"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Unlawful Entry

Monday, July 18th, 2022

June 26, 1992

UNLAWFUL ENTRY is one of those big mainstream domestic suspense thrillers that you don’t see too many of in theaters these days but that were a staple in the ‘90s. This one is directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who they probly called “the director of THE ACCUSED” in the advertising, but to me he’ll always be the director of TRUCK TURNER. One of the greats! The screenplay is credited to Lewis Colick (THE DIRT BIKE KID), who shares story credit with George Putnam (who also had FATAL INSTINCT that year) & John Katchmer.

Kurt Russell (in his followup to BACKDRAFT) and Madeleine Stowe (REVENGE) star as Michael and Karen Carr, a Los Angeles couple who in a skillfully tense sequence discover an intruder (Kaplan regular Johnny Ray McGhee) climbing through the skylight into their enormous home one night. Michael threatens the man with a golf club and scuffles with him, but he holds a knife to Karen’s throat and manages to escape.

When they call the cops, officers Roy Cole (Roger E. Mosley, HIT MAN, THE MACK, McQ, LEADBELLY, THE JERICHO MILE) and Pete Davis (Ray Liotta, two years and two projects after GOODFELLAS) respond. I love the way Kaplan and d.p. Jamie Anderson (PIRANHA) zero in on Pete reacting to the story, immediately showing great concern and protectiveness for Karen, and managing to touch her when she almost steps on glass. He’s obviously got eyes on her, and the way Roy says, “Hey – I know what you’re thinking” as they’re leaving, you get the idea he’s done that sort of thing before. (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…)

Zentropa (a.k.a. Europa)

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

“But I haven’t done anything. I’m not working for either side.”
“Exactly.”


It was May 22nd. The day Ripley died in ALIEN 3. The day they found ENCINO MAN. The day FAR AND AWAY came out but I can’t review everything man, I’m already way behind on this summer series. The day of Johnny Carson’s last Tonight Show. Also it was the day Miramax released ZENTROPA in North America, according to various sources.

But I found a poster that says May 5th (maybe for video?) and Roger Ebert’s reviewed of it is dated July 3rd. I guess the relevant thing here is that, like other limited releases such as DELICATESSEN and ONE FALSE MOVE, it was playing various theaters at various points during the summer. That’s how it worked back then.

ZENTROPA is really called EUROPA – that’s the original title and what it’s now called on video (like THE PLAYER and NIGHT ON EARTH this has a Criterion Edition). But the North American theatrical release was retitled ZENTROPA for the honestly reasonable purpose of avoiding confusion with Agnieszka Holland’s EUROPA EUROPA. I distinctly remember going to see NIGHT ON EARTH and seeing a literally hypnotic trailer that I think was probly the same as the one I’ve found on Youtube except it was “LARS VON TRIER – ZENTROPA” that kept appearing on screen instead of LARS VON TRIER – EUROPA.” So for historical accuracy I’m labelling this review ZENTROPA. (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…)

Cruel Intentions 3 – the lost review

Friday, June 3rd, 2022

Outlawvern.com’s heroic master of coding Clubside Chris has been going through the old reviews as part of preparing some new features, and he’s noticed that we’re missing a few things. Back in the day he tried to grab all my old Ain’t It Cool reviews, but he’s noticed some that reference other reviews we don’t have in the archive and can’t find on that difficult-to-search websight. For example I definitely remember writing about CABIN FEVER when it played the Seattle International Film Festival in 2003, and we’ve found other people’s reviews that referred to mine (like this one) but haven’t been able to find my actual review. So if some adventurer out there wants to be The Phantom, go find that artifact and return it to the original owner, it would be appreciated!

Luckily I was able to find the text of one (1) of the pieces Chris was looking for in an email reply buried deep in my inbox. So today I am vaguely semi-proud-ish to present for the historical record, and for the benefit of future generations, a goofy, dated review I wrote 18 years ago (in Spring of 2004) of a straight to video sequel most people forgot (or never knew) existed. I did not polish anything, but I added five parenthetical notes from the future about what some of the people referred to have been up to since I originally wrote the review.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Poison Ivy

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

POISON IVY was a movie, then a franchise, and a genre, and an American institution. I don’t know if it was the first erotic thriller that could be described as “teenage FATAL ATTRACTION,” but I do think it kicked off many more of them, likely influencing movies like THE CRUSH, THE BABYSITTER, DEVIL IN THE FLESH and SWIMFAN, and evolving into WILD THINGS and CRUEL INTENTIONS and their DTV sequels. POISON IVY mostly spread its metaphorical itchy rash of underage femme fatalery by growing in clusters on late night cable and in the suspense/thriller section of video stores, but before that it had a very limited theatrical release on May 8, 1992.

