Thursday, March 9, 2017


Tried to watch Luther for the second time this week. And like the first time, I gave up after a single episode. Realized that as much as I like Idris Elba, I just don't give a shit about solving crimes. That's not what I want from crime fiction. I want above all else - criminals.

Not killers (necessarily). I want people desperate or broken enough to shuck the rules and explore the variety of outcomes that their actions invite (alternately sweet and sour). I'm looking also for moral explorations - as opposed to moralizing - and human characters - as opposed to hollow tropes or broadly drawn cartoons. These are ideals that don't have to rule out pulpy or made for maximum entertainment value offerings either.

For instance, I caught up with Hap & Leonard on Sundance TV. Fuckin-a. Dug it.

Solid cast - James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams have an easy chemistry and ground some of Joe Lansdale's more outrageous lines in human characters, less broadly drawn than some readings could suggest - you hear the punchlines coming (and they're funny), but they don't sound like jokes coming from the performers. Christina Hendricks too lends varying degrees of her steeliness and vulnerability to what could have been a two-note femme-fatale and frequent Jim Mickle project participant Bill Sage manages to make his hippy, both dippy and menacing - no easy feat.

Even the characters that veer hard into cartoonishness (particularly as portrayed by Jimmi Simpson and Pollyanna McIntosh) have offbeat cutaways that suggest different intentions, motivations or outcomes from the ones we're otherwise comfortable assuming.

So, looking forward to a second season in Lansdale land (first cycle was Savage Season... second is going to be Mucho Mojo I think). Big credit goes to producer/director/writers Mickle and E. L. Katz too for setting tone and table for maximum pleasure as both have done in their film efforts.

In 2014 both directors' efforts made my best of the year list - Mickle's first take on Lansdale material Cold in July and Katz's feature debut Cheap Thrills were expert manipulations of tone and exercises in expert timing.

Speaking of Katz - his next feature flick is one of my most anticipated of 2017 - an adaptation of Dave Zeltserman's daaaark opening chapter of his man-out-of-prison thematic trilogy Small Crimes. Holy crap does that sound exciting.

Source material I dig, exciting director, solid looking cast (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jackie Weaver, Pat Healey, Molly Parker, Robert Forster, Gary Cole). Need another reason to be intrigued? How about the other co-writing adaptor (and co-star) Macon Blair? Yeah, the dude from those super badass Jeremy Saulnier flicks thinks he can write.

Well, he can. As evidence I submit his own writing/directorial debut I Don't Belong in This World Anymore. It's a Netflix original crime film that does a bang-up job with hard shifts from humor to horror and suspense sequencing and I highly recommend checking it the fuck out fucking now. I'm sure I'll be talking about this one more throughout the year.

You know what else you're going to get fucking tired of me talking about real quick? Adam Smith's Trespass Against Us. Holy fuck, I love this movie. Michael Fassbender is a thief, less professional than born to it, belonging to a clan of nomadic "traveling" outlaws who follow a strict code of peculiar adherences to religious convictions, chief amongst them - fuck the police. Brendan Gleeson plays his father, the group's patriarch, and father and son clash over family loyalties and their solemn duty to fuck with the police.

I've seen it twice in as many days and I'm sure I will be revisiting it again soon. But what the actual fuck with the reviews? Once again the best work is marginalized while the marginal is lionized. Another one I'm looking forward to, but certainly not investigating reviews until afterward - Juanita Wilson's adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red.

What else is on my short-term radar? I'm so essited for season three of Fargo there's a flea circus tent permanently pitched in my cargo pants and I'm afeared to go outside for all the unwanted attention. And I'll be checking out the Cinemax serialization of Max Allan Collins' Quarry real soon.

Meantime I'm savoring Donald Ray Pollock's The Heavenly Table and Tony Knighton's not-yet-published Three Hours Past Midnight (look for it soon).


J. L. ABRAMO said...

If you have mentioned THE FALL, I missed it. I thought Gillian Anderson was good and Jamie Dornan was fifty shades of creepy. As to Luther...Alice (Ruth Wilson) kept me wanting more.

jedidiah ayres said...

Yeah, I had the same issue with THE FALL, though I liked Anderson I really didn't care if she caught or stopped the killer... I guess I'm pretty callous. Gave up after an episode or two.

Tony Knighton said...

Thanks for the plug!