Movie Review: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

The Cheers bar from the TV show of the same name is about to lose its place as the world’s most famous fictional bar. Documentary filmmaker brothers Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross (45365) continue their look at Americana, this time through the bottom of a shot glass, with their latest film, BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS.

It’s the end of the line for The Roaring 20s bar. Located a few blocks away from the bright lights and ersatz culture of the Las Vegas Strip, the area is about to undergo redevelopment, resulting in the dive bar’s closing. On its final day, the bar’s regulars come together as they do every day, to socialize, philosophize and drink.

On the surface, BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS plays out like a documentary about a place where everybody knows your name but this is not your everyday documentary. It’s fiction… docufiction. And guess what? It’s not even Vegas. The New Orleans natives felt that everything they needed for their film could be found in their own backyard so they hired people they knew – bar regulars most of them, booked out a local watering hole, turned on their cameras and let the “actors” do what they do best for 18 hours straight. To make it look like Sin City, they filmed all the exterior shots there.

Like Cheers, The Roaring 20s has its share of characters who come and go (most come; few leave) as the day wears on. There’s the philosopher who rarely sees the morning sun, the war vet who feels let down by the government he put his life on the line for, the woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and shares far too much with the others, the failed musician who hasn’t yet reached bottom but is well on his way there, the angry guy who has an opinion about everything, the hooker who is well past her sell-by date, the woman who sits in the corner watching it all without commenting, and more. Each is unique in his/her own way but they all find common ground in glasses of whiskey or bottles of beer, talking bullsh*t until the wee hours of the morning. While the Ross Brothers have said that their actors were given parameters, one has to wonder how different they are from what we see on film, especially after they’ve slugged back a few.

Interestingly, the film starts off as if it’s set in the mid-’70s, with grainy footage and using a title font that was popular from that time. In fact, without knowing that the film was made last year, you would hard-pressed to be sure that it wasn’t from that earlier time. There are no mobile phones or any other modern technology to be seen. We do get to see Alex Trebek on the bar’s TV and that looks contemporary, but all the movies that play in the background are in black-and-white and from the 1940s and ’50s. Perhaps the Rosses are saying that this slice of America hasn’t changed in 50 years. Bars come and go but the types of people who frequent these places and their reasons for going there every day really haven’t.

As close as these characters appear to be with each other, one has to wonder if many of them would ever see each other again once the bar closes for good. On the other hand, with no shortage of dive bars in Vegas or NOLA or anywhere else, they’re almost certain to regroup somewhere else nearby within a day or two. As long as it’s not like Gary’s Olde Town Tavern, they should be okay.

BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS is available on Amazon Prime Video. If watching a bunch of barflies act like barflies for 98 minutes is your thing, then check it out.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, January 8th, 8:30 am HK time!

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