Saturday, April 20, 2013

Love For Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn

A year ago today [as I begin to write this], Levon Helm breathed his last.  Levon Helm was first diagnosed with throat cancer [“cancer of the vocal chords” as Levon put it] in the late 1990s.  Faced with medical bills and a mortgage on his house and barn in Woodstock, NY, Levon started having Midnight Rambles at “the barn.”  Levon’s friends [of which there were many] would show up and play the shows with him.  He couldn’t sing, but he could still play the drums and the mandolin for others.  The shows would start at roughly 8:30pm and last until they were done playing.  The Rambles started as a way to pay Levon’s bills.  Afterwards they evolved into exercises for Levon to work to regain his singing voice in an environment where he wouldn’t be pressured by promoters or club owners to sing the hits and carry the show by himself.  About once a month, the musicians who played the Rambles played what they wanted as long as they wanted to an audience of about 200 people.  Once Levon felt his voice was strong enough, he started to record music again.  He recorded his Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt albums at the barn.  His daughter Amy has her own band – Ollabelle – who also recorded at the barn.  The barn is important in Levon Helm’s story.

In October 2012, Levon Helm’s friends gathered at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey to pay tribute.  Not only was the show a tribute to the life and music of Levon Helm, it was also billed as “a benefit to save the barn.”  With a couple of exceptions [Dierks Bentley, Jakob Dylan], everyone who participated had some kind of personal musical connection with Levon Helm.  Some date back to Levon’s time in The Band [Gregg Allman, Mavis Staples, Allen Touissaint, Howard Johnson and Roger Waters].  Others had participated in at least one of the Midnight Rambles held in Levon’s barn.   There were musicians from different generations, not just a bunch of old geezers from the 60s and 70s singing “goodbye” to another fallen comrade.  At times the old mingled with the new, as Roger Waters did with My Morning Jacket, Garth Hudson with Dierks Bentley, or Joe Walsh with Robert Randolph [big “thumbs up” for this one – this one smoked!].

There were two house bands to support the numerous guests – there was Levon Helm’s band, and there was the All Star Band.  I'm not sure thof the motivation for this set-up, but it worked.  In addition there was a horn section, like what supported The Band on The Last Waltz.  There were a lot of people on stage at any given time, but the Rambles are like that.

The All Star Band – Larry Campbell – guitar, mandolin, fiddle, vocals / Amy Helm – vocals / Teresa Williams – vocals / Greg Leisz – guitar / Kenny Aronoff – drums / Don Was – bass / Brian Mitchell – keyboards

Levon’s Band - Larry Campbell – guitar, mandolin, fiddle, vocals / Amy Helm – vocals / Teresa Williams – vocals / Jim Weider – guitar / Justin Guip – drums / Byron Isaacs – bass / Brian Mitchell – keyboards

The Horns – Howard Johnson – tuba / Jay Collins [Amy Helm’s husband] – saxophone / Steve Bernstein – trumpet / Clark Gayton – trombone, tuba / Erik Lawrence - saxophone

The object of the exercise was to raise money to keep the barn in the Helm Family’s control, and to continue with the Midnight Rambles.  It was Levon Helm’s wish to “keep it goin’.”  To quote his website:

“More than anything, he wanted the music to continue. He wanted the barn to be host to artists from all walks of life, from all genres. He wanted children to learn from there. He wanted Rambles to continue. He didn't want a day to go by without some form of music being heard from within THESE walls.  One of the more immediate challenges is financial; the need to generate income so that we can keep Levon's legacy moving forward.”

The good news –
1.     Sheryl Crow was nowhere near this event. 
2.     John Mayer let his guitar do the talking [he didn’t sing].  IMHO, he plays better than he sings. 
3.     Garth Hudson plays the organ on Chest Fever.
4.     I got this two-CD set for the price of one.
5.     Eric Church – I had never heard him sing before.  I must check out this guy’s work – he’s good!
6.     Grace Potter – I have to check out her work, too.
7.     Larry Campbell – he sings, he plays, he’s the emcee.  He’s done a lot of work for others either as a musician, arranger or producer.  He was Bob Dylan’s MVP for almost ten years, and has done a lot of work with Phil Lesh.  Why doesn’t he have anything out under his own name?  Maybe he wants it that way, or maybe he’s so busy working with others that he doesn’t have the time.
8.     There is not a bad song in the bunch – it’s all good.

