I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

To Live and Die in L.A.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I always knew the title to this one, because of that song by Wang Chung. But I never knew what exactly it was about. Turns out it’s loosely based on a novel by this guy Gerald Petievich. He was in the Secret Service, and the book was inspired by some of his experiences. So it’s supposed to be about the weirdness of that job, where one day you’re protecting the president of the United States and the next day you’re working for the treasury department so you’re just chasing some dude with counterfeit twenties.

This movie has the thumbprints of great filmatism smeared all over it. It has the kind of opening I’m a sucker for, the kind that throws you in the middle of something, sets the tone, then goes into the opening credits. Like a preamble or an overture. The main character Richard Chance (William Petersen) is on security detail for a Reagan speech (you just hear Reagan’s voice off screen, they don’t have Martin Sheen or anybody playing him). The guys are just kind of killing time when he notices something odd that leads him to the roof, where he finds an Islamic suicide bomber. (oh, shit.) He’s not able to talk him down but his partner climbs up the side of the roof and yanks the guy by the leg so that he explodes in mid-air, like a big balloon full of blood and chunks of meat. Then the two sit on the edge of the building to think about what has just happened. Chance says, “Let’s go get drunk and play cards” and it cuts into a stylish opening montage showing various images from the movie and that represent L.A. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

So there I was minding my own business, listening to an interview with Elmore Leonard. Suddenly out of the blue Elmore mentions this book I didn’t know about, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins. He says it was a revelation to him, showed him that you could use profanity in a book and that you didn’t have to tell a straight forward story. And he calls it the best crime novel ever written.

So, through the miracle of opening another window, I ordered a used copy of the book before the interview was even over. Much later it arrived, then I read it, then I loaned it to somebody and his car was stolen with it inside and later they found his car and the car thieves didn’t take the book with them. Their loss, my gain, because Elmore Leonard was right, it’s a hell of a book. Pretty much the first half of the book is all conversations, almost no description. Later some robberies start happening and it turns more into a traditional book. But it doesn’t have your normal type of a story here. It’s more a portrait of these characters and it kind of shows the complexity of a network of criminals, snitches and cops. And it has a great ear for the dialogue. Higgins I guess was a lawyer before he became a writer, maybe he was around some of these guys. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

This is the true story of a series of murders in Texarkana shortly after World War II. So it could also be called THE TOWN THAT COMBINED THE NAMES OF TEXAS AND ARKANSAS INTO ONE NAME AND THAT ALSO DREADED SUNDOWN. That doesn’t have the same rhythm to it though, I think they made the right decision.

This is a weird movie. It starts clunkily with corny narration about “the story you are about to see,” and the narrator pops up throughout the movie as if it’s an educational film. The actors in the small roles are obviously not actors, some of them are terrible. The filmatism is what you would call “crude and workmanlike” or maybe “serviceable” – although of course it’s a faded, full frame out of print VHS so maybe some day if they give it the Blue Underground or Dark Sky treatment it will turn out to be a fuckin masterpiece of photographical genius. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Eastern Promises

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Viggo Mortensen is a damn contortionist of the face. He stretches and twists that motherfucker from regular Viggo face into badass Russian gangster face. His eyebrows and the lines on his forehead turn into an arch. His mouth twists and curls into an arrogant smirk. The slash-like lines on his cheekbones suck extra deep into his skull. I could’ve sworn the motherfucker even created a dimple on his chin somehow, like through some weird breathing technique, but I checked photos and it turns out he already had that. But it fits his character well. That’s just the chin dimple a Russian gangster like that would have.

After all those years of great supporting performances, and then hitting the lottery by being the king that returned in RETURN OF THE KING, now he is getting the roles he was born for. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is my favorite of his movies so far, so I’m glad he’s reteaming with Dave Cronenberg here. Hopefully they will continue to collaborate for at least one more movie, it could be known as “the Viggronenberg Gangster Trilogy.” (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Vern Reviews The DEATH PROOF DVD!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.

Since this showed up at my house, I’ve screened it three times. I hate that they are not putting out GRINDHOUSE together, but I really like the international cut of DEATH PROOF, and I know that sooner or later, I’ll be able to own the same thing I saw in theaters this spring. It’s just not right now, and I guess that’s just the way it fucking goes.

Vern’s got a typically strong write-up of the disc for you today, and it was nearly as much fun to read this as it was to watch the disc:

For me GRINDHOUSE was one of the great theatrical experiences of 2007. A rare modern instance of filmatists trying to put on a real show, and giving you more than your money’s worth. Two movies for the price of one, plus fake trailers – an affordable night or afternoon out. Yeah, I read about how it failed to make money for the Weinsteins, but guess what? That’s what happens when you spend decades buying other people’s movies so you can cut them, dub them, retitle them, sit them on a shelf for years, and then only allow them to be rented at Blockbuster. When you spend that long doing that many cruel and unusual things eventually your bi-yearly good deed will fail for you too. Because you are an asshole. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Vern Vs. SHOOT ‘EM UP!

