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Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Into the Night

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

A while back, when I reviewed INNOCENT BLOOD and got into a bit of a John Landis run, I realized I’d never seen his 1985 movie INTO THE NIGHT. Didn’t even know anything about it. I guess you could say it’s kind of a thriller, but of the happening-over-one-night variety, and with some humor. Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum, DEATH WISH) is a regular boring aerospace engineer guy who’s unhappy and doesn’t know why. He hasn’t been able to sleep for a long time and he feels disconnected from his wife (Stacey Pickren, RUNAWAY TRAIN). Then he starts dozing off at work, getting himself in trouble, so he decides to go home for a nap, and I think we are all familiar with what happens in movies any time somebody goes home in the middle of the day when their spouse doesn’t expect them. It’s just like in TOY STORY how the toys are always having meetings and playing games and shit whenever you’re out of the room. Similar thing with movie spouses when you’re at work. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Guilty

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

THE GUILTY is an elegantly minimalistic Danish thriller. It’s a premise that makes LOCKE seem needlessly extravagant. Like that movie it’s a story told entirely through its lead character’s phone conversations, but in this one he’s not driving around. Tom Hardy saw it and said “God damn it! Why did you put me through all that? I could’ve just been in a room.” I’m not sure which accent he used.

(I haven’t seen BURIED and don’t remember much about THE TELEPHONE with Whoopi Goldberg, so I don’t know. Maybe they make this look like Michael Bay.)

The visuals take place entirely inside a small call center at a police station. The beautiful thing is that it neither feels like a gimmick or a thing they could’ve changed if they’d had a bigger budget. No, it just feels like the natural, best way to tell this particular story. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

It’s fair to say that earlier in the century The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a pop culture phenomenon. Stieg Larsson’s three novels, posthumously published starting in 2005, were worldwide hits. I enjoyed the stories through their 2009 Swedish movie adaptations (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST) which launched their star Noomi Rapace (PROMETHEUS, PASSION, DEAD MAN DOWN, THE DROP, CLOSE) into international movie stardom, and their leading man Michael Nyqvist into spending his last years playing bad guys in Hollywood movies including ABDUCTION, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL and JOHN WICK (where he delivers the best syllable: “Oh.”). David Fincher’s 2011 English language take on the first book was pretty great and even got Rooney Mara an unlikely but well-deserved Oscar nomination.

But it wasn’t a big enough hit to justify a sequel budgeted for Fincher, Mara and Daniel Craig, so after years of haggling they went with plan B: a lower budget sequel with new director and cast, based not on the next in the trilogy but a continuation written by new author David Lagercrantz. And nobody really seemed to be waiting for that.

Except me! Selling point #1: director Fede Alvarez, who really impressed me with EVIL DEAD and DON’T BREATHE. Selling point #2: less grim and rapey, more fun and actiony. You still got the trademark fucked up and fetishy shit of the snow-bitten Larssonverse, but in this one our heroine is never sexually assaulted, but does have high speed chases on multiple vehicle types. Hot move: ditching police cars by jumping your motorcycle onto a frozen lake. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Commuter

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Liam Neeson is… The Commuter, starring in his self-titled, totally solid addition to the catalog of Neeson vehicles directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (UNKNOWN, NON-STOP, RUN ALL NIGHT). Written by previously unknown Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, this is a gimmicky suspense thriller taking place almost entirely in the limited location of a New York City commuter train, but it manages to also mix in a couple of impressive action exclamation points, not to mention the director’s endlessly playful computer-assisted camera show-offery.

The Commuter is Michael McCauley, an ex-cop who is suddenly fired from his current job at an insurance company, and then finds himself under siege in dark territory on the ride home. It’s the train he’s been riding for ten years, and most of the passengers know him by name, make small talk with him and ask about his wife (Elizabeth McGovern, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, CLASH OF THE TITANS) and kid (Dean-Charles Chapman, Game of Thrones). The usual sameness of his mornings is cleverly illustrated in an opening scene that shows him getting up, having breakfast, talking to the family and getting dropped off at the train, jaggedly cutting between seasons, emotions and conversations to show the passage of time without interrupting the flow of the daily routine. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Simple Favor

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

A SIMPLE FAVOR is an entertaining thriller from known-for-comedy director Paul Feig (THE HEAT). He brings to it some humor and his obvious rapport with the great casts he puts together, but if we had to categorize it we’d be forced to put it in with GONE GIRL, because it’s a twisty mystery based on a recent book by a female author and with entertainingly amoral, even wicked female characters.

