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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

One Good Cop

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

May 3, 1991

I’d never seen this one before, and from the title I always thought it was a thriller about police corruption. I guess I had only seen the tough guy poster on the DVD and blu-ray, and not the theatrical one that looks like SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE or something.

I think there is some subtle commentary about policing early in the movie, which I will go into, but for the most part it’s not about that. Instead this movie – which was only the fifth release from Disney’s not-for-kids label Hollywood Pictures – really is a fusion of the type of vibe of those two posters. It’s a gritty police/crime thriller about a cop whose partner gets killed, but in addition to going after the people he considers responsible, he and his wife take care of and then try to adopt the dead partner’s three adorable daughters. The amount of screen time and sincerity it puts into the second part is very unusual, so although this is in many ways not my type of movie, I respect its bold mix of genres. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Rage in Harlem

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

It’s that time of year again. The time when the sun comes out and my instincts tell me to crawl into a dark theater. It’s also become the time when I take a deeper look at summer movie entertainment of the past. Especially in this strange year, when the vaccines are starting to kick in but an immediate return to normal life seems unlikely, there’s something I find very comforting and fascinating about this form of time travel. I especially like looking at times I remember living in, but when I was too young to see everything that came out or to understand them in the way I would now. It’s partly nostalgia but partly wanting to learn about everything I missed.

It becomes harder to do each year, as there become fewer stretches that I haven’t already mined (or, in the case of anything in this century, that I wasn’t writing about at the time). Fortunately this year we’ve hit the 30th anniversary of a crop of movies from what I think is kind of an interesting transitional period with some cultural shifts in progress. It’s a summer with some fresh territory for me and although I’ve already reviewed what I consider its two most important releases, they’re both monumental enough to justify writing up more than once. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hard Rain

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

HARD RAIN is a very enjoyable ‘90s studio action movie (with a side order of disaster) that it turns out I must never have seen. I thought I had, but I would’ve remembered how good it is!

It starts, like many good films, by pulling out of the Paramount logo and using the logo’s mountain as part of its scenery. I was thinking it would be cool if it continued to be in the background of shots throughout the movie, but no dice.

Anyway, a very cool shot that I think combines live action, digital and miniature models establishes the geography of the small town of Huntingburg, Indiana, where the Sheriff (Randy Quaid, VEGAS VACATION) is trying to evacuate the locals as the titular aggressive precipitation causes flooding that will soon be worsened by trouble with levees and dams.

Meanwhile this dude Tom (Christian Slater, THE WIZARD) and his uncle Charlie (Edward Asner, voice of Jabba the Hutt, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Original Radio Drama) are working their shitty job driving an armored car, and they get stuck on a flooded road, unable to move further. Suddenly they’re blinded by floodlights and some guys pretend they’re going to help, but of course they really intend to rob the car. Uncle Charlie is mistakenly shot to death in the hubbub and Charlie runs away with the money. (read the rest of this shit…)

She Never Died

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

SHE NEVER DIED (2019) is… kind of a sequel to HE NEVER DIED, the really good, dryly funny 2015 horror-action movie with Henry Rollins as an ancient being whose peaceful but depressing life is upended when an encounter with gangsters revives his habit of eating humans and absorbing their strength. From what I understand, the script by HE NEVER DIED’s Jason Krawczyk started as a continuation, but was rewritten for director Audrey Cummings (TORMENTED, DARKEN) to follow a different, similar character called Lacey, played by Olunike Adeliyi (SAW 3D, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY).

Like Rollins’ Jack, Lacey lives in an unnamed city (filmed in North Bay, Ontario), eats at a diner and lacks social skills. But she’s straight up homeless, barely talks and has no qualms about killing people – bad people, at least – and tearing off pieces to eat later. When we first see her she’s busting into a nefarious warehouse looking for a particular man who wears lots of rings, and settles for a guy who’s about to play Russian roulette with a dog for one of those sicko livefeeds that exist in the darkest corners of movie-world.

That’s also when veteran detective Godfrey (Peter MacNeill, CATHY’S CURSE, Droids, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) first spots her. He sees her leave with a bullet wound in her head and then sees her the next day, completely healed. And he’s after the same guy so when he meets her even though he realizes she’s a cannibal he decides to set her up with his unused flophouse (with refrigerator for storing fingers and ears and stuff) and give her the DEATH WISH 3 style unofficial sanction. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cut Throat City

Monday, February 1st, 2021

CUT THROAT CITY may be the capital of CUTTHROAT ISLAND, I’m not sure, but the one I’m here to write about is the crime film set in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and it’s the latest directorial effort of The RZA.

As you may know I’m a fan of RZA’s music (Wu-Tang Clan, GHOST DOG score), acting (THE PROTECTOR 2, BRICK MANSIONS, THE DEAD DON’T DIE) and film scholarship (the commentary track on THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, his 36films.com livestreams). I’m also a big fan of his first film as a director (and writer and star and composer), THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. I have some issues with the way he shot the fights, but I absolutely love the old school kung fu fantasy world he created and the many characters, clans and weapons within it. So I take him seriously as a filmmaker. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get Carter (2000)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Nearly 30 years after GET CARTER and its American cousin HIT MAN there was another version of the movie and/or its source novel, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis. It starred Sylvester Stallone and was almost universally hated. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t fare well if hung up on a wall next to the 1971 version, but I find it at least interesting as an exercise in adaptation and an oddity in the Stallone filmography. And maybe I’m a little easier on it because it takes place in Seattle, with some of it actually filmed here.