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

SPOILER ALERT !!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.

Perhaps the single most important piece of film criticism we’ll publish this month. You don’t have to like me or Harry in any way to love Vern. He’s always been one of the most distinct voices we publish here, and there are certain films where I look forward to his opinion in particular.

I know a lot of you wanted to read a HALLOWEEN review from him, and he’s published one at his fantastic world-famous blog now. But I think it’s more important to be able to present his review of the film by Michael Davis that we’ve been talking about for a while now. Vern’s a stubborn, passionate fan of action films, and I knew that he’d approach this movie wide open to it. Seems like he really got it, too, enjoying it for any number of reasons and on several levels. This was a great read, Vern. Thanks for always raising the bar with each review.

We all know HARDBOILED is one of the greatest action movies of all time. This has been discussed, voted and agreed upon officially. But for all the time dedicated to honoring that movie, not much has been set aside for the HARDBOILED poster. Remember the first time you saw that, before you saw the movie? What more did you need to see? That simple, perfect, iconic image of Chow Yun Fat (whether you knew who he was then or not) holding a gun in one hand and a baby in the other – that should’ve been enough. It doesn’t tell you everything about HARDBOILED, but it tells you alot. The theory of badass juxtaposition at its most basic symbolic level – one man holding life and death. Good and evil. Innocence and violence. Machine and flesh. Yin and yang.

More importantly, the guy is holding a baby in one hand and a gun in the other. Forget what it means. Concentrate on what it is. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Warriors

Friday, August 24th, 2007

I gotta be honest. As good as THE WARRIORS is it’s not quite the amazing masterpiece I like to remember it as. What makes it good is mostly on the surface: the different gangs and their gimmicks, the bleak rawness of everything from the cinematography to the John Carpenter-ish analog keyboard music, and the dead seriousness of all the characters in the face of this exaggerated world where thugs patrol the streets in baseball uniforms and gangs seem to outnumber law abiding citizens by a thousand to one.

This is all more than enough to make it some kind of minor classic, but my memory was being pretty charitable to the storytelling. I always loved the mythological simplicity of it: Cyrus calls a meeting to try to unite all the gangs, some prick assassinates Cyrus and blames The Warriors, now these 9 guys have to cross New York on foot to get back home before the other gangs kill them. It’s a good old fashioned odyssey or a guantlet or whatever. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

YOJIMBO
and
FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
and – why the hell not –
LAST MAN STANDING

I’ve been doing alot of themed movie-watching lately and I don’t want that to grow stale, so I decided to mix things up a little. Three movies starring my favorite badasses, but from different years and different countries. Just a real variety of material here. YOJIMBO is about this bad motherfucker who wanders into a small town torn apart by two warring gangs, and he goes back and forth working for them, plays them against each other, rescues a woman from them then gets beaten up real bad but escapes and hides out and then tricks them some more and also I forgot to mention there’s alot of good jokes about the town coffin maker getting business from his activities. FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, on the other hand, is about this bad motherfucker who wa– hey, wait a minute! (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Robocop Trilogy

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

ROBOCOP

Since my recent viewing of the TERMINATOR trilogy was a smashing success I decided to look for some other ’80s-’90s sci-fi/action robot trilogy to watch, and I came up with ROBOCOP. I’d seen the first one a million (1,000,000) times and never seen the sequels, but I had a pretty good idea it was not gonna be pretty. And it wasn’t.

To me the real trilogy is not ROBOCOP 1-3, it’s ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL and then STARSHIP TROOPERS, Paul Verhoeven’s three ultraviolent, FX heavy studio sci-fi action satires. ROBOCOP started off that trilogy with a bang, and even including those other Verhoeven classics there’s really nothing quite like this one. Its unique approach is established at the very beginning when it opens with a TV newsbreak (co-anchored by Leeza Gibbons) that’s a weird hybrid of news from the ’80s and from today. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Blue Steel

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

This is a suspense thriller from Kathryn Bigelow, the director of POINT BREAK and NEAR DARK, and one of the few women directors to get much of a chance in these types of movies. This one stars Jamie Lee Curtis as a just-graduated cop who, on her first ever patrol, has to shoot a guy holding up a grocery store.

Now first of all I gotta ask – why are there so many grocery store robberies in these movies? A reader named Jared pointed it out too because I recently reviewed STONE COLD and COBRA, both of which open with the hero going in to foil a grocery store robbery/shootout. Now this one too (and the last book I read, SIDESWIPE by Charles Willeford, also revolves around a grocery store robbery/shootout, although it’s at the end instead of the beginning, because it’s literature). The result here is the exact opposite of those other movies though: instead of a rebel cop who plays by his own rules she’s a straightlaced rookie who tries to do it by the book. Instead of having no consequences the incident could end her career. Talk about a double standard. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.