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Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Kindred Spirits

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Note: since many of us are on lockdown I want to make sure some of the things I review are extra accessible. I watched this one streaming for free on Tubi (and I’m sure you can get it without ads elsewhere).

When Lucky McKee directed MAY (2002), he became one of a wave of promising new 21st century horror directors. He hasn’t received as much attention as Eli Roth, Rob Zombie or some of the other guys who started at the same time, maybe because he hasn’t ended up being as prolific. But he’s got a permanent place in my hall of fame because THE WOMAN (2011) is My Favorite Horror Movie of the 2010sTM. So I’m interested when he comes out with a new one.

Last time it was one called BLOOD MONEY in 2017. If you heard about that one, and it wasn’t from me, I’d be surprised. It’s a straight to video/streaming thriller about some young people finding a bunch of money in the woods and trying to get away from the gun-toting hedge fund jerk it belongs to, played by John Cusack. Obviously I prefer the thorough originality of THE WOMAN, but I also dig when a good director can follow a pretty standard genre template and craft it with bits of nuance and personality that you don’t expect. In particular I was impressed by some of its gender themes, by the performance of Willa Fitzgerald (Scream: the tv series) and that the only woman in the movie gets to be the Tupac-in-JUICE character who pushes them into danger. (read the rest of this shit…)

Come to Daddy

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

COME TO DADDY is a very engrossing and unclassifiable…thriller or something where Elijah Wood, decked out in the worst haircut/mustache combo current technology can provide, goes to a remote part of Oregon to visit the dad who abandoned him 25 years ago. He walks through the wilderness to this big house with a really impressive elevated viewing room overlooking a lake. Stephen McHattie (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, BASEKETBALL, 300, SHOOT ‘EM UP, WATCHMEN, 2012, THE TALL MAN, WOLVES, mother!, DEATH WISH, RABID) answers the door and it’s unclear if he even knows why he’s there.

It’s all about tension and discomfort. Wood’s character Norval is patient and polite with his dad, who has a strong drunk-asshole-trying-to-pass-off-condescension-as-friendliness vibe. He alternates between seeming friendly and harmless and outright cruelty. He tries to pour a glass of wine, Norval tells him he doesn’t drink, a generously non-judgmental way of indicating that he inherited his alcoholism and has struggled with it. Dad’s response is to chug his glass and ask “Tempted?” Ha ha. Funny, Dad. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Vengeance

Friday, March 13th, 2020

(contains heavy spoilers for 15 year old movie)

LADY VENGEANCE is the RETURN OF THE JEDI of director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy in that it’s the third one (after SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and OLDBOY), it’s loaded with delightful elements, and it’s my favorite even though most people probly say the second one is the best. It begins with a woman named Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yung-ae, JOINT SECURITY AREA) being released early from prison. She’s a national media sensation because of the mismatched combination of the horrible crime she was convicted of (murdering a five-year-old boy) and her youthful appearance of “unabashed naivety.” She got wall-to-wall news coverage, there was a trend of wearing polka-dot dresses like hers, tabloids compared her to Olivia Hussey.

(I wonder what Olivia Hussey is known for in South Korea? ROMEO AND JULIET? BLACK CHRISTMAS? Or maybe a random one like TURKEY SHOOT is huge there?)

(read the rest of this shit…)

21 Bridges

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

21 BRIDGES is a police thriller with some action. It reminds me of the kind of stuff studios made in the ‘90s, when maybe it would’ve starred Denzel or Wesley Snipes or maybe Samuel L. Jackson if he’d been offered it during that window when he could be the main character and starred in THE NEGOTIATOR. But it was made in 2019, so it stars Chadwick Boseman and is produced by his CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, AVENGERS INFINITY WAR/ENDGAME directors Joe and Anthony Russo (as well as Boseman himself).

Boseman plays Andre Davis, NYPD detective, son of a murdered cop, infamous for shooting and killing 8 perps in 9 years, but he insists they were all justified, and it’s obvious he’s the type of good guy we can trust on that. The types we can’t trust are all over the movie, and they’re obvious too.

Tonight’s Andre Davis Mystery involves two criminals, one more reasonable and moral than the other, busting into a restaurant to steal a stash of cocaine. The one guy there basically tells them they’re making a mistake, that they will die, and then willingly gives them the keys and the location of the vault. Not like he’s scared of them, more like there’s no reason to interfere, they’re not going to get away with it. (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 Rhythm Section

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

THE RHYTHM SECTION is a cool fucking title when you realize what it means. As explained in the very first line of narration, it’s a piece of advice about how to stay calm while firing a gun or fighting: think of your heart as the drums, your breathing as the bass. But that’s hard to explain in a commercial, which is probly part of why there were like six people in the theater when I saw it.