In the mid ’90s, the ground was shifting under everyone’s feet. Hair metal bands felt displaced by Nirvana, MC Hammer decided he had to sign to Death Row Records, and the action heroes of the ‘80s were starting to see the writing on the wall. So by the end of the decade the once dominant Stallone was trying to find his place in a new world. JUDGE DREDD (1995) had been a notorious flop, and ASSASSINS (1995) and DAYLIGHT (1996) were poorly received. He couldn’t get Tarantino to cast him as Max Cherry in JACKIE BROWN. Though COP LAND (1997) had been one of Stallone’s best performances, it didn’t seem to bring him the critical credibility he was looking for, and his followup, the thriller D-TOX, was sitting on a shelf (it would be barely released in 2002 under the title EYE SEE YOU). Stallone been pigeonholed by his massive success as a larger than life action god, and many critics were more interested in rooting for his failure than seeing him evolve, or even return to his roots. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hit Man

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

I had heard of HIT MAN (1972) as a “Blaxploitation remake of GET CARTER,” and assumed that meant it was loose and uncredited. In fact it’s an official adaptation of the same 1970 book, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis, and director George Armitage – a Roger Corman acolyte who had written GAS-S-S-S and NIGHT CALL NURSES and directed PRIVATE DUTY NURSES – didn’t even know about the other version until he’d rewritten the script and his agent recognized it. As I mentioned in my GET CARTER review, MGM didn’t do much promotion of the well-reviewed GET CARTER because they had more faith in this version to be a hit. So – although it sounds like he may have started with the same script as GET CARTER (on this point I’m unclear) – I’d still say it’s not a GET CARTER remake, but the first American version of Jack’s Return Home.

Bernie Casey (GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) plays the Jack Carter character, now called Tyrone Tackett. In this version he’s from Oakland visiting L.A., and I swear they say he’s a cop? But he acts the same as the gangster in the other version. Hmm. Strange. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get Carter

Monday, September 28th, 2020

GET CARTER (1971) is one of those bedrock crime movies I saw a long time ago, and as I forgot its specific details its general vibe stayed strong in my memory. Other movies I loosely associate it with in my mind include POINT BLANK (which came out four years earlier) and THE LIMEY (which came out 28 years later and seems influenced by both). It’s a strong example of an approach that really appeals to me: a straight forward crime/mystery/revenge story written and directed in a serious, realistic manner like we all got together and agreed that pulp is respectable material now, using atmosphere and quiet and stillness more than flash, but in a way that emphasizes rather than gets in the way of its fierce badassness.

Michael Caine (THE LAST WITCH HUNTER), at the time already well known from movies including THE IPCRESS FILE, ALFIE, and THE ITALIAN JOB, plays Jack Carter, a London gangster who returns home to Newcastle for his brother Frank’s funeral. He doesn’t buy that his brother died in a drunk driving accident, as they’re telling him, so during his stay he basically does an investigation, questioning relatives, then old friends, then rivals and strangers, trying to get to the bottom of it. Just a little business to wrap up before running off to South America with his boss’s super hot girlfriend (Britt Ekland, pre-WICKER MAN). (read the rest of this shit…)

Lucky Day

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

LUCKY DAY is a 2019 crime movie with death and laughs and colorful characters, including but not limited to Crispin Glover. It’s not retro or a throwback, but definitely has shades of the ‘90s everybody-wants-to-be-Tarantino days and Guy Ritchie and stuff, which is not a pose because this is from writer/director Roger Avary (a.k.a. Oscar-winning co-writer of PULP FICTION), his first directing in more than 15 years.

It’s about a crazy day in the life of a guy named Red (Luke Bracey, GI JOE: RETALIATION, THE NOVEMBER MAN, POINT BREAK remake, HACKSAW RIDGE) when he’s released from a two year prison bid and returns to his French artist wife Chloe (Nina Dobrev, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) and daughter Beatrice (Ella Ryan Quinn). I don’t think it’s ever specified what he did time for, but he does go to see his friend Leroy (Clé Bennett, JIGSAW) – who has changed his name to Le Roi – and the fact that they run a lock and key shop with a cool basement hidden inside a safe and inside that is a huge safe that he attempts to crack for fun seems like a hint. (read the rest of this shit…)

Extreme Justice

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

EXTREME JUSTICE is a 1993 cop movie by director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) that you can find on DVD, VHS or streaming on Prime. Lester has done a pretty broad range of b-movie types, but one thing some of them have in common is a great sense of exaggeration. In CLASS OF 1984, for example, he presents a world where juvenile delinquency is so severe that a previously mild-mannered music teacher has no better choice than to do battle with one of his students and dump him through a skylight into the school gym during the big recital. In its sci-fi sequel CLASS OF 1999, such out-of-control kids have led to an overreaction that includes militarized robot teachers.

So I wasn’t sure which way he would go in his movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES, UNDERTOW, THE BIG HIT) as an LAPD detective who rather than getting in trouble for his police brutality gets promoted to a secret unit where “what useta get you in trouble’ll get you a round of beers.” I guess the reason I wasn’t familiar with this one is that they were worried about releasing it a year after the L.A. riots/uprising and dumped it to HBO. But I’m happy to report it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure – the movie is very clearly saying that this extreme justice is too extreme and not justice. It’s not the good kind of Paul Verhoeven “you have to be really thick to not understand this satire” clear, unfortunately, but right now I’ll settle for the more accessible “he has a girlfriend who’s the conscience of the movie and convinces him that this is all wrong” type. (read the rest of this shit…)