"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Dog Bite Dog

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Recently, when I saw the incredibly grim (but also oddly beautiful) Hong Kong serial killer movie LIMBO, I realized I should seek out some of the other movies I haven’t seen from director Soi Cheang (a.k.a. Cheang Pou-soi). DOG BITE DOG (2006) is one of his breakthrough movies, and it turns out it has many echoes (pre-echoes?) of LIMBO. Sometimes it feels almost like a remix (premix?).

LIMBO’s most striking feature (besides its black and white cinematography) is being set largely in alleys strewn with garbage. DOG BITE DOG opens with children in a garbage pile and has an important stretch taking place in a landfill. Both have an obsessed police detective who goes around savagely beating up informants, whose problems are connected to a family member currently in a coma. And in both the cop is chasing a transient killer from another country who is protecting a young, traumatized woman. But each of these things has a very different spin here than in LIMBO, the most significant being that this killer is a hitman rather than a serial killer, and is the protagonist. I think he’s even a sympathetic one. Eventually. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fighting Back

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

FIGHTING BACK (1982), a.k.a. DEATH VENGEANCE a.k.a. STREET WARS, is another vigilante drama produced by Dino De Laurentiis, obviously wanting to follow up on his success with DEATH WISH after selling that off to Cannon. DEATH WISH II came out about three months before this, but if Laurentiis was trying to take the wind out of its sails, he was not successful. Cannon kept all the wind and this one remains fairly obscure, despite a nice blu-ray release from Arrow.

But it has some good people behind it. It’s directed by Lewis Teague between ALLIGATOR and CUJO, written by Tom Hedley (FLASHDANCE) and David Zelag Goodman (STRAW DOGS, LOGAN’S RUN, THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, FREEDOM ROAD). Rather than a badass like Charles Bronson it stars the more everyman-ish Tom Skerritt (who would follow this with THE DEAD ZONE, TOP GUN and SPACECAMP) and it seems to be going for a less pulpy, more down to earth approach… except in the important matter of the inciting incident. For that they provide us with as hysterical of a “crime is out of control these days” exaggeration as we could ever ask for. (read the rest of this shit…)

Heat (1995)

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

HEAT (1995) is a remake, but not of the underrated 1986 Burt Reynolds movie HEAT (which was later remade as WILD CARD) – it’s Michael Mann’s second try at the story he turned into his 1989 TV pilot L.A. TAKEDOWN. Which was good! This is better. A controversial statement, but I stand by it.

It’s possibly Mann’s best movie, and certainly ranks high among crime movies of the ‘90s (which is saying something), in my view a masterpiece of the genre. It has that rare quality of feeling like a sprawling epic and a simple, intimate story at the same time. Like a Sergio Leone movie in that one specific sense.

It is pretty simple, in the same way that MANHUNTER is. You’ve got these two men who are on opposite sides of the law, which makes their lives pretty similar. They respect each other’s professionalism but, unlike John Woo characters, would sooner shoot each other than be on the same side. Pretty early in the movie, famously – legendarily, really – they suddenly parley, have coffee together and talk about it, kind of warn each other but both seem to enjoy talking to somebody else who gets what it’s like to live that life. At the time the hype was about Robert De Niro and Al Pacino doing a scene together – two titans had not come together like this since Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT – but now that novelty has long since faded and the scene still feels monumental. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Killer (2023)

Thursday, November 16th, 2023

Yeah, I know, I agree – John Woo’s THE KILLER is what we mean when we refer to “THE KILLER.” Where my KILLER tape at, etc. If we mean the Henry Silva one we say “that Henry Silva movie THE KILLER.” But now we also have to say “David Fincher’s THE KILLER.” And that’s okay. I never thought I’d be able to deal with there being two totally different Steve McQueens, but now I’m out there doing it every day. I believe we can get past this. 

The title comes from Le Tueur, the name of the French comic book it’s based on. I don’t know it but it’s 13 volumes from 1998-2014, written by Matz and illustrated by Luc Jacamon. Matz (a.k.a. Alexis Nolent) also wrote Du Plomb Dans La Tete, which became Walter Hill’s BULLET TO THE HEAD. And he did another one called Cyclops that James Mangold was supposed to adapt in 2008, so that’s probly not happening anymore, but then again Fincher was first announced for this one way back in 2007. Anyway, it’s adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker, his first credited collaboration with Fincher since SE7EN, though he’s done rewrites on a bunch of them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Domino (18 years later revisit)

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

When I saw DOMINO on opening day in 2005, I really thought it was the worst shit ever. In fact, at some point I earnestly added a “the worst shit ever” tag to my review of it. Tony Scott’s most chaotic ever visual style and editing just scraped against me and took me out of the story (to the extent that there was one), and I fixated on that and raged against it in my review. This had happened to me only a couple of times before: first with CON AIR, then ARMAGEDDON, and later it would happen with TRANSFORMERS and DOOMSDAY. But DOMINO is the most stylistically aggressive of any of those, and arguably the most pretentious.

In my review I said Scott was trying to seem young and edgy, compared it to getting his ear pierced. In my mind at that time he was the guy who directed TOP GUN, and TOP GUN was a movie for jocks, military lovers and top 40 listeners. When that one came out I didn’t notice that its style was revolutionary, I just knew everybody loved it including my entire sixth grade class, which meant it was the height of mainstream popular culture about a year or two before I would start kneejerk rebelling against such things. So to have the TOP GUN guy, almost 20 years later, trying to do what screenwriter Richard Kelly calls on the commentary track “punk rock,” was just a joke to me. (read the rest of this shit…)

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

Thursday, September 14th, 2023

(disclaimer: Netflix continues to suck and needs to stop holding the American movie industry hostage by clinging to a clearly unsustainable exploitation-based business model. Also they have some good movies on there.)

