The New York I’ve grown up watching in movies is gone. Directors like Frank Henenlotter, Larry Cohen, Larry Clark, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Walter Hill all made films about their New York. Some chose to romanticize the city while others wanted to portray the streets, the crime, the grit. No other director captured the ugly side of the city better than Abel Ferrara.
Bursting on to the scene with the extremely controversial Driller Killer, Ferrara decided to double down on the controversy with his follow up Ms .45. Made in the middle of the vigilante sub genre that began with Death Wish, Ms .45 tells the story of a mute dress worker who, on her way home from work, is raped at gunpoint by a masked gunman. When she finally makes it home, she’s immediately confronted by a thief looking for money. When he realizes she has no money, he decides to to take whatever he can.
He rapes her.
During the rape (the second one in less than an hour; that would be a Guinness World Record if it wasn’t soul crushingly depressing), she waits for him to climax to smash his head in with a crystal apple she had laying on a table. She beats him until he’s dead and then decides to chop him up in the bathroom and dispose of the parts one at a time across the city.
Oh and she keeps his gun.
And at this point, if it wasn’t obvious, it becomes a rape revenge flick. Rape revenge is a not particularly enjoyable sub genre (if it can even be classified as a genre) that borders on exploitative. For every empowering film like Thriller and I Spit on Your Grave, there’s cheap knock offs that are only made to capitalize off of rape. It’s a delicate balancing act and Ms .45 is probably among the best.
Because unlike some of the others, Ms .45 flips the conventions on their head. There’s still a catharsis when she gets revenge but she can’t stop. She can’t differentiate between a man who’s trying to cause her harm and a regular man trying to flirt. Man equals target.
It’s an interesting take I wish the Death Wish sequels would’ve explored because realistically, there’s only so many people you can kill before you end up a monster yourself.
Like I said earlier, the New York I love is gone but if the city was bad enough to inspire so many films I love, I’m kind of glad it’s gone. It created monsters. Now it’s Disneyland. Which I guess is equally horrifying.