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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

The Bouncer

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

a.k.a. Lukas

THE BOUNCER, a.k.a. LUKAS, is a quite good 2018 JCVD movie that in the right mood might be very good. Or in another mood it might be boring as shit. It’s the rare JCVD movie with an 80% critics / 49% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. (BLOODSPORT is 39% / 74%.) So it’s not his usual approach.

Narratively it’s a pretty straight forward crime drama or noir type deal – club bouncer with mysterious past gets into trouble through no fault of his own and is forced to inform on his shady new boss, putting himself and his daughter in increasing amounts of danger, caught between two sides he can’t trust. But tonally it kind of reminds me of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION – a very grim and serious march into doom fueled by Van Damme’s ragged features and hard-earned non-verbal acting skills.

Don’t take that as a comparison in quality. REGENERATION is a masterpiece, I don’t think THE BOUNCER is. Nor does it have the same dosage or strength of action. There’s some vehicle and guns stuff that is REGENERATIONesque, but the occasional fights are raw and unexaggerated, more interested in brutal reality than cinematic flair. More RUST AND BONE than BLOOD AND BONE. Do not expect him to do the splits, do expect him to get knocked over and his face bloodied and he’s too winded to get up but maybe he’ll be able to roll over and shoot at somebody or crawl on top of them and punch their face in. Dour though it may be, I got a thrill out of seeing this broken-but-still-going type of Van Damme character in a movie that feels more artful and legit than the lower rent DTV stuff he sometimes ends up in. (read the rest of this shit…)

Once Upon a Time in Venice

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

About 12 miles and 48 years from ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD lies ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENICE. In this 2017 DTV joint, Bruce Willis is the center of a sunny, quirky, comedic crime tale ensemble. Though the story is narrated by his dorky new assistant John (Thomas Middleditch, THE KINGS OF SUMMER), it revolves around Bruce’s low-life private eye Steve Ford. As you do in these movies, a pan through his office shows us some of his history through the medium of props. For example, some photos and a surfboard tell us he’s a surfer. There’s one touch that made me laugh, but maybe wasn’t supposed to: we learn he’s a disgraced ex-cop from an article that calls him “disgraced” in the headline. Why would he frame that and put it on his wall? It’s not even an important piece of exposition.

Anyway, Steve has two small time cases:

1. Find a missing woman named Nola (Jessica Gomes, “KSI Spokesmodel,” TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION)

2. Find the graffiti artist painting obscene murals of real estate developer Lou the Jew (Adam Goldberg, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, voice of Flealick in BABE: PIG IN THE CITY) on his buildings (read the rest of this shit…)

Hustlers

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

HUSTLERS is a true crime movie with some grit and some emotion and some style. It stars Constance Wu (ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING) and Jennifer Lopez (ANACONDA) as the center of a ring of dancers (they don’t call themselves strippers, according to the source material) who started hanging out with rich guys so they could drug them and run up their credit cards. Wu’s character Destiny tells the story from seven years later, when she seems to have settled down, and is cautiously, suspiciously answering questions for a magazine writer (Julie Stiles, SAVE THE LAST DANCE).

When Destiny starts working at Moves she’s green, rubbing up on guys all day and going home with less money than that’s worth. There’s a great introduction to the place where the camera follows her and the other new girls from the back, out onto the stage to be introduced and down a ramp onto the floor where some asshole gets her attention by calling her Lucy Liu. Reminded me of one of my favorite shots in CREED, when it follows him to the ring and makes you feel like you’re there in his entourage, practically giving you stage fright. This has a similar feeling. You feel like you’re her, as much as a movie can do something like that.

Then she sees Ramona Vega (Lopez) entering the room like a pharaoh, dropping every jaw in the room, leaving the stage looking like it snowed one dollar bills. The Michael Jordan of the pole. Later, Destiny takes a rooftop smoke break at the same time as Ramona, who’s up there laid out like she’s doing a calendar shoot, and introduces herself. Destiny is in lingerie and it’s cold, so Ramona has her come curl up inside her big fur coat. I felt this was maybe a love story, but if so it always stays at or below this level of unacknowledged sexual chemistry. So they might just be friends who cuddle. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Irishman

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Well, this is the world now: Martin Scorsese has an excellent new gangster epic starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino (plus Harvey Keitel!) and it pretty much went direct to video. Not “We can’t justify the budget for a theatrical DARKMAN 2” DTV, just “It’s easier to get money from Netflix than from a real movie studio” DTV. I wish I had gotten my shit together to see it in its week at Cinerama, like many of my friends did – I’m glad I managed to see ROMA and DOLEMITE IS MY NAME in theaters. But for THE IRISHMAN: I HEARD YOU PAINT HOUSES (actual onscreen title) I turned the lights off, put the phone far away and got the ol’ attention span out of storage for the full cinematic living room experience.

