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Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Body Count

Monday, November 30th, 2020

I’ve known for decades that Ice-T was in one of the many movies called BODY COUNT, but I never considered watching it until my friend Laird mentioned on Letterboxd* that it takes place on Thanksgiving. So thank you Laird, sort of, for inspiring some seasonal viewing. The only other Thanksgiving movie I had rented was HOME SWEET HOME, which I turned off when I immediately realized I’d seen it before. It’s the 1981 movie starring Body By Jake as a psycho, but they tricked me into thinking it was something newer by writing “Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut)” on the cover. (She had a small part at about 4 or 5 years old.)

I didn’t realize I’d never reviewed HOME SWEET HOME. Next year, I guess. It probly would’ve been more fun than BODY COUNT, a thoroughly mediocre and largely uneventful low budget home invasion thriller, its one benefit being its recognizable cast. Daniel (Justin Theroux two years before MULLHOLLAND DR.) is bringing his girlfriend Susanne (Alyssa Milano two years after EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE) to meet and spend Thanksgiving with his very rich family, who he hates. They’re all much more snooty than him and ask him condescending questions about his job and if he’s still in “that cult,” which he clarifies was “Buddhist study group.” His drunk brother Justin (Nicholas Walker, Santa Barbara, who I honestly mistook for Linden Ashby the entire time) is particularly insulting, but somehow Susanne is nice about it to the point that it seems like they might end up together. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alone

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

By now most people around here are familiar with John Hyams, director of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012). For a decade now we’ve scratched our heads wondering how those two genuinely visionary masterpieces of contemporary action didn’t bring Hyams to the attention of Hollywood gatekeepers who could’ve certainly used his skills making mid-budget action movies or thrillers, to say nothing of their big video game adaptations and terminators and what not. But without their dumb asses he’s managed to make a Cung Le vehicle I really like called DRAGON EYES (2012) and the 2018 comedy ALL SQUARE (which I just discovered is on Hulu), and the rest of the time has found plenty of work in television.

He put some of his sensibilities into the SyFy zombie series Z Nation, including an episode that’s mostly an extended chase scene and battle, and moreso in the more serious Netflix prequel series Black Summer. If you’ve checked out that show (and I recommend you do), you won’t be surprised that he can make a clean, elegant, deeply scary thriller like ALONE, which was released to digital platforms Friday after being well received at the virtual Fantasia Film Festival. It’s his simplest and least weird movie, all the better to show off his finely tuned suspense set pieces, enhanced by strong acting and a pervasively ominous atmosphere. And it’s very involving, making us feel like we’re there, whether “there” is in a parking lot at night watching truckers pull up to use a restroom, or high up in the trees listening to their brittle fibers creak as they bend in the breeze. (read the rest of this shit…)

Summer of 1985 intro + Gotcha!

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Technically summer doesn’t start for more than a month. But it’s beginning to feel like summertime – a time to sit back and unwind. The sun has been coming out, people have been wearing shorts, barbecues are probly happening in states that will have new Covid-19 outbreaks in 2-3 weeks, and it could even be argued that the hardcore dance is getting a little bit out of control.

One major thing is missing: the summer movie season. We were expecting to have NO TIME TO DIE, A QUIET PLACE PART II, BLACK WIDOW, WONDER WOMAN 1984, CANDYMAN, TOP GUN: MAVERICK, the GHOSTBUSTERS thing, THE FRENCH DISPATCH, arguably MORBIUS. And F9 would’ve been coming out Friday! Can you believe that? TENET and MULAN are still planned for release in July, but I’m skeptical. It’s up in the air how many theaters will be reopened by then, or especially how many people will feel safe enough to go to them.

It’s not something I ever considered before. Watching a zombie movie or a Godzilla or something, I never thought, “Oh shit, there were probly huge blockbuster movies that had to be postponed because of that!” Come to think of it in OMEGA MAN he had to watch WOODSTOCK, which was about a year old. He didn’t get to see DIRTY HARRY, SHAFT, BILLY JACK or ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES. They probly never came out in that world.

This strange reality of The Year Without a Summer Movie Season has me even more anxious to throw myself into a retrospective series. I think I got as much or more out of my 1989 revisit last year and ’98 the year before that than I did watching new movies in theaters. A good retrospective series feels like a type of time travel to me. There’s definitely a nostalgia, a reconjuring of excitement I may have forgotten from however old I was at the time in question. But also I’m watching more movies than I probly did back then, all in order of when they came out, giving more thought to the context, being able to see that era with the hindsight of history and the perspective of an adult. It’s always fun to discover things I didn’t realize back then, or didn’t experience, or to respond to things differently. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Decline

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

“Listen, I got nothin against playin army. I don’t mind that at all. I think the ideology of some of these folks is good. But there’s assholes everywhere, and Floyd is an asshole.” —Dr. Wesley McCLaren (Steven Seagal), THE PATRIOT

 

THE DECLINE (originally Jusqu’au déclin, UNTIL THE DECLINE) is a French Canadian thriller, the first Netflix production out of Quebec. It was recommended to me by “some asshole” (@QBF4LYF) on Twitter and coming in at a swift and economical 83 minutes it was an easy, successful bet.

It’s about this guy named Antoine (Guillaume Laurin, MOMMY), middle class husband and father, slightly on the dorky side, and really into survivalist shit. He watches his hero Alain (Réal Bossé, NITRO)’s well-produced, reasonable-seeming instructional videos online, follows along with his daughter, sealing a giant pack of rice for storage and getting her to repeat her lessons about why it’s important. Alain mentions how fast Montreal grocery stores will run out of staple foods during an emergency, which hits a little close to home in this time of pandemic. (Later someone will mention the threat of an H1N1 outbreak.) And Antoine doesn’t fit the stereotypes of survivalists so it comes across as a weird but harmless hobby more than a paranoid obsession. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)