Beer Goggle Honesty: Our Review of ‘Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets’

Beer Goggle Honesty: Our Review of ‘Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets’

If you’ve never had your very own, it’s hard to understand the allure of a proper dive bar…until know…

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is the latest from documentarians Bill Ross IV & Turner Ross and they’ve gone back to their roots as they track the final days of a dive bar in Las Vegas and show us the fascinating slice of humanity that is on both sides of the rail.

From the streets of New Orleans to the border towns of Texas while deep inside the music of David Byrne and studying the complexities of everyday life, the filmmaking duo of Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross have never been afraid to look at the unvarnished nature of humanity itself.  In Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets they take us to the final days of a dive bar in Las Vegas called the ‘Roaring Twenties’ as we see this odd ball collection of humanity make peace (and even war) with their last days together.

Think of Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets as a verite version of Barfly.  Sure it’s more than a little sad at times but it’s also an unvarnished portrait of humanity with hope, despair and the human spirit all rolled into a grimy yet warmly inviting little package.

Unless you’ve spent some important time in your life on a bar stool in a dump like the one in this film, it’s hard to genuinely understand not only the people, but the appeal of the entire experience.  I have in my earlier years, the bar was called Elsewhere and in many ways, it was a home when I was looking for one while out in the world on my own as a younger man and while I objectively knew what a dump the place was, it was so inviting all at the same time.

What Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross have done here with Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is take us into a slice of the genuine human experience all inside this unexpected nuclear family of bar flies.    While it straddles somewhat of a line between documentary and fiction filmmaking what these two master filmmakers have truly done is give us a glimpse of the existence of these people.  They stay out of the way of their subjects but very clear illustrate a sad but also oddly compelling view of humanity as everything is on display.  In many ways, that display of humanity is truly the attraction of a bar like this because it’s not only a one stop shop for a therapist, confessor and sense of family but there’s also truly something accepting about it all as well.  It’s not necessarily the most healthy, but for some people it’s occasionally vital.

It’s the human experience as it tracks the evolution of change that happens in so many of our lives and while I’m sure you could argue until you are blue in the face about the manipulation of the narrative by our filmmakers, when you honestly boil it down…who the hell cares?

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets will be the kind of film that people adore or loathe.  We are obviously in the former as it paints a very philosophical and honest portrait of the human experience and we are in awe of the earnest reverence it has for its subjects and reminds us of a very salient truth of life.  We can hold to friends, family and loved ones as long as humanly possible…but when last call comes it’s time to pay the check and move on.  It’s a film about love, loss and all the complicated shit that we feel in between it all every single goddamn day…and it’s just brilliant to see it in the beer and whisky haze that it should be seen through, because it doesn’t get quite as honest as this.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is playing at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Virtual Cinema now.

  • Release Date: 7/17/2020
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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