Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, Men at Work stars Estevez and his brother, Charlie Sheen, as garbage collectors who get caught up in a series of mishaps and misadventures. While some may dismiss Men at Work as a silly comedy, it is actually a clever satire that offers sharp commentary on the political and social issues of its time. In this review essay, I will explore what Men at Work contributes to early 90s cult cinema and examine its controversial writing style, which is targeted towards cult film fans.
Men at Work is such a time capsule, much like A Very Special Episode of L.A. Law
To understand the significance of Men at Work, it is important to first look at the context in which it was made. The early 90s were a time of political and social change in America. The country was coming out of the Reagan era, which had been marked by conservative policies and a focus on individualism. As the 90s began, there was a shift towards a more liberal, socially conscious mindset. This is reflected in Men at Work, which takes on issues such as pollution, corporate greed, and police brutality.
At its core, Men at Work is a buddy comedy that follows the misadventures of two garbage collectors, Carl and James, as they go about their daily work. However, the film is much more than just a silly comedy. It is a satire that takes aim at the political and social issues of its time. For example, the film critiques the way that corporations pollute the environment and exploit workers for profit. This is seen in the character of Maxwell Potterdam III, the CEO of a local chemical plant who is portrayed as a callous, uncaring businessman who values profits over people.
The film also takes on police brutality, which was a hot-button issue in the early 90s. The central authority figure Detective Bledsoe, is a corrupt cop who abuses his power and is more interested in covering up his mistakes than in seeking justice. The film shows how the system is stacked against the little guy, with the police and the corporations working together to maintain the status quo.
Sheen and Estevez wants you to be better men
Another theme that Men at Work explores is the idea of masculinity. The film challenges traditional notions of what it means to be a man, showing that vulnerability and sensitivity are just as important as strength and toughness. This is seen in the relationship between Carl and James, who are not afraid to show their emotions and care for each other despite the macho culture that surrounds them.
One of the most controversial aspects of Men at Work is its writing style, which is targeted towards cult film fans. The film is full of references to other movies, music, and pop culture, which may be lost on casual viewers. This is intentional, as the film is meant to be enjoyed by a niche audience of film enthusiasts who appreciate the subtle nods and winks that are scattered throughout the movie.
The writing style of Men at Work is also marked by a dry, sardonic humor that can be off-putting to some viewers. However, this humor is a hallmark of the cult film genre, which is known for its irreverent, subversive tone. The film’s humor is meant to be taken as a commentary on the absurdity of the world, rather than as a means of simply eliciting laughs.
Men at Work as cult cinema at start of 90s
Men at Work is a film that deserves to be recognized as a significant contribution to early 90s cult cinema. It offers sharp commentary on the political and social issues of its time, while also challenging traditional notions of masculinity. Its controversial writing style, targeted towards cult film fans, is a hallmark of the genre and adds to the film its cult status. While Men at Work may not be for everyone, it is a film that rewards those who are willing to engage with it on a deeper level.
One of the strengths of Men at Work is its cast. Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen have great chemistry as the two garbage collectors, and their banter is a highlight of the film. Estevez, who also wrote and directed the film, displays a talent for balancing humor and social commentary. He has a keen eye for detail and an ability to skewer the absurdities of the world with a sharp wit.
In addition to Estevez and Sheen, the film features a strong supporting cast. Keith David is particularly noteworthy as Louis, the wise-cracking supervisor of the garbage crew. Leslie Hope also stands out as Susan Wilkins, a lawyer who becomes embroiled in the plot. Hope brings a vulnerability to the role that helps to ground the film’s more outrageous elements.
Estevez as director
The direction of Men at Work is also noteworthy. Estevez shows a real talent for visual storytelling, using the camera to convey information and create atmosphere. He has a knack for pacing and knows when to slow things down and when to ramp them up for maximum impact.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is the sequence in which Carl and James accidentally shoot a police helicopter out of the sky. This scene is a perfect example of Estevez’s directorial skill, as he uses a combination of quick cuts and slow motion to create a sense of chaos and excitement. The scene also features a great musical score by Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the band The Police.
In terms of its place in early 90s cult cinema, Men at Work stands out as a film that is both of its time and ahead of its time. While it shares some similarities with other comedies of the era, such as the slapstick humor of the Naked Gun films, it also has a more serious side that sets it apart. The film’s satire of corporate greed and police corruption is still relevant today, and its commentary on masculinity feels particularly prescient in light of the #MeToo movement.
What is on the Men at Work MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray?
MVD has done it again with the latest Blu-ray addition to the MVD Rewind Collection. By pulling together the movies I watched too much as a 10 year old, I now can show my kids what HBO looked like back in the George HW Bush Administration. One day, they will care.
The A/V Quality is typical for a peak Orion era low major release. You get a trailer and reversible artwork as the sole special features. To call that incredibly lacking is an understatement. The transfer holds up well outside of dark scenes. But, the LPCM 2.0 stereo mix never really has anything to do. I appreciate not trying to botch the mix with a 5.1 track that would not have existed at the time. If you’re a fan, check it out!