"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Emily the Criminal

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Aubrey Plaza is funny. I first saw her in FUNNY PEOPLE, and then I knew her for years as April on Parks & Recreation. She seems hip for a sitcom star, and for a decade and a half has been able to oscillate between mainstream comedies and indie movies. The one that gave me a new level of respect for her was INGRID GOES WEST (2017), a dark squirm-inducer where her titular character moves to L.A. to try to become friends with her favorite Instagram influencer. It’s a very layered character and performance, but it’s a funny one. She’s funny.

What’s surprising about Plaza in EMILY THE CRIMINAL is that she’s completely engrossing without being funny at all. She makes one or two bitter jokes, but this is a gritty, very grounded crime drama. Those withering looks of disgust she gave as sullen teen April Ludgate have evolved into more mature and considered looks of contempt for the system, and humanity, and all this bullshit. (read the rest of this shit…)

My Name Is Vendetta

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

There I was the other night with both physical and mental lists of all the recent movies I want to catch up on, scrolling through them on the various streaming services, failing to decide which one to watch first. So then I clicked on one I never heard of before called MY NAME IS VENDETTA (2022). Very productive.

It’s a pretty good one, though. Straight forward meat and potatoes crime thriller hailing from Italy. The director is Cosimo Gomez, a veteran production designer and art director (including for a bunch of Roberto Benigni movies) on his third outing as director (following the comedies UGLY NASTY PEOPLE and IO E SPOTTY). This one’s not funny at all, it’s a very straight-faced and to-the-point father-daughter revenge thriller very much like something Liam Neeson would do. And the same jacket he would wear. The guy even has a deep voice kinda like Neeson, though his scowl is more Benicio Del Toro. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Present / The Junky’s Christmas

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

I don’t usually post on Fridays, but here is my second one today, because I got two last stocking stuffers for you before the holiday weekend. Here are reviews of two Christmas related shorts, one horror, one crime (sorta). Pretty obscure ones, but both worth checking out.

First up is THE PRESENT, which is a 2005 episode of a Japanese anthology show called Kazuo Umezz’s Horror Theater (released on DVD as part of Horror Theater 3). The titular Kazuo Umezu (the spelling varies) is a famous author of horror manga, as you can guess by the art laid over the introduction to the show, so this is an adaptation of one of his stories. He’s been around long enough that the 1968 movie THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER-HAIRED WITCH is based on his comics too.

THE PRESENT filters the classic American form of the killer Santa movie through a more Japanese (and specifically manga) style of fucked-upness. It’s about a little girl named Yuko (Kiyo Ôshiro) who wakes up on Christmas Eve, terrified by a nightmare about Santa. She has a Christmas tree in her room and a stocking on her bedpost – I’m not sure if that’s how they do it in Japan, or if it’s weird. But her parents comfort her and tell her to go back to sleep and she’ll get presents because she’s a good girl (though “if you do bad things he’ll come and get you.”) (read the rest of this shit…)

Rhymes For Young Ghouls

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS (2013) was the first of two features by writer/director Jeff Barnaby. I didn’t know about him until I saw his really good 2019 zombie movie BLOOD QUANTUM, at which point I was excited to follow this new director who was around my age and seemed real interesting in interviews. Tragically that was his last film – he died of cancer last month. That’s a real damn shame, but I encourage you to check out his small body of work. He’s got a real interesting perspective as a guy whose politics grew from seeing some shit growing up in the Mi’kmaq reserve in Quebec, but his genre influences taught him to make movies from that point-of-view that are entertaining, not strident.

While BLOOD QUANTUM is straight forwardly Barnaby’s take on the zombie post-apocalypse genre, this one is something more distinct. It’s kind of a small time crime tale, set (like BLOOD QUANTUM) in a fictional reservation called Red Crow, but in 1976 (the year Barnaby was born). Reservation Dogs star Devery Jacobs (credited here as Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs) plays Aila, a teenager who has been running the family weed business since a drunk driving accident killed her brother and mother and put her father in prison. (read the rest of this shit…)

Light Sleeper

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

Many of these August ’92 movies I’ve been reviewing have been grueling, but there are some good ones among them, even great ones. To make up for the toil of watching CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS: THE DISCOVERY and LITTLE NEMO, August 21, 1992 also brought us Paul Schrader’s LIGHT SLEEPER. It was the filmmaker’s first time writing and directing since 1987s’ LIGHT OF DAY (though he’d directed PATTY HEARST and THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS and written THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST since then). And it’s up there with his best work.

The troubled journal-writing outsider this one centers on is John LeTour (Willem Dafoe, WILD AT HEART), a New York City drug deliverer who’s having a bit of a crisis because his boss Ann (Susan Sarandon following THELMA & LOUISE and a cameo in THE PLAYER) seems pretty serious about starting a cosmetics company and going straight. He’s 40 and this has kept him going in the four years since he kicked drugs and he doesn’t know what he’s gonna do with his life. He has an idea about getting involved in recording music, but I’m not sure how realistic he thinks that is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Diggstown

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

“This ain’t about money anymore.”

DIGGSTOWN, released August 14, 1992, is a pretty entertaining meat and potatoes movie, with the meat being a sports movie and the potatoes being a con movie. It’s directed by Michael Ritchie (PRIME CUT, FLETCH) and written by Steven McKay (between HARD TO KILL and DARKMAN II: THE RETURN OF DURANT) based on the novel The Diggstown Ringers by Leonard Wise.

