Friday, November 26, 2021

Noir Friday

Black Coal, Thin Ice - Diao Yi’nan - Parts of a dismembered body are discovered inside a coal shipment and the investigation ends in a sudden, horrific bloodbath that leads Liao Fan's detective to retire. Five years into a new career as a half-assed private dick and full time drunk another killing with the same weirdly-specific M.O. has him looking into the murders with new ideas. The hoops this one jumps through plot-wise are maybe a twist too-far, but it's an effectively moody mystery with at least three memorable scenes. The aforementioned bloodbath is a wonderful set-piece that comes out of nowhere - a routine investigation scene jumps sideways - it's messy, brutal and shockingly funny, a character has his motorcycle stolen in another vignette of inverted expectations and the use of ice skates as a murder weapon is surprisingly effective. The filmmakers