The bad news – Levon Helm is still dead.  From the sound of things, he would have had a blast playing this event.

Tony’s favorites from the event – This Wheel’s On Fire, Tennessee Jed, Up On Cripple Creek, Move Along Train, A Train Robbery, The Shape I’m In, Long Black Veil, Ophelia
The song list:
The Shape I'm In [Stage Fright] – Warren Haynes
Long Black Veil [Music From Big Pink] – Gregg Allman & Warren Haynes
Trouble In Mind [Hot Tuna – Live at Sweetwater] – Jorma Kaukonen
This Wheel’s On Fire [Music From Big Pink] – Larry Campbell
Little Birds [Dirt Farmer] – Amy Helm & Theresa Williams
Listening To Levon [Marc Cohn – Join the Parade] – Marc Cohn
Move Along Train [Electric Dirt] – Mavis Staples
Life Is a Carnival [Cahoots] – Allen Touissaint
When I Paint My Masterpiece [Cahoots] John Prine & Garth Hudson
Anna Lee [Dirt Farmer] – Bruce Hornsby & Amy Helm
Ain’t Got No Home [Moondog Matinee] – Jakob Dylan
Whispering Pines [The Band] – Lucinda Williams
Rag Mama Rag [The Band] – John Hiatt
Don’t Do It [Rock of Ages] – David Bromberg & Joan Osbourne
I Shall Be Released [Music From Big Pink] – Grace Potter
Tears of Rage [Music From Big Pink] – Ray LaMontagne & John Mayer
Rockin’ Chair [The Band] – Dierks Bentley
Chest Fever [Music From Big Pink] – Dierks Bentley & Garth Hudson
A Train Robbery [Dirt Farmer] – Eric Church
Get Up Jake [The Band outtake] – Eric Church
Tennessee Jed [Electric Dirt] – Larry Campbell & John Mayer
Up on Cripple Creek [The Band] – Joe Walsh & Robert Randolph
Ophelia [Northern Lights-Southern Cross] – My Morning Jacket
It Makes No Difference [Northern Lights-Southern Cross] - My Morning Jacket
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down [The Band] - My Morning Jacket & Roger Waters
Wide River To Cross [Dirt Farmer] – Roger Waters & Amy Helm
The Weight [Encore] [Music From Big Pink] - Everybody
Bottom line – this is an excellent recording of an excellent show.  I can’t speak for the DVD of the show, but I might get it as well if for nothing else than to catch the between-song banter that’s left off the CDs [Roger Waters’ story about Levon’s hat was especially poignant].  It’s got the same feel as Levon’s Ramble at the Ryman.  If you like one, get the other – you won’t be disappointed.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The World According to Dick Cheney

I try to keep politics and entertainment separate, especially in this blog.  But every now and then, the two intersect as they do with The World According to Dick Cheney [shown on Showtime].  This documentary should have a subtitle:  How I marginalized myself in the Bush Administration.  This documentary will change nobody's opinion of this very polarizing figure.  If you thought he was Darth Vader and a war criminal, nothing here will change your mind.  If you think he was a patriot who did what he could to protect the country, your viewpoint will also be validated.

At the beginning, the filmmaker asks Dick Cheney a few questions -

Favorite Virtue: Integrity
What do you appreciate most in your friends:  Honesty
Idea of happiness:  a day on the south fork of the Snake with a fly rod…
Main fault: “I guess I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my faults would be the answer…”

How did he feel about 9/11:  He didn’t think about it that way – he had a job to do. 

