"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Ronin

Monday, February 26th, 2024

John Frankenheimer’s RONIN is a movie that kicked my ass in a multiplex in the year 1998 A.D. The thing that really stuck in my head about it was the car chases, of course – specifically the one where they end up going the wrong way in a tunnel. But I also remembered it being very tough and smart, I was pretty confident it would hold up, and man was I right. This is a ’90s classic. But timeless.

The title is a metaphor comparing former intelligence agents and soldiers to masterless samurai. It’s about a group of them, apparently serving no higher cause, just letting whoever-the-fuck hire them for their particular set of skills. Sam (Robert De Niro between GREAT EXPECTATIONS and ANALYZE THIS) is a former CIA guy who’s in Montmartre to meet IRA operative Deirdre (Natascha McElhone, THE TRUMAN SHOW), who’s putting together a team that also includes the Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno doing penance for GODZILLA), Englishman Spence (Sean Bean, GOLDENEYE), German computer expert Gregor (Stellan Skarsgård right before DEEP BLUE SEA) and American driver Larry (Skipp Sudduth, MONEY TRAIN, 54). They will be stealing a metal case from a heavily armed convoy, so they discuss what they know and don’t know about how it will go down, how and when they’ll do it, what equipment they’ll need, where they’ll get that, how they’ll prepare. (read the rest of this shit…)

Desierto

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

DESIERTO is a straight ahead chased-by-a-sniper thriller that I know at least one person has encouraged me to review, but I couldn’t find who. Thanks for the recommendation, whoever it was. I remembered it after watching THE COURIER last week, because The Courier himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, plays the sniper in this one.

It’s directed by Jonás Cuarón, son of Alfonse and co-writer of GRAVITY. This time he co-wrote with Mateo Garcia. It’s about a group of Mexican migrant workers trying to cross the US border illegally, and encountering a crazy fuckin asshole (Morgan).

I don’t remember them ever saying the main characters’ names, but Gael García Bernal (THE LIMITS OF CONTROL) plays our protagonist Moises, a sometime mechanic who is trying to return to his family in Oakland after being deported for a broken tail light. When the truck they’re being transported on breaks down in the middle of the desert, their guides Mechas (Diego Cataño, SAVAGES, THE MULE) and Lobo (Marco Pérez, AMORES PERROS) reluctantly lead them on foot through a dangerous area they don’t know very well called the Badlands.
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The Courier (2012)

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

For those who came in late: Yesterday I wanted to watch a movie from Palestine, and I picked OMAR (2013), a very good Oscar nominee that deals with the Israel-Palestine conflict in the form of a dramatic thriller. Afterwards I read about director Hany Abu-Assad and learned that he’d also done the similarly themed, also Oscar-nominated PARADISE NOW (2005), and I think I’m gonna watch that soon. But I also found out that the one movie he did in between those was the 2012 DTV action movie THE COURIER starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan. So… I’m sorry. I had to get to that first. I was too excited not to.

Morgan (WATCHMEN, THE RESIDENT) stars as The Courier. Similar to the Transporter, but with less emphasis on which car he’s driving, he’s the guy who it’s known is the absolute best at delivering a case of unknown contents to some nefarious character without asking questions. I think this was too early for there to be an app to use when you need to hire someone for that, so he really just gets jobs by word of mouth. Good for him. He lives in an old print shop with the name “Ed Smith” on the sign (one of Parker’s aliases, incidentally), and his friend calls him Eddie, but I don’t know him like that, so I call him The Courier, like the credits do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Omar

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Right now, maybe even more than usual, there’s a horrible tragedy going on in the world. It’s painful to dwell on, but I can’t ignore it. I feel with every cell in my body that what Israeli soldiers and American weapons are doing to human beings in Gaza right now is unjustifiable in any context, with any history. But I also know that nothing I do or write can change anything about it. And I’m not trying to start a debate. That doesn’t help anybody. So I can only try to keep doing what I do in a way I feel is constructive.

What I do is write about movies, and one thing I love about movies is the way they can connect us to other people, other places, show us the world through the eyes of others, make us feel things maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise, to understand the world in a different way. So I thought I should see a movie from Palestine. I didn’t know anybody to ask about the subject, so I just looked at the small Palestine section at Scarecrow Video and OMAR (2013) was the one I found that looked most interesting. I don’t remember ever hearing of it, but I had to have when it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. (Italy’s THE GREAT BEAUTY won that year. I didn’t see that either.) (read the rest of this shit…)

They Cloned Tyrone

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

I feel a little guilty for reviewing more Netflix movies than usual lately. But I’ve been catching up on some stuff and I think THEY CLONED TYRONE (2023), if not the best of them, is still the kind of thing that sinister corporation owes us as a civilization and culture. They gotta balance out their ills a little by spending money on movies by new directors, that have interesting ideas. Give them a name cast and some production value but let them make something that’s not necessarily very commercial, at least not enough that they would’ve made it if they were in the movie business, looking for paying customers.

