Saturday, May 29, 2021

Movie Books

Been reading books that were the basis of films I already enjoy lately. 

The Executioners by John D. MacDonald, basis of the films Cape Fear by J. Lee Thompson (1962) and Martin Scorsese (1991). I think I've mentioned here that MacDonald's best known creation, long-running series detective Travis McGee, wasn't so much for me upon sampling a single title. However, I was knocked sideways by his stand alone hard boiled novel Soft Touch and wanted to give more of his stand alones a go. The Executioners didn't do to me what Soft Touch did, but I found it engaging and easily readable. In the end I think Robert De Niro's Max Cady is going to be the most memorable piece from the various ways I've consumed the story. The go-big performance is a lot of fun. 

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley, basis of Carl Franklin's 1995 film of the same name. Every time I watch the movie it gets better and that includes after reading the book which is great and deserves all the attention it gets. All the genre fun you want from a period detective novel tempered by the weight of recent history and a voice that knows what's to come.

Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes, basis of the Robert Montgomery's 1947 film of the same name. My first Hughes will not be my last. I was surprised how much darker and nastier the book was compared to Montgomery's film which I already liked for its healthy cynical attitude toward the law, the wealthy and the ruling class (the film does have an optimistic turn at the end not featured in the book). Montgomery's protagonist Lucky is hardbitten, but bears less resemblance to the book's Sailor than I'd have guessed. Hughes spares no one and I like that.

Money Men by Gerald Petievich, basis of James B. Harris' film Boiling Point (1993). I'm a big fan of the under-appreciated film with its low-key approach and high production value cast and I was pleased to find its fidelity to the source material was a great decision. No fireworks here just a memorable cast of fuckups and bullshit artists on both sides of the badge - recommended for fans of George V. Higgins or Elmore Leonard

To Live & Die in L.A. by Gerald Petievich, basis of William Friedkin's 1985 film of the same name. Read this one and Petievich's Money Men in close succession and found the books to be far more similar beasts than the films. Friedkin's movie is balls to the wall action and frenetic editing and pulse-pounding soundtrack while the book is slightly more laid back in the telling - most of the action takes place off the page and is related in conversations. The ending is different too. Man, the movie's is an all-timer, but the book's got a hell of a different punch in the gut.

Cold in July by Joe R. Lansdale, basis of Jim Mickle's 2014 film of the same name. Having seen Mickle's movie first I'm biased toward the pacing and structure - I admire the way the film has strong beats that keep changing the genre at a steady clip and yeah, the story's pretty much the same in the book, but the beats aren't quite on the same pace. What the book's got more of is Lansdalian patter - more Jim Bob saying wryly outrageous stuff and all. Both are very worthwhile. 

The Hunter by Richard Stark, basis of John Boorman's 1967 film Point Blank and Brian Helgeland's 1999 film Payback. Love both Boorman's uber-stylized impressionistic Lee Marvin vehicle and Helgeland's straight-forward hardboiled take (and the harder-boiled cut Payback: Straight Up) on Donald Westlake's professional criminal Parker. The impossibly cool-headed and colder-blooded has had many onscreen versions that readers of the books seem to relish being endlessly disappointed by, but honestly I've not hated any of the movies I've seen (okay, Godard's Made in U.S.A. didn't do much for me and I still haven't caught Peter Coyote in Slayground, but I understand it's finally got a blu-ray release). I've even read a handful of the source novels, but I'd not gotten around to the original since I'd seen the adaptations and even read Darwyn Cooke's super graphic novel version and I was surprised at how much there was to still be surprised by. It's fucking wonderful. 

Rush by Kim Wozencraft, basis of Lili Fini Zanuck's 1991 film of the same name. I wasn't a big fan of the movie - thought I should be with all the elements there; cast includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jason Patric, Gregg Allman, Sam Elliot, William Sadler and Max Perlich and a script by Pete Dexter, but it didn't quite ring my bell. Man am I glad I read the book - it's terrific. It also changed the way I looked at the film, so I gave it another go after finishing the novel and what do you know, it's a lot better than I initially thought. Think my problem was coming at the material as an undercover cop thriller instead of as a drama about fucking doomed people. Book still packs a much bigger emotional punch than the movie, but the film's better than I gave it credit for.

