Reviewed by Brian from Hard Ticket to Home Video
A few months ago, I was sitting in a local Starbucks, enjoying a watermelon-spice latte and watching The Deer Hunter on my iPad. The second the movie finished, I heard someone say, “I’ll get you another watermelon-spice latte.” I looked up, and who did I see but Robert De Niro himself! Too stunned to say anything else, I simply replied, “…OK.” and he said, “It’s a good coffee, it’s the best around.”
I was still trying to wrap my head around what was happening when Mr. De Niro came back with two watermelon-spice lattes: one for him and one for me. Before I could open my mouth to thank him, he asked, “So what did you think of my movie?” Still stunned, I only managed to stammer out, “…uh, OK…” Big mistake, because his expression immediately turned sour. “You wanna play games?” he shouted. “All right, I’ll play your f*cking games.” With that he took the lid off of his latte and pulled a revolver out of the cup. He opened the cylinder to show me that there was only one bullet, then spun it so fast I actually felt a breeze on my face. Then he snapped it shut and pointed the barrel at his temple. “I’m gonna ask you some questions, you piece of garbage, and you’re gonna ask me some questions,” he said. “After each answer, we pull the trigger. For one of us, the answers will be the last thing we ever know…”
By then, a crowd had formed. No one made an attempt to stop what was happening. Quite the opposite, some had begun making quiet bets of Starbucks gift cards. “What did you THINK of the MOVIE?!” Mr. De Niro yelled at me. “I… it was good,” I said softly. “Really good. It perfectly encapsulated how going through the hell of war can change a person and their perceptions of life, and also how it affects everyone around them. No one is ever the same, which is something that has to be accepted, or it will drive you mad.” Mr. De Niro nodded, then pulled the trigger. *CLICK!* Empty, but still everyone in the Starbucks jumped, including me.
Mr. De Niro quickly pointed the handle of the gun at me. “Take it,” he told me icily. With a shaking hand, I took the revolver from his grasp. It was still hot from sitting in the latte, but somehow it was dry as a bone. I slowly raised it to my temple, knowing, not thinking but somehow knowing, that if I refused he would kill me with his bare hands. “Ask,” he said. So I asked, “Wh-why are you doing this?” Without hesitation, he replied, “Because I need the money.” I didn’t fully understand, but an answer is an answer, so that meant I had to squeeze the trigger. I’m not a praying man, so I sent out a hope that my wife and daughter would be OK, closed my eyes, and pulled. *CLICK!* There was no shot, but that didn’t stop me from wetting myself. I opened my eyes and saw the disgust on Mr. De Niro’s face. He tore the pistol out of my hand and put it up to his temple again.
“What didn’t you like about the movie?” he asked, his intensity palpable, like that finding out my thoughts on The Deer Hunter was the moment his entire life had been building toward. “I… thought that it could have been trimmed,” I said nervously. “Some scenes went on way too long, like the whole wedding scene. Having a scene in the same setting for too long is arduous. I understand that the dialogue between the characters was important, but they could have had it at another time in another location. By having it all at the wedding it feels too dragged out. And we didn’t need all the dancing, and especially woman hitting. That wedding went on longer than most real weddings. And that continues the next day through the deer hunting scenes. You just want them to get to Vietnam already. Really, you could probably trim 90% of the wedding scene and not miss a beat. The Vietnam scenes are good, but their escape from the Viet Cong was pretty ridiculous. Why would the Viet Cong put three bullets in a row in the revolver? That makes no sense. And the fact that Nick survived several years of playing Russian roulette every night was pretty far-fetched.” De Niro seemed disturbed, but determined. *CLICK!* Empty again. OK, you bastard, I thought. You want to play?
I grabbed the gun from him and put it up to my head. “WHO is paying you?” I yelled. His stone-faced expression didn’t change as he nodded to the green and white logo on the wall. “Starbucks? They’re paying you? Why?” Mr. De Niro literally turned red, and the heat of his anger could be felt throughout the coffee shop. “That’s TWO questions, you son of a bitch, and that’s a penalty shot!” I briefly considered threatening him with the gun to make my way out of there, but I knew that he would get the upper hand in that situation somehow, the crowd would violently turn against me, and I would die without honor. So instead, I gritted my teeth so hard I broke one of my root canal caps, and pulled the trigger twice, as quickly as I could. *CLICK! CLICK!*
And just like that, it was done. I would live through this. The bullet was meant for Mr. DeNiro, and I truly think he knew it all along. Instead of looking frightened at his inevitable fate as he took the gun back from me, he looked relieved. At peace. I thought I saw a hint of a smile on his face as he put the gun to his temple and calmly said, “Last question. On a scale of one to ten, what would you give my movie?” I didn’t want to answer. I liked Robert De Niro. The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Heat, Machete, etc. He was a fantastic, unparalleled performer. I wanted to tell him to forget it, that I refused to answer, that we could both walk away. But I knew that wasn’t an option. This was this. This ain’t something else. This was this. “8,” I said. “An excellent film but tries too hard to be epic, which makes it feel bloated, despite the strength of the performances and the intensity of some of the scenes.” He nodded. When it was done, I said, “Here’s to Bob,” and drank the rest of his latte. I walked out of that Starbucks a completely different person than when I walked in. Like watermelon-spice lattes, we’re all only available for a limited time.