Thursday, February 7, 2013

2013 in Crime Flicks: January

Archer Season 3 - Adam Reed - Just the dirtiest show on TV. And one of my favorites. Best moment: legion.

The Bourne Legacy - Tony Gilroy - Jason Bourne, Treadstone and Robert Ludlum are only ghostly presences hovering on the perimeter of this sideways sequel that expands the fictional universe set up by the first three pictures, mostly satisfactorily, though the best thing about the first film was how unconventional the tropes were treated and now we're going in a much more standard (but solid) action movie direction - but compare the explosion-free car chase in The Bourne Identity to the motorcycle chase in this one. Identity wins on every level that counts. Best moment: fooling the drone.

Cosmopolis - David Cronenberg - Don Delillo's source material really did read like an ideal vehicle for Cronenberg's sensibilities - all the blending of technology and flesh, and flesh and flesh, the reek of progress and beauty of mutilation... the final product may not be a home run, but, like many Cronenberg works, I suspect that it will improve with time and appreciate with return viewings. Best moment: prostate exam.
Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino - Dug it. Jamie Foxx onscreen usually gives me eyeball rash, but his Django is great to watch as he goes through the transitions from slave to freed man, righteous avenger, romantic lead, cold-calculator and super hero. Great turns all around. Best moment: Don Johnson and Jonah Hill lead a discussion on sheet etiquette.
Dredd - Pete Travis - Not bad. Not great. The only history I have with the judge is the 199? Sylvester Stallone turn, so I can't say from faithful, but I'm left with no motivation to further explore this world. Best moment: probably the rookie's trial-run sentence-pronouncements. 

The Driver - Walter Hill - Had it pointed out a few posts ago when discussing car-chase sequences that I'd included Drive, but failed to mention this one - one of the many films it had openly aped. I'd never seen it before. Yup, the film's opening is awful close to Nicolas Winding Refn's picture, and yeah, the Ryan O'Neal character is simply called 'Driver' just like in the James Sallis books, but the similarities end there. Good chase stuff, but Bruce Dern's 'Detective' is the least likely movie cop I've seen in... a loooong time. Fast and loose film making spirit, that I enjoyed though. Anybody seen Bullet to the Head yet? Best moment: opening heist/getaway sequence.

End of Watch - David Ayer - Pretty good patrolman flick continually and doggedly undermined by its found footage gimmick. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have great buddy chemistry and the dashboard cam captured moments are the heart of the film, but every time a character speaks into a lapel camera or a handheld recorder, I wanna punch something. Forget the inconsistency of the application or the really substantial believability hurdle, I'm going to have a really hard time liking or wanting to spend time with any character so self-involved that they record every moment of their lives. Lots of good to almost great moments scattered throughout though. Best moment: discovering the death house.

"G" Men - William Keighley - It takes a mere 86 minutes to follow James Cagney through his decision to end his career as a lawyer, leave the old neighborhood and his criminal pals from around the block, join the FBI and get on the task force charged with bringing several of his old chums to justice. Borrowing heavily from recent real events in the lives and deaths of John Dillinger, Jelly Nash, Pretty Boy Floyd and the like, this 1935 flick plays like a recruitment campaign for the feebs, but that's forgivable for the entertainment value, and pace, pace, pace. Best moment: roadhouse shootout (just like Michael Mann's Public Enemies).

Homeland Season 1 - Howard Gordon/Alex Gansa - Perhaps a decade of having my dick yanked by color-coded security forecasts has desensitized me to the real and present dangers in homeland security (can you believe we've got a friggin federal agency with that handle? Just giving up on not sounding all empirical and fascist now, are we?), so hooking me on counter-terrorism shit is about as difficult as making me care about the average forensic team stopping another serial killer. Snore. Good thing the show isn't banking entirely on my buying into the national security stuff - don't get me wrong, they really want me to - but they have also given me, in Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, a Riggs & Murtaugh for the now decade. Danes is compellingly compromised and bat-shit crazy, and I love the idea of the great American hero being a middle-aged nebbishy analyst. No spoiler here if you've seen any images from season two, but I think they blew a big chance to turn it into must-see TV at the end of the first season. I'll check out the second season, but I'd be a loooooot more excited to if they'd had the balls to kill off at least one, if not both, main characters in the climax, and set up the series as Saul vs. the terrorist mastermind. But no. Best moment: Saul rebuffs Carrie's advance.

The Paperboy - Lee Daniels - Adaptation of Pete Dexter's novel was a missed opportunity. Not a terrible film, but not even close to nailing the power of the book. Anybody looking for me to hang it on Zac Effron can go fuck themselves though. He did fine. His southern accent was pretty hammy, but then everybody's was and they were all still better than anybody on True Blood. Best moment: Everybody waits patiently as John Cusack instructs Nicole Kidman what to do with her mouth while he jacks off.

Papillon -  - Why had I never watched this one? Man, I loved this movie. Sweeping, grand-scale adventure film making, classic themes (script by Dalton Trumbo), plus Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in their prime. I wanna go again. Best moment: long dialogue-free escape and settling into island-life sequence (20 minutes?) 

The Passenger - Michelangelo Antonio - Great, evocative, moody piece about a journalist who, on impulse, abandons his life and switches identities with a dead man in his ass-end of the world hotel. The psychological implications for the character, who leaves behind a family and a solid career and picks up a young woman with a similar adventurous spirit, make a nice broth for the thriller plot to simmer in, as his new identity has a whole new set of consequences. Best moment: arms deal made in church.

Premium Rush - David Koepp - Another gimmick-flick whose extraneous elements outshine the pic's pitch so completely, the end product resembles a solar eclipse. Michael Shannon's sad-sack, degenerate-gambling cop in deep with Chinese gangsters is the sun in this analogy, and the hot-shot bike messengers silver-streaking their way through crowded NYC streets are the moon. Really, if instead of this tepid action flick, we'd spent the day stewing with Shannon and encountered the bikers only the way his character does, not only could the film have been astonishingly good (I mean it - astonishing - I believe it could have been, Shannon's just that good), the action scenes would have been so much more exciting, frustrating and darkly comic. Best moment: Shannon submits to a beating he has coming.

Seven Psychopaths - Martin McDonagh - Not a straight crime film, not a straight comedy. There's a meta-element to this one that isn't entirely successful, but the uneven ingredients couldn't make me not love the movie. McDonagh's use of profanity, language, violence, humor to turn screen writing and crime flick tropes on their heads is amusing, but the real gold is in the extended monologues. Best moment: Tom Waits and Colin Farrell chat on the phone.

Zero Dark Thirty - Kathryn Bigelow - Nuts and bolts espionage procedural that's... well crafted, if not terribly entertaining. I did appreciate a lot of the choices made (imagine how awful that climactic siege sequence would've been in the hands of a Michael Bay schooled film maker), but the nailing of Osama Bin Laden was never a goal the film ever got me to care about much. Each character is (intentionally) soley defined by their role in the manhunt to the point that the person we end up knowing the most about is the interrogated subject in the film's opening chapter. In fact, if the entire film had been Jason Clarke and Jessica Chastain going duo e mano with Reda Kateb, I would have found it much easier to invest in. But in the end, it's not a film about people, but ideas and ideals and what Best moment: Kateb's interrogation. 

January also found me fondly revisiting Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge, Rian Johnson's Looper and Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.


The Magician King said...

"Perhaps a decade of having my dick yanked by color-coded security forecasts ..." -- Best Intro Line of 2013.

jp johnson said...

Papillon is #1 on my very short list of perfect movies...

jedidiah ayres said...

What else made your list, JP?