Number 3 on Dave’s Strange World’s all-time favorite films is P.T. Anderson’s magnificent epic film the L.A. porn industry between 1977 and 1984. It still amazes me to think that Anderson was only 27 when he made this film, because it exudes an artistic confidence that is rare in most films, let alone by young filmmakers making their 2nd feature.
“Boogie Nights” combines the delirious rock-n-roll rhythms of Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” the successful juggling of multiple quirky, memorable characters / storylines (ala Robert Altman), and “Wouldn’t it be really f–kin’ cool if I tried this?” sense of danger / bravado of Tarantino. Like “Goodfellas,” it’s a 2.5 hour film that feels like its half its length. Anderson has gone on to make other brilliant films (“Magnolia,” “Punch Drunk Love,” “There Will be Blood”), but none of them are quite as breathtaking as “Boogie Nights.”
The scene here is the bravura sequence near the end of the film where Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler character (his success as a porn actor squandered on cocaine addiction), along with his pals (played by John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane) makes a desperate attempt to rip off a drug dealer. The scene is based on the infamous Wonderland murders from 1981 that involved John Holmes. Anderson’s use of 80s pop music in this scene is extraordinary … especially the use of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” which takes on a deeper meaning, because the song is about the loss of innocence and it’s an ironic and sad counterpoint to the characters in this scene, who are long past that stage. The character with the firecrackers was a steal (with permission) from Robert Downey Sr.’s abrasively funny 1969 satire “Putney Swope.”
Because this scene involves substance abuse, graphic violence, and bad language, not safe for work or little ones.