The Anderson Tapes by Lawrence Sanders, basis of Sidney Lumet's 1971 film of the same name. The film is a bit of a curiosity - a heist picture with a surveillance state angle that felt a little tacked on and a grating Quincy Jones score full of a-tonal electronic bleeps and bloops with a splish or a wizz thrown in now and again to disorient and make the point that this brave new world of electronic tattling is really wild, man. Turns out the book is an epistolary novel entirely made up of snippets of surveillance recordings and interviews with the survivors and witnesses and in the book the surveillance stuff works cohesively in a way that it doesn't quite in the film. The book also drove home what was probably a draw for Sean Connery - the idea that organized crime was so close to 'legitimate' business anymore that a throwback outsized man with a plan caper seemed like a romantic gesture that would re-instill an appropriate level of fear/respect for the villains succeed or fail. Also, the book's got a lot more sexual politics and humor between the lines than the movie. I know some folks bristle at Martin Balsam's flamboyant performance in the movie and some of Connery's dialogue, but I think reading the book made them better - plus the movie didn't have Connery enjoying Dyan Cannon sodomizing him with an unknown object.

The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald, basis of Jack Smight's Harper (1966). My second go at an Archer novel. Can't remember which one I read first, but it didn't make an impression. I'm a big fan of the movies and I remember thinking that Paul Newman's Lew Harper felt different than Lew in the books, but the difference could very well be the me that's reading Macdonald's work now vs. fifteen years ago or the books themselves, but I liked Archer and The Moving Target just fine this time. P.I. stuff isn't my absolute favorite subgenre of crime novel, but I get people's affection for the series now. 

Report to the Commissioner by James Mills, basis of Milton Katselas' 1975 film of the same name. Another epistolary novel, but much less stilted than some of the bits in The Anderson Tapes. This one relied more heavily on interviews than surveillance tapes, so it felt closer to a George V. Higgins-esque anecdotal telling of a tale than a dry fly on the wall style telling. Amazing how close Yaphet Kotto in the movie got to walking straight off the pages of the book. I really love the movie though, I think I'd recommend it first. 

Gomorrah by Robert Saviano, basis of Matteo Garrone's 2008 film of the same name. Hugely ambitious true crime portrait of the Camorra criminal organization's operations and global impact that made me appreciate the film even more in its multi-focal approach and reductive selection. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021


Boss Level - Joe Carnahan - Time-loop scenario mixed with video game sensibility (I mean, hey, that title). Unfortunately it's all stuff we've seen before in other time loop and video game movies. This is no Groundhog Day, nor is it the Crank movies or The Raid, or Dredd even, but it is Carnahan trying hard to remember what people liked about earlier films and getting there once in a while. Frank Grillo has pretty much worn through the carpet in his well-staked-out performance comfort zone and his hair and abdomen muscles do all the work. Mel Gibson doesn't have any reason to be here and I just felt bad for Naomi Watts. This one makes Stretch look like a classic, but... I did like Stretch. This one's just okay.

LovebirdsMichael Showalter - Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae are the couple in the middle of breaking up on their way to a social engagement when they get involved in a hit and run that turns into murder and suddenly they're wanted for said murder and on the run from all kinds of scary people while they try to track down a vital bit of evidence that will... whatever. The chemistry that the leads have is all you need to make this kinda thing work. And I thought it worked great. Between this one and Stuber, Nanjiani's building a nice collection of crime comedies. 

A Night in ParadisePark Hoon-jung - Uhm Tae-goo is a gangster doing gangster shit, but he's also got a sister and a niece and interacting with them early on gives the viewer such a warm and attractive view of his humanity that it pays off in the second half of the extremely double-crossy, plot-wonky story. That bit tho - so good with the stabbing and chopping and seriously gnarly knife shit that once I lost grip on the why I was able to hold onto the who and remember how I felt about Tae-goo because he's got serious star-power. 