Dick Cheney’s story begins in earnest with 9/11.  Cheney:  “A Secret Service agent came in and said “Sir, we have to leave immediately.”  They propelled me out of my office and down the hall.  I got on the telephone with the President, he was in Florida, and told him not to be in one location where we both can be taken out.  We had a list of six aircraft that had been hijacked.  We could account for three of them – two in New York, one in the Pentagon but we had three more out there and we didn’t know where they were.  There’d been a report of a plane outside of Washington 80 or 90 miles away headed for Washington at a high rate of speed.  You could wring your hands, be worried and be emotional about it, then you can’t function.  Under those circumstances you’ve got to act.  You know you’ve got to deal with the situation as it arises.  You’ve got to anticipate difficulties.  That’s the nature of conflict.  A plane 80 miles out traveling at a high rate of speed to Washington is a matter of minutes before it arrives over the city.  I gave the instructions that’d we’d authorize our pilots to take it out…”

Dick Cheney is not what you’d call a good politician.  He was a better bureaucrat than he was a politician.  He liked being the power behind the throne.  To wit: “The ones who spend all their time trying to be loved by everybody probably aren’t doing very much.  If you’re not prepared to have critics and to be subject to criticism, then you’re in the wrong line of work.  If you want to be loved, uh, go be a movie star…”

The story then shifts to Wyoming.  Dick Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming.  In high school he played football and baseball, and was the senior class president.  A local oil man arranged for him to get a scholarship to attend Yale.  He had a drinking problem.  Instead of concentrating on school, he and his friends drank beer – a lot.  He was in over his head.  He flunked out of school his freshman year.  He was allowed to return but he lost his scholarship, but he got thrown out of Yale after his sophomore year.   He went back to Wyoming and worked.  He strung power lines, living day to day, paycheck to paycheck.  He still drank a lot.  He was arrested twice for DUI.  His friends at Yale were graduating from college.  His high school sweetheart Lynne graduated from Colorado College a year early, all the while Cheney is sitting in jail in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  Lynne pretty much read him the riot act, telling him she wasn’t going to marry a lineman.  So he got his act together and enrolled at the University of Wyoming, majoring in political science.  After he received his Bachelor’s degree, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  He planned to teach political science after he earned his doctorate.  Cheney and Lynne got married.  This was all taking place at the time of massive protests against the Vietnam War.  Cheney supported the war.  He says the experience in Madison drove him and Lynne toward the conservative end of the political spectrum.

So how did a college dropout with two DUI arrests become a power player in Washington?  In 1968 the Cheneys moved to Washington DC.  He participated in a program that paired grad students with members of Congress.  He was going to stay only for a year before returning to Wisconsin to finish his studies.  It was during this time he met a young Congressman from Illinois named Donald Rumsfeld.  Cheney interviewed with Rumsfeld who threw Cheney out of his office.  Cheney:  “If you’re looking for warm and fuzzy, Rumsfeld’s not the right place to go.”  But a few months later, Richard Nixon appointed Congressman Rumsfeld to be director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.  Cheney wrote a 12-page memo telling Rumsfeld what he ought to do for his confirmation hearing.   Rumsfeld liked what he read, remembered Cheney and asked Cheney to come to work for him.  So at age 28 he had an office in the West Wing of the White House just down the hall from Rumsfeld.  Rumsfeld was a consummate bureaucratic infighter, and Cheney learned this from him.  Nixon offered Cheney a job to work on his 1972 re-election campaign, but Cheney chose to stick with Rumsfeld. 

What follows after Cheney’s arrival in Washington is the making of a modern-day Machiavelli.  In rapid succession, the film details Cheney rocketing to positions of power within the Ford Administration [White House Chief of Staff at age 34], his election to Congress, his rapid ascent to a leadership position in the House Republican Caucus, and his stint as Defense Secretary.  The Gulf War takes up about one minute of the documentary.  In fact, the time devoted to his time in Congress and his time at the Pentagon were about as short as this paragraph. 

After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, Cheney decided he’d give the presidency a shot in 1996.  In 1994 he drove all over the country, trying to drum up support for a possible candidacy.  Cheney: “I spent a lot of time on the road.  I thought that I was qualified by background and experience to do the job.  I mean I believed that I could function effectively as president.  Part of it was to assess that basic question about my willingness to do what I would have to do…”  He’s not good at retail politics, and he didn’t like it.  He didn’t raise much money, and didn’t attract much support, so he opted not to run for president.  Then he went to work for Halliburton [that’s all that is said about Halliburton].  He knew he’d never be elected president, and was quite happy working in the private sector.  But like other areas of Dick Cheney’s life, his time at Halliburton was given short shrift by this film.