It’s written by Steve Zaillian (SCHINDLER’S LIST, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, GANGS OF NEW YORK, AMERICAN GANGSTER, MONEYBALL, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) but it definitely has some of that GOODFELLAS spirit: tons of narration (sometimes with gimmicks, like it’s in his head then switches to fourth-wall breaking), jumping around through time, quick comical/horrifying cutaways to things he mentions, some slo-mo, nearly wall-to-wall music, but also some guitar noodling (the score is by Robbie Robertson). And there’s a long steadicam shot at the beginning but instead of going into a hot club it’s going into an assisted living joint. So this is old man GOODFELLAS. (read the rest of this shit…)

In the Shadow of the Moon

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is the latest from director Jim Mickle, whose work I really dig – my favorites are the Joe Lansdale crime story COLD IN JULY and the horror remake WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, but also check out MULBERRY ST., STAKE LAND and Hap & Leonard. This is a little different for him – it seems much more expensive than all his other movies, it has some science fiction involved, and it’s credited to other writers (Gregory Weidman & Geoffrey Tock of the tv shows Limitless and Zoo). It’s a Netflix production that played Fantastic Fest in September, then went straight to streaming.

It opens five years from now in the aftermath of what looks like a massive terrorist attack. We just get a glimpse of the damage before it skips back to 1988 (the year DIE HARD came out) and intercuts between a few different Philadelphians – a bus driver, a fry cook, a concert pianist – all of whom get sudden nosebleeds, then bleed from the ears and eyes, then fall dead.

(read the rest of this shit…)

American Mary

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

AMERICAN MARY (2012) is a unique horror movie that’s arguably more of a seedy-underbelly crime movie. The protagonist, broke medical student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, GINGER SNAPS, CARRIE [2002], FREDDY VS. JASON), definitely follows more of a noir arc than a normal horror heroine one. She falls into a strange subculture, finds herself doing things she never could’ve imagined, crosses lines she shouldn’t, gets deeper and deeper into trouble. And she’s crazy and scary and you sort of root for her. Or at least you like her.

It’s all a big accident. She’s running low on tuition money and too ashamed to let her grandma give her money. Out of desperation she applies for a stripper job. The boss, Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo, A CHRISTMAS TAIL), teases her about bringing a normal resume, amused at her medical background. But when his guys interrupt the interview about something nasty going on in the basement and their usual underworld doctor is unavailable he pays her $5,000 to go down (still in her audition lingerie) and sew up some guy’s slashed neck. (read the rest of this shit…)

Good Time

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

GOOD TIME is a hell of a movie from Josh and Benny Safdie, thirtysomething New York indie directors I never heard of until the flashy A24 trailer acted like they were a household name. Sure enough it’s their fifth feature film (including one documentary) but this one got a little more attention for starring Robert Pattinson, the guy from the Cronenberg movies. He plays Connie Nikas, a New York City dirtbag who storms into a doctor’s office to get his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie) and bring him to help rob a bank. They get away at first but most of the money is ruined by a dye pack and Nick gets arrested. The movie is about Connie running around town all night trying to find $10,000 more dollars to pay Nick’s bail.

It’s a stylish epic of dirt-baggery – Meth Age Michael Mann. An intimate look at a shitty dude doing idiotic things with fevered lighting, gritty real locations, some raw non-professional actors and one of the most legit retro-synth scores I’ve heard, a Tangerine Dream-esque thing by an electronic artist Oneohtrix Point Never, which is a name that I totally understand and can say easily, on account of how young and with it I am. And just so you know I didn’t have to ask anybody what vaporwave was and if I had I totally would’ve understood what Wikipedia meant about it being “built upon the experimental and ironic tendencies of genres such as chillwave and hypnagogic pop.” (read the rest of this shit…)

American Gigolo

Monday, September 30th, 2019

AMERICAN GIGOLO. Paul Schrader’s prequel to AMERICAN PIMP. Older brother of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Cousin to AMERICAN NINJA. Quite a family of movies there.