Riders of Justice - Anders Thomas Jensen - Mads Mikkelson is a Danish soldier who seems to spend more time in foreign wars than at home with his family. When his wife is killed in a subway tragedy he returns home to be with his teenaged daughter and finds himself woefully unequipped to deal with anything other than through violent means. When a statistician who was also on the train approaches him and explains his reasons for believing that his wife was not killed in an accident, but was collateral damage in the assassination of a gangster by his former colleagues the eponymous motorcycle gang, his life is given meaning and he and an unlikely crew of nerds set about dismantling the criminal organization with extreme prejudice. The nerds move into his country house posing as therapists from the state helping father and daughter work through their trauma. Yes, it's silly. It's a comedy. Yeah, it's bloody. It's a revenge thriller. I think it was Sean Burns who said it felt like a Danish Shane Black movie and I can see where he got that. It even takes place at Christmas.

Those Who Wish Me Dead - Taylor Sheridan - Based on a novel by Michael Koryta. Anegelina Jolie is good to watch back in action and generally I'm a fan of most of the cast (Aidan Gillen, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Tyler Perry, Tory Kittles). That kid tho - oof - and his dad - double oof - and the CGI forest fire - whoof - and if I did star rating systems I'd knock a half star off for that end titles closing song alone - woof. Started promising, but ended really depressingly poor.

Without Remorse - Stefano Sollima - Based on the novel by Tom Clancy. Man, Sollima hasn't missed yet for me. I know a lot of you weren't fans of Sicario: Day of the Soldado (also written by Taylor Sheridan), but I fuckin loved that shit because it completely stripped away any sense of good guys and bad guys and while that meant it also took emotional support for its main characters it freed them up to behave in wildly entertaining and awful (and most of all surprising) ways. With these two US intelligence/armed forces mash-up trainwrecks of foreign policy thrillers he's made movies about people operating within corrupt and evil systems learning that they're on their own and not on any side, let alone that of the angels. Of course changing Clancy's Clark character to a Michael B. Jordan (previously Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber) makes a big difference in the way 21st century audiences take it when he's betrayed by the powers he's put himself in the hands and at the disposal of. Mostly though, just terrific adventure and action set pieces - rescue missions, prison breaks, fucking badass assassinations and last-stand shootouts keep this thing rolling along and easy to watch and root for sequels.

The Woman in the Window - Joe Wright - Man, fuck that guy who wrote the book. Yeah, I read the article and he's a creep, but sure I'll watch a movie (film was already in the works when that article came out if that makes a difference to you). Yes, it's a tawdry affair, but y'know... mostly enjoyable for what it was - a 90s-ish psychological thriller. C-grade De Pama is both a fair description and also not a detractor for me. If you're going to rip off artists, rip off good ones. Keep it watchable. This was watchable and definitely not Oscar bait. 

Wrath of Man - Guy Ritchie - Based on the film Cash Truck directed by Nicolas Boukhrief and written by Boukhrief & Éric Besnard. Ritchie re-teaming with Jason Statham on a crime film was more than enough to get me in the door, but I gotta say I wouldn't have known it was a Ritchie film had I not seen the advertising. Yeah a lot of his signature is in there - comically over the tox masculinity. Ball breaking is the only way these guys communicate. And the action is cleanly staged and good to look at, but jeez, it's set in Los Angeles not London and there's no slo-mo-go-mo stuff and the pop song needle drops are kept to a minimum in favor of a (pretty good) original score. How am I to know this is Guy Ritchie? Maybe the biggest tipoff is how convoluted the grand clusterfuck actually is. Con. Vo. Lu. Ted. But it's kept fun and it gets darker and nastier (read: less overtly comic) than his previous caper films. Love to see more like this though. Fine, do another Disney movie, then please get to more hard-R crime shits, thanks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Favorite First Watches From Last Year by Decade

Since I am bad at blogging I'm making a blog post out of a twitter thread about some of my 2020 first-watch crime flick favorites by decade. Sorry I'm so behind. Because of my own prejudices and tastes there are some wild swings in quality and flavor in some of these decades. A fair amount of classics in earlier decades and heavy on trash and exploitation in others.