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, THE ACCOUNTANT) is a widowed “mommy vlogger” who, in between cooking and crafting demos, has been filling her subscribers in on the disappearance of her “best friend” Emily (Blake Lively, GREEN LANTERN). Even from the bits of vlog we see, before the omniscience of cinema kicks in, this seems fishy, because she admits she’s only known Emily for a few weeks. Their sons are in school together and tried to set up a playdate, causing intimidating fashionable rich mean lady Emily to begrudgingly bring Stephanie to her (extremely modern) house after school for drinks. (read the rest of this shit…)

Glass

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Like many of you I was a pretty big fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s UNBREAKABLE when it came out in 2000. It was a different time. One year after THE SIXTH SENSE, the idea of Shyamalan as a master of suspense was not a punchline, and quiet, sad Bruce Willis characters were fairly new territory. It had only been about a month since the very first X-MEN movie came out, and would be years before Batman began and the Marvel Cinematic Universe followed, so when we were blindsided by the opening title card of oddly useless comic book statistics, and Samuel L. Jackson (THE SPIRIT)’s character proceeded to make grandiose generalized proclamations about the comic book mythology, it was semi-forgivable. The ads gave no hint of this, but the movie took the idea of super powers and put them in a grounded suspense thriller context that felt like a pretty new combination of flavors at the time.

Sixteen years later Shyamalan had been a laughing stock far longer than he’d been a respected auteur, and the popularity of SPLIT counted as a comeback. Though I found the “oh, this was actually a super villain origin story” ending a little anti-climactic, I thought most of the movie was effectively creepy and I was really impressed by James McAvoy’s playful turn as the many personalities of “The Horde.” And of course I enjoyed the wacko reveal at the end that it was I DON’T THINK THIS IS A SPOILER ANYMORE taking place in the same universe as UNBREAKABLE.

Now, finally, Samuel L. Jackson is… GLASS. Except he gets a “with” credit. McAvoy gets top billing, because he does the most acting, by many different meanings. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Foreigner

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

I’m more of an action guy than a thriller guy. But I can appreciate different stuff. Martin Campbell’s THE FOREIGNER (2017 – not a remake of the Seagal film) is definitely more on the thriller side, mostly seeking its excitement in a complex web of police, compromised politicians and terrorist groups all dealing with the aftermath of the bombing of a London clothing boutique.

At the center of it is Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan, FINAL SCORE). He’s a former IRA member and seems to be pretty fucked over by this incident because he’s built a reputation as a moderating force, but behind the scenes still has relationships and understandings with the IRA. This bombing was done by some young upstarts calling themselves “The Authentic IRA,” and there’s alot of pressure, including from police captain Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), to find out who’s responsible. If another bomb goes off it’ll be the end of his political career, so he spends most of the movie desperately asking around and trying to set up traps to out the culprits and stuff like that. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Black Klansman (1966)

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Spike Lee’s BLACKkKLANSMAN is out on video today. Back when I saw it in the theater it made me curious about the 1966 movie of the almost same title. THE BLACK KLANSMAN was also released as I CROSSED THE COLOR LINE, and it’s from exploitation director/mustache aficionado Ted V. Mikels (THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, THE CORPSE GRINDERS, BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS, THE DOLL SQUAD, ANGEL OF VENGEANCE, APARTHEID SLAVE: WOMEN’S JUSTICE, PARANORMAL EXTREMES: TEXT MESSAGES FROM THE DEAD, etc.)

It all starts when a young black man in Turnerville, Alabama, fed up with the bullshit, decides to exercise his right to go into a still-segregated coffee shop and order some coffee. The white customers stare, then insult him, then all get up and storm out. That night the Klan – led by one of the guys who was in the restaurant – murder him, then firebomb a black church, killing a little girl. She was the daughter of Jerry Ellsworth, a singer in L.A. He’s introduced showing up late to his job at the club because, he claims, he was out heroically helping people during the riots (not pictured). (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)

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…)