Saying, as Nick Grant does (Letters, July/August SR), that all violence in films constitutes a drip-drip effect making us inured to the real violence inflicted on us every day by the ruling class is a rather weak argument.
I'll provide some examples:
(1) The ending of Easy Rider, where our two heroes are gunned down by a car full of rednecks.
(2) Brad Pitt getting a beating from the owner of the bar in Fight Club.
(3) Restaurant fight from Once Upon a Time in China.
(4) Many, many scenes from the brilliant anti-Stalinist animations of Jan Svankmajer.
These are just a very few examples of scenes which I think have something to say politically, but there are many others which manage to be violent and artistic at the same time, such as The Killer, and many other films from Hong Kong; Cemetery Man, and other Italian art-horror films; and the work of directors like Beat Takeshi and David Fincher.
There are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, I actually agree with Nick that The Matrix Reloaded is empty, meaningless, cod-mystical computer-game garbage, but using a film like that to prove a point is like using the books of Barbara Cartland to say that fiction is not worth our time any more. I am not saying that all violent films are artistic or beautiful, but equally I don't think violence needs to be shown in a brutal, 'gritty' way for it to have an impact on a viewer.
A lot of the films I've cited as examples are not films you're likely to find in your high-street video rental chain or in the local multiplex. Just as we would not recommend people buy all their books from Waterstone's, we should maybe look a little harder for good, involving films to watch. Something like Once Upon a Time in China has a good political viewpoint and is massively entertaining to watch.