Sara Gilbert (four seasons into Roseanne) made her movie debut starring as Sylvie “Coop” Cooper, protagonist and narrator-via-journal-entries. She’s a private school kid who sees herself as an outcast whose very rich parents don’t understand her. She wears Doc Martens, a tie-dyed yin yang shirt, and has an Egyptian eye design shaved discreetly under her hair. She smokes cigarillos, including in bed. She claims to have no friends*. She tells needless lies, like that she’s adopted, and that she’s half Black, and that she tried to commit suicide. Also she plays piano, loves her dog Fred (who she says doesn’t like any other humans), and teaches reading to inner city kids two days a week. A messed up kid but a good kid. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Player

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

“It’s an art movie. Doesn’t count. I’m talkin about movie movies.”

April 10, 1992

I have enjoyed some of Robert Altman’s movies over the years, but never became a full-on “he’s one of my favorites” convert like so many film buffs a little older than me. In fact the only ones I’ve ever reviewed are MCCABE & MRS. MILLER, POPEYE and NASHVILLE. POPEYE was definitely the first Altman movie I saw, since it starred my biggest childhood hero (not Robin Williams – Popeye). THE PLAYER was the first one I watched as a grown-ish person trying to see good movies for adults.

I don’t hear people talk about it that much these days, but it has an 86 on Metacritic, which they quantify as “universal acclaim.” And it has a Criterion Edition. I remember it being viewed as a major cultural event in the film coverage I read in magazines and alternative weeklies of the time. In his review, Roger Ebert brought up Wall Street scandals and said the movie “uses Hollywood as a metaphor for the avarice of the 1980s,” but in my memory people enjoyed it as a satire of Hollywood executives. My most specific memory about it was a certain cameo in a movie-within-the-movie meant to parody the “pat Hollywood endings” joked about throughout the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thunderheart

Monday, May 16th, 2022

April 3, 1992

“We choose the right to be who we are.”


THUNDERHEART is not a weird movie like some of these other 1992 releases, but it’s a pretty unusual one: a procedural thriller that attempts to shine a light on real life injustices taking place on tribal land in the U.S. An opening title says “This story was inspired by events that took place on several American Indian reservations during the 1970’s.” From what I’ve read it’s largely inspired by the Wounded Knee Incident of 1973, but director Michael Apted (COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER) also released the documentary INCIDENT AT OGLALA later in the summer, and that was about similar clashes between traditional and Americanized Sioux and a shootout with the FBI on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. I assume those events influenced it as well.

After the murder of tribal council member Leo Fast Elk (Allan R.J. Joseph, later a stuntman on DESPERADO) on a South Dakota reservation, FBI Agent Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer following his MTV Movie Awards nominated role in THE DOORS) gets called to Washington DC by his boss (Fred Dalton Thompson, who had ACES: IRON EAGLE III coming out in June). They know from his file that he has mixed Native heritage through his biological father, but he’s so out of touch with it he has to be told it’s Sioux and that his father died when he was 7 (he says it was when he was a baby). It’s just not a part of his life, but they make it very clear that they’ve chosen him for this case so they can tell the locals he’s one of them. “You’re going in there as who you are— an American Indian federal officer.” Should go great. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Jackal

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Bruce Willis is… THE JACKAL. This one came out in 1997, between THE FIFTH ELEMENT and MERCURY RISING. It was coming off an adventurous couple of years in Bruce’s career that included NOBODY’S FOOL and 12 MONKEYS, and this is more of a normal Hollywood picture than those, but it was still an unusual role for him. He’s top-billed over Richard Gere (who was between RED CORNER and RUNAWAY BRIDE) but playing the antagonist, a very cold and serious assassin hired to kill the head of the FBI.

It comes from director Michael Caton-Jones (DOC HOLLYWOOD) and it’s based on Kenneth Ross’s screenplay to the 1973 Fred Zinnemann film DAY OF THE JACKAL, which itself was based on a 1971 novel by Frederick Forsyth. The new screenplay is credited to Chuck Pfarrer, a national hero because he wrote HARD TARGET and part of DARKMAN. (He was also a Navy SEAL and wrote NAVY SEALS.) Reportedly there was an uncredited rewrite by Kevin Jarre (who has a “story by” credit on RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II). (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…)