Hell Drivers - C. Raker Endfield (Cyril Endfield) - Tight little thriller about desperate men doing dangerous work and selling their lives cheap. Make a swell triple feature with Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway and William Friedkin's Sorcerer in my opinion. The driving sequences filmed sixty years ago still look dangerous and made me queasy. Stanley Baker carries the day and Patrick McGoohan is a particularly nasty delight. Watch it right here.
Hickey & Boggs - Robert Culp - I rewatched Terriers on Netflix this week (again - I've seen it in its entirety thrice now) and it reminded me (again) what pleasures the private eye genre is best at delivering and made me want more. Take a script by buddy crime flick hall-of-famer Walter Hill, add the already seasoned chemistry between Robert Culp and Bill Cosby (I Spy), remember that you're in the seventies and you've got a recipe for curing what ails you. The humor is plentiful, but downplayed, the action is abundant, but downbeat, the tone is fun and bleak at the same time. I know this isn't an ideal time to promote a Cosby project, but I can't understand why this one hasn't had a wider release in the last forty years. Catch up with it right here.
L.A. Takedown - Michael Mann - Mann is a film maker of obsessions and I don't hold it against him when he revisits themes, scenes or characters. When he has something to say, he'll say it again and again until satisfied he's said it right. There's a reason many people consider Heat his masterpiece - in it you'll find material he'd used previously in projects like Thief, Miami Vice and Crime Story, but he 'borrows' biggest from this little-seen made for television film. In fact, Heat is a straight-up remake of Takedown. Take away a couple of subplots and Heat's A-list cast and you've got this flick. I love Heat, but hey, check this one out and tell me it doesn't just move. Not an ounce of fat on this bastard. Give it a look right here.
Mikey & Nicky - Elaine May - Peter Falk and John Cassavetes are the titular duo, small time criminals, close friends and bitter rivals whom we follow through the course of a single night while they traverse New York visiting neighborhood spots as Nicky tries to keep himself a moving target for the gangster he's mostly convinced wants him dead. For his part Mikey tries to convince his paranoid and pal to calm down or leave town. Cassavetes and Falk have a bristling, seething, energy that makes this one pop and sputter as it lurches toward doom and dawn. I'd watch it in a lineup with Cassavetes' own Husbands and maybe even Jon Favreau's Made. Click right here.
The Nickel Ride - Robert Mulligan - Speaking of small-time gangsters who think their overlords might want them dead, Jason Miller holds the center of this terrifying slow burn of a a thriller about the hell of middle management. Miller's Cooper is a warehouse manager negotiating on behalf of organized criminal interests for some primo storage space and when the deal starts to fall apart he feels the pressure from above and below. The interactions between Miller and Bo Hopkins's clownish killer are especially wonderful. Do yourself a favor right here.
Night of the Juggler - Robert Butler - The big bad city genre is probably best served by way-out fare like The Warriors, Escape From New York or more recently The Purge: Anarchy, while pictures that go for a more realistic vibe tend to smack of exploitation or even overt racism with just a few years' remove (I haven't had the heart to revisit teenaged favorites like Trespass or Judgement Night, but I suspect they're going to induce some serious wincing when/if I do). Stuck somewhere in the middle is Night of the Juggler, a wildly uneven ticking clock kidnapping thriller about an ex-cop played by James Brolin whose daughter has been abducted by a crazed predator. It's silly, full of holes and you might even find it insulting to your intelligence, but it gamely attempts (and often succeeds) to make up for its shortcomings with energy, pace and atmosphere. Brolin breathlessly pursues his daughter through an urban jungle of trash-strewn streets, crumbling buildings and sleazy peep-show joints, aided by short term allies like Mandy Patinkin's animated immigrant cabbie and hunted himself by foe like dirty cop Dan Hedya in flatout bugshit mode (the man's eyebrows deserve their own drama school). For a good time click right here.
The Punisher - Mark Goldblatt - In anticipation of Jon Bernthal's turn as Frank Castle in the second season of Daredevil I was curious to find out what I'd missed in Dolph Lundgren's turn back in 1989. Not as fully-formed as Bernthal's season-long character build, not as gleefully over the top as Punisher: War Zone with Ray Stevens, nor as funny as the Thomas Jane 2004 picture, there were never the less enjoyable low-rent, low-brow, low-bar pleasures exceeding my low-expectations from this low-budget fare. Perhaps hoping to ride RoboCop's mudflaps to late night cable immortality Lundgren's Castle is as stiff a humanoid automaton set on kill as you could ask for and if you just step back and let him perform he'll put on a show. I especially dug the climactic sequence that kicks off with Castle teaming up temporarily with Jeroen Krabbe's gangster against the yakuza. They step off an elevator and gun down a room full of samurai without putting a single bullet through the paper walls. It's actually surprisingly stylish and satisfying. See what I mean right here.
Trick Baby - Larry Yust - Based on the novel by Iceberg Slim, Kiel Martin and Mel Stewart play a couple of con men using Martin's white skin (he is the titular child of a white john and a black prostitute) as an in to hustle a group of wealthy and casually corrupt businessmen. Meanwhile they're pressed on all sides by racial tensions, bent cops, greedy gangsters and vengeful marks. It's the biggest score of their lives if they can stay alive long enough to pull it off. Catch it right here.
Zulu - Jerome Salle - After closing the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, this Capetown-set crime and corruption film based on the novel by Caryl Ferey disappeared seemingly forever. WTF? Swell source material, western movie stars, nicely shot violence and sex and... How the hell has this not had a theatrical or at least DVD release in the US? It's not the incendiary picture it was hoped to be, but it's far from a waste. It's solid, not skimping on the crowd-pleasing elements nor the ugly social histories of South AfricaThe link I used to finally watch this one on ewetoob has disappeared, but there are a few others popping up now and then.