It's not you, it's me.

First up - favorite first watch crime movies from the 1940s. I didn't see a lot of new to me films from the decade in 2020, but these were swell.

Allotment Wives - William Nigh - Pretty sure I watched this one because I saw Eric Beetner and Christa Faust jawing about it on Twitter. That's a recommendation combo I couldn't pass up.

Criss Cross - Robert Siodmak - No excuses for not getting to this one earlier, but I finally knuckled down and watched it for a podcast appearance on Jen Johans' Watch With Jen. On the episode we discussed crime flick remakes of the 1990s (and the originals). This one was remade by Steven Soderbergh as The Underneath, but there's no beating the heat between Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo. And the ending is perfect.

Duel in the Sun - King Vidor - This one's been on my list something like fifteen years, but somehow I still wasn't prepared for how great the climax would be. There's plenty to provoke in this romantic western melodrama, but it's the breathless bloody expressions of lust in the ferocious finale that really are worth everything that came before whether you found it hokey or offensive. Never would've predicted Gregory Peck could be such a great shitweasel. Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Harry Carey, Charles Bickford and the disembodied voice of Orson Welles all add to the lush hyper-reality of the production.

The Fallen Sparrow - Richard Wallace - Another one I watched while doing homework. This time I was prepping for an appearance on The Projection Booth podcast to discuss Robert Montgomery's Ride the Pink Horse based on the Dorothy B. Hughes novel with Mike White and Carol Borden (also listen for an interview with Sarah Weinman who knows from Hughes). I watched everything I could find that had anything to do with Dorothy B. Hughes. I enjoyed John Garfield and Maureen O'Hara in this adaptation of Hughes' book about a damaged-goods veteran come home to find out who killed the policeman who helped him escape torture in a prison camp. 

Rope of Sand - William Dieterle - Burt Lancaster, Peter Lorre, Claude Raines... exotic locale, diamond smuggling, colonialism, sadism... fuckin, good fuckin shit.

Walking Hills - John Sturges - A bordertown backroom card game comes to a screeching halt when someone mentions having seen some wagon tracks in the desert that happen to line up with a local legend about a wagon full of gold swallowed up by the sand. The whole group immediately set out to find and share their fortune, but things never go well when you've got partners in a scheme to get rich. The cast of casual comrades quickly break up into factions and then fractions as everybody's story and character come under scrutiny if not quite into focus and you can bet they're not all going to walk out again. Randolph Scott leads a cast that includes Ella Raines, John Ireland, Arthur Kennedy and Edgar Buchanan

You'll perhaps note as I go on that I'm heavy on westerns for while. Reasons for this... I've never been a big western guy, so outside of John Wayne stuff that seemed to always be on TV when I was a kid (and ran together in my mind) I didn't really "find" westerns till late. So as I continue to look for new-to-me crime films I find rich veins of unexplored material in there. Also they just made a hell of a lot of them in decades past. And I've purchased some sweet DVD box sets of westerns recently. Finding some good stuff inside.

Favorite first watches from the 50s (listed alphabetically). Hey look, more westerns! And jeez, some heavy hitters among the film makers and reputations. 

Bad Day at Black Rock - John Sturges - Yeah yeah yeah, you all told me it was great and I took a long time to get around to it and nobody needs me to tell them it's great, but it's great. First that cast: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Second it's sturdy as hell and just moves right along. We get a fleshed out story with dramatic arcs and everything in just 80 minutes. Plus, it's shot sharp and feels big. Yeah yeah yeah it's great.

Day of the Outlaw - André De Toth - Easily the pick of the bunch. This sharp, stylish and deeply moody western about humanity and morality recognizing neither culture nor law resonates far beyond the runtime, frames' edge and performances. It's lovely to look at and chilling to behold. Robert Ryan and Burl Ives do the heavy lifting. Would make a great double or triple feature of handsome snow-bound westerns with The Great Silence or The Hateful Eight.

