I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Posts Tagged ‘neo-noir’

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.

The Frontier

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Hey look, here’s a minor gem that I found via video store browsing. I never heard of it and it seems to have gotten not-great reviews and little mileage for its rookie director (despite having the audacity to have “a film by Oren Shai” not only on the cover, but the DVD menu). But it’s a solid and great looking little neo-noir kind of in the vein of RED ROCK WEST, but smaller scale and more retro.

Like so many of these stories it follows a mysterious drifter who stops at a small diner/motel on a desert road somewhere, desperate, hiding a secret and then getting mixed up in some more trouble. An unusual twist is that this drifter is a woman, Laine, played by Jocelin Donahue from HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. And she’s not some BOUND style tough girl either, she wears nice sweaters and skirts and doesn’t intimidate anybody. But she has blood on her hands, both literally and figuratively.

Her backstory is implied and revealed through small things: stashing a money clip in the bathroom, examining a rope burn on her neck, reports of murder in another city, a cop (A.J. Bowen, YOU’RE NEXT, THE GUEST) having one of those conversations with her that could be honest friendliness but is more likely a veiled threat. We watch Laine navigate small talk questions she doesn’t want to answer, wind up with a room for the night and a job as a waitress, and practically give us a heart attack by sneaking into the rooms to look through guests’ luggage for something valuable enough to get her the fuck out of Dodge. This stuff is very reminiscent of Marion Crane trying to get away with the money in the first part of PSYCHO. (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.

Red Rock West

Monday, May 1st, 2017

RED ROCK WEST is one of my favorite neo-noirs, an ingeniously concocted tale with a simple, appealing hero who makes one wrong choice that snags him and he has to spend the rest of the movie trying to crawl his way out of an ever-tightening trap. He’s driving through the town of Red Rock, Wyoming when it goes down, so every time he gets out and then something else goes wrong we share his dismay at passing that god damn “Welcome to Red Rock” sign once more.

Well before all the thrilling twists and tense (but down to earth) set pieces, director John Dahl (THE LAST SEDUCTION, ROUNDERS, JOY RIDE) wins me over with an A+ overture of visual storytelling that establishes Michael (Nic Cage)’s hard times and integrity. We meet him waking up in his car on the side of a farm road, shaving, smelling the shirt he takes out of the trunk to make sure it’s not too bad, looking in the window reflection as he tucks it in, preparing to try to make a good impression. We also see his USMC tattoo, even before he starts doing shirtless one-arm push-ups. This will be relevant.

He’s broke and having trouble finding a job and has a bum knee brought back as a souvenir from Lebanon but he’s an honest man, not looking for any shortcuts. Not until he stops at a bar and his timing and Texas plates cause the owner, Wayne (the great J.T. Walsh, BREAKDOWN, EXECUTIVE DECISION) to mistake him for “Lyle from Dallas” who was supposed to be here last week for a job. Michael plays along, which seems like a promising trick for the few minutes before he realizes the job is to murder Wayne’s wife Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle, POLTERGEIST III). So it’s neither a line of work he’s interested in or the type where you can just put in your two weeks notice and be on your way. (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.

Body Heat

Monday, December 14th, 2015

tn_bodyheatlucasminusstarwarsBODY HEAT is a tight, atmospheric, sometimes literally steamy neo-noir from writer and first time director Lawrence Kasdan (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, CONTINENTAL DIVIDE). It pulls off the feat of having the protagonist seem reasonably relatable and likable despite doing the wrong thing from beginning to end (including but not limited to aggressively courting a married woman and then plotting to kill her husband and get his money).

He is Ned Racine (William Hurt, who at that time had only starred in ALTERED STATES and EYEWITNESS), a sleazy Florida defense lawyer renowned by his friends like District Attorney Peter Lowenstein (Ted Danson, THE ONION FIELD) and police detective Oscar Grace (J.A. Preston from THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR and HIGH NOON II: THE RETURN OF WILL KANE) for his sexual conquests, though not his competence as a lawyer. One night Ned sees Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner, a stage actress with one TV episode to her name) standing looking at the ocean, and it’s all over for him. She’s just standing there like a real sexy piece of cheese in a mouse trap, and a mouse is gonna do what a mouse is gonna do.

BODY HEAT is a good title, but this is another one that could be called KEEP YOUR DICK IN YOUR PANTS. In the noir tradition they verbally spar; he hits on her, she rejects him, then makes one unmistakably suggestive comment before disappearing like Batman when Ned’s not looking. Might as well have thrown down a smoke pellet. (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.

Devil in a Blue Dress

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

tn_devilinabluedressIt looks like  I’m continuing my informal and logo-free History of Black Film series a little bit into March. It could be argued that this is because I got side-tracked writing about ROBOCOP and then went out of town and got snowed in there and got behind schedule on my reviews. But in my opinion I’m really doing it in protest of the injustice of Black History Month being slotted in the shortest month.

