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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Debt Collectors

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

DEBT COLLECTORS comes to V.O.D. tomorrow, May 29, and to DVD June 2nd. This review has mild spoilers (including my favorite line) if you want to hold off until you’ve seen it.

Friends, the Scott Adkins/Jesse V. Johnson streak continues to continue. In just four years the martial arts star and director have collaborated on SAVAGE DOG, ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR, TRIPLE THREAT, AVENGEMENT, and now DEBT COLLECTORS, a very welcome plural sequel to their singularly titled criminal-lowlifes-on-the-outskirts-of-L.A. buddy movie. Like the first one it’s written by Johnson and Stu Small (ACCIDENT MAN).

I loved THE DEBT COLLECTOR and thought it was a shame they got shot up at the end since I would have loved to see those characters have more misadventures. Honestly even if it had ended with them alive and a TO BE CONTINUED I wouldn’t have taken it for granted that they’d be able to make another one. So I’m thankful. If you need to know how the story continues, it’s pretty much the 3 FROM HELL approach: yes, they got shot, isn’t it amazing they survived? One in a million. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hotel Artemis

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Two years ago there were two intriguing looking movies about hotels from pretty good writer/directors named Drew. I didn’t get around to seeing either, and they seemed to have unusual premises that were hard to explain in the trailers, so I have always been confused about what they were about and which one was which. When I saw HOTEL ARTEMIS was on Amazon Prime and clicked on it I had my fingers crossed that it was the one with Dave Bautista. And it was.

It takes place over one Wednesday night in L.A., summer of 2028, in what I gotta say are bad times at the Hotel Artemis. There are huge riots in the streets, which a crew of robbers in very stylish skeleton masks are trying to use to cover their getaway, but they get spotted by cops. Sherman (Sterling K. Brown, THE RHYTHM SECTION), his younger brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry, WIDOWS) and a guy named Buke (Kenneth Choi, TIMECOP 2: THE BERLIN DECISION, STREET KINGS, Judge Ito to Brown’s Christopher Darden in The People vs. O.J. Simpson) manage to get away, but with injuries, so there’s only one place they can go. (See the title of the movie for specifics.) (read the rest of this shit…)

High and Low

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Before going into seclusion to plot my revenge on the coronavirus I rented a bunch of Akira Kurosawa movies. Didn’t even really know what they were about. Luckily one of them was HIGH AND LOW, because that’s what more than one of you recommended after I reviewed STRAY DOG. Another contemporary police procedural one. No samurais in it at all.

One thing I did not expect: themes of shoe industry integrity. It opens with our initial protagonist Mr. Gondo (Toshiro Mifune in a white cardigan) meeting at his house with his fellow board members for the National Shoe company. They’re each in charge of one specific part of the company (one guy conveniently lists them all off for us), and Gondo’s is the factory. All of them agree that “the old man,” (the president of the shoe company, not Dan Inosanto’s character from REDBELT) is out of touch with what modern women want. They call his pumps “combat boots.” But they’ve come up with a plan that by teaming together they represent a majority of shareholders and can replace the old man and begin making shoes that are more current and cheaper to manufacture. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sharky’s Machine

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Burt Reynolds is Sharky, sometimes just “Shark.” I think it’s his last name. He’s an undercover cop, seemingly beloved on the force, but he gets into trouble when a drug bust turns into a public transportation shootout after this dipshit Smiley (Darryl Hickman, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, voice of “Pac-Junior” on the Pac-Man cartoon) drives up to say hello and blows his cover. Everybody thinks it’s bullshit and calls Smiley a fuckin asshole as they whisk Sharky off to his new job in the vice squad. There’s a great bit about how that department is located in the basement and his old partner is only willing to walk him halfway down the stairs.

It’s a shitty job because you’re just busting hookers and stuff, not real bad guys. He gets to know his new co-workers, who might be lazy fuck-ups or might just be resigned to their position in life. But Mr. Supercop Sharky here is not content to settle. He finds a way to go after something big.

There’s a thing in AMERICAN GANGSTER that I think about often, where Denzel’s character Frank Lucas is able to build a heroin empire under-the-radar and blows it all by wearing a fur coat to a boxing match, causing a cop to wonder who he is. This is kind of like that – during a regular rowdy night at headquarters Sharky asks about a powerful pimp who comes in, and decides to start tracking his high class thousand-dollar-a-night escort service. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)