“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Snake Eyes

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

August 7, 1998

There’s this conventional wisdom I’ve heard thrown around more than once that if you notice a shot being cool then it’s not really a good shot. Which is to deny the existence of Brian De Palma. SNAKE EYES is an underrated spot on the De Palma timeline when he had just made a huge hit with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and was able to cash in and get big studio resources for a much more purely DePalmian thriller that exhibits 36 chambers of filmatistic showboating.

Why not use the suspense thriller format to explore every new or uncommon use of cinematic language De Palma was interested in at the time? Additionally, why not use every new or uncommon use of cinematic language De Palma was interested in at the time to explore the suspense thriller format? There is no why not. This movie is great.

Nicolas Cage, not long after FACE/OFF, plays Rick Santoro, not the stick-up-his-ass homophobe former GOP senator and presidential candidate from Pennsylvania, but an obnoxious, bribe-taking bad lieutenant, port of call Atlantic City, who wears loud clothes, bets on boxing matches, and is gonna have to stop fucking around and be a hero this time. See, Santoro is standing close enough to get blood on him when the secretary of defense (Joel Fabiani, BRENDA STARR) gets shot at the fight. Santoro bulldozes his way into investigating so he can cover the ass of his old war hero buddy Gary Sinise, REINDEER GAMES), who was in charge of security. (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 Negotiator

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

July 29, 1998

THE NEGOTIATOR is a monument to that too-brief window of time when there were big budget Samuel L. Jackson vehicles. He’d been acclaimed in supporting roles including JUNGLE FEVER, then said that line in JURASSIC PARK, then became a superstar with PULP FICTION. I always thought it was unfair that Travolta was nominated for best actor and Jackson for supporting, but that’s mostly where he stayed. He was still kind of a sidekick in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE or THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT or a scene-stealer in JACKIE BROWN. And technically even this one is a two-hander with another star, but it starts on Jackson and keeps the two separated for most of the movie so I’d put it in a rare Samuel-L.-Jackson-vehicle category along with SHAFT, THE 51st STATE and SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Also going on in the late ’90s: Kevin Spacey. Like Jackson, he was a veteran character actor who suddenly caught the world’s eye with an indelible performance in a breakout indie crime drama. And he actually won his Oscar. After SE7EN and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL he was one of the most respected dramatic actors in Hollywood.

So THE NEGOTIATOR had a pretty catchy thriller hook (hostage negotiator gets framed by crooked cops, takes hostages in a desperate ploy to find out the truth and prove his innocence), but it was definitely that heavyweight actor showdown that lured us in. Two enormously respected actors, also known for hip movies, actoring the shit off each other in a studio thriller. That had appeal back then. (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.

Revenge

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

REVENGE (the 2018 release with the pink logo, not the Kevin Costner/Tony Scott one) is a great rape-revenge movie. Not a subversive one in my opinion, just a really good version of the form that goes mercifully light on the first r-word and entertainingly extravagant on the second. Obviously the very idea of the genre is upsetting, but as far as these things go, it’s a fun time. It has no interest in gritty realism or wiping your nose in the shit. It’s not even about any “dig two graves” or LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT don’t-stoop-to-their-level anti-revenge moralism. It has alot of symbolism and poetic exaggeration and exists in a world where human bodies have an impressive capacity for withstanding severe injuries and extreme blood loss.

(NOTE: If this sounds like something you can dig, I suggest seeing it and not reading the rest of this review yet, because I will be using SPOILERS to discuss alot of what I find most interesting in it.) (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.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Monday, July 30th, 2018

On the way home from the new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE I mentioned to a grocery store checker that I had just seen and enjoyed it. He asked if I was a big fan of “the original series” and as we discussed this I realized that he just meant the other movies. He’d forgotten it started as a TV series until I mentioned it.

This is one of those things as you get a little older, you lose track of how much time has passed. It also happened with JURASSIC WORLD a few years ago. In my mind JURASSIC PARK was an ongoing series that had made it to part 4. But to a whole generation it was holy shit remember that movie we saw in our youth, now a million years later can you believe they’re bringing it back for a new version, oh the nostalgia?

And lately I’ve noticed people declaring the stealth greatness of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series, as if this wasn’t a thing you would be aware of just from watching popular mainstream movies. It reminded me of when FAST FIVE came out and suddenly a whole bunch of critics picked up that those movies were fun. Yeah, no shit. The only other people in on this secret are the, you know, however many paying customers it takes to get a series to part 5. (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.

A Perfect Murder

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

June 5, 1998

I thought I had reviewed A PERFECT MURDER before, but for some reason it didn’t come up when I searched for it, so I watched it again. Then when I searched for my DIAL M FOR MURDER review to refresh my memory I did find a review of A PERFECT MURDER from five years ago. But that review wasn’t that good so fuck that review. This is the first time I’ve reviewed it in my opinion.

A PERFECT MURDER is the first of two Viggo-Mortensen-co-starring Hitchcock remakes that came out in 1998. The other is Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO, which is not a summer movie, but is worth bringing up as a comparison. While that was a complete anomaly – an audience-provoking experiment infused with bright colors and stylized costuming – this loose, updated remake of DIAL M FOR MURDER is an expensive, high gloss star vehicle. Remember? They used to make R-rated thrillers that were A-movies, sometimes by top directors. Michael Douglas’s movie before this was David Fincher’s THE GAME. For co-star Gwyneth Paltrow it was part of a prolific period – after being in SE7EN and then really blowing up with EMMA she starred in five 1998 movies: SLIDING DOORS, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, HUSH, this, and best picture winner SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. (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.