When George W. Bush ran for president, he asked Cheney once to consider being his running mate.  Cheney told him “no.”  Cheney: “I had seen the unpleasantness a number of vice presidents had, the negative experiences.  Jerry Ford always told me the worst job he ever had in his life, the worst eight months in his life was when he was vice president – he hated the job.”  Cheney was happy to be in the private sector, but he agreed to lead Bush search for a vice president.  He said his process was very intrusive, that he’d ask for ten years’ worth of tax returns, for any information that might be an embarrassment to Bush.  He admitted he probably would not go through his own selection process if asked to be vice president.  About Bush:  “He knew what he wanted and what he was looking for, and that was somebody who could be part of ‘the team’ to help him govern.”  He would tell Bush stories about the dynamic between the president and the vice president.  The key thing he described was the ambition of the “number two guy,” that ambition was “latent disloyalty” that would automatically disqualify someone for the job.  He kept telling Bush he didn’t want the job, but after a review of all the prospective candidates, Bush told Cheney that he was the solution to the problem.  Cheney said the reason he finally said ‘yes’ was when he realized Bush was deadly serious about the vice presidency being a consequential position.  He liked Cheney’s background in national defense and security.   

Nothing was said in this documentary about his numerous draft deferments.  Not much was said about the 2000 election, either.  What the documentary focused on with this part of the story was the transition.  While Bush and Gore were fighting the Florida recount, Cheney led the transition.   That in itself was unusual – vice presidents don’t run things.  It’s revealed he made some of the Cabinet picks, even going as far as three to four levels down from the Cabinet secretaries.  What emerges is an administration that thinks more like Dick Cheney than George W. Bush.  He persuaded his old friend and mentor Donald Rumsfeld to be Defense Secretary again.  He persuaded Bush to make it so.  As for his role in the Bush Presidency, he was given “walk-in” rights to any meeting on any topic.  This allowed Cheney to shape any debate such that by the time recommendations for action came to Bush, those recommendations already had the Cheney stamp on them.

Filmmaker:  “Do you remember walking back into the White House as vice president on January 20th, 2001?”

Cheney:  “I do.  When I’d first arrived there back in 1968 I was one of the youngest people in the West Wing, and this time around I was the oldest.”

After 9/11, Cheney wanted to expand electronic surveillance to be able to find, track and capture terrorists inside the US.  Cheney and his counsel David Addington devised a program that would keep track of billions of phone calls and emails.  This was the warrantless wiretap program.  It was authorized and re-authorized several times since 9/11 [every 30-45 days].  But federal law said a special court had to authorize such a thing for each and every person the US government wanted to monitor.

Cheney: “The big problem was it didn’t allow us to get a fast enough turnaround on threats, to be able to effectively intercept the communications we needed to guard against further prospective attack.  From time to time there may be something so sensitive that you don’t want to raise the specter, the possibility that it might be leaked, and there are some things that need secrecy.”

Cheney didn’t want to go to Congress to adjust the law.  Ever the proponent of executive power, he knew the Justice Department had the power to write a secret memo saying the White House didn’t need any warrants for the new spying. 

Cheney:  “It worked – it was a good program.  It saved a lot of lives and did a lot to allow us to thwart prospective attacks by al-Qaeda.”

