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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Get Carter (2000)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Nearly 30 years after GET CARTER and its American cousin HIT MAN there was another version of the movie and/or its source novel, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis. It starred Sylvester Stallone and was almost universally hated. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t fare well if hung up on a wall next to the 1971 version, but I find it at least interesting as an exercise in adaptation and an oddity in the Stallone filmography. And maybe I’m a little easier on it because it takes place in Seattle, with some of it actually filmed here.

In the mid ’90s, the ground was shifting under everyone’s feet. Hair metal bands felt displaced by Nirvana, MC Hammer decided he had to sign to Death Row Records, and the action heroes of the ‘80s were starting to see the writing on the wall. So by the end of the decade the once dominant Stallone was trying to find his place in a new world. JUDGE DREDD (1995) had been a notorious flop, and ASSASSINS (1995) and DAYLIGHT (1996) were poorly received. He couldn’t get Tarantino to cast him as Max Cherry in JACKIE BROWN. Though COP LAND (1997) had been one of Stallone’s best performances, it didn’t seem to bring him the critical credibility he was looking for, and his followup, the thriller D-TOX, was sitting on a shelf (it would be barely released in 2002 under the title EYE SEE YOU). Stallone been pigeonholed by his massive success as a larger than life action god, and many critics were more interested in rooting for his failure than seeing him evolve, or even return to his roots. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hit Man

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

I had heard of HIT MAN (1972) as a “Blaxploitation remake of GET CARTER,” and assumed that meant it was loose and uncredited. In fact it’s an official adaptation of the same 1970 book, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis, and director George Armitage – a Roger Corman acolyte who had written GAS-S-S-S and NIGHT CALL NURSES and directed PRIVATE DUTY NURSES – didn’t even know about the other version until he’d rewritten the script and his agent recognized it. As I mentioned in my GET CARTER review, MGM didn’t do much promotion of the well-reviewed GET CARTER because they had more faith in this version to be a hit. So – although it sounds like he may have started with the same script as GET CARTER (on this point I’m unclear) – I’d still say it’s not a GET CARTER remake, but the first American version of Jack’s Return Home.

Bernie Casey (GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) plays the Jack Carter character, now called Tyrone Tackett. In this version he’s from Oakland visiting L.A., and I swear they say he’s a cop? But he acts the same as the gangster in the other version. Hmm. Strange. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get Carter

Monday, September 28th, 2020

GET CARTER (1971) is one of those bedrock crime movies I saw a long time ago, and as I forgot its specific details its general vibe stayed strong in my memory. Other movies I loosely associate it with in my mind include POINT BLANK (which came out four years earlier) and THE LIMEY (which came out 28 years later and seems influenced by both). It’s a strong example of an approach that really appeals to me: a straight forward crime/mystery/revenge story written and directed in a serious, realistic manner like we all got together and agreed that pulp is respectable material now, using atmosphere and quiet and stillness more than flash, but in a way that emphasizes rather than gets in the way of its fierce badassness.

Michael Caine (THE LAST WITCH HUNTER), at the time already well known from movies including THE IPCRESS FILE, ALFIE, and THE ITALIAN JOB, plays Jack Carter, a London gangster who returns home to Newcastle for his brother Frank’s funeral. He doesn’t buy that his brother died in a drunk driving accident, as they’re telling him, so during his stay he basically does an investigation, questioning relatives, then old friends, then rivals and strangers, trying to get to the bottom of it. Just a little business to wrap up before running off to South America with his boss’s super hot girlfriend (Britt Ekland, pre-WICKER MAN). (read the rest of this shit…)

Lucky Day

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

LUCKY DAY is a 2019 crime movie with death and laughs and colorful characters, including but not limited to Crispin Glover. It’s not retro or a throwback, but definitely has shades of the ‘90s everybody-wants-to-be-Tarantino days and Guy Ritchie and stuff, which is not a pose because this is from writer/director Roger Avary (a.k.a. Oscar-winning co-writer of PULP FICTION), his first directing in more than 15 years.

