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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Avengement

Monday, May 20th, 2019

In AVENGEMENT, Scott Adkins creates one of his best characters yet, though I don’t necessarily expect to see a franchise around this one. Like French in THE DEBT COLLECTOR, Cain Burgess is a regular working class British fighter who tries taking an illegal job to pay for a gym. In this case it’s a quick gig for his older brother Lincoln (Craig Fairbrass, CLIFFHANGER, RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER, THE BANK JOB, HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN), but it goes wrong and he ends up in prison.

We hear the story in pieces throughout the movie, as Cain reveals it to a captive audience at the members only pub he barges into after escaping custody during a supervised visit to his dying mother (Jane Thorne, THE FOREIGNER). Only one of them, Hyde (Nick Moran, LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS), has ever met Cain, who has been through such a thorough metamorphosis he’s barely recognized. If rehabilitation was the intention of Cain’s incarceration, the opposite effect was achieved. A nice guy with no record and nothing but regrets for his actions was forced to develop his fighting skills and a “callused mind” to withstand the years of stabbings and beatings made possible by the perfect storm of a price on his head, a corrupt staff and a clueless prison board. He returns to the old neighborhood sporting cheap metal replacement teeth, a scar across his eye and napalm burns on half of his face, like a gnarled Frank Miller drawing. He describes himself as “A hardened, rusty nail.”

(I hope that’s his Twitter bio.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Too Many Ways To Be No. 1

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 is a crazy, aggressively stylish 1997 Hong Kong crime movie that I watched because it was recommended to me by Adam in a comment on my LADY OF STEEL review. He said it was recommended to him by a guy at Vulcan Video in Austin, Texas. And now I’m recommending it to you. The circle of life.

This one’s produced by Johnnie To, but directed by Wai Ka-Fai (FULLTIME KILLER, RUNNING ON KARMA, MAD DETECTIVE), his second movie as a director, following PEACE HOTEL.

It’s about this guy named Kau (Lau Ching-wan, POLICE STORY 2) who gets talked into joining some kind of criminal gang. I felt great empathy for him because of this scene where they go have a big meal together, like the gang in RESERVOIR DOGS, but then they walk out without paying. He stands there and looks at the check. Jesus christ, you don’t walk out on a check. Also you don’t leave a huge check for just one person who didn’t offer to pay it to pay. Especially the new guy who doesn’t have that kind of money. (read the rest of this shit…)

On the Job

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

ON THE JOB (2013) is an earlier movie by Erik Matti, director of BUYBUST, that Filipino action movie I was so impressed by a few months ago. This one is not about martial arts at all, but it shares similar themes of intractable conflict and hopeless corruption in the system. It’s a crime epic about corrupt police taking certain inmates in and out of prison to perform contract killings.

And it primarily takes the P.O.V. of the assassins. We see Mario (Joel Torre, THE BOURNE LEGACY) and his younger, taller, handsomer, dumber protegee Daniel (Gerald Anderson) weaving through a crowded market, shooting a guy, and fleeing. Then Mario goes home to see his wife (Angel Aquino) and law student daughter (Empress Schuck?). He’s like a husband/dad who’s in the military, or a touring musician or something. It’s a treat for him to be home and they wish he would come home more, but they understand. Though it’s ambiguous at first how much they understand. (read the rest of this shit…)

We Die Young

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

WE DIE YOUNG is an odd thing: a straight-to-VOD (now on DVD) Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that has some violence and plenty of crime – it opens with a flash-forward to a car chase to assure you of this – but really is kind of an indie drama with Van Damme in supporting character actor mode. The main character is actually Lucas, played by Elijah Rodriguez, who was the kid being pressured into working for the cartel in SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. Lucas is a similar character, perhaps crossed with Casper from SIN NOMBRE. He’s a teen without parents raising a younger brother and feeling he has no choice but to be a bicycle riding drug runner for MS-13. In this one, though, he lives in the United States, in a DC neighborhood he says is a 20 minute bike ride from the White House.

Lucas narrates at the beginning as he rides around on his bike, dropping off large quantities of drugs like it’s his paper route. He explains that he works for “the most feared badass in DC,” Rincon (David Castaneda, also in DAY OF THE SOLDADO), who’s introduced threatening some dude who his guys dragged to him in his underwear, tied behind a motorcycle. Rincon manages to be kind of handsome and charismatic despite the crap tattooed all over his face. (I guess he’s allowed to have hair and the M and S aren’t gigantic like Li’l Mago’s in SIN NOMBRE.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Sin Nombre

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

After I watched MISS BALA (2011) a friend recommended SIN NOMBRE (2009). It’s a Spanish language film but it’s the feature debut of American writer-director Cary Fukunaga, before True Detective put him on more people’s radar. I remembered the title as an acclaimed movie but I didn’t even know what it was about, so the timeliness of the subject matter was accidental. It’s about our asshole in chief’s current favorite boogey man: people trying to leave violent situations in South America for the relative safety and promise of the United States.

Sayra (Paulina Gaitan, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) is a Honduran teenager who joins her uncle and her estranged father in an organized group traveling north together. Or a “caravan” you might call it if you wanted it to sound very foreign. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dragged Across Concrete

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

This is my piece about being torn between loving S. Craig Zahler’s movies and being grossed out by the worldview they seem to represent. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I’ve been waiting for DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE with a new emotion I call antici-dread. On one hand, it’s writer-director Zahler’s followup to BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, maybe my favorite movie of 2017. On the other hand, it’s his ode to racist cops and I’m starting to worry that my love for Zahler’s right-up-my-alley tone and filmatism has made me too quick to brush off questions about his fascination with casual racism and anti-heroes brutalizing minorities to protect the white women.

