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Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

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…)

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

“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…” –Steven Seagal as Dr. Wesley MacLaren in THE PATRIOT (1998)

I knew exactly three things about THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK: it was supposed to be potentially controversial for having something to do with a militia, people loved it at Fantastic Fest last year, and it was produced by Cinestate. Because of the last one it was often mentioned in articles alongside the works of S. Craig Zahler, portrayed as daring independent films that are super fuckin edgy because they blur the line between “regular movie” and “movie that all neo-Nazis own on blu-ray.”

That’s probly why I put off watching it until now. But there really wasn’t much to be afraid of. Realistically we can assume that these characters who have dozens of AR-15s, grenades, Kevlar vests and shit stashed in a warehouse are right wing extremists, because they have dozens of AR-15s, grenades, Kevlar vests and shit stashed in a warehouse. But it’s not about that. The closest thing to a political view ever discussed is that some of them believe in killing cops. The two characters that are portrayed as potentially honorable are an undercover cop trying to bust the militia and a former cop trying to save the undercover cop. Race is never discussed, other than one guy being former Aryan Brotherhood (which is portrayed as a stain on his record). It’s really just a novel way to do a “flushing out the mole” type suspense story.  (read the rest of this shit…)

Nighthawks

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’m still working on one more piece that will cap off the Last Summer of ’80s Action series next week. But last night, while celebrating the life of Rutger Hauer and linking to my reviews of his action movie roles (BLIND FURY!), I was confused as to why I couldn’t find a review of NIGHTHAWKS. It turned out I was working on one two years ago that I never posted, so I polished it up and have it for you today. R.I.P.

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NIGHTHAWKS. A couple of tough street cops who go out at night like, uh… a couple of hawks. Or probly more like that famous Edward Hopper painting of the mostly empty diner at night. Except no diner and not always at night.

You know what, you and I together are going to have to face that I actually have no idea why it’s call NIGHTHAWKS, but the point is it’s the story of NYPD (New York Police Department) undercover dudes Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone, DEATH RACE 2000) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams, HIT!) who, just because they’re war veterans and also familiar with where all the low lifes go around here, are recruited by ATAC (Anti-Terrorist Action Command) to stop a terrorist (Rutger Hauer, WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, in his first American film) who is in NYC (New York City) to attack the U.N. (United Nations) which in my opinion is B.S. (bullshit), you shouldn’t do something like that you jerk. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Package (1989)

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

THE PACKAGE is… kind of an action movie from director Andrew Davis. After the better-than-average Chuck Norris vehicle CODE OF SILENCE (1985) and Steven Seagal’s debut ABOVE THE LAW (1988) the director put some similar elements into a thriller with Gene Hackman in the lead. Hackman had just done MISSISSIPPI BURNING (which he got Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for) but did not have any black belts in anything, so I’m not sure why he thought he should be in movies?

He plays U.S. Army Master Sergeant Johnny Gallagher, who I assume is respected for his skills, but he seems mostly just beloved for being a great guy. He’s introduced arriving for security detail at the site of U.S.-Soviet Union disarmament talks in West Berlin and walking around smiling and saying hi to everybody. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sanctuary

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

SANCTUARY (1998) is not The Great American Mark Dacascos Vehicle, but it’s pretty enjoyable classical DTV (or in this case straight-to-cable, I believe) action, the kind that made me fall in love with the format in the first place. Yes, it’s messy, at times confusing or befuddling. It’s kinda gloomy looking, sometimes there are iffy line deliveries, and there are definitely parts that I laugh at that I’m not supposed to. But also there’s some showcasing of a cool actor I like, pulpy traditions of the genre are exercised, and when something really cool happens there’s a sense of underdog achievement. You’re really pulling for it to be good.

It has a convoluted chronology: it starts with our Catholic priest hero Luke Kovak (Dacascos a year after DRIVE) in a Vatican interrogation room being questioned in Italian about what happened six days ago when he got attacked by some killers from his secret past. From the story of six days ago it keeps flashing back to the larger backstory of his former career doing dirty deeds for the government and why he went into hiding to get away from it. A few times he even remembers his childhood, when a priest was his role model until Dyson (Alan Scarfe, CATHY’S CURSE, IRON EAGLE II, LETHAL WEAPON 3) took him and some other orphans and raised them to be experts in martial arts, guns and spycraft. (read the rest of this shit…)