It’s about a crazy day in the life of a guy named Red (Luke Bracey, GI JOE: RETALIATION, THE NOVEMBER MAN, POINT BREAK remake, HACKSAW RIDGE) when he’s released from a two year prison bid and returns to his French artist wife Chloe (Nina Dobrev, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) and daughter Beatrice (Ella Ryan Quinn). I don’t think it’s ever specified what he did time for, but he does go to see his friend Leroy (Clé Bennett, JIGSAW) – who has changed his name to Le Roi – and the fact that they run a lock and key shop with a cool basement hidden inside a safe and inside that is a huge safe that he attempts to crack for fun seems like a hint. (read the rest of this shit…)

Extreme Justice

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

EXTREME JUSTICE is a 1993 cop movie by director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) that you can find on DVD, VHS or streaming on Prime. Lester has done a pretty broad range of b-movie types, but one thing some of them have in common is a great sense of exaggeration. In CLASS OF 1984, for example, he presents a world where juvenile delinquency is so severe that a previously mild-mannered music teacher has no better choice than to do battle with one of his students and dump him through a skylight into the school gym during the big recital. In its sci-fi sequel CLASS OF 1999, such out-of-control kids have led to an overreaction that includes militarized robot teachers.

So I wasn’t sure which way he would go in his movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES, UNDERTOW, THE BIG HIT) as an LAPD detective who rather than getting in trouble for his police brutality gets promoted to a secret unit where “what useta get you in trouble’ll get you a round of beers.” I guess the reason I wasn’t familiar with this one is that they were worried about releasing it a year after the L.A. riots/uprising and dumped it to HBO. But I’m happy to report it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure – the movie is very clearly saying that this extreme justice is too extreme and not justice. It’s not the good kind of Paul Verhoeven “you have to be really thick to not understand this satire” clear, unfortunately, but right now I’ll settle for the more accessible “he has a girlfriend who’s the conscience of the movie and convinces him that this is all wrong” type. (read the rest of this shit…)

Top of the Heap

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Christopher St. John was a stage actor and member of the Actor’s Studio who had been in FOR LOVE OF IVY and HOT PANTS HOLIDAY and then was up for the title role in SHAFT. He didn’t get it, obviously – instead he played the supporting role of the militant Ben Buford. But that was enough to inspire him to invest his money in this independent starring/writing/directing/producing vehicle with ads billing him as “Christopher St. John, whom you last saw in SHAFT.”

Because of that connection, and because it’s a 1972 movie dealing with the Black experience, with some guns and a soundtrack by J.J. Johnson, it is sometimes lumped in with Blaxploitation. It’s not that at all. Frankly I prefer movies where the exploitable elements are more prominent, but that’s obviously not what St. John was interested in, and that should be acknowledged. This is an arty, experimental and political work that reminds me much more of Jules Dassin’s UP TIGHT (co-written by Ruby Dee), Melvin Van Peebles’ SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG and Bill Gunn’s GANJA & HESS than SHAFT or SUPER FLY. It’s more about an impressionistic depiction of societal sickness than, you know, traditional entertainment. For what that’s worth. (read the rest of this shit…)

Trouble Man

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

TROUBLE MAN is a solid tough guy movie from the early ‘70s Black action cinema movement. Director Ivan Dixon was an actor (PORGY AND BESS, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, NOTHING BUT A MAN) turned TV director (The Bill Cosby Show, Room 222, Mod Squad) making his first theatrical feature. He followed this with the much more politically radical THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he went back to TV after that.

The script is by John D.F. Black, a white TV writer who had worked on some of the same shows as Dixon and then wrote SHAFT. The feel of this one is closer to SHAFT than SPOOK. It’s a serious and gritty movie, but it’s less concerned with militancy and more the standard staples of the genre often referred to as Blaxploitation: the wish fulfillment of larger-than-life manliness, some garish period style, and an outstanding soundtrack album by a genius soul artist – Marvin god damn Gaye!