At the end of 2003 two new people arrived at the Justice Department – Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith [Head of the Office of Legal Counsel].  These men provided fresh sets of eyes to something that had been put in-place after 9/11.  Both men are conservative Republicans, but each time they looked at the memo re-authorizing the warrantless program the more they thought the legality of the program was dubious.  There was intense debate between the Justice Department and Cheney’s office about the program.  Attorney General Ashcroft had to sign off on the program in order for it to continue.  He would sign it only if Comey and Goldsmith said it was okay.  Cheney didn’t tell President Bush about the growing resistance from Justice.  One week before the program was set to expire, Comey met with Ashcroft.  Comey told Ashcroft of several things they thought were illegal and that Ashcroft should not sign off.  Ashcroft told Comey “ok, go ahead and tell them to make these changes, and if they don’t I won’t sign.”  Hours after that meeting, Ashcroft was hospitalized with a very bad case of pancreatitis [he nearly died].  Ashcroft delegated all of his authority to Comey, who became the Acting Attorney General.  The Cheney-Justice fight came to a head in March 2004.  Comey, Goldsmith and 10 other Justice Department lawyers threatened a mass resignation if the program was re-authorized without Justice concurrence.  Bush stopped by the White House during the 2004 campaign.  Cheney told him the warrantless wiretap program was due to expire.  He didn’t tell him that Justice challenged its legality, or that mass resignations from Justice were imminent.  Cheney kept Bush completely in the dark about this state of affairs.  Bush re-authorized the program.  Comey went to Condoleeza Rice to try to see the president.  After a Friday morning anti-terrorism briefing, Rice told Bush “something’s on Jim Comey’s mind, he’s a good man, maybe you ought to check.”  Bush saw Comey and asked “what’s all this I hear about you not signing?  How can you possibly, sort of, this last minute, late-in-the-game, tell us suddenly it’s no good?”  Comey was floored by what he heard and told the president “if your staff is telling you that, you’re being very poorly served.”  Comey was just going to resign, then he realized the president really didn’t know what was happening.  Bush told Comey to change the surveillance program and make it legal.  In 24 hours, there was a change from mass resignations at Justice to Bush telling them “I will stop doing the things you say are illegal.”  Bush was pissed – at Cheney.  Cheney would have let all those guys at Justice resign.  News of such a thing would have made Bush a one-term president.  Bush wrote in his memoirs “I never wanted to be blindsided like that again.”  Bush understood the Cheney had walked his administration to the edge of a cliff, and it forever changed the Bush-Cheney dynamic.  This whole episode is quite a revelation.  People have gone to jail for less.

Cheney - “If you’re a ‘man of principle, ‘compromise’ is a bit of a dirty word.”  Implication – if anybody compromises on anything, he has no principles.

Further damage to the Bush-Cheney dynamic was caused by the Valerie Plume scandal. 

The source of the Valerie Plume leak:  Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State.  Fitzgerald knew this but wanted to find out if anyone else leaked Plume’s identity.  In Dick Cheney’s mind, since Fitzpatrick knew the source of the leak, the case should have been closed.  But Fitzpatrick continued to investigate, much to Cheney’s annoyance.  In the course of his investigation, Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby lied to investigators.  A grand jury indicted Libby, he was tried and convicted.  The result - Bush was pissed even more at Cheney.  When Bush ran for president in 2000, he wanted to rid the Oval Office of the scandals that plagued his predecessor.   But with Scooter Libby, he had a scandal of his own that could have been avoided.  That must have made Bush furious.  Again, Bush was “blindsided.”  Cheney nagged at Bush so much for a pardon for Libby that he stopped taking Cheney’s phone calls.  What nags me about this whole Libby episode is this [in the context of this film] – at the beginning of the film, Cheney says the one characteristic he values most in his friends is “honesty.”  How does his constant going-to-bat for a person convicted of lying to investigators square with that, and why didn’t the filmmaker call him on that?  Perhaps the characteristic he likes most in his friends is loyalty, not honesty [but that’s just me…].  The Libby case is the tipping point for the Bush-Cheney relationship.  To wit: when it was discovered there was a nuclear plant in Syria, Cheney recommended the US take it out militarily.  To this, Bush is described as “rolling his eyes” and then asking everybody in the meeting “who agrees with the Vice President?”  Nobody raised a hand – Cheney had marginalized himself.

Then there was Iraq.  Much time was devoted to the war in Iraq.  He expresses astonishment over what transpired at Abu Grahib.  He expresses astonishment over the Iraqi insurgency and how Iraq had spun out of control.  Cheney is still convinced the WMDs were in Iraq, but doesn’t explain how none were found.  According to him, everybody ‘knew’ Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction.  However, in this film he doesn’t say anything about the location of the WMDs because the question wasn’t even asked [?!?]. 