I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE (2017) is a darkly comedic crime tale in a subgenre I would maybe describe as suburban pulp. A very ordinary, relatable protagonist falls victim to a very ordinary crime (burglary) and, compounded with the other indignities of her life (like some motherfucker always letting his dog shit on her lawn, even with a sign specifically saying not to do that), it pushes her past her usual timid boundaries into seeking some sense of justice. That gives her a peek into an underworld of corruption and depravity on the fringes of her town (filmed in and/or around Portland, Oregon). Nothing big time – just some rich assholes and some meth head weirdos, but certainly outside of her previous experience.

Melanie Lynskey (THE FRIGHTENERS) plays Ruth – single, depressed, put upon nursing assistant. The grimness of her existence is well summed up by the title as well as the first few minutes of the movie. It’s a series of illustrations of the overwhelming shittiness of modern living, most of them relatable, but also a pretty outrageous one where an elderly patient is watching cable news and growls just about the most obscenely racist thing you can imagine, then immediately dies. Later, her grieving son asks if there were any last words. (read the rest of this shit…)

Plain Clothes

Monday, September 11th, 2023

Not to brag but we all know the secret to my great success in this most respected artform of filmatic criticism is my appeal to the youths. You almost definitely can’t tell, it’s basically imperceptible to the human eye, but the individual pictured to the left here is not a cool young teen. He is in fact an adult man of age. But he wears a headband and passes for a youth. That’s pretty much what my reviews are like. Grown up, but ageless, vital, wearing a headband with a picture of a skull on it. Cool.

My timeless words and topics reach out even to generations that have largely abandoned the watching of movies, let alone the reading about them, in favor of other forms of expression such as short video clips of some jackass looking into their phone jabbering about some inane topic or other. I just get them and they get me so it’s not necessary, but just in case I’m gonna pander to that important demographic by offering this fun “back to school” themed review. If I know Gen-whichever-letter-we’re-on-now as well as I think I do those little dorks are gonna flip for my thoughts on Martha Coolidge’s PLAIN CLOTHES, an obscure 1988 bomb about a cop going undercover as a high school student to prove his brother didn’t murder his teacher.

Arliss Howard, in his mid-thirties and fresh off of FULL METAL JACKET, plays 24-year-old Seattle Police Department detective Nick Dunbar.  He’s introduced undercover as an ice cream man while his partner Ed Malmburg (Seymour Cassel, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS), whose out-of-fashion mustache and suits signify a generation gap, is on lookout. Nick hates being around so many kids, but when he goes to complain about it to his captain (Reginald VelJohnson right before DIE HARD), who’s sipping from a “Trust Me I’m a Father” mug, is deeply offended and yells that it’s “goddamned unamerican” to not like kids. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Dry

Thursday, September 7th, 2023

THE DRY is an Australian mystery thriller from 2020. It stars Eric Bana (CHOPPER) as Melbourne federal agent Aaron Falk, who gets wrapped up in some off-the-books mystery solving in his home town while on personal leave.

It’s arguably a neo-noir, but not in the sense of shadowy cinematography. It takes place mostly in the daytime, in rural Kiewarra, during a torturous drought. It hasn’t rained in almost a year, so this farming town is full of desperate people. Falk hasn’t been home in years, and only returns due to a brief, stern note in the mail telling him to be at the funeral of his childhood friend Luke (Martin Dingle-Wall, GUN SHY).

From the beginning it’s a bleak and uncomfortable tone. He saw in the newspaper that Luke died in a murder-suicide. Killed his wife, his kid, then himself (abandoning a baby). The funeral is for the whole family but some people are pretty upset about including the guy who killed them. And here’s Falk coming in from out of town just to honor Luke – he never met the wife or kid. (read the rest of this shit…)

Master Gardener

Monday, June 26th, 2023

MASTER GARDENER is the latest from Paul Schrader, who I consider to be on a late career roll between FIRST REFORMED and THE CARD COUNTER. This one is thematically related to those, and Schrader has called the three of them his unintentional “Lonely Man Trilogy,” but the template goes all the way back to TAXI DRIVER and has been loosely repeated over and over again throughout his filmography. Which is one of the things I love about him.

This time the journal-writing weirdo narrator is Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton, JANE GOT A GUN), the fastidious horticulturalist in charge of Gracewood Gardens, an estate in Louisiana (filmed at a former plantation). He’s very loyal to his aging heiress boss, Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver, ABDUCTION) – including having sex with her on demand – so he does as she says when she instructs him to take on her troubled grand-niece Maya (Quintessa Swindell, BLACK ADAM) as an apprentice. (read the rest of this shit…)

Chained Heat

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

May 27, 1983

CHAINED HEAT is a genuine exploitation movie. Maybe it’s my ignorance, having been a child in the early ‘80s, but I think of those days as being pretty separated from the era a decade earlier that produced Jonathan Demme’s debut CAGED HEAT, which the title seems to be a throwback to. That must be wrong, though, because there’s not much that seems winky about this one. It’s very serious about providing lurid, sleazy entertainment.

Linda Blair, in her followup to HELL NIGHT, stars as Carol Henderson, a nice girl and “prison virgin” doing 18 months for vehicular manslaughter. Sitting on a bench waiting to be booked she meets some more experienced cons who are pretty welcoming to her. But one of them saying she’s in for stealing TVs starts a discussion of favorite soap operas that escalates to a threat of throat slashing. (read the rest of this shit…)