The hero (Robert Hooks, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, King David in POSSE) is actually called Mr. T, or sometimes just T. Though he might be able to make a claim for Toughest Man in the World, he has little else in common with the other Mr. T. He has regular hair and wears suits and ties. Sometimes a little flashy, I guess. And the ties are almost as wide as your head, but everybody else in the movie is wearing those too. (read the rest of this shit…)

Message from the King

Friday, September 4th, 2020

MESSAGE FROM THE KING is Chadwick Boseman’s 2016 (pre-BLACK PANTHER) action(ish) vehicle, released straight to Netflix. I always meant to watch it – I’m sorry it took me a tragedy to get to it. It’s pretty good.

It follows the classic noir tradition of the outsider who comes into town because a loved one went missing or died, starts asking around, spying on people, finds out what happened, and goes after the people responsible. I tend to like that story format – in fact, I kind of played off of it in my book Niketown, now that I think about it.

The specific version of this type of story that MESSAGE FROM THE KING reminds me of most is THE LIMEY. That’s both a compliment (I love THE LIMEY and movies like it) and bad news (unsurprisingly it’s not as good as THE LIMEY), but I couldn’t avoid the comparison. Instead of British he’s South African, instead of a daughter it’s his sister, and instead of her being involved with an older music producer it’s an older movie producer. But it’s a similar thing of a guy from another culture going around to rich people parties, barging into front businesses, angering macho thugs who don’t know who he is and underestimate him, playing dumb but exploding into a few sudden bursts of brutal violence. (read the rest of this shit…)

Year of the Dragon

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

August 16, 1985

This may be surprising, but YEAR OF THE DRAGON is one of the Summer of 1985 movies that I hadn’t seen before. So today I have officially entered the post-having-seen-YEAR-OF-THE-DRAGON section of my life. For those of you who are still in the first section, let me explain: this is the Triads-in-New-York’s-Chinatown movie directed by Michael Cimino as his followup to the financial disaster of HEAVEN’S GATE, and he wrote it with Oliver Stone. So it’s quite a movie. Aggressively stylish, go-for-broke filmmaking, astonishing production design and camerawork, epic in scope and detail, clearly heavily researched, also completely macho and full of shit, easy to see as racist and misogynistic, or at least very sympathetic toward a protagonist who is, and who by the way is played by weird, handsome, hungry Mickey Rourke, with all that that entails. So it’s hard to quantify YEAR OF THE DRAGON in the standard “good” or “bad” type terms most people insist on. I’m pretty sure I would run from it if I saw it on the street, but also I think it’s pulsing with entertaining pulp and cinematic greatness. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sleight

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

SLEIGHT is a 2016 film from director J.D. Dillard, who later did that fun woman-trapped-on-an-island-with-a-monster movie SWEETHEART. It’s produced by Blumhouse Tilt and the prestigious WWE Studios, who I still contend should only make movies starring wrestlers, but I forgive them in this case. The Undertaker would’ve been weird in this part.

Instead, Jacob Latimore (DETROIT) plays Bo, a young man living in L.A. He’s some kind of budding engineering genius and he got a great scholarship, but he had to ditch out on it because his parents died and he was the only one left to take care of his kid sister Tina (Storm Reid, THE INVISIBLE MAN). He has a cool neighbor, Georgi (Sasheer Zamata, formerly of Saturday Night Live), who looks after Tina for him sometimes, but otherwise he’s on his own.

Like SWEETHEART, it trusts us to have the patience to watch what he does for a while instead of giving us all the information up front. We see that he works as a street magician – a really good one. He does David Blaine style card tricks that blow the minds of the various young people he approaches on Hollywood streets. And he has a few weirder tricks where he seems to make objects move – like, causing someone’s ring to float and spin above his hand, moving his other hand around it to show that there are no strings involved. He does that one for Holly (Seychelle Gabriel, THE LAST AIRBENDER, BLOOD FEST) who is clearly into him, and maybe would be giving him the same look if the trick wasn’t so astounding. He gets her number and starts having awkward dates with her. (read the rest of this shit…)