There seems to be one theme of this piece – Dick Cheney had [in his own mind] an inside track to “the truth,” regardless of facts that would indicate otherwise.  I guess that’s another way of saying ‘the ends justify the means.’  Bush is portrayed as an inexperienced figurehead who was “blindsided” quite a bit. Apparently Bush had been “blindsided” and misled by Cheney so much that when the subject of a pardon for Scooter Libby came up, the recollection of all those times of when he was blindsided must have been why Libby was never granted a pardon.  It also explains why Rumsfeld was forced to resign immediately after the Republicans got trounced in the 2006 mid-term elections.  Because of that, there is still friction between Bush and Cheney.  Bush wasn’t interviewed for the film, neither were Colin Powell nor Condoleeza Rice.  Lest one think this film was slanted entirely toward Cheney, several journalists and colleagues are interviewed to give their spin on what they think Cheney got wrong. 

George W. Bush wanted a “consequential” vice president – what he got was Cardinal Richelieu.  About his time in Washington, Dick Cheney is given the final word:  “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it in a minute.”  The one big message from this documentary – defiant to the end, Dick Cheney regrets nothing.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Man On Fire - "Denzel Gets Medieval"

“There is one kidnapping every 60 seconds in Latin America.  70% of the victims do not survive.”  And so begins Man on Fire.

Man on Fire is really two movies for the price of one.  The first hour is about a man named John Creasy, a former CIA agent, and Marine veteran of countless counterinsurgency and anti-terrorist actions.  Creasy is retired and in the midst of a crisis of conscience.  When he visits his former colleague Paul Rayburn in Mexico, he asks Rayburn if God will forgive them for all of the things they’ve done in their past life.   The second half of the movie is a classic revenge tale that is especially vicious.  That’s what got my attention - how violent the movie is.  It’s exceptionally violent, so my first reaction after I saw it was to rename it “Denzel Gets Medieval.”  Denzel’s character goes from one unfortunate goon to the next, killing them as he goes, but not before gathering important information that leads him on his trail toward finding the little girl he was charged with protecting.

Plot synopsis:  John Creasy [Denzel Washington] is an ex-CIA assassin.  He’s an alcoholic, depressed and suicidal.  He’s looking for something to do.  Paul Rayburn [Christopher Walken] is a friend of Creasy from the CIA.  He’s retired and has his own security firm in Mexico City.  He hires Creasy to come work for him.  His job?  To protect a nine-year old girl named Pita Ramos [Dakota Fanning].  Her parents [played by Marc Anthony and Radha Mitchell] hired him because of a rash of kidnappings in Mexico City.

Creasy is at the end of his proverbial rope.  Once while on a drunken binge he tried to kill himself, but the bullet misfired.  He takes that as a sign that it wasn’t his time to go yet.  At first Creasy is very stand-offish with Pita.  He says he was hired to protect her, not to be her friend.  But as time goes on, the two grow closer.  While Creasy was at Pita’s school watching her swim, he noticed she is a fast swimmer but a slow starter.  So he works with Pita on her starting technique.  During this time they become great friends.  Creasy would do anything to protect Pita.  He’s become more of a parent to her than her real parents.  But one day, Ramos told Pita that she should concentrate on the piano instead of swimming.  Creasy took Pita to piano practice.  While he waits for her, off-duty city cops in uniform and riding in a police car block off the street.  Creasy knows Pita’s kidnapping is on and starts a gunfight with the cops.  He kills two cops and two others, but he is seriously wounded himself.  After the kidnapping, the Ramoses agree to a $10 million dollar ransom from a guy called ‘The Voice.’  Ramos’ lawyer Jordan Kalfus arranges a ransom drop.  He puts the $10 million dollars in the trunk of a car to be parked somewhere The Voice’s minions could collect the money.  But before The Voice could get the money, his minions are ambushed and they don’t get the ransom.  The Voice calls Ramos and tells him Pita is dead because he didn’t get the money.

