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Unbeknownst to his wife Christine (Paula Marshall), the happy home life that Casey (Thomas Jane) has created for the both of them represents his decision to turn over a new leaf. However, his criminal past threatens to blow up his new normal when his old buddy Nick (Aaron Eckhart) unexpectedly calls, claiming to be swinging through town on his way to get married. Reluctantly, Casey allows Nick to drop his bags off and potentially stay for dinner, but becomes furious when he discovers that one of said bags is filled to the brim with heroin. Hoping to keep his house and conscience clean, Casey flushes the drugs down his kitchen sink, only for a succession of increasingly dangerous people, including wannabe rapper Ice (Glenn Plummer), sadistic bombshell Dallas (Paulina Porizkova), torture artist Billy (James Le Gros), and corrupt cop Kasarov (Mickey Rourke), to pop by looking for either the drugs, or $2 million in stolen cash.
Although there have been equally irritating trends, it's hard to come up with a trend both as obnoxious and enduring as the Tarantino knock-off, which endures even as Pulp Fiction approaches its 30th anniversary. Within this largely unpleasant and unsuccessful subgenre, the 1998 Skip Woods movie Thursday makes a strong case for itself as the most unpleasant and unsuccessful entry of all, packing its 87 minutes with a jaw-dropping amount of casual racism, a side of mild misogyny, and not a single ounce of creativity or wit.
Even grading on a curve for the huge changes in cultural sensitivity over the last 20 years and anticipating that a certain amount of "edginess" comes with the territory, it's stunning how much contempt Thursday seems to have for anyone who isn't white. Two-thirds of the way in, some 15 characters -- all POC -- have been violently murdered on screen (including a pregnant woman), many while the film's white cast deliver dialogue peppered with the N-word. Most of these characters are faceless drug dealers, and the characters who are granted a shred of personality are heavy on stereotypes (of course Plummer's character is a weed-smoking rapper with a thick Jamaican accent). Debates about Tarantino's racial fixations and appropriations have plenty of merit, but at least it was obvious he was invested in and took care in crafting roles like Jules Winfield and Jackie Brown. Woods' movie is slick with contempt, and the non-white bit players in his movie exist to be laughed at, disposed of, or serve as motivation for the white leads.
Woods' vision for Thursday is that of black comedy, a wickedly violent exercise in irony, but in his hands, all that translates to is cheap, uninspired shock value. Woods' idea of inspired character writing is someone like Dallas, a femme fatale in high heels who talks openly about sex and self-identifies as a "bitch." A talented writer and a skilled actress might invest such a role with an actual personality, but there's nothing going on here but depressing attempts to be outrageous, starting with her gleeful murder of an innocent nobody and ending with an extended sequence where she gets fully nude and repeatedly rapes Casey. The way this sequence ends might be the nadir of Thursday's desperation to get a rise out of the viewer, a bloody punctuation mark that's only shocking in how painfully predictable it ultimately is.
Although Thursday is unrelentingly distasteful, its aspiration to be "funny" is perhaps the hardest pill to swallow, soaking the entire movie in an insufferable fog of irony that puts everything in air quotes. Not only is the movie gross, it's also simultaneously goosing the viewer to laugh, while conveying that none of what's happening matters. Almost the entire cast (Eckhart, Porizkova, Plummer, Le Gros, Rourke, and Michael Jeter) give exaggerated performances that grate on the nerves by constantly winking at the viewer to reassure them that the movie is an extended gag. Jane is the only person who keeps his acting somewhat grounded, and even then his efforts are undercut by the fact that his character is an unlikable piece of garbage who never takes real responsibility for his actions. Unsurprisingly, Woods tries to have his cake and eat it too, simultaneously framing Casey as having some sort of conscience, even as he navigates Thursday toward a conclusion that allows him to lean into his criminal past and get away with it.
Thursday gets new art for its Blu-ray debut, wihch emphasizes the single-day concept using clocks and blurred images to represent the film's frenetic energy. Simple, but reasonably nice-looking. The one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Armed with 1.85:1 1080p AVC video and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio, the unrated version of Thursday looks and sounds pretty good on Blu-ray. There's nothing on the packaging suggesting that this is a new transfer, but the image is thankfully free of the aggressive sharpening and smoothing that tend to come with older Universal HD presentations. Colors appear reasonably invigorated, and there's at least a little bit of depth on display. Grain is a little thin outside of flashback sequences (which appear to be 16mm), but skin texture and other fine detail is intact. The only minor issue is a small amount of print damage. Sound-wise, action and music are handled adeptly, although dialogue sometimes seems a little low in the mix. A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also provided.
Two new extras are offered for this Blu-ray of Thursday. As far as people involved with the film go, there is a new interview with actor Thomas Jane (14:50). Oddly enough, he dedicates the opening portion of his interview to the experience of being cast in The Thin Red Line, which shot for so long that he managed to star in Thursday and a second movie in between his audition for Thin Red Line and shooting his part in the final film. He moves onto discussion of the independent scene at the time, memories of his Thursday co-stars Mickey Rourke and Michael Jeter, dealing with an injury while making the movie, attending a class being taught by eccentric legend Marlon Brando. The other supplement is an audio commentary by film historian Sally Christie. A sampling of the track reveals her to be a well-informed, eloquent speaker who fills in plenty of background on the cast and crew and contextualizes the movie in the independent scene of the late 1990s, but I admit I couldn't stomach the idea of listening to someone praise the movie or the people who worked on it for the length of the film.
An original theatrical trailer for Thursday is also included, along with bonus trailers for Stretch, The Veil, and The Underneath.
Thursday is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Woods' name is apt: skip it at all costs.
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