If a man came up to you and asked if you’d put on his glasses, what would you do? In the world of They Live, you’d either throw him out of a window or proceed to beat the living daylights out of him. For five minutes. The truth lies behind a pair of normal looking black sunglasses however, a world of money hungry aliens trying to drain our land and rule the riches. For John Nada this means he is about to chew a lot of bubblegum and kick a lot of ass, but he’s all out of gum.
The story of They Live is brilliant, at least the concept is. Poverty is become a bigger problem in America and when John Nada finds a pair of sunglasses which sees the truth, he finds the people behind it all. Some strange creatures are hiding among us, controlling us with media. The moment when John Nada sticks on those glasses and sees a black and white world revealing the truth is a powerful one, one of deep thought and truth. Only there are no aliens in our version. The concept is so strong it had me looking around my own streets trying to pick apart what all the words and images were trying to tell me. It is a film with a message, but one which doesn’t fully delve into it.
Instead the film relies on gun play, cheesy yet awesome quotes, bad acting and poor pacing to bring the message across. The bad acting, action movie quotes and corny fight scenes do bring some charm to the tale, the five minute fight between two good guys is hilarious, it doesn’t really convey the message it wants to give us. If They Live expanded on the glasses delivering the truth tale, the film would have been incredible. Instead it feels like a confused mess, an unsure identity. While there is plenty to love, there is just as much to dislike. On one side we have glasses showing us a trip to the Caribbean means to marry and reproduce, then on the other hand we have John Nada moving very slowly with his buddy Frank Armitage stating the bloody obvious.
They Live is worth viewing purely for the raw ideas. When the sunglasses are on the film is telling us how the world really is. When the glasses are off we just see a relic of the 80’s, attempting to be intelligent, silly, dramatic, and action packed in one instance. Hard to consume.