Everybody else’s loss. It’s pretty good. Not at all original, but a solid meat and potatoes type of story giving a good showcase to Blake Lively, whose knockout turn in the pretty good A SIMPLE FAVOR I honestly thought should’ve gotten her an Oscar nomination. Now I pay more attention to her movies, especially if she’s playing a woman getting her Remo Williams training for badass revenge purposes.

She plays Stephanie Patrick, a drug addicted prostitute. Only three years ago Stephanie was studying at Oxford (yes, Lively does an English accent, which was only distracting for about five seconds), but her life became a mess after her entire family was killed in a plane crash. Then one day she gets this john who tells her he’s not there to have sex, he’s a journalist who has tracked her down because he has proof that the plane crash was not an accident, it was an act of terrorism that was covered up. (read the rest of this shit…)

Uncut Gems

Monday, January 20th, 2020

UNCUT GEMS is the latest and highest profile movie from writer/director brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. I recently caught up with their previous movie GOOD TIME and I loved it, so I would’ve been excited for this even without the hype.

It’s the story of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler, CONEHEADS), a New York jeweler who specializes in making ridiculous necklaces for rich musicians and athletes. His claim to fame is a blinged out Furby medallion he once made for some rapper to wear in a video. His shop is a tiny room behind a security door and he depends on people with connections like affiliate Demany (LaKeith Stanfield, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB) and employee/mistress Julia (Julia Fox) to hook him up with VIP clients. Julia is using her hotness and her side career as a photographer to hook that singer The Weeknd, and Demany brings in Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett. (read the rest of this shit…)

Downrange

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

DOWNRANGE is a simple, solid 2017 film by Ryûhei Kitamura (AZUMI, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, BRADLEY COOPER IN BRADLEY COOPER’S THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, NO ONE LIVES) that’s exclusively on the streaming service Shudder in the U.S., though it’s on disc in some other countries. Written by Kitamura and Joey O’Bryan (MOTORWAY, TRIPLE THREAT), it’s about six road-tripping college students who get a flat tire on a highway out in the middle of nowhere and soon realize they’re being targeted by a cruel, patient sniper.

It’s a little odd how abruptly it starts with the blowout – no chance to see them in their normal state of driving. And I was confused by their relationships – some of them don’t know each other, and I thought they were talking about being involved in some kind of race or contest, but I guess I must’ve misunderstood? No matter. You get enough seeds of who they are and what they’re up to in their lives that I genuinely didn’t know which characters were included just to suddenly get shot and kick this thing off. They all seem like they’ll be around for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Anna

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

LEON (THE PROFESSIONAL) sums up Luc Besson pretty good, doesn’t it? He’s creepy about young women. Also, he’s really good at putting them in cool, stylish action roles. His latest in that vein, ANNA, came out this summer with little fanfare (or box office), at least partly because Besson had recently been accused of rape. Maybe it deserved to fail. But for whatever it’s worth it’s a solid movie full of what he does well.

It actually has alot in common with ATOMIC BLONDE. A beautiful bisexual spy (well, assassin in this case) double and triple crosses her way through end-of-the-Cold-War European intrigue with a twisty plot and a couple of long, impressive fight sequences. Charlize and her action and David Leitch’s intoxicating colors and music are more my speed, but ANNA has the advantage of being real complicated without being hard to follow. It’s a satisfying tale. (read the rest of this shit…)

Undertow

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Right after Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red wrote NEAR DARK for her to direct, they wrote UNDERTOW for him. Her vampire movie got off the ground first, and it was almost a decade later when his weird thriller about three weirdos out in the woods during a hurricane became a Showtime movie.

It’s not supernatural, and maybe not even horror, but the mood somehow does remind me of NEAR DARK. Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES) plays Jack (last name Ketchum, apparently!), who’s introduced in his car, drifting to the next town after – as he explains in voiceover narration – falling for a sheriff’s daughter. Too dangerous. But before he can find a new place to stay he drives his truck off the road into a forest and wakes up the captive of a paranoid old redneck named Lyle (Charles Dance, LAST ACTION HERO) and his timid wife Willie (Mia Sara, TIMECOP), who I assumed at first was his daughter. They live in an isolated home in some North Carolina woods that’s somewhere between a hermit’s shack and a luxury resort lodge. It looks cold and some of it is built out of rusty car doors, but it’s huge, with various buildings and facilities. (read the rest of this shit…)