Thursday, August 31, 2017

Year in Crime Flicks: Constipation ed.

Here's the thing...

I used to try and review all the crime flicks I was watching on a monthly basis, but... that got away from me. This post is me just dumping random thoughts and micro-reviews, or (in most cases) simply cataloging the crime flicks I've been watching. This post will catch me up on un-discussed viewings from 2016.

As I just crossed the 300 crime films watched thus far in 2017 line, I'm officially giving up hope of ever catching up. So... ugh.

*by request I've updated with a few more extremely brief Tweet-length reviews of certain titles. Feel free to leave requests in the comments

Assault on Precinct 13 - John Carpenter - On the night before the titular police station is shut down, the officers on duty have no telephones, radios or backup. They do have a dangerous collection of surprise prisoners and are under siege from a street gang out for revenge after several of its members were killed by cops. This is suspense/action/exploitation film making at its Carpenter-iffic peak. Good one to show the kids if you don't mind swears.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - Werner Herzog - Nicolas Cage plays a good cop in a bad way after injuring himself during Hurricane Katrina and becoming addicted to pain killers he resorts to stealing from the evidence locker, robbing criminals and extorting average citizens to keep his monkey fed. He also has a few items of legitimate police interest to attend to and lines blur quick. Cage turns in a highlight reel performance and it's pure joy, my brethren, when he encounters trials of various kinds because we know that his character is about to be tested - he goes wacky-Nicky at the drop of an acid tab, but the movie never veers off course. Never conceived with any relationship to Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, it became a sequel of sorts with a cumbersome name after the fact as a craven marketing ploy, but that doesn't really hurt anything - just makes it weirder. Love this flick. 

Band of Robbers - Aaron Nee, Adam Nee - The brothers Nee borrow plots and characters from Mark Twain and employ them to mixed results in this comedic heist flick. Co-writer/director Adam Nee and Kyle Gallner play Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn respectively with Hannibal Buress as part of the gang and Stephen Lang as their adversary Injun Joe. High marks for concept.

Better Call Saul season 2 - Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould - Bob Odenkirk returns as the whip-smart, resourceful, from the hip conman turned lawyer Jimmy McGill before he became everybody's favorite sleaze-ball Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. He's being set up to possibly usurp Walter White as Breaking Bad's most tragic figure and I'm enjoying the hell out of the ride especially when the focus falls on Jonathan Banks as Mike.

Beverly Hills Cop - Martin Brest - Detroit detective Axel Foley's (Eddie Murphy) best bud returns home from Beverly Hills just long enough to be killed by the California bad guys he ripped off and Foley uses his accrued vacation to go investigate his pal's murder. If you, like me, saw this one in the 80s it holds up okay with its action comedy schtick - but it's impossible for me to evaluate it objectively today. It's not really hilarious and it's not at all suspenseful, but it does feature a Murphy performance that showcases his natural charisma well - so much so that he's more compelling now for the quieter moments. The ease with which he holds the screen playing it straight makes me wish he'd had an alternate career as a dramatic actor who made the occasional comedy (I had a similar response to Kevin Hart when I watched Central Intelligence with my kids - he kinda loses me when goes big, but he's really got a natural presence). Is this the Brest movie to preserve for posterity? Neither as good as Brest's Midnight Run nor Murphy's 48 Hours, it's nevertheless a solid runner up in either category for enjoyably light entertainment.

Blast of Silence

Blood Simple - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Blue Murder

Blue Velvet David Lynch -

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - -

Carlito's Way - Brian De Palma -

Chop Shop - Ramin Bahrani - Huge 'thumbs up'

City of Industry

Close Range - Iaac Florentine - Pretty bad. Believe it or not there are different levels of quality to Scott Adkins fare.

Cohen & Tate  -

Collateral - Michael Mann - Every few years I give this one another shot... gah, the reasons it's such a turd only grow more apparent, and they're mostly due to how really great the good elements are. Ugh, this film frustrates me. Every time Mann composes a striking visual Jamie Foxx stumbles through the frame or the script shows its ass, the film's internal logic fails... Add it to my list of hollywood fare that would drastically improve with an edit of most of the dialogue or cutting certain characters out completely. I'd like to dub it into another language and write a new script to subtitle it with... make an "art film" out of it... I'd do something similar to Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale... except that one's much closer to working as it already is - an artfully/glorious mess.