Guilty Bystander - Joseph Lerner - Saw this one for free on Nicolas Winding Refn's site (you can too). Like a lot of the stuff on the site it's been nearly lost to time. Glad it's been dusted off and given another platform. 

House By the River - Fritz Lang - Nasty little noirgget of sexual obsession, fraternal jealousy and class.

Man of the West - Anthony Mann - Gary Cooper, Julie London and Arthur O'Connell are strangers stranded in the wilderness in the aftermath of a train robbery. When they stumble upon the desperadoes counting the loot their odds of survival get even longer. But Coop's got a history with the outlaws, one that he'll have to go back to to get any of them out alive. It starts off a little goofy, but it's just an act to put the audience off balance so that the slow peeling of layers on Cooper's former and not-so-former bad-man status really lands hard. I can hear Tony Soprano lamenting 21st century masculinity from here.

3:10 to Yuma - Delmer Daves (1957) - Glenn Ford and Van Hefflin are a great pair as the outlaw and ordinary citizen charged with getting him on the titular train - they get to know each other over the course of a couple of days with the bad man's gang in pursuit. Tense, turse, bromantic drama from Elmore Leonard source material. Still surprised that neither adaptation of the short story used Leonard's terrific ending though.

Mise à sac - Alain Cavalier - Michel Constantin plays Georges, the Parker role, in this adaptation of Richard Stark's The Score. The job this time around is an entire small mining town in badlands middle America including a couple of banks and retailers and will mean incapacitating police and all of the town's communications on top of the usual concerns of safes and security. The extra ambitious nature of the heist in this story, with the larger than usual team and multiple moving parts, is nicely juxtaposed by the stripped down simplicity of the film's approach. No high-energy editing, score or flamboyance in performances, just straight-forward procedural thievery and the character moments at the end add an unexpected emotional element to the finale. 

The Professionals - Richard Brooks (1966) - Holy hell, I wish I'd sought this one out earlier. Handful of these last-job-of-aging-mercs-and-thieves westerns that I love and that stand apart and superior to The Magnificent Seven heroic stories for my money. This one fills the gap between The Wild Bunch's nihilism and the uh slightly cornier aspects of Vera Cruz and seems to have H-I-T writ all over it. No idea how it was originally received, and I know several folks who love it, but I'm genuinely surprised I've not heard it listed as one of the all-time favorite westerns of more folks. Seems like a no-brainer to me based on the cast alone: Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster,  Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance and Claudia Cardinale.

Time to Die - Arturo Ripstein - Oh man, one of my favorite subgenres (man out of prison) gets a great new to me entry here. Written by Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez from a Márquez story, Jorge Martínez de Hoyos is Juan, the just-released convicted killer come back to town and trying to pick up where he left off with the woman he loved eighteen years ago. In the meantime she married, had a kid and is widowed and unsure what to do about her complicated feelings for Juan. Most people seem happy to see Juan again, seems like he was generally well-liked, but the wealthy sons of his victim have sworn vengeance for their father and hound him at every turn trying to incite him to fight. The older son is driven by honor and rage to avenge his father and the younger brother, having met Juan on his way into town before knowing who he was, is somewhat less eager to kill him. Will Juan be allowed to live in peace or will he once again be driven to violence? Terrific Mexican melodrama I was entirely absorbed by.

Topkapi - Jules Dassin (1964) - Huge fan of Dassin's noirs, but he did other good work, like this comic caper, too. This one's no Rififi, but it's got a hell of a heist sequence that was clearly an influence on future films from Mission Impossible to Ocean's 11. My favorite bit though is the wonderful hundred muscle-bound dudes slathering each other with oil to wrestle in the arena. A hoot was had watching the entire crowd get very very horny, but WTF with sticking your arm down your opponent's pants, how is that not illegal?

Violent Four - Carlo Lizzani (1968) - Went through another round of crossing poliziotteschi off my to-see list and after a couple dozen samples the bloom's coming a bit off the rose now. I very much enjoyed Mike Malloy's Eurocrime documentary and was a little flabbergasted to learn the sheer volume of the crime pictures cranked out in such a brief time and naturally the overlap between pictures breeds a little contempt, but this nasty little picture from the beginning of the movement is a good example of why it was such a popular one.

