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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Zola

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

ZOLA tells a wild road trip story that, I feel, doesn’t amount to much, but it’s worth it for the ride, and for the telling. The big hook is that it’s based on the 2015 “now iconic series of viral, uproarious tweets” (source: A24films.com), something that’s not only emphasized in the marketing, but noted on screen at the beginning. The official onscreen title is @zola (which is actually the Twitter handle of some wedding company, not author/protagonist A’Ziah “Zola” King), the main characters are often looking at their phones and monotonously speaking aloud their texts to each other, and there’s a notification sound heard frequently throughout the movie – I was never really sure if it was meant to be diegetic or not. Admittedly all that sounds stupid, but when it comes down to it this is really just “based on a true story.” Not even entirely based on a true story told in an unusual medium, because a Rolling Stone article about the whole affair…

Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted

…is also credited as source material.

The story is about Zola (Taylour Paige, MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, soon to be in the TOXIC AVENGER remake), a Hooters waitress and sometimes stripper, agreeing to take a road trip to Florida to get some money dancing with a crazy white girl she just met named, in the movie version, Stefani (Riley Keough, MAGIC MIKE, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD). Turns out this bitch (get used to it, that’s what they call each other, both lovingly and not so much) is also planning for them both to turn tricks when they get there, and things get out of hand. It’s a true crime story, but not of a crime normally considered significant enough to get a movie, even including the two most harrowing parts, which were fictional. But that kind of makes it cooler. (read the rest of this shit…)

Riders of Justice

Monday, September 20th, 2021

I think RIDERS OF JUSTICE, a Danish film technically released in November 2020, is my favorite movie I’ve seen this year. It plays off of some genre traditions and themes that interest me, but it feels unlike anything I’ve seen before, and it was exciting to discover that as I watched it. So this is one of the reviews where I have to start by suggesting you take my word for it that it’s a truly special movie, stop reading, go watch it, and then come back. But I know most people won’t do that, so I’ll start by explaining what the movie is and warn you before I get into heavy spoiler stuff to analyze the meaning with those who have seen it.

From the description on the box this sounds like a straight up revenge movie, which you know I would be down for. Markus (a heavily bearded Mads Mikkelsen, VALHALLA RISING) is a soldier pulled off duty in Afghanistan to take care of his teenage daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) after his wife (Anne Birgitte Lind) dies in a train crash. Then a survivor of the crash tells him it might not have been an accident, so they put together a team of computer experts and try to track down who’s responsible.

That is indeed the basic plot, and Markus does end up using his particular set of skills (mostly shooting) on a whole bunch of people. But I wouldn’t really say that’s what this is about. It’s not even about “Revenge will only make things worse,” even though it does illustrate that and deconstruct some of the relevant tropes pretty thoroughly. But I swear to you it’s something much more thoughtful, complex and soulful than just a revenge or anti-revenge movie, as much as I tend to enjoy those sorts of things. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Card Counter

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

THE CARD COUNTER is the new one from writer/director Paul Schrader, with Oscar Isaac (THE BOURNE LEGACY) taking his turn as the Schraderian anti-hero. Like so many of these characters, William Tell (as he calls himself) is a troubled man with an unusual and lonely lifestyle, who narrates his story in the form of diary entries, telling us about his normal routine before things go horribly wrong.

In some ways he hearkens back to (non-narrating, from what I remember) Richard Gere in AMERICAN GIGOLO, because he’s handsome, and neatly dressed and coifed. On the surface he seems charismatic and sociable, especially compared to most of the other people in his circle as a professional gambler.

Like the title says, he can count cards. He explains the concept of it – keeping track of the cards being played to calculate his odds, saving larger bets for when they lean in his favor. He explains how he travels around to different casinos, telling us his strategies for different games, and his philosophy of making enough money to keep going but not enough to get the casinos after him. I’m not a cards guy or a gambling guy so I don’t really give a shit if some of it is wrong (as I read some claim). I’m happy to accept that he knows what he’s talking about, and I can follow enough of it to get by. (read the rest of this shit…)

Disco 9000 (a.k.a. Fass Black)

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

DISCO 9000 – or FASS BLACK as it’s called on the Xenon Entertainment VHS tape I rented – is a 1977 movie about a super big shot who runs a record label and dance club in the top of a 26 story building on the Sunset Strip. It’s the second of two movies directed by the actor D’Urville Martin (GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, ROSEMARY’S BABY, BLACK CAESAR) – the first one was DOLEMITE. So yes, he’s the guy Wesley Snipes played in DOLEMITE IS MY NAME.

