to kill himself. As Terry loses hope, Jimmy fights that much harder to show the world how much his brother means to him.
The movie is a bit cheesy, as are all movies from more than 10 years ago usually are. Movies, in my mind, didn't learn to be great, to say something intriguing until at least the mid 1980's, when movies like this were made. Under the cheese you can see valid points, points still trying to be made today. About people taking some individual stand against a system that ignores them or tries to silence them for its own gain. I only wish more of them were based in truth, because I don't doubt true accounts similar to them have happened and gone unrecorded.
People like the man who brought you Andre the Giant has a Posse, Sheppard Fairey, who I assume is still alive, do try to say something, and I try to listen. I appreciate every OBEY sticker and stencil I see, even if few people who see it have ever read the manifesto that Fairey has written to define his purpose. In a world this complex that is given over to mediocre sound bites instead of words, symbols often work better than statements.
When I watched the scene featuring the interview, people were gathered around televisions on display in store windows, clinging to every word Jimmy said. And I thought, God, wouldn't it be amazing if you picked just handful of people who were interested in having their opinions voiced and got them even 10 minutes on the air. If television stations weren't so worried about the content, I'm sure the ratings would keep them happy enough, because I truly, honestly believe that what America wants is seldom what it is given to see. And so, if we can't use a medium to say something, we pick something else. Graffiti, magazines, internet web sites, photography, music, poetry, shit, our own lives are a palette for our voices. Who we are and how we live speaks volumes about us if we only understood that. Most people, in this day and age, realize that they can't change the world, but I don't think we really wanted much of it to change anyway. We simply want to know that we matter, because we do.