Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bumfights Volumes 1, 2 and 3

Living in an urban area as I do, I see bums everyday. Merely walking down Colfax Ave. to go downtown, you run a gauntlet of sparechangers, see guys sleeping on air vents or in doorways, or the occasionally one so wasted they stumble down the sidewalk without realizing they no longer have shoes and their jeans are soaked in piss.

For the urban dweller, the homeless are a constant source of sympathy, annoyance, and amusement all at once. They are a constant reminder of how quickly and deeply a person can fall through the cracks of society. However, when a bum with a larger gut than mine asks me for change so he can get something to eat, I am skeptical to say the least. After all, with the number of soup kitchens and churches out there giving away free food, when was the last time you have ever heard of a homeless person starving to death?

When it first came out four years ago, Bumfights caused quite a scandal. The concept of paying the homeless in food, booze, and hotel rooms to beat the living crap out of each other, instantly divides viewers into two camps: the bleeding hearts who are disgusted with the idea of such marginalized people being exploited for entertainment, and the sadists who voted with their wallets to make it one of the best selling independent videos in history.

(Incidentally, I am in neither camp. Though this is supposed to be a review from my "dvd shelf", my copies of Bumfights exist only on my hard drive, having been swiped off the net with Win Mx. I doubt the MPAA will be mailing me a subpeona on this one, much less anyone crying that I am depriving these "artists" of royalties.)

The outraged bleeding hearts might be a little less outraged if they knew that roughly half of all three volumes' running times are devoted to fights between bored suburban kids. The only impression these scenes leave is that everybody looks stupid when they fight. While there are scenes of homeless people fighting, much of it seems to have been caught incidentally instead of being staged like a Battle Royale.

Bumfights is basically Jackass without a moral center. The disclaimers at the beginning of all the videos ("The homeless deserve respect," or "Violence is whack") ring hilariously hollow. While I doubt the producers were REALLY out to bring to light issues of global poverty etc., they inadvertantly score a few poignant moments. In Volume Two, a man is taped devouring a dead frog on a sidewalk so he can get a guitar to play on the sidewalk. After treating the viewers to one song (and he isn't a bad guitar player) a caption pops up on the screen informing us that within an hour he took his new guitar to a pawn shop so he could buy some drugs. This elucidates the bizarre reality of there street that I doubt a more sincere and somber documentary could really capture.

Still, for every scene that hits (I still crack up thinking about the fellow who was "mentally disturbed...from the military", and "Crack Hoes Gone Wild" is disgusting fun) two scenes are boring and idiotic. I offer the "Crates" segment of Bumfights 2 for example. It tries to be a send up of MTV Cribs from the other end of the socio-economic ladder, with a bum taking the audience on a guided tour of his encampment under a bridge, culminating with his unveiling of a "blinged" out gold shopping cart. This one-joke idea unfortunately gets spread out over ten excruciating minutes. There is also a bizarre scene in a park where a bunch of homeless people are fitted out with plastic swords and blue face paint in what is supposed to be some reinactment of Braveheart, complete with overwrought speeches. Even the minimal payoff such an idea could bring about is undermined since the video cuts away before any fighting can start. Come on, I thought this was going to be bum *fights*.
This lack of paying off their controversial premises goes for the most talked about segment of the series, The Bumhunter. Starring a fellow with a fake Australian accent who goes by the moniker "Steve Urban" (huh-huh, get it?) the Bumhunter bravely goes under bridges where he accosts sleeping homeless people, wrestles them to the ground and hogties the terrified winos with duct tape. Whether this is staged or not (if not, I can't imagine the legal clearances that would be required to have these scenes distributed en masse) most of the "Bumhunter" sequences are boring. One dazed homeless man who is attacked seems more concerned with whether or not he has dandruff than the fact that he is being bound hand and foot by strange men. The producers seem to know this, since the Bumhunter, who is featured prominently in the first volume, pretty much disappears in the third.

All three of the Bumfights videos are wildly uneven, but Volume Two is the worst of the bunch, and by worst I mean most boring. It seems to be mostly comprised of the outtakes of Volume One. Even it's best moments, like the crackhead running around smashing car windows to steal the change out of their ashtrays, or one with a thug purse snatching a woman on a sidewalk, makes one wonder how much of the footage is actually staged. After all, it would seem retarded to have videotaped evidence of yourself committing crimes. Then again, perhaps I give humanity too much credit.

Bumfights is essentially a plotless series of stunts, but if there is a thread that pulls us through all three of the videos it is the antics of Rufus "The Stunt Bum", his much beleagered buddy Donald, and the insane crackhead with the cliched moniker Bling-Bling. Most of Rufus's "bum stunts" consist of sub-Jackass routines, like rolling down stairs in shopping carts or jumping into dumpsters. He is at his most amusing when he is chugging 40 oz malt liquors like they're water until he's too drunk to even stand, insulting pedestrians, or beating up on his "buddy" Donald. Donald breaks his ankle as a result of one of one of Rufus's sucker punches, but this doesn't prevent Rufus from later knocking Donald out of his wheelchair for being "a pussy who just can't take it." (his slurred speech often requires subtitles.)

Where Rufus comes off as a sneering sociopath, Donald seems to just subject himself to whatever humiliation the producers can throw at him. When we first meet him, it is at a tattoo parlor where he gets BUMFIGHT inked onto his forehead in big red letters. Afterwards, he gets treated to a blowjob from a crackwhore, which is mercifully hidden by a black censor box. While he and Rufus are largely absent from Volume Two, they are prominent in the third video, which takes a surprising turn towards the pseudo-homosexual. What else can one say about a scene at the end of Volume Three where Donald and Rufus actually end up making out? If anything, I suspect that the fact that the two of them sued the producers of Bumfights came more from trying to hide this footage than that they were unduly coerced. Rufus at least looks like he's having a blast knocking over newspaper boxes and beating up fast food drive thru signs.

Bling-Bling, however, is undeniably crazy. Openly smoking crack in front of the camera, shitting on sidewalks and constantly ranting about extra-terrestrials and how he would "cut a throat" to get his crack rock, Bling-Bling seems the most game of Bumfights Krew (sic). While waiting to get bailed out of jail, Bling comes up with a rap that's fucking bizzare yet strangely catchy at the same time. Even he gets some surprisingly gay moments by Volume Three, where through video editing trickery he is shown buttfucking himself. Hardee-har-har. The end credits includes a number for Bling-Bling's agent, though I believe he will probably be getting less work than Robert Blake.

If the Bumfights series has a saving grace, it is that the soundtracks to all three are excellent. Featuring a mix of hardcore and oi punk, as well as some electronic dance tracks, it does sound like the perfect soundtrack for a fight. Other than that, the series is a tease. Bumfights shoots for controversy, but it bores more than it shocks.

Click here to see my "review" of the Bumfights follow-up Bling-a-Long.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this a true bum fight viewer u guys rock keep on doing what u got to do

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like the scum that made the film you are just like them and should be out on the street rather than those that were filmed asshole.

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you all smoke black cock!!!!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

keep on doing what you know best man!!!
fuck those that hate!
they're always trying to put someone down, with what the streets want to see!

make your money!
and fuck those who don't agree what your doing, and Fuck that Dr.PHil jerk!

3:37 AM  

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