GOD ACCORDING TO BISHOP.
By Paul Fischer
Larry Bishop’s sardonically surreal gangster comedy,
Trigger Happy, offers a unique slant on this most popular of
genres. But then Bishop, whose father Joey was a member of the
famed Rat Pack along with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean
Martin, was determined to try something different.
"I’m driving around when suddenly the expression
‘there but for the grace of God -‘ pops into my head.
And that’s curious to me. What does that mean exactly…
It’s the relationship between ‘grace’ and
‘god’ that finally formed the basis for this movie.
Trigger Happy is God looking for his lost grace; that’s
what’s underneath the film." OK, now THAT’S
settled, one wonders why Bishop decided on the gangster movie as
the means to explore this highly philosophical theme.
"Once I took the normal conception of God as being
all-powerful and all-good, with Grace taking on the latter, what
do you have left? All power, and to me, that’s gangster
land." After a lengthy stay at a mental hospital,
mobster Vic (Richard Dreyfuss) is being released. In his absence,
"Brass Balls" London (Gabriel Byrne) has taken over
control of the operation. Now, though, it's time for Vic not only
to reconcile differences with his wife (Ellen Barkin) and his
mistress, his wife’s sister (Diane Lane) but to act like a
mad dog and reclaim control of his empire. Vic's rivals can walk,
hop or crawl away peacefully, but challenging him could prove to
"There’s more to
this movie than meets the eye."
At the outset, Trigger Happy seems like another shoot ‘em
up gangster flick with a considerable number of dead bodies by
its conclusion. But, says Bishop, there’s more to this movie
than meets the eye. "Once I’d taken the Grace out of
the Grace of God, I was not left with a story of good vs evil or
a story of guilt. Because I’d taken the morality out of it,
the standard of morality was Amoral, which was different to the
redemptive stories that Scorsese was talking about or the
desperate characters of Tarantino. Mine were characters who were
in the high life sensibility, never short of cash. None of these
characters were ever going to have to worry about money."
The film also pays tribute to the former rat pack, in ways
you’d never thought of. "The way I actually see this
movie as if the Rat Pack did Waiting for Godot. It’s as if
Frank and Dean were hired by Samuel Beckett to go to Broadway and
do Waiting for Godot, and then in the midst of the previews, they
started to get so bored, that they decided to change some lines,
get some girls in, get some guns, and start up a couple of
nightclubs, and that turns into Trigger Happy."
taken the morality out of it, the standard of morality was
The film also pays tribute to the Rat Pack by using many
famous standards performed by Sinatra, Martin and Sammy Davis
Jnr. Sinatra, himself a close and generous friend of Bishop, has
been said to have had mob connections. "You couldn’t be
involved in nightclubs in the 40s and 50s without being involved
in what was known as ‘the underworld’. So it was
something I felt existed. I never asked anybody ‘who that
guy was’; I was trying to figure things out for myself. So
when I was a boy, there seemed to me to be a PERMANENT link
between entertainment and the underworld, because that was the
way I was brought up. You knew that when someone came over to my
father who did not look like a singer, a dancer or a
ventriloquist and was acting differently from anyone else, that
he was more likely from the underworld than the world of
"I was delusionally
confident on this movie; in fact I don’t think I even
acted like a director."
This was Bishop’s first stab at being director, and it
was, he confesses, far easier than he imagined. "I was
delusionally confident on this movie; in fact I don’t think
I even acted like a director. I wanted to direct the movie as if
Dean Martin would direct it. I didn’t walk around with a
cocktail in my hand, but I kinda walked around in an incredibly
laid back and casual manner. To me, directing consists of so many
pre-defined jobs, that I kept on wondering: do I really have to
be here every day? I mean, the cinematographer has his shot list,
the production designer knows how I want the sets built, the
actors know how to act, what do they need ME for? I was surprised
that I had to show up every day."
"I wanted to direct
the movie as if Dean Martin would direct it.."
The former actor and Sinatra godson is now a film maker, and
while Trigger Happy has very much divided critics and audiences
alike, Bishop is keen to continue on this road to film making
glory, and the gangster film is still of interest to me. "I
have this gangster movie called Underworld, which I wrote, and
stars Dennis Leary and Joe Mantegna." Then he’s about
to star, produce and direct his next script, Flying Bullets,
which he promises offers yet another slant on an all familiar