Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Similar to the hybrid reality it creates, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is an oddly compelling cocktail. It’s like a foul odor you step back from quickly, then find perversely comforting once you’ve had time to soak in it.
And no matter how many of the film’s most effecting moments are manufactured, there’s much authenticity to be found in the smoke-filled haze of the Roaring 20’s lounge.
“This is a place you can go when nobody else don’t want your ass.”
Sitting unceremoniously at the edge of Las Vegas, the “20s” is down to its final day. Directors Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross drop us off before noon, when grizzled regular Michael (Michael Martin) is cleaning up in the bathroom and daytime bartender Mark is hanging up some cheap decorations for the farewell party.
“What kind of party is it if an Australian guy doesn’t take his pants off?”
As drinks are poured, ashtrays are emptied and daytime TV gives way to nighttime jukebox singalongs, we get to know the parade of souls that have come to call this dive bar home.
What The Florida Project was to Disney World, Bloody Nose is to Lost Wages, eschewing tourist playgrounds for the world weariness of an existence in exile, and of outsiders no longer bothering to look in.
“You think I’m better than Fireball? I’m not!”
The Turner brothers shot their exteriors outside Vegas, but couldn’t find a suitable bar for filming until they landed in a New Orleans dive. Their cameras don’t always make it out of the frame, but the film’s mood is so encompassing you hardly care. This is a storytelling experiment left to its own ends, which end up being delightfully and desperately character-driven.
“You know how much I love you?”
As the night bartender (Shay Walker) tries to keep her teen son and his friends from smoking weed and stealing beer, we’re reminded how quickly the outside world will move on, scattering these barflies without mercy.
My friend Jason recently remarked that “bars are the only enduring sacred human places,” and these 98 minutes at the Roaring 20s are full of that sacred humanity. There may have been a few strings pulled at setup, but those tears – both theirs and yours – will feel plenty real.
“I always come to this bar…and feel like family.”