Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Pawn Shop Chronicles


Carl Hiaasen created some characters in one of his books, white racists who called themselves the White Clarion Aryans. One of them had been so traumatized by the hide-tanning his liberal parents gave him when he spoke a certain word (which we are no longer allowed to utter aloud, either, not even to quote or make a point) that he was not able to say the word “nigger.” They were the dumbest racists I’d ever come across until the pair in this movie. One of them (Paul Walker, who died a few weeks ago in a fiery car crash) plaintively turns to the other and says “I understand why we hate niggers, they don’t look like us and they don’t act like us, but what about Jews? How can you tell? Why, I just found out Jerry Springer is a Jew!” They are a walking, talking horror show about the perils of meth, just a hair away from needing a straitjacket and living in a padded cell. They soon blow themselves up in a meth lab.

This movie will remind you (as it reminded a lot of critics, who mostly hated it) of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, with its twisted timelines and some extreme bloodiness and brutality. At one point Elijah Wood (Frodo!) has his mouth pulled open with four fishhooks and his teeth pounded out with a hammer. It can also be very funny. There are things about it what are Coen-esque, like camera moves and a scene that is clearly Robert Johnson waiting at a crossroads to make his pact with the devil. He never gets the chance, because a fourth-rate, broke Elvis impersonator (Brendan Fraser) beats him to it.

I liked it better than most people did, because I have a weakness for movies that go wildly over the top … but that’s a hard place to balance on. It’s a trio of tales centering around a pawnshop in a small southern town, and the stories twist back and forth and double back on each other. The first one is very funny, concerning the failed white racists. The second one is not funny at all, and concerns Wood, Matt Dillon, and about thirty naked women in cages. It’s the longest, and least successful. In fact, it left a bad taste in my mouth for the third one, the story of the Elvis wannabe. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody—in fact, to the majority of movie-goers. But if your sense of humor is as twisted as mine, there are parts you’ll really enjoy, and the rest is not so bad that it put me off totally. What you’d call a mixed review.