Graceland - Ron Morales - Ugh. Jeez, this was unpleasant. A great thriller set-up: trying to kidnap the daughter of a politician, the abductors accidentally nab the pol's chauffeur's little girl and now the driver is caught in between his boss, the police, his wife and the kidnappers - keeping a different secret for a different reason from each party pulling at him. Only this one is Grim, capital-G Grim, and the more the focus pulls back to reveal the larger picture, the less you're on anybody's side. The pacing is tight and the structure solid, but there's just so much awful contained in this unfortunate combination of social-awareness campaign and thriller that there is no happiness in the end, regardless of outcome (a less-cheery Miss Bala, perhaps). Kudos to Morales for sticking to his guns. I'd be interested in seeing another of his projects, but please not this one again. Anything but that. Best moment: the abduction really fuckin takes no prisoners - or, only takes one prisoner. It's a brutal moment that really sets the tone for the rest of the picture.
The Hollow Point - Gonzalo López-Gallego - Amongst the glut of border-sploitation fare flooding theaters, Redbox and streaming services this one is not a glossy, Oscar-bait message movie, nor near as schlocky as the majority of the rest. It's a mostly solid crime film with a handful of moments that make it a recommendation. On the heels of his hugely appealing performance in Fargo's second season Patrick Wilson is accumulating a portfolio of leading roles in small budget crime films that could re-invent his image and John Leguizamo turns in a, for once, quietly menacing performance while Ian McShane shows up, but is handily upstaged by a surprisingly good James Belushi. What really works here are a few un-foreshadowed escalations of violence that help sustain interest when the plot gets a little muddy and minor inconsistencies threaten to distract.
Iceman - Ariel Vroman - How difficult is it to deliver an effective two-hour biopic that gives a singular thrust to its subject's entire life? Very difficult. Simpler when the subject is best known for the dozens (if not over a hundred) people he killed (mostly for money) with an astounding variety of method and a signature titular quality of remorse. Still, this film provides some worthwhile juxtaposition to the chill in Richard Kuklinski's blood by giving him some scenes of real vulnerability and large-hearted tenderness with his family. The film can't quite hold together for singular impact, but does offer numerous very worthwhile scenes that survive as short-films unto themselves deserving preservation: Kuklinski's first ordered hit, Ray Liotta deals with David Schwimmer, Chris Evans sells murder and ice cream, James Franco says a prayer, Michael Shannon reads a poem. The horror, heartbreak and absolute real-world weirdness of the elements of the story make it a worthwhile film (certainly infinitely better than the awful Carl Panzram biopic Killer: A Journal of Murder) if not a great one. I'll be interested to revisit this one in a few years and see if and how my opinion will have shifted. Plus, the film deserves recognition for the greatest, bushiest collection of porno-mustaches ever assembled. Best moment: work interferes with a family birthday.
El Infierno - Luis Estrada - Benny (Damian Alcazar) returns home to Mexico after years trying to establish a life for himself in the United States to find drug cartels violence has swallowed up everything he once knew including his younger brother who grew up to be a vicious, but celebrated killer. He takes the only job he can find following his brother's footsteps and becomes an enforcer for the local cartel, enjoying the notoriety and money even as he understands it can't end well. Several scenes of shocking violence that could have played so effectively for horror and tragedy are unfortunately emotionally blunted by a prevailing comedic dissonance - I'm not sure if the film isn't working or if I'm not getting what the goal is, but it felt like two competing films vying to own the screen... Also adding to that feeling, the epic running time. Still, had many memorable and effective sequences.
The Lady in the Car With the Glasses and a Gun - Joann Sfar - This second adaptation of the novel Sébastien Japrisot is a little sexy, kind of mysterious and has just surreally weird enough of an itchy Lynchian/DePalmian/Hitchcockian vibe to keep you thinking about it later. Deservedly or not.
Logan Lucky - Steven Soderbergh - The idea of Soderbergh coming out of feature film retirement to make another heist picture is even a joke in the script - the local news stations covering the caper dub it Ocean's 7-11 - but hey, I'll take it. To call the film slight would be accurate, but to make that a knock would be a mistake. The seeming effortless quality to the film making, and the entire on-screen enterprise itself, requires a seasoned team of professionals, but to make it breezy and enjoyable takes a lot of skill. Yeah, I wondered at points if I should be insulted by the accents and mannerisms of its cast, but ultimately though the takes on southern culture and mindsets are broad, they seem good-natured - we're supposed to get behind the heroes and enjoy the come-uppance of the bad guys - this coloring box does not come with a gray crayon. The best bits belong to Dwight Yoakam and David Denman (whose wardrobe is so spot-on it deserves Oscar consideration). And Katherine Waterston manages to make an intriguing question mark of her brief time on screen - perhaps the one character with more to reveal after the credits role.
Machete / Machete Kills - Robert Rodriguez - In the Machete movies, Danny Trejo's titular baddest ass is given missions by the President of the United States (the amazing Charlie Sheen / Carlos Estevez) and takes them on with all the gusto a 70 year old action hero is capable of (and then some). In the process he'll kill an impressive amount of people, some of them more than once, uncover multiple levels of corruption and conspiracy and still fuck around a bit with all the sexy ladies drawn to his ultra-masculine vibe. It can take a lot out of a body. Love him or hate him, you've got to give Rodriguez his due for making fast and frugal films with more imagination per frame than... most. His Hollywood outsider status is bonafide and his body of work is impressively Corman-esque. I fall on the love-him end of the spectrum, tho I'd forgive you for being weary of his schtick. He does hit the same notes over and over, and his flicks are so slight they'd float away on a stiff breeze if you didn't hold them down with something heavy. His films are very meta too. Each as much a deconstruction of genre as solid entry in said tradition. Mostly though, they're just fucking fun. Fucking hell, what more do you want?
Crime Flick Picks of the Decade: 201-250
Crime Flick Picks of the Decade 151-200
Crime Flick Picks of the Decade: 101-150
Crime Flick Picks of the Decade: 51-100
Crime Flick Picks of the Decade: 1-50