James Woods (BEST SELLER) stars as Gabriel Caine (no relation to RAISING CAIN), a master manipulator doing time in a Georgia prison for selling counterfeit art, now making money on the side helping other prisoners escape. When he’s released he heads to nearby Diggstown with a complicated scheme targeting unofficial ruler of the town John Gillon (Bruce Dern, THE DRIVER). Gillon was once the manager of local boxing legend Charles Macom Diggs (Wilhelm von Homburg, DIE HARD, NIGHT OF THE WARRIOR). Now he manages the small boxing venue Diggstown Arena, but makes enough money to buy his his son Robby (Thomas Wilson Brown, the neighbor kid in HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS) a ’56 Corvette. (read the rest of this shit…)

Memory

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

MEMORY is not the best movie we will see from star Liam Neeson or director Martin Campbell (DEFENSELESS, GOLDENEYE, THE MASK OF ZORRO, CASINO ROYALE, THE FOREIGNER), but I think it’s an interesting one. It’s a grim thriller about a contract killer who realizes he’s starting to get dementia and tries to go after some bad people before his mind is gone. That’s pretty similar to the premise of Paul Schrader’s disowned (but I kind of liked it) 2014 film DYING OF THE LIGHT, but it’s actually a remake of the 2003 Belgian film DE ZAAK ALZHEIMER (THE ALZHEIMER CASE), itself based on a 1985 novel by Jef Geeraerts.

It starts with Alex Lewis (Neeson, KRULL) on the job. He enters a hospital in scrubs and we know he’s not a regular nurse by his complete non-reaction to some asshole nearly running him over in the parking garage. It turns out that’s his target, some jerk visiting his mother. We see just enough of of the guy to imagine he might deserve this fate, but also enough of his mother’s terror behind her oxygen mask to think “Man, that’s fucked up.”

As Alex is making his escape he reaches for the keys behind the mirror, and takes a bit to remember they’re in his pocket. Not a big deal, except if you’re a total pro and never make mistakes like that. Can’t make mistakes like that. (read the rest of this shit…)

One False Move

Monday, June 6th, 2022

ONE FALSE MOVE was the Summer of ’92’s little crime movie that could. Like POISON IVY’s Katt Shea, director Carl Franklin was an actor turned director of Roger Corman productions (NOWHERE TO RUN, EYE OF THE EAGLE 2: INSIDE THE ENEMY, FULL FATHOM FIVE). Here he moved into the film festival/arthouse side of the indie world, having come across a hot screenplay from the new writing team of Billy Bob Thornton (an actor who had been in HUNTER’S BLOOD, GOING OVERBOARD, CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN, an episode of Knots Landing, etc.) & Tom Epperson.

Thornton told Entertainment Weekly at the time that they’d been trying to get it made for five years. He said the studios “all pounced on it” but then decided they couldn’t make it because “it didn’t have a rocket launcher or an oversized baby.*” Instead it was produced independently through I.R.S. Media (hip record label and makers of Cynthia Rothrock’s RAGE AND HONOR I & II), completing it in May of ’91. It sat on a shelf for a year except for playing some film festivals, where it was well received enough that the producer convinced I.R.S. to release it in a few cities on May 8, 1992, ostensibly to get review quotes for the VHS cover. It did better than they expected, though, and eventually expanded to 51 markets. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ambulance (2022)

Monday, April 18th, 2022

Over my [redacted] years of writing about movies, my relationship with the works of Michael Bay has evolved. It’s fair to say I once held hatred in my heart for them. I think I thought BAD BOYS was so-so when it first came to video (have not revisited – should I?) but THE ROCK, ARMAGEDDON and TRANSFORMERS 1 and 2 were some of the top offenders that sent me on a crusade against incomprehensible action back in the day. BAD BOYS 2 at least impressed me with its unprecedented levels of excess and aggression toward humanity, but I was young and full of hot air and worried that all movies were gonna start being hard to look at like that. Although that doesn’t stress me anymore, those movies still don’t appeal to me.

But since then I’ve watched each of Bay’s movies with more of a sense of humor about how unhinged they are, and thankfully his action has become less of a smear. The TRANSFORMERSes kinda blur together in my mind (as on screen), but checking my reviews I see it was the fourth one where he first showed he could do them with clean action. I gave it a rare 4.5 out of 5 ACR (Action Comprehensability Rating)! And I noted in my PAIN & GAIN review that having a mid-sized budget where he had to plan what shots he needed instead of shooting a giant pile of footage and chopping it into salad was a blessing. I would say the same of 13 HOURS. Finally, 6 UNDERGROUND is maybe his most entertaining mix of outlandish stupidity and incredible action spectacle. So I’ve been feeling positive about him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ambulance (2005)

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

When I realized the upcoming Michael Bay joint AMBULANCE was a remake of a 2005 Danish movie, I figured that meant it was probly a pretty good high concept film. The last time Jake Gyllenhaal starred in a remake of a limited location foreign language film it was THE GUILTY, which I had really enjoyed. So I rented an import DVD of AMBULANCE (Ambulancen), and it fulfilled my hopes.

I actually think the Bay movie looks potentially good, and it’s obviously gonna be very different – way bigger, way more expensive, way more pretty, way more complicated, way more blowing hot air about our great military heroes and what not. Seeing the elegant economy of this one actual makes the remake trailer seem more laughable… of fucking course they saw this and said “How can we get the War on Terror in here?” (If not “How do we get them out of this ambulance?”)

But that’s fine. However that one turns out, I’m glad it led to me to this really solid movie that uses simplicity to its great advantage. It doesn’t have to be epic to be a total rush. (read the rest of this shit…)