I really should see more of Paul Schrader’s stuff. Obviously I respect him for writing TAXI DRIVER and revere him for writing ROLLING THUNDER. I remember loving BLUE COLLAR. MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS was incredible. More recently FIRST REFORMED really impressed me. But there are some very famous ones I haven’t seen. This one, I gotta admit, I ignorantly assumed wasn’t my thing. Some Richard Gere movie. Who cares?

It was getting more into movie soundtracks on vinyl that turned me around. AMERICAN GIGOLO is a pretty common, relatively inexpensive find, so I picked one up, and really liked it. Then I figured okay, I should see where these sounds come from.

Young, slim, squinty-eyed dreamboat Richard Gere (a little after DAYS OF HEAVEN, a little before AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, way before FIRST KNIGHT) stars as Julian Kaye, L.A. gigolo. In his business there’s alot of ambiguously talking around things on account of the illegality. Lots of not stating what’s going on, or denying it – saying “you’ve heard wrong” or “you’re mistaken” when someone’s too direct or seems like trouble. So it’s interesting that he ends up suspected of a murder he didn’t do. We’re not sure at first if they really did hear wrong, really are mistaken, or if he’s just doing his usual shtick. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

“Listen, I got nothin’ against playin’ army. I don’t mind that at all. I think the ideology of some of these folks is good. But there’s assholes everywhere…” –Steven Seagal as Dr. Wesley MacLaren in THE PATRIOT (1998)

I knew exactly three things about THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK: it was supposed to be potentially controversial for having something to do with a militia, people loved it at Fantastic Fest last year, and it was produced by Cinestate. Because of the last one it was often mentioned in articles alongside the works of S. Craig Zahler, portrayed as daring independent films that are super fuckin edgy because they blur the line between “regular movie” and “movie that all neo-Nazis own on blu-ray.”

That’s probly why I put off watching it until now. But there really wasn’t much to be afraid of. Realistically we can assume that these characters who have dozens of AR-15s, grenades, Kevlar vests and shit stashed in a warehouse are right wing extremists, because they have dozens of AR-15s, grenades, Kevlar vests and shit stashed in a warehouse. But it’s not about that. The closest thing to a political view ever discussed is that some of them believe in killing cops. The two characters that are portrayed as potentially honorable are an undercover cop trying to bust the militia and a former cop trying to save the undercover cop. Race is never discussed, other than one guy being former Aryan Brotherhood (which is portrayed as a stain on his record). It’s really just a novel way to do a “flushing out the mole” type suspense story.  (read the rest of this shit…)

Point Blank (2019)

Monday, August 26th, 2019

POINT BLANK (2019) is a recent Netflix release directed by Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2, EVERLY). It’s not a remake of the classic Lee Marvin POINT BLANK from 1967, or the non-classic Mickey Rourke/Danny Trejo POINT BLANK from 1998, or even the Brazilian police corruption documentary POINT BLANK from 2015, but in fact the French one from 2010 that was recommended to me many times but that I haven’t seen yet. Of the three of those I’ve seen, this one’s in second place!

It’s got a great, “oh shit, we’re already doing this” opening. There’s an exterior shot of a mansion at night, but before the camera can move inside we hear gunshots and see flashes inside, and then a guy comes flying through one of the windows and makes a run for it. He’s Abe (Frank Grillo, MY SOUL TO TAKE) and he’s frantically trying to get ahold of his getaway driver brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) in between ducking gunshots and receiving threatening texts from some guy named Big D.

And then… I’ll just say he ends up an unconscious John Doe at a hospital, which is where he intersects with our protagonist, Paul (Anthony Mackie, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER), a nurse doing extra shifts because his wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris, CHI-RAQ, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK) is about to give birth to their first child. And the next thing you know Mateo has taken Taryn hostage to force Paul to sneak Abe out of the hospital. (read the rest of this shit…)