The 70s though... holy moly did I have a good year for first watches there...

I'll break these down a bit
The westerns:

The Hunting Party
is ugly and trying to be - an exploration of misogyny. It's not aged well, but it has aged um...fascinatingly? Who thought it was a good idea? Anyway, it's super violent and rape-y, but Gene Hackman, Oliver Reed and Candice Bergen are there. 

The biggest surprise was the Charles Bronson/Jill Ireland romantic twister From Noon Till Three - another one whose sexual attitudes don't really go over well in 2021, but if you can get past the set up, the payoff is tremendous. Like holy shit, great. Did not see it coming. You should see it. 

was another beautiful loser turn from Stacy Keach - this time as Doc Holiday to Harris Yulin's Wyatt Earp and Faye Dunaway's Kate Elder. Not at all what I'd expect from a Doc Holiday movie, but definitely what I'd expect from Fat City-era Keach. Dug this odd ball western.

Keach was a decidedly not beautiful loser in the late Michael Apted's The Squeeze, one of a quartet of nasty British crime flicks I enjoyed last year. 

The Black Panther and 10 Rillington Place are both based on true crime stories. Panther relying on minimalism and effectively dank atmospherics, while the performances from Richard Attenborough and John Hurt carried the story of killer John Christie

But Sidney Lumet directing Sean Connery in The Offence used that star power to drive the anti-Dirty Harry film to pretty powerful emotional territory. Never seen Connery's physicality used so effectively

The Offence is also one of several potent problems with police institution pictures in this group - but Report to the Commissioner, The Spook Who Sat by the Door and Top of the Heap focus brilliantly and boldly on race in America. Incredible to think that Top of the Heap is the only scripted feature from writer/director Christopher St. John. Likewise writer/director Ivan Dixon got a mere two features out but made them count with The Spook Who Sat by the Door and the really terrific and fun Trouble Man.

Those were thoughtful, serious (even when fun) works from black film makers, but a couple from Arthur Marks sure do qualify as blaxsploitation. I dug Bucktown and J.D.'S Revenge.

Like westerns, I don't know gialli very well and I frequently find them hard to stick with - the pacing, the performance style and often the score make them pretty distinct and sometimes not for me, but when they're trashy, splashy, gory and groovy I can be swept up just fine. I enjoyed Torso and Strip Nude For Your Killer more than most

Favorite first-watches from the 80s - everything in this group is exploitation or just super stylish trash. Never a dull moment though. Low brow high concept entertainment value - if you can't make it 'good', make it weird or big... over the top

Some more of the same in the 90s (Dobermann, Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trick Baby, Shark Skin Man & Peach Hip Girl), but very impressed with the grimy gringo noir La Cucaracha, the surreal Perfect Blue and the amazing cast of Hand Gun.

My favorite first-watches of the 00s are all over the place from the extreme-sports bank robbing crew of Riders to the teeny-bopper Hictchock riffing of Disturbia. The strange Chinese translation of the Coens' Blood Simple (A Woman, a Gun & a Noodle Shop) and a surprisingly winning buddy comedy outing with Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn. Going through some unseen pictures from filmmakers who died in 2020 I absolutely flipped for Stuart Gordon's grimy noir King of the Ants and found Joel Schumacher's Veronica Guerin a sturdy and uncharacteristically frill-free biopic while enjoying the low key pleasures of Paul Newman and Linda Fiorentino in Where the Money Is and the cool aloofness of Tom Tykwer's The International against the splashy style of City of Violence and pulp operatics of Jesse V. Johnson's The Butcher.

From the 2010s I didn't choose any that were eligible for consideration for my favorites of the year (english language stuff from 2019/2020 - or foreign language stuff from 2018 or newer).

Les Ardennes
- Robin Pront - A good/bad son story complicated by a love triangle and some deep, dark backwood gangster shit set at Christmas time for bonus atmosphere and bleakness. 

