Thursday, December 27, 2012

Honorable Mentions 2012

Preparing my list of favorite crime films of the year, and found slots seven through thirteen, or so, really nebulous and probably prone to change... daily. So, here're slots eleven to twenty (in alphabetical order) of the flicks I saw in 2012 (not necessarily from the year, but not more than a couple years old).  

Argo - Ben Affleck (2012) You've seen the trailer, right? Then you know the whole story. So, how is it that Argo is such an effective thriller? Technical proficiency, I suppose - though that sounds like a back-handed compliment, and I don't mean for it to. Great staging of true-ish, stranger than fiction events make Affleck three for three as a maker of successful - you won't hate yourself later - fastball down the middle adult popcorn fare. A great cast never hurts either.

Bernie - Richard Linklater (2012) You've seen the trailer for this one, too, huh? Yeah, it's another true story with the whole plot offered up in the advertising, but what makes Bernie so worth watching is the performance from Jack Black. Such a soulful, restrained turn as the enigmatic con-man? (Gigilo? Man-child? Conniver?) Killer. Whether he's out for the money the whole time or really the salt of the earth pushed too far, Bernie is one of the most memorable and complex characters of the year, and Black's rendering ought to win him some major recognition.

Get the Gringo - Adrian Grunberg (2012) Or, Payback 2, as it was probably pitched, works and fails for the same reasons its spiritual parent did. It's Mel Gibson being a scumbag who we align ourselves with because he's smarter, tougher and more up-front about his corruptibility than the other scumbags in the picture. Going for it: Gibson, who could do this schtick in his sleep (and may actually be unconscious throughout),  as the unapologetic hardboiled asshole, and the outrageously corrupt and scary world created (the prison where most of the film's action is set reminded me of nothing so much as Pablo Escobar's detention center - you know, the one he built himself). Working against it: the voice-over insistent on underscoring the humor, and making the character a teddy-bear deep-down after all.

The Guard - John Michael McDonagh (2011) Those McDonagh brothers know how to use Brendan Gleeson, I'll say that. He's rude, crude, semi-corrupt and very effective in his work, and when he's teamed with a straight-laced feeb from the States to investigate an international smuggling ring, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a racially updated remake of 48 Hours, but you'd be mistaken. It's so much more. And less. Unexpected and understated, performance, pacing and tone keep this one from resembling anything else it happens to look like on the surface.

The Last Circus - Alex de la Iglesia (2010) How much is too much? No such thing, apparently. When the first five minutes of a film offer you a frenzied fat man in drag and clown make-up slashing his way through the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, you've got to wonder what it's going to produce for a finale. And you owe it to yourself to find out.

Lawless - John Hillcoat (2012) Expectations working against it, Exhibit A. Had director Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave given us this one before The Proposition, it might've fared better in my eyes. Compared to The Proposition, it's kind of an over-cooked mess, but compared to ninety percent of crime dramas out there, it stands tall. Lots of great period detail, several off the action-flick playbooks moments and a continued Hillcoat/Cave tradition of never giving us an instance of casual onscreen violence (you'll feel every physical violation) make it worth catching up with.
Martha Marcy May Marlene - Sean Durkin (2011) Haunting and dreadful, poetic and pleasing, the story of a young woman (where exactly does it register on the creepy old guy scale if I refer to Elizabeth Olsen as the twins' hotter younger sister?) escaped, and possibly on the run, from a cult led by the much higher than me on the creepy old guy scale John Hawkes. Black and white it's not, and the questions raised in the film's final shot are as intriguing and important as any it answered beforehand - ambiguity used well. Can't wait to see what Durkin does next.

Point Blank - Fred Cavaye (2010) Nothing going on here except first-rate thriller film-making. Doesn't waste a minute, and wrings every ounce of potential tension out of the unraveling plot. A great just-go-with-it chase flick that could teach its high-budget competition a lot about celluloid excitement-making.

Safe House - Daniel Espinosa (2012) I swear I thought this was a Tony Scott flick until the credits rolled. The combination of material, technique and Denzel Washington made it a no-brainer, but lo, it was not after all Scott's swan-song - but what a worthy picture to have worn the mantle. Again, nothing new in plot or character or nuance, just a really solid action film.

Savages - Oliver Stone (2012) Expectations working against it, Exhibit B. Because the book, man. The book really is so much better than the movie, it's hard not to be disappointed. Still, Savages is a good crime flick - going unexpected places and ringing the big obvious bells with gusto (man, those cartel torture sequences are horrific).  Had one of the best scenes of the year - the convoy heist is tits, (also Benicio Del Toro and Shea Whigham's scene is great) - and one of the worst - those last few minutes are a big wet blanket tossed on my (not so) happy ending boner.


teddy bears said...
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David Cranmer said...

So many films I missed this year. And I think I'm going to start with Lawless. Hearing good word of mouth about that one.