This one they actually promoted more than most of their stuff and they still didn’t give a fuck, they released it on the same day as BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER! It’s distinct from the typical Netflix joint both structurally and stylistically – structurally because it has the confidence to let you be confused for a while before it starts to reveal what’s going on, or even that there is something going on; stylistically because it avoids that modern digital cleanness, instead having a beautifully grainy 16mm sort of texture to it. I assume they shot it digitally and did that in post (would it really have cigarette burns on the reel changes if it was never meant for projection?) but it works just the same. (read the rest of this shit…)

Limbo (2021)

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

Soi Cheang a.k.a. Cheang Pou-soi is a director whose name(s) get my attention because he made one of the great modern action films, KILL ZONE 2 a.k.a. SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES (2015) – a masterpiece in my book. He has a bunch of other ones I need to catch up with, but I enjoyed his car movie MOTORWAY (2012), and one that’s maybe a little more informative here, the 2007 manga adaptation SHAMO, which I would describe as an evil fighting tournament movie. Its protagonist is the usual underdog fighting against the odds, except he’s also a murderer, he has no sense of honor, and he does not seek or receive redemption. Bad person, good athlete, the end.

For almost its entire runtime, Cheang’s 2021 serial killer thriller LIMBO is even grimmer. It has between one and three characters you can root for, depending on your level of forgiveness, but its story and the world it takes place in – a fictional garbage-strewn neighborhood in Hong Kong – are the bleakest of bleak. The black and white cinematography by Cheng Siu-Keung (INVINCIBLE DRAGON, IP MAN 4: THE FINALE) gives  it a moody noir feel at times, gothic horror at others, but mostly just bringing a uniformity to frames crammed with chaotic visual detail. (The screengrabs here will be hard to make out in miniature, and you do get plenty of breathers from that kind of busy-ness in the movie, but I chose them to give you an impression of the incredible production design.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Crawlspace (2022)

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024

CRAWLSPACE (2022), not to be confused with the CRAWLSPACEs from 1972, 1986, 2012, 2013 or 2016, is a little thriller starring Henry Thomas. He plays Robert Mitchell, a friendly plumber in rural Oregon who witnesses a murder while he’s working in the crawlspace of a cabin, gets shot with an arrow while trying to run off, then finds a hidden bag of money they’re looking for, and it turns into a standoff.

While I wouldn’t exactly call it an action movie, there’s an undeniable DIE HARD element here: one man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, hiding in the structure of a (much smaller this time) building, injured, outgunned, using his wits and ingenuity to survive. But since it’s just a house he doesn’t need a walkie talkie to talk to the bad guys, they just yell and can hear each other through the floor. (read the rest of this shit…)

Speak No Evil (2022)

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023

SPEAK NO EVIL is the English title for the Danish film Gæsterne (The Guests). It’s directed by Christian Tafdrup, an actor who was in The Killing and Borgen, and he co-wrote it with his brother Mads. I watched it on Shudder with only a vague awareness that it had been on some people’s lists of best movies in the banner horror year of 2022. I keep forgetting the title and questioning whether it’s actually SEE NO EVIL or HEAR NO EVIL, but no, it’s gotta be SPEAK, ‘cause there’s a kid in it with no tongue. Anyway, it was a successful viewing. If my stomach was coal it would’ve turned into diamonds.

If you’re not one for slow burns then approach with caution, because this one takes so long to seal the deal as an official horror film that I was honestly not sure if it ever would. But the truth is I didn’t think it needed to. To me the deeply uncomfortable social situations most of the running time is dedicated to are far more torturous than any cinematic maimings or killings. (Though I ordinarily prefer the latter.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Night of the Hunted (2023)

Friday, October 20th, 2023

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED is a really tense, unsettling single-location thriller just released to Shudder. It’s directed by Franck Khalfoun (who did the Elijah-Wood-starring remake of MANIAC), and he co-wrote it with Glen Freyer, remade from the 2015 Spanish film LA NOCHE DEL RATON (NIGHT OF THE RAT). The premise is about as simple as they come: a woman on her way home late at night gets trapped in a gas station mini-mart by a sniper.

As usual in these sorts of set ups, the protagonist is already going through some drama. Alice (Camille Rowe, KNUCKLEDUST) was attending a convention for work with her co-worker John (Jeremy Scippio, UNDERBELLY BLUES). They’re driving in the middle of the night to get her home in time to see a fertility doctor with her husband Erik (Aleksander Popovic, KNOCK KNOCK 2). But we can see by the nonchalant way John gets into the shower in front of her that they’re having an affair. And we can see from Erik’s texts that they’re aware of problems in the marriage they’re trying to work out. She’s clearly wrestling with what to do with her life, and annoyed with John too, and then she goes in to get coffee, finds no one on duty to buy it from, and gets shot in the arm. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dark Web: Cicada 3301

Monday, August 14th, 2023

I know I’d seen the cover for the 2021 film DARK WEB: CICADA 3301 before. I assumed it was some generic shitty hacker thriller, so I paid it no mind. But when I was working on my review of FAST X I noticed it on the filmography of Alan Ritchson – he’s not only in it as an actor, but he directed and co-wrote it. That’s right, Reacher himself, from the TV show Reacher. I had to know what kind of a movie Reacher would direct, so I watched it.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s an interesting one. The cover really doesn’t capture the feel of the thing, which is very smart alecky, though more of a thriller with a sense of humor than an all-out comedy. The marketing team might’ve been counting on people knowing what the title referred to, which I did not. It sounds like the corniest name ever if you don’t know “Cicada 3301” is a mysterious internet puzzle thing that’s famous as far as mysterious internet puzzles things go. I guess these very difficult puzzles were posted between 2012 and 2014, claiming to be designed to find “highly intelligent individuals” for some unknown purpose, and only 2 of the 3 have ever been solved. Wikipedia says that “the puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, steganography, and internet anonymity,” whatever that means. Rumors grew that they were a recruiting tool for an intelligence agency, a hacker group, or a secret society. This movie imagines one explanation and follows some characters trying to solve the puzzles. (read the rest of this shit…)