"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Banshee

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

BANSHEE is a pretty cheesy 2000s crime/action type movie I added to my Letterboxd watchlist long enough ago that I don’t remember where I found out about it. I think I was scouring for movies directed by women that were more in the b-action type zone I prefer instead of the respectable stuff you usually see on lists. So I came across this obscure car thief movie I’d never heard of from Canadian director Kari Skogland and screenwriter Kirsten Elms (TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D).

Skogland’s filmography at the time included CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC’S RETURN and LIBERTY STANDS STILL starring Wesley Snipes. And, unsurprisingly, she’d done a bunch of episodic TV work including Dead at 21, La Femme Nikita and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. In the intervening years she’s become a little more high class, doing episodes of Boardwalk Empire, The Americans and The Handmaid’s Tale, and most recently she directed and executive produced the entire six-episode run of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Moon Rising

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

I’ve been curious about BLACK MOON RISING (1986) – and many of you have recommended it to me over the years – for the specific reason that it’s based on a script by John Carpenter. According to the book John Carpenter: The Prince of Darkness by Gilles Boulenger, he wrote it in 1974 and sold it in late 1975 to producer Harry Gittes (GOIN’ SOUTH, ABOUT SCHMIDT), who does not have a credit on the movie. A decade later it ended up being directed by Harley Cokeliss (BATTLETRUCK, studio second unit director of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) and rewritten by Desmond Nakano (BODY ROCK, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN) and William Gray (THE CHANGELING, PROM NIGHT, HUMONGOUS, THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT). They used Todd Ramsay, editor of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE THING, but otherwise it’s not any of Carpenter’s crew. Still, there aren’t too many fresh Carpenter-related projects out there for me to experience, so I went for it.

And I’m happy to report that it’s much more like a John Carpenter movie than THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, while having enough of its own thing going on to not feel like a Dollar Store knock off. It’s elegantly simple, using some standard thriller ideas but not the usual good guys, and it has that precious quality of feeling edgy and slightly futuristic by the standards of a long past era. Most of all it has 1986 Tommy Lee Jones as a cool, mysterious anti-hero who seems all alone, hated by his bosses and former colleagues as he works as a “freelancer” one last time. It was Jones’s follow up to THE PARK IS MINE and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” video, where he plays “a real estate novelist who never had time for a wife” (unless IMDb is wrong and that’s just a guy who looks like him). (read the rest of this shit…)

Titane

Friday, October 8th, 2021

TITANE is the ferociously unbridled, Palme d’Or winning second film from RAW director Julia Decournau. It’s bizarre and it’s intense and if you’ve heard anything about it you probly heard about an outlandish thing involving a motor vehicle that happens early in the movie. But regardless, if it’s something you’re expecting to see I recommend not reading anything about it, including this review, until afterwards.

If you should be turning back but haven’t yet, here’s the vague version. I’ve seen it called a horror movie, but it fits existing horror templates considerably less than even RAW did. I would describe it as more like a relationship drama in a surreal world, with a lead character who is intensely flawed, strange, and yet human. It has that transgressive non-literal adult situation that the Bible would be against had the technology existed at the time, some horrific violence, and some nightmarish violations of existing biological function. (I think the term “body horror” has become too much of a cliche so I’m trying to come up with new ways to say it when necessary.) But it settles down (sort of) into a story about extremely broken people finding each other and the miracle of unconditional love.

Seriously, just go watch the movie because if you don’t I’m about to ruin it by giving you the plot in the form of a TV Guide listing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cash Truck (Le Convoyeur)

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

CASH TRUCK (Le Convoyeur) is a 2004 French crime movie I never heard of until Guy Ritchie remade it as WRATH OF MAN. I’m glad he did because I liked that movie and also I liked this movie, which is very different.

Alexandre Demarre (Albert Dupontel, IRREVERSIBLE, writer/director of BYE BYE MORONS) is the new guy at a shitty money delivery service called Vigilante. They’re the bottom of the barrel company in the city, so they mostly deal with smaller amounts of money, but in more dangerous neighborhoods. (Or at least that’s what they tell him. One of the dangers he faces is a bunch of kids on a soccer field taunting him and throwing things at him.)

If you’ve seen WRATH OF MAN, this is an entirely different dynamic. Nobody is named “Boy Sweat” and there’s none of the macho weightlifter bro-manship that’s required when relocating the story to L.A., since it’s endemic to American policing, soldiering and security guarding. Although charismatic Jacques (Jean Dujardin, before he was OSS 117, LUCKY LUKE and THE ARTIST) is one of the main people showing Alexandre the ropes, most of these characters are regular people who would fit just as well if it was an office comedy. And though the story is ultimately full of tragedy and violence, that’s partly what it is. (read the rest of this shit…)

No Sudden Move

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Like many citizens of the world, I love most of Steven Soderbergh’s movies. Still, the nature of streaming services and the lack of urgency their releases seem to inspire in my brain have left me behind in his return-from-retirement period. I haven’t seen the basketball one, the app one, the laundromat one, surely others.

But my favorite Soderberghs are the crime ones: #1 OUT OF SIGHT, #2 THE LIMEY, #3 the OCEAN’S series. And there was another one about a lady beating people up that I raved about for ten years, but that’s on hiatus for a while. These are all very different from each other in most respects other than quality. But his most recent one was released straight to Home Box Office Maximum and although this review is very late I actually managed to watch that one right away. And I loved it.

NO SUDDEN MOVE is another new mode of Soderbergh crime picture. Maybe it’s closest to THE LIMEY in tone: serious, with a high level of tension, but plenty of dry, dark, odd humor coming out of the characters and situations. Set in Detroit in 1956, it’s the story of small time criminal Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle, THE METEOR MAN), recently out due to overcrowding, still disgraced in the underworld after whatever the fiasco was that got him busted. So it’s either real lucky or awfully damn suspicious that someone he doesn’t know – white middle man Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser, MONKEYBONE) – is offering him five grand for what’s described as “a simple babysitting job” that will take three hours of his time. He doesn’t have to know he’s in a movie to have a pretty good hunch it’ll end up being more complicated than that. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)