The Conformist
Crank - -

Criminal - Ariel Vromen - Goofy fun. Not quite Face/Off level execution, but the closest I've found to that level of 'just go with it or fuck the fuck off' in a long time.

The Crook - Claude Lelouch - A dud in my run of good 70s Italian fare.

Cry of a Prostitute

Cut Snake - Toy Ayres - Convict is released from prison and tries to hookup with his jailhouse lover for a score and romance, but dude has gone back to his wife and straight life. Disappointing results for a promising premise. Cast ain't bad.

Cutter's Way

Dark Blue - Ron Shelton -

Dark Places - Giles Paquet-Brenner - meh. 

Dead Bang -

Die Hard 2 - Renny Harlin -

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Dirty Pretty Things - Stephen Frears -

Dixieland - Hank Bedford - nice feel and moments, but nothing really happening. Too bad. I recommend sticking to much stronger similar aesthetic fare like Ain't Them Bodies Saints or the true original, Badlands.

Electric Glide in Blue -  -

Exiled - Johnny To -

Far From Men

Fargo Season 2 - Noah Hawley -

The Favor - Paul Osborne -  great premise, ultra-low budget, fizzles quickly
Fight For Your Life - -

Fingers - -


French Connection II - John Frankenheimer -

Get Carter - Mike Hodges -

The Getaway - Roger Donaldson -

Gone in 60 Seconds


La Haine - -

Happy Valley season 1

Happy Valley season 2


Hollow Triumph

The Hot Spot - Dennis Hopper

The Hunter -


In a Lonely Place - Nicholas Ray -

The Infiltrator - Brad Furman - Exactly how old is Bryan Cranston supposed to look in this movie? This flick is set in 1985 and every song it's scored with is from the 70s... weird choice Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows is the first correct-decade cut in this flick - which is a legit choice, but those tattoo sleeves look wrong

Into the Abyss - Werner Herzog -

Kill Me Again - John Dahl -

The Killers - Robert Siodmak -

The Killing - Stanley Kubrick -

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Shane Black -

Kiss Me Deadly - Robert Aldrich -

King of New York - Abel Ferrara -

The Lady in the Car with the Glasses & a Gun - Joann Sfar - haven't seen the original, it was just okay, highly watchable, but ultimately unsatisfying resolution to the 'mystery' - neither Lynchian/DePalmian/Hitchcockian enough to justify its weird setup

Lady Vengeance - -

The Last Boy Scout - Tony Scott -

The Last Heist - Mike Mendez - Cool, pulpy concept - a caper goes off the rails when the heisters are trapped inside the bank with a patron who happens to be a homicidal psychotic - Die Hard with a serial killer - but oh shit, not even Henry Rollins as the deadly fly in the ointment can make this thing near watchable. Leaden performances, limp script (the lines were either that poorly written or the cast was encouraged to ad-lib way too much) and budgetary stretching to the point of transparency. Oof. Y'know what, though. It's a great concept. I'd be down to let em try it again.

Last Man Standing - Walter Hill -

Legend - Brian Hegeland -

Lethal Weapon - Richard Donner -


The Limey - Steven Soderbergh -

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels - Guy Ritchie -

London Has Fallen - Babek Najafi -

The Long Good Friday

Lost Highway - David Lynch -

Machine Gun McCain - Giuliano Montaldo - Pretty terrific hardboiled turn from John Cassavetes and belongs on a short list of films that feel like they could be quality (Richard Stark's) Parker adaptations... only they're not.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - Guy Ritchie

The Matador - Richard Sheppard

Mean Streets - Martin Scorsese

The Mechanic: Resurrection - Dennis Gansel - The sparks between Jason Statham and Jessica Alba could make fire a thing of the past.

Mobsters - -

Mona Lisa - Neil Jordan -

Murder, My Sweet

Mystery Road - Ivan Sen - I'm glad the terrible title didn't keep me from watching it - a lot of praiseworthy elements including some good trope-up-ending stuff that may leave some viewers unsatisfied, but got me pretty jazzed... hoping the sequel Goldstone is even better