I also want to admit that at the beginning I said I was gonna be exploring obscure black action stars, then instead I’ve been looking at lesser known black directors, not really the same thing at all. That’s not because the whole thing was poorly planned and thought out on my part, it’s because you gotta be fluid about these things and follow your creative instincts.

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is another one where a black director adapts one installment in a mystery series by a black writer. Not that that’s a big category, I’m just saying that’s a parallel to COTTON COMES TO HARLEM. The director is Carl Franklin (ONE FALSE MOVE), the author is Walter Mosley and the mystery-solver is Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, later a private eye but as of this story an a WWII vet laid off from an airplane factory having a hard time getting work until a white P.I. played by Tom Sizemore (SPOILER: I don’t know if you should trust this guy) pays him to look for a white woman (Jennifer Beals) who hangs out in black underground clubs that a white man (but not white woman) would have trouble slipping into without causing a problem.
(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.

Fever

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

As you know I can enjoy a good neo-noir type picture every once in a while. It’s almost not fair to include THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE in this pantheon because it’s so spectacular and successfully retro that it makes the other ones look kinda lame. But other than that one it’s been a while since anyone succeeded at the modern film noir. I guess most independent filmatists trying to start out with a low budget crime movie have moved on from trying to make a BLOOD SIMPLE or a RED ROCK WEST to trying to make a RESERVOIR DOGS and then a PULP FICTION and then a LOCK, STOCK AND ET AL.

What makes this one surprising is that the director is Alex Winter, best known as Bill from BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. Or possibly Ted. The point is, he’s not Keanu Reeves, but he is one of those two, Bill and Ted. I believe he is Ted come to think of it. Or he may be Bill. One of those. (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.

Brick

Friday, April 14th, 2006

BRICK sounds like a good name for a blaxploitation movie about a dude named Brick, but that’s not what it is. It’s actually a detective movie starring all teenagers. There are only two grown ups in the whole movie, and one of them, incidentally, is Shaft.

At first I thought it was like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION where a bunch of kids made the movie but they didn’t know very many grownups who would hang out in the backyward with them so they just got their friends from class to play adults. But then I realized no, it’s just a gimmick. It’s kind of like those movies like BUGSY MALONE and HAWK JONES where it’s kids playing adult type characters. Or like that episode of M.A.S.H. where a magic genie turns them all into kids but they have little kid-sized army uniforms and they build a tree house and do combat surgery in there. Or what about Veggie Tales, it’s like that only instead of vegetables as the Bible it’s teens as hard boiled noir type characters. (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 Woman Chaser

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Here’s one of those small time, low budget independent movies you never really heard of, because it never really caught on. This one’s not even on DVD, and I think it’s out of print on VHS. Made in 1999 and with no recognizable faces except the star, Patrick Warburton, that big deep-voiced goofball I guess was on Seinfeld.

The twist is, this movie is pretty good. This is one of the rare independent rookie movies that remind you why you try watching all the other ones – ’cause you’re hoping you’ll find one of these ones. I picked it up because it’s one of only a handful of movies based on books by Charles Willeford, the writer of COCKFIGHTER (book and movie) and MIAMI BLUES (book only). I haven’t read this book but seeing the movie, I’m betting it’s a great one. (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.

SIFF: Vern attends the world premiere of Stuart Gordon’s KING OF THE ANTS and goes nuts for it!

Saturday, June 14th, 2003

Hey folks, Harry here… Stuart Gordon is one of those directors that I just keep waiting on to break a film into orbit. When you look at what he’s done on no money, and just how incredibly entertaining his movies consistently are. From RE-ANIMATOR to SPACE TRUCKERS to THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT to DAGON… Here’s a guy making low-budget indies that I demand to own on DVD – even if it means seeking them out in other regions. On top of that, he’s just a great guy. Humble, friendly and eager to tell you about all of his stories and dreams. So it is with great glee that I read Vern’s review of KING OF THE ANTS… This is a brutal crime film that Stuart has had his eye on for a while now, and from Vern’s review… It’ll be one of those movies we seek out all year long, and I’m instantly going to contact Stuart about doing a screening here in Austin with the Drafthouse! Here’s VERN –

Boys –

No really guys, I really did it this time. A 100% genuine scoop. This time it really truly is not a movie you guys have reviewed the shit out of. You’ve never even seen it because this was the world premiere. But I’m positive you’ll be covering this movie alot as soon as people start seeing it. Stuart Gordon has made his best movie in years, in my opinion his best ever. It is definitely one that stands out from the others because there’s no supernatural business or science fiction or HP Lovecraft references. What it is is a very dark (in tone, not in lighting) neo-noir adapted by brit Writer Charlie Higson from his own novel, about a regular dude in his mid ’20s who’s not sure what he wants to do with his life. And then somebody offers him $13,000 to kill an innocent man. So he figures, you know, why not? (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.