I really like BONE TOMAHAWK and BRAWL, and I’m not entirely convinced by some of the interpretations of them I’ve heard. But I got nervous when producer Dallas Sonnier (who has also done very good work, from managing Stone Cold Steve Austin to resurrecting Fangoria) did a press tour about his company Cinestate’s “populist” movies – code for “quiet 2+ hour slow burn niche art movies with occasional bursts of extreme gore” – saying they appeal to a “neglected audience” in “the age of Trump.” Asked about BRAWL receiving “4 out of 5 swastikas” from a white supremacist reviewer, Sonnier was only quoted with a less than forceful, “The reactions that come from them, we can’t control.”

I sure hope it’s all a big wacky misunderstanding, but to me it seems suspiciously like a “very fine people on both sides” marketing strategy. Then Zahler rebooted PUPPET MASTER to be about funny puppet hate crimes, and off-handedly referred to GET OUT as “manure” with no explanation in his Fangoria column, and at some point you gotta acknowledge a pattern even if it’s gonna fuck with your enjoyment of singular, committed, badass crime stories. (read the rest of this shit…)

Triple Frontier

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

TRIPLE FRONTIER is last week’s straight-to-Netflix-no-theaters release from director J.C. Chandor (MARGIN CALL, ALL IS LOST, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR). This one is higher profile than most such releases because it floated around various big name directors and studios before Netflix bought it with the bottomless money supply their CEO famously received by catching a magic fish, and it stars Oscar Isaac (SUCKER PUNCH), Ben Affleck (ELEKTRA, director’s cut only), Charlie Hunnam (KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD), Garrett Hedlund (TRON LEGACY) Pedro Pascal (THE GREAT WALL) and Adria Arjona (PACIFIC RIM UPRISING). It’s such a big deal for the company that they made the uncharacteristic choice of promoting its existence!

Isaac plays Santiago “Pope” Garcia, an American advising the Colombian military in violent raids on drug gangs. His informant/sometime-girlfriend Yovanna (Arjona) claims to know the location of a jungle fortress where cartel boss Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos, MONKEY TROUBLE) hides out with all his money. So Pope goes back to the states to recruit some of his old retired spec ops buddies as a team to go in and do reconnaissance and pocket a percentage of the money the police ultimately seize.

At least that’s what he says until they get there, and then it becomes clear that the police don’t know anything about it yet. He wants his buddies to do a heist with him. Ah, shit, Pope. Are you kidding me with this shit? (read the rest of this shit…)

Cold Pursuit

Monday, February 11th, 2019

COLD PURSUIT – which could be called HELLY HANSEN PRESENTS ‘COLD PURSUIT’ in my opinion – is an odd duck of a Liam Neeson vehicle. His character Nelson “Nels” Coxman is a man with a very particular set of skills, but they mostly involve driving a snow plow. He lives a simple life in a big house in a tiny ski resort town 3 and a quarter miles from Denver, Colorado. It’s one of those places where people have to be kinda rugged but they’re also laid back and individualistic. It’s always cold outside so they mostly just find ways to relax in their big houses. Nels’s wife Grace (Laura Dern, WILD AT HEART) smokes a joint while cooking up some meat from the reindeer that Nels and their son Kyle (Micheal Richardson, VOX LUX) hunted a while back.

Nels is a little nervous about having to make a speech after winning Citizen of the Year. Otherwise they seem to have a nice comfortable lifestyle going when all the sudden Kyle turns up dead – we know he was murdered by drug dealers, but the coroner (Jim Shield, SHANGHAI NOON, who looks like a more hard living Chris Pine) says it was a heroin overdose. Nels is so broken up he puts a shotgun in his mouth but when he’s interrupted by Kyle’s bloodied and apologetic friend Dante (Wesley MacInnes, POWER RANGERS) and learns what really happened, it’s not long before he’s sawing off said shotgun to fit in his jacket and go trying to find the people responsible. (read the rest of this shit…)

Destroyer (2018)

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

DESTROYER is the latest from director Karyn Kusama (THE INVITATION). It’s a dark, character-driven crime thriller starring Nicole Kidman (BATMAN FOREVER) as Erin Bell, an extra-crispy-burnt-out LAPD detective breaking all the rules to chase a bank robber (Toby Kebbell, FANTASTIC FOUR). It’s personal to her because years ago she went undercover in his gang and her partner/lover (Sebastian Stan, THE COVENANT) was killed. But she’s a total fuckin mess and she seems to be acting on her own and keeps ignoring her partner (Shamier Anderson)’s voicemails asking where the fuck she is.

So no, turns out it’s not a remake of the 1988 slasher movie starring Lyle Alzado, and it’s not based on a novel either. Writers Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi (CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL, THE TUXEDO, AEON FLUX, CLASH OF THE TITANS, R.I.P.D., RIDE ALONG, THE INVITATION), adapted it from the 1976 Kiss album of the same name featuring “Detroit Rock City” [citation needed]. (read the rest of this shit…)

In Order of Disappearance

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (Kraftidioten) is another great movie I was pushed into watching by an impending remake. In this case the remake is the Liam Neeson movie COLD PURSUIT. The same director, Hans Petter Moland, first did the story in Norway in 2014 with Stellan Skarsgard (DEEP BLUE SEA) as Nels Dickman, the stoic small town snow plow driver who up and dedicates his life to violent revenge after a drug gang kills his son (Aron Eskeland). There’s a darkly comic tone as he questions and kills his way up the ladder, rarely having much to say to them, then easily disposing of the bodies in the snow. Each time someone dies in the movie their name is written on the screen in memoriam. At first it kinda seems like chapter titles, but as shit escalates these cards become comically frequent and even cut to as shorthand for “and then they killed him.” (read the rest of this shit…)