Mercury Rising

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

also April 3, 1998

MERCURY RISING opened on the same day as LOST IN SPACE, and I skipped it until now, too, despite it starring Bruce. I guess I figured it wasn’t a real action movie, it was some thriller from a director I wasn’t excited about (Harold Becker, VISION QUEST, SEA OF LOVE). I was more picky back then I guess.

He’s taking care of a little boy even though it’s a year before THE SIXTH SENSE. A practice run. It’s very much a transitional work because he basically gets to alernate between Action Bruce and Sad Bruce. Strangely enough it’s based on a book called Simon Says, which is the same name as the spec script that DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was based on, as well as the name of Pharoahe Monch’s biggest song, which sampled the Godzilla theme, and a GODZILLA remake was released later in the summer of 1998. Isn’t that fucking crazy!? Well, I guess the third one is not really that relevant, and now that I look at it the book is actually called Simple Simon (by Ryne Douglas Pearson, who has story and screenplay credits on KNOWING). So please strike most of this paragraph from the record. I’m sorry I wasted your time. (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 Archer

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

A while back I reviewed a movie called BOOT CAMP that made me think these reform camps would be a good setting for a slasher movie or a DIE HARD ripoff. THE ARCHER is not that, but it’s another straight forward escape thriller set in one of these abominable places in the child abuse corner of prison-for-profit hell. In many cases they’re a scam where parents who don’t know how to understand their kids are convinced to pay money to some ex-military or faux-military psychos to torture them in the name of behavioral re-alignment. In this case she’s considered a good kid, a 4.0 student and state archery champion with no record until she beats the shit out of her friend (and crush)’s abusive boyfriend. Then her naive mom (Dendrie Taylor, SPECIES, SAVING MR. BANKS) is talked into signing away her rights under the theory that it will get her a lighter sentence. (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.

Suture

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

I’m not sure if SUTURE (1993) counts as a neo-noir, but it seems a little related to other ’90s indie crime movies like RED ROCK WEST and THE UNDERNEATH and stuff. The plot definitely seems like something out of an old crime novel. Clay (Dennis Haysbert, NAVY SEALS, ABSOLUTE POWER, The Unit, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR) is a guy from rural California who has come to visit his half brother Vincent (Michael Harris, ZAPPED AGAIN!, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III, MR. STITCH) in Phoenix. They’d never met until recently, at their father’s funeral, when they were surprised to find out how uncannily they resemble each other.

Vincent is very rich, lives in a fancy modern house with art and slicks his hair back and generally reminds you of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Clay keeps worrying that Vincent will think he wants money from him, which he doesn’t. In fact, it’s Vincent who wants something from Clay, and it’s much more than money. He gets Clay to put on his clothes and drive his car and then blows him up, to fake his own death. Terrible hospitality from this fuckin guy, jesus christ.

Clay survives, though. His face is messed up and he doesn’t remember who he is, but everybody assumes he’s Vincent and tells him about “his” life, including that he’s a suspect in his father’s death. (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.

Allied

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

ALLIED is an unassuming, quick-paced WWII spy thriller/tragic romance combining the slick directivational chops of Robert Zemeckis (BEOWULF) with the smart guy writing of Steven Knight (EASTERN PROMISES, REDEMPTION, LOCKE). Brad Pitt (CUTTING CLASS) plays Canadian-born spy Max Vatan, who parachutes into French Morocco and pretends to be the Parisian husband of secret resistance leader Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard, RUST AND BONE, TAXI, FURIA). He’s dropped right into the fire, instantly feigning intimacy with this woman as he meets her for the first time sitting with a table of Germans (I think?) at a restaurant. It’s kind of like that story about James Brown calling young Bootsy and his band The Houseguests and flying them in to walk right out on stage and play a show with him. Except way more dangerous. And less funky.

I feel like I’ve gotten off track here.

In private Marianne hammers Max on his terrible Parisian accent, and they very professionally put into place a plan we’re not let in on. It’s not until shortly before the shit goes down that they give in to the elephant in the room, or in this case the car, as they make love inside one while the windows are covered by a brutal sandstorm. (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 Seasoning House

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

(Warning: this movie is about disturbing shit, and I’m going to describe what it’s about)

THE SEASONING HOUSE is a very dark thriller from the UK circa 2012. How very dark? Well, it takes place in “BALKANS, 1996” and it’s about a mute girl whose family got killed in front of her and she’s forced to work in a brothel for war criminals. Not as a prostitute – the boss thinks the birthmark on her face makes her wrong for that, so she’s sort of like his assistant. Her job is to go around to the poor girls tied to beds, shoot them up and fingerpaint makeup on them.

It’s fucked up, man! And the light at the end of the tunnel that caused me to give this one a shot is the promise of “brutal revenge” on the box. Revenge is never righteous, but in movies I tend to enjoy it, despite not liking the muck you have to get through in order to make the comeuppance seem deserved. (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.