Night Manager -

Night Moves - Arthur Penn

Normal Life

Un Oso Rojo

Peaky Blinders season 3 - Steven Knight -

Peeping Tom

Perdita Durango


Playing God - -

Point Break -


Rage - Paco Cabezas - Wildly uneven revenge flick that never makes up its mind on tone. Why I bothered to get past the first 30-40 minutes speaks volumes about my character... or options. I'd given up on it as a Redbox action schlockfest, but by the time Nicolas Cage gets into the violent bits I perked up - a few genuinely nasty moments that spoke to the squandered potential had this decided it wanted to be a straight-up gritty Death Wish-esque piece of grindhouse cinema instead of the B-grade mainstream action/mystery it mostly is. Acting is pretty bad with a couple of bright spots (Pasha Lychnikoff is hammy fun and Peter Stormare is a treasure who elevates everything he appears in), script is painfully dumb (instead of dumb fun), the soundtrack is atrocious, but the violence hits the spot once in a while, plus it's one of the more convincing recent performance by Cage's hair. Not sure whether to blame a lack of conviction or failure of execution, but for very brief moments Rage makes me wish there were another, nastier version of it out there.

Raw Deal

Rear Window - Alfred Hitchcock

Rosario Tijeras

Seeking Justice - Roger Donaldson -

Set it Off - F. Gary Gray -

The Seven Five


The Silence

Smokin' Aces - Joe Carnahan -

Smokin' Aces 2

Son of No One - Dito Montiel - For the on-screen talent assembled for fare that I like operating within that budgetary sweet spot (enough money to look good and attract quality actors, but not enough to make investors afraid they're going to lose everything by not delivering a happy ending or making characters 'likable' or some otherwise gutless reason high-budget crime fare so seldom satisfies) this was pretty disappointing. Dumb.

Special I.D.

The Split - Gordon Flemyng - Jim Brown as McClain (Parker) in this adaptation of Richard Stark's The Seventh. One year after Lee Marvin in John Boorman's Point Blank this one

Suicide Theory - Dru Brown - A suicidal man who believes he is cursed to survive all attempts on his life hires a hitman to do the job. It's a concept that starts off with a few nice, gruesomely comic moments, but grows old quickly.

Surrogates - Jonathan Mostow - A few feints at worthy of remembrance, but ultimately a forgettable sci-fi murder mystery. God bless Bruce Willis for taking stabs at high-concept and/or hardboiled crime material, 'cause every fifth or sixth time out we get a winner, but this one is no 12 Monkeys or Looper or The Sixth Sense or... Sin City or Pulp Fiction.

Tango & Cash

Thief - Michael Mann - James Caan plays Frank, the titular professional in Mann's first foray into his most fertile garden - the working professional criminal - based on the book The Home Invaders by Frank Hohimer (John Seybold). Heat may be the most-remembered for its Pacino/De Niro pairing, but all the themes important to Mann's work are being worked out here and it's as potent as anything that's come since.

3 Days to Kill - McG - neither as fun or committed to being goofy and outrageous as Criminal

Two Men in Town - Rachid Bouchareb -  Forest Whitaker plays a cop-killer turned prison Islam convert and Harvey Keitel is a border town law man trying to  balance justice and personal prejudice. A remake of the 1973 José Giovanni film about an ex-con back in town translates nicely to its modern American setting, but the film fails to make much of all the juicy potential. A handful of nice moments, but not a recommendation's worth.

Uncle John - Steven Piet - Watched this one just for the opportunity to see John Ashton in a leading role and it was a half-satisfying experience. The half of the film with Ashton's titular aging character trying to cover up the murder he just committed is swell. The other half that deals with his nephew's love life is... meh.

The Underneath - Steven Soderbergh - Sodebergh's remake of Don Tracy's armored car heist flick Criss Cross is the stepping stone before he hit the peak of his commercial powers with Out of Sight in 1998. It's a minor work, but worthwhile for the William Fichtner performance alone.

War Dogs - Todd Phillips - Jonah Hill has the best coke-eyes since Ray Liotta's in Goodfellas.

Welcome to Collinwood - Anthony Russo, Joe Russo -

Wild at Heart - David Lynch -

Year of the Dragon - Michael Cimino - A fond revisit after Cimino's passing. It's difficult not to see this one through the eyes of the teenager I was when I first saw it. Maybe I'm more forgiving than I should be of some of the pace issues, the race issues and Mickey Rourke's blond hair. Still a tasty slice of violence.
Youth of the Beast - Seijun Suzuki - A cop tears down rival yakuza gangs by going undercover and playing both sides agains the other. It hops and jumps with that distinct vibe that is 1960s new wave criminal cinema. Do I hop with it? Sometimes. It's not the easiest milieu for me to get into.

Zodiac - David Fincher -