Alex van Warmerdam - A few years before Parasite won best picture this spooky-ass fable of otherness from beneath subsuming upper-middle-class reality was out there waiting to be discovered and to give you waking, walking nightmares. Fucking fantastic.

Empathy Inc.
- Yedidya Gorsetman - Cool little sci-fi crime/horror thriller with a social message way out front and honestly a little in the way... at first. But hang with this one and see if it doesn't deliver some legit thrills in the back half. Kinda like a mumblecore version of Strange Days.

The Foreigner
- Martin Campbell - Jackie Chan is the titular character intent on getting justice for his daughter killed in a terrorist bombing in London. Frustrated by the lack of progress the Scotland Yard investigation is making, he takes it upon himself to find the Irish Nationalist group who've claimed responsibility and exact his revenge. Pierce Brosnan plays a politician and outspoken former IRA member who may be linked to the group. Both Brosnan's and Chan's characters' pasts are going to catch up to them. Based on Stephen Leather's novel The Chinaman I remember when this one came out thinking that grim Jackie Chan wasn't really a thing I was interested in, but it popped up on Netflix and I'm so glad I gave it a go. I'd recommend you do too.

- Gerard Johnson - Nothing flashy about this one, but an appreciably accurate eye for grubby detail is behind this dirty copper period thriller set somewhere beyond morality and survival where perish and thrive are the choices. Nowhere near as bleak a downer as Johnson's serial killer portrait, Tony (also starring Peter Ferdinando), but if you saw that one you'll have a notion of what to expect. MVPs Stephen Nash and Neil Maskell add serious value to the proceedings the way they always do.

- Sterlin Harjo - Another man out of prison tale, this time it's Rod Rondeaux as the convicted killer released to the streets of Tulsa nineteen years after his crime. It's a sad, slow, large-hearted, heartbreaker of a portrait of down and out street dwelling among the overlooked, a beautiful losers story unique for its largely American Indian cast and bleakly beautiful midwest setting.

Once Upon a Time in Venice
- Mark Cullen, Robb Cullen - Bruce Willis comes out of his coma to play a Venice Beach private detective trying to get his dog back from gangsters who've stolen him for reasons. This is ultra-light-weight, breezy tough-guy stuff that has plenty of room for the groans to be lost among the laughs. It's dumb, so, so very dumb, but a lot of fun and Willis is a big part of the fun - bedding women a third of his age, skateboarding naked, pratfalling, one-liner-ing and smirking like he used to. It won't fill that Terriers-was-cancelled-sized hole in your heart, but it feels like it's trying to. Supporting cast includes Jason Momoa, John Goodman, Thomas Middleditch, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Röhm, Adam Goldberg, Wood Harris, Emily Robinson and Kal Penn.

Revenge For Jolly!
- Chad Harbold - Brian Petsos plays Harry, a deadbeat criminal who indulges in one last night of blackout drinking with his cousin Cecil (Oscar Isaac) before leaving town in lieu of paying with broken bones a debt he can't cover in cash. It was one bad choice too many though and he returns home to collect his dog Jolly before hitting the road only to find that his pet has been killed by people looking for him. Harry and Cecil then embark on an investigation and quest for justice that leaves many, many people of varying degrees of culpability equally fucking murdered in this darkly comic and deadpan revenge story that predates both films, but feels like John Wick by way of The Greasy Strangler. I really, really enjoyed it. Killer cast includes Kristen Wiig, Elijah Wood, Adam Brody, Ryan Phillippe, Garret Dillahunt, Amy Seimetz, Kevin Corrigan, Gillian Jacobs, Jayne Atkinson and Bobby Moynihan.

- Adam Leon - This low stakes romantic shaggy-dog of a crime oddyssey through New York City stars Callum Turner as a reluctant participant in a criminal transaction of an unknown nature. He's trying to do his incarcerated brother a solid by taking a package and delivering it to someone else, but things go wrong pretty quick and he finds himself partnered with Grace Van Patten chasing the misplaced goods around the city. There's a series of unanticipated complications and crises that test their wits and guts and the bonds of their new relationship. I was charmed and disarmed by this one that plays like a rom-com version of the Safdies' Good Time.