Fass Black is the name of said big shot, played with distinct swagger by John Poole, whose only other role was as “Record Executive” in the Philip Michael Thomas movie DEATH DRUG (1978). He also has story and wardrobe credits on this. And wardrobe credit is big because that’s about half of the character. One notable thing about this movie is that he wears white-framed sunglasses more often than he doesn’t. It went long enough without showing his eyes at the beginning that I was convinced it was gonna be a DREDD thing where he never takes them off. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wrath of Man

Monday, September 13th, 2021

WRATH OF MAN is a pretty different type of Guy Ritchie movie. It certainly shows some of his interests, his directorial chops, and his long relationship with filming Jason Statham. And okay, it also has some of that lightning quick snappy banter between the fellas, some of which I couldn’t follow at all. And it has Josh Hartnett playing a character called “Boy Sweat Dave.” I’m not sure I can picture that being in somebody else’s movie. Guy Ritchie is the Boy Sweat Dave type.

And yet this is a different style (a more calm and controlled type of flashy) and tone (less flippant, more foreboding, and even mythical) than what we expect from him. It doesn’t have freeze frames with character’s names as they’re introduced, but it does have four sections with pretentious chapter titles. A trend I very much approve of.

It’s a remake of a 2004 French film called LE CONVOYEUR (or CASH TRUCK), which I could only find on VHS with no subtitles. But this seems to me like it’s playing off of two American traditions: pulp crime novels, and movies that try to be like HEAT. I can enjoy both. (read the rest of this shit…)

Walking the Edge

Monday, August 16th, 2021

I watched WALKING THE EDGE because it came out on blu-ray from Fun City Editions – who seem to have an eye for ‘80s urban crime movies with a bit of an arty edge – and because it stars Robert Forster. I had just enjoyed him in ALLIGATOR, which is a much better movie to me, but it almost doesn’t matter. This is another one that for all its good qualities is about 85% running on the fuel of Forster’s charisma and acting choices.

It’s a simple story. He plays put-upon L.A. cab driver Jason Walk, who reluctantly picks up a fare one day (the cab is kind of a front – he really working for a mobster called “the Fat Man” [Bernard Erhard, voice of Cy-Kill on GoBots] and tries to avoid actual work), not knowing she’s on a revenge spree. At her first stop Christine (Nancy Kwan, THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG) splatters a guy’s chunky blood across a window while Jason sits in the cab obliviously grooving out to jazz. At the second stop he sees her get in a shootout with some guys at a garage and while the two of them are driving away yelling at each other he realizes she’s been injured (not from a bullet – from a hubcap thrown at her like a Frisbee!), feels bad and brings her to hide out at his apartment. (read the rest of this shit…)

V.I. Warshawski

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

July 26, 1991

Kathleen Turner is… V.I. WARSHAWSKI, a Chicago private detective who falls into a case when an ex hockey player she picks up at a bar dies in a suspicious explosion during an inheritance squabble. The movie was a notorious flop, making back less than half its $24 million budget, and Rotten Tomatoes calculates its reviews at 21% (though Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin liked it). But I’ve wanted to see it for a long time, at least since realizing it was a character from a series of novels. I haven’t read the books, but maybe that helps, because movies never seem to be able to capture these characters the way fans want them to (see: Parker, Jack Reacher, Matthew Scudder… I guess people like Jason Bourne and Lisbeth Salander?) and yet, when you don’t know any better, they make for fun movie material.

