Wonderland (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Wonderland is a re-creation of the 1981 Wonderland
murders, in which a famous Hollywood mobster named Eddie Nash was
alleged to have ordered the murder of some small-time crime figures
and their women as retribution for their having robbed him. The
grisly case (the victims were bludgeoned to death with large metal
objects) attained an extra measure of fame because one of the
accomplices to the murder was said to have been John Holmes, the
biggest star in the history of porn (in more ways than one).
Holmes's bloody handprint was found on the scene.
The characters were portrayed fictionally in the second half of the notable P. T. Anderson film, Boogie Nights. The Mark Wahlberg character was based on Holmes. The Alfred Molina character was based on Nash.
Holmes eventually claimed to have been present and to have participated unwillingly in the murders, supposedly forced by Nash to participate because of Holmes's putative involvement with the earlier robbery. At one point, Holmes was tried and acquitted on the murder counts. Holmes went to his grave in 1988, a victim of AIDS-related illness, without ever admitting to voluntary participation in the events. Since Holmes was generally acknowledged to be a compulsive liar, nobody knows if any of his versions of the story were true.
Although Nash was never convicted of involvement in the
Wonderland murders, he was indicted on federal RICO charges in 2000,
and reached a plea bargain in 2001, which the US Attorney announced as
follows: "After pleading guilty to federal charges of leading a
racketeering enterprise and conspiring to commit the notorious
“Wonderland murders,” Eddie Nash was sentenced this afternoon to 37
months in federal prison. A plea agreement between the government and
Nash was unsealed today, revealing that the defendant has agreed to
fully cooperate with federal, state and local authorities who are
continuing to investigate Nash’s racketeering enterprise and other
criminal conduct of which Nash has knowledge. John Curtis Holmes, the
pornographic film star ... was a member of Nash’s narcotics
trafficking enterprise, and ... orchestrated the robbery of Nash that
led to the murder conspiracy." Unfortunately,
that tantalizing revelation was to be the last public access to Nash's
confessions to this date, and the public has still not seen Nash's
specific statements about Holmes.
The film gives two versions of the robbery/murder sequence. The first is told by a member of the Wonderland Gang, the only one who escaped death because he wasn't in the house on the night that Nash's minions arrived. The second version is related by Holmes himself (Val Kilmer). The audience cannot be sure what to believe because both men are notorious for their inability to tell the truth, but the film concludes with a "objective" version of the murders, a scene which must represent the filmmakers' personal conclusions about what really happened.
Although it's a bit show-offy in terms of technique, the movie is skillfully made. It is also unrelentingly ugly and grim. It is a sordid telling and re-telling of incidents involving people taking vast quantities of drugs, living in squalor, and committing ugly and violent acts upon one another. It's ugly non-stop. The final portrayal of the killings, the "objective" version, is brutally honest and honestly brutal, almost at the level of Irreversible.
The grotesque drug-addled lives of the participants are enhanced by speed-ups, multiple images, sudden changes in saturation and lighting, a grainy shot-on-video newsreel feel, and other techniques designed to draw the audience deeper into the lives of the people portrayed.
I never got drawn in, just because those people are uniformly unpleasant and evil. It is not possible to sympathize with Eddie during his humiliation in the robbery, because he's the biggest scumbag in L.A. It's not really possible to sympathize with the murder victims, despite the brutality of their slaughter, because they are not far below Eddie on the scumbaggery scale. In fact, they are probably more evil than Eddie, albeit less successful at turning evil into profit. There are really no major characters who are attractive or likeable in any way, although Holmes's girlfriend and ex-wife are portrayed as innocent victims of his crazed lifestyle, and one does feel for them.
The truth does justify the ugliness of the portrayal, and I support that in theory, but that doesn't mean I liked watching it. I didn't. I wish I hadn't. I admired a lot of what the director accomplished, but I never got involved in the film at all.
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