The Mexico City police are going to charge Creasy with the murder of the two cops.   Miguel Monzano [Giancarlo Giannini] and Mariana Garcia Guerrero [Rachel Ticotin] are present when the police chief holds a press conference saying he will charge Creasy with murder.  Monzano runs the Agency of Federal Investigation [AFI].  He knows the Mexico City police department is corrupt, so he aims to help Creasy.  He and Rayburn spirited Creasy out of the hospital so the Mexico City cops don’t kill Creasy for the murder of the two crooked cops.  Meanwhile Guerrero, who is a reporter for a newspaper called La Reforma, also tells Creasy she wants to help him. She provides much aid to Creasy with great effect.

Before he could heal completely, Creasy is up and about trying to find out who “kidnapped and “killed” Pita.  He asks Rayburn to provide him with lots of weapons to do what he needs to do.  Rayburn gives him what he wants.  Creasy went back to the Ramos’ house to pick up his things.  Pita’s mom finds him and asks him what he’s going to do.  He tells her he’s going to kill everyone who was involved, everyone who profited from Pita’s kidnapping.  She tells Creasy to “kill them all.”  Here is where “Denzel gets medieval.”

Medieval Moment #1Creasy asked the Guerrero to find the address of ten license plate numbers.  She got them from Manzano.  When he found the car he was looking for he waited for the owner to come out.  The owner did, and then Creasy got in the car with the guy and pointed a gun at him.  His name is Jorge Gonzalez.  He tells Creasy he’s a Judicial Policeman.  Creasy points the gun at his head and tells him to drive.  They end up at a hill overlooking one of Mexico City’s crowded slums.  After he knocks out Gonzalez he strips Gonzalez down to his underwear and he duct-tapes his hands to the steering wheel.  He tells Gonzalez he’s going to ask him some questions, and for every wrong answer, he’s going to cut off a finger.  Then he shows him the car’s cigarette lighter, which he explains will stop the bleeding after he takes a finger.  Gonzalez tells Creasy he’s “a member of La Hermanadad” [a group of crooked cops and gangsters], then Creasy cuts off the first finger.  And like he said, he used the lighter to cauterize the wound.  Creasy’s interrogation cost Gonzalez two fingers and [I think] a part of his right ear.  But Gonzalez told Creasy a few details – who ordered the kidnapping [The Voice], to whom they deliver their victims [‘the Guardians’], and about a guy named ‘the Butcher.’  ‘The Butcher’ works at a rave in Neza.  Creasy gives Gonzalez a cigarette and lights it up, then kills Gonzalez. 

Medieval Moment #2 –After dispensing with Gonzalez, Creasy goes to the rave in Neza.  There he finds the Butcher, hands him a wad of cash to get in the door.  After he enters, Creasy flashes him a picture of Pita and asked the Butcher what he knew about her.  The Butcher claims ignorance, upon which time Creasy puts a gun in his stomach.  So they take a little walk through the ravers and go upstairs to the office.  The Butcher knocks, a guy on the other side answers and opens the door after the Butcher said it was ok.  Creasy breaks in and fires one shot with a shotgun.  Creasy asks the three people present about the girl.  When they all claim ignorance Creasy shoots the Butcher and re-loads.  He duct-tapes the other two, then starts asking the guy who answered the door some questions.  The guy who answered the door told him about being contacted by cell phone and being paid with ATM cards. He knows that the Boss was yelling at Pita because his nephew got killed when the ransom money was stolen in the drop ambush.  He tells Creasy a crooked cop named Fuentes stole the ransom money.  Fuentes is a police lieutenant for the anti-kidnapping squad.  After that tidbit, Creasy kills the guy.  The only one who is left, an older lady, starts telling Creasy about the kidnappers knocking Pita around.  She recognized the voice of the Boss’s brother.  Creasy tells her if she can tell him where the Boss is he’ll let her live.  She says she doesn’t know, but she’ll give him “the girl.” When she shows Creasy “the girl,” it turns out this girl was a victim of a different kidnapping.    Creasy starts to open a bunch of gas canisters [of what I don’t know] and then sets the office on fire.  He leads the old lady and ‘the girl’ out of the rave, all the while firing shotgun blasts in the air to get the ravers to leave the building.  Shortly thereafter, the building explodes, causing all the ravers to cheer.  Creasy calls Guerrero and tells her about ‘the girl’ he just liberated.  After Guerrero shows up on the scene, Creasy asks Guerrero about banking connections.  He wants to know who the ATM cards are attached to.