The novels are by author Sara Paretsky – the movie credits the whole series as its basis, but apparently it’s mainly from the second one, Deadlock. Though the author and character are noted feminists, Hollywood Pictures got three dudes to write the screenplay – Edward Taylor (no other movie credits), David Aaron Cohen (POINT OF VIEW starring John Savage) and Nick Thiel (Eight Is Enough, The Fall Guy, Magnum P.I., THE EXPERTS, FIREBIRDS, WHITE FANG). Actually, director Jeff Kanew says on the commentary track of the blu-ray and dvd from Kino-Lorber that he never met Thiel and didn’t use any of his work but that another guy who wasn’t credited did to a bunch of work. Anyway he’s a dude also, the one who did EDDIE MACON’S RUN, GOTCHA!, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, TOUGH GUYS and TROOP BEVERLY HILLS. They have one of those “hey, check this out” boxes around his name on the movie poster, so I guess that resume held some cachet in ’91. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mobsters

Monday, July 26th, 2021

July 26, 1991

MOBSTERS. Guys who are in mobs. Young ones. Famous ones. Doing mob stuff. What more do you need? According to rookie director Michael Karbelnikoff, story provider Michael Mahern and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (FRANCES, AT CLOSE RANGE, PATTY HEARST, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE), “What? What do you mean?”

I have to tell you, I really struggled to get through this one, and considered turning it off and not reviewing it. Keep in mind that I already made it through MANNEQUIN: ON THE MOVE, SUBURBAN COMMANDO and PROBLEM CHILD 1 & 2 for this series. This is a much classier production than any of those, with all the period costumes and nice cinematography by Lajos Koltai (István Szabó’s MEPHISTO, WHITE PALACE) – there are some nice looking, atmospheric scenes, like an eerie outdoor shootout in the fog. But it’s empty and soul-less and boring as shit and not in an interesting way at all. (read the rest of this shit…)

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD is a movie I was highly anticipating ever since I first read it was in the works. When it finally came out as one of these pandemic same-day-on-HBO-Max releases and it turned out it wasn’t quite the A+ movie I was hoping for, it kind of entered and left my consciousness without much incident. But I did think it was a cool movie taken on its own terms, and worthy of documentation with a review. And then it started to seem better the more I wrote about it.

Reasons I had high hopes:

1. It’s directed and co-written by Taylor Sheridan, who previously directed WIND RIVER and wrote SICARIO, HELL OR HIGH WATER and WITHOUT REMORSE. I just really like his style of quasi-realistic, contemporary-western-ish crime/action with tough, broody characters and a heightened atmosphere of doom.

2. It stars Angelina Jolie, who we don’t see in too many movies these days, but who I believe has an advanced understanding of badass screen presence. I base this partly on WANTED, a ridiculous movie I don’t necessarily love, but that she really stood out in. I always remember reading that she took the script and crossed out a bunch of her dialogue that she didn’t feel she needed, and said that Clint Eastwood taught her to do that. That really seemed to work for her there.

3. Also because I read the cool-sounding premise: a national park fire fighter on lookout duty helps a kid escape from assassins during a forest fire. Is this gonna be pretentious FIRESTORM? Starring an Oscar-winning actress instead of an NFL player? I can dig that! (read the rest of this shit…)

Point Break (30th anniversary revisit)

Monday, July 12th, 2021

July 12, 1991

Hot on the heels of James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY came the other most important action movie of summer ’91, Kathryn Bigelow’s POINT BREAK. Cameron was famously married to Bigelow at the time, and is credited as executive producer, and the film has parallels to his in its technical perfection and intensity of action. The pair had reworked an original script called JOHNNY UTAH by W. Peter Iliff (PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), co-story credit to Rick King (director of PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), with Cameron doing a last minute pass to improve the action scenes before immediately shifting to T2. “She basically is 100% responsible for the final film from that point on,” Cameron reportedly said at a convention in ’91. And clearly it’s Bigelow’s combination of impeccable craft and counterintuitive artistic choices that made POINT BREAK a hit, then a cult favorite, then an enduring classic.

The choice that seemed crazy at the time, and prophetic now, was her insistence on casting Keanu Reeves as the college football legend turned overachieving FBI rookie Johnny Utah. By all accounts Bigelow had to fight for Reeves, because producers wanted someone else. That’s understandable – he’d been in the dark indie thriller RIVER’S EDGE and the period piece DANGEROUS LIAISONS, but was best known to the world as Ted from BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, with whom he inescapably shared a lovable stoner airhead sounding voice. On the other hand, when the movie was almost made by Ridley Scott a few years earlier he’d had Matthew Broderick in the role. You’re telling me that made more sense!? (read the rest of this shit…)