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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

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…)

Little Woods

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

LITTLE WOODS is the debut of writer/director Nia DaCosta, who followed it with the upcoming CANDYMAN (2020), sequel to CANDYMAN (1992). I’m not sure how much they’ll have in common, because this one’s not horror, and it takes place in a rural area, but it’s very good, and raises my expectations for the other one even higher.

Tessa Thompson (CREED) is great as Ollie (short for Oleander), who lives in her late mother’s busted up house in North Dakota and is almost done with her probation. While mom was sick she would go into Canada to get medicine for her, but she also had a whole pill-selling enterprise going, and she got caught at the border.

Now she does stuff like go out to construction sites and sell coffee and sandwiches out of the back of her pickup. People still ask her for Oxy and she explains she doesn’t do that anymore. Everybody still likes her. The local opiate pusher Bill (Luke Kirby, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) thinks that makes her a good saleswoman and tries to get her to work for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Da 5 Bloods

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

DA 5 BLOODS is Spike Lee’s new Vietnam War joint that happened to be produced by Netflix, so when our current global nightmare thwarted theatrical release they didn’t have to delay it, they just put it right onto their service, making it one of Pandemic Summer’s biggest blockbusters in my opinion. For now this is our James Bond and our Top Gun (I won’t say Wonder Woman, because it’s very male oriented).

Like so many of Lee’s movies, it finds interesting ways to visually connect history to the present. Think of DO THE RIGHT THING’s showcasing of the photos and quotes of Dr. King and Malcolm, MALCOLM X’s coda of real people (including a newly freed Nelson Mandela) saying “I am Malcolm X!,” or BLACKKKLANSMAN’s montage with the murder of Heather Heyer, the real David Duke and the president’s other Very Fine People in Charlottesville. Following in that tradition, DA 5 BLOODS opens with historical footage and photos establishing Those Uncertain Times of the Vietnam era.

Muhammad Ali explains his refusal to kill people who haven’t done anything to him on behalf of people who have. To the tune of “Inner City Blues,” we see black soldiers in Vietnam, whitey on “Da Moon,” Black Panthers, Malcolm, Martin, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis. We alternate between brutality in Vietnam and at home: burning monks, the Kent State shootings, the street execution from that famous photo, police clubbing protesters at the DNC, the children burned with napalm. When the war ends and this volley of fast-speed documentary turmoil subsides, the frame stretches and contracts to widescreen, and Saigon dissolves to modern tourism-friendly Ho Chi Minh City, where four of our titular quintet meet up in a hotel lobby, hugging and hand shaking, sipping the first of many fruity umbrella cocktails, in a present that will repeatedly bleed into the past. (read the rest of this shit…)

Capone

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

“You know, this is what happens when people spend too much time in Florida.”

I can’t lie. Half of my interest in CAPONE was a curiosity about the legend of its writer/director/editor Josh Trank. If you know who that is, you probly know him for a meteoric rise and fall. The success of one found footage movie (CHRONICLE) led to coveted studio gigs – a giant super hero movie and a Star Wars spin-off. But FANTASTIC FOUR was drastically changed from his cut, he quit the Boba Fett movie before they could fire him, there was a weird story in the Hollywood Reporter about his dogs wrecking a house he rented, and he made the career-sabotaging faux pas of disavowing FANTASTIC FOUR on Twitter just before it was released to terrible reviews and box office.

Seemed like a cautionary tale, and I can’t deny a morbid fascination with it. I didn’t love CHRONICLE, save for its cleverness about fitting good camera moves into found footage, so I wondered how these powerful Hollywood people got, and then lost, so much faith in the guy. But when I saw FANTASTIC FOUR I actually found alot to like about it, especially in the discovering-their-powers scenes that I described at the time as “more inspired by THE FLY than SPIDER-MAN.” And I realized that he hadn’t come completely out of nowhere – he edited and co-produced BIG FAN, a dark comedy/drama I liked.

Five years after his fall into the Great Pit of Carkoon, Trank has resurfaced with a self-generated, independent project, not inspired by “geek properties,” but by one of those historical deep cut kind of stories some people get hooked on. CAPONE is about Al Capone not in his gang years, but the last year of his life, released from prison to live in a mansion in Florida as his mental and physical capacity deteriorate from syphilis and strokes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fletch

Monday, June 1st, 2020

May 31, 1985

I hadn’t seen FLETCH since the VHS days, and remembered nothing about it. Back then I didn’t know it was based on a book, but this time I had the book, having picked it up from a laundry room book exchange shelf two moves ago. Our building manager had pretty good taste – lots of Elmore Leonard.

The novel is from 1975 and written by Gregory Mcdonald, whose books also inspired the 1972 movie RUNNING SCARED and Johnny Depp’s never-released-in-the-U.S. directorial debut THE BRAVE. It was followed by ten more Fletch novels, if you include the two about his son. It’s a mystery about newspaper reporter I.M. Fletcher, who’s been undercover hanging out with junkies on a beach, working on a story about the drug problem there, when he’s approached by a rich guy named Alan Stanwyk, who offers to pay him $50,000 to come to his house on a certain day and shoot him. Says he has cancer, wants to die before it gets painful, but doesn’t want to commit suicide so his wife can get the life insurance money. He’s got this whole plan for a drifter like Fletch to kill him and get away. Even has a plane booked to fly him out of the country.

Fletch continues with his drug investigation while also investigating Stanwyk’s story. Through various trickery he manufactures reasons to speak on the phone or in person with Stanwyk’s wife, doctor, business associates, etc. He’ll do anything from call his parents pretending to be an insurance investigator to walking right up to his wife claiming to be an old Air Force friend who met her at their wedding. He does that while pretending to be a guest at her dad’s tennis club, picking a name off of a locker and ordering screwdrivers on their tab. The more he digs in the more questions he has and the less he understands what this guy is up to. Until, of course, he figures it out. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)