Medieval Moment #3 – Creasy finds Fuentes, kidnaps him with the help of an RPG, takes him to an underpass and booby-traps him.  He took a bunch of C4, put a timer on it that’s activated by a pager, and shoved it up Fuentes’ ass.  He tells Fuentes what’s inside of him.  Then he starts to ask Fuentes some questions.  Fuentes tells Creasy he’s the “President of La Hermanadad.”  Unimpressed, Creasy informs Fuentes he doesn’t have a lot of time to talk [five minutes – he’d already sent a page to the bomb inside Fuentes], so Fuentes tells Creasy about the ransom drop, and how not all $10 million of the ransom was there.  Ramos' layer Jordan Kalfus loaded the bags of money in the car used for the ransom drop and kept most of the money for himself.  When time was up Creasy tells Fuentes that he wished he had more time, then walks away as Fuentes and his car blow up.

Creasy went to Kalfus' house to find him bled to death face down in his pool.  He finds a fax of bank codes from a bank in the Cayman Islands in the fax machine.  He calls Guerrero to find out about deposits and withdrawals for both Kalfus and Ramos.  Creasy went to the Ramos house to ask them about the money.  Lisa knows nothing.  Samuel confesses he arranged the kidnapping to get insurance money to pay off his debts.  He says he didn't inherit a business kingdom from his father - he inherited gambling debts that had to be paid.  Kalfus told Ramos that Pita would be back in 2 days - he lied.  Ramos killed Kalfus. "I did it for us - for the 3 of us."  Lisa tells Creasy to kill Ramos.  He doesn't.  What he does is take out the bullet that misfired when he tried to kill himself earlier.  He tells Ramos 'a bullet always tells the truth - it bullet never lies.  It didn't work for me - maybe it'll work for you."  So he hands Ramos the misfired bullet and a gun and walks away.  While he's walking away you hear Ramos killing himself.

Medieval Moment #4 – This is a brief medieval moment.  Guerrero had given Creasy an address for the ATM card he got at the rave.  Here he ran into The Voice’s brother.  After a brief shootout [during which Creasy was wounded], Creasy blew all the fingers off one of the brother’s hands.

AFI planted a camera in the house while they were pretending to go around the barrio giving 'cholera shots.'  They bugged the house and stole a picture of 'The Voice,' so now they know what he looks like.  Guerrero publishes his picture in La Reforma.  Creasy gets a copy of the picture and the address of Reina Rosas Sanchez from Guerrero.  Creasy goes to the address.  He finds the identity of The Voice - Daniel.  Creasy is wounded again [mortally this time].    Creasy makes contact with The Voice.  He tells The Voice he will kill his family if he doesn’t deliver himself to Creasy.  But The Voice has an ace-in-the-hole.  Pita is still alive and he tells Creasy.  Creasy wants “proof of life” and The Voice gives it to him – the name of Pita’s teddy bear [it’s ‘Creasy’].  Creasy and The Voice make a deal – Creasy and The Voice’s brother in exchange for Pita.  Creasy tells Lisa Ramos that Pita is still alive, tells her the location of the exchange, and that she should be there when it happens. 

Creasy and Pita meet halfway on an overpass.  Pita tells Creasy she loves him, and Creasy does likewise, but it’s time for him to go.  Pita is reunited with her mom.  Creasy gets in the car with The Voice's henchmen and dies from his wounds shortly thereafter.  AFI went to arrest The Voice on the same day, but The Voice was “killed during the arrest.” 

He knew he was going to die so he had no problem in giving himself up for Pita.  So perhaps not only is this a tale of revenge, it’s also a tale of redemption.  Creasy got the little girl back and killed a lot of bad guys along the way.  So maybe, just maybe because of this selfless act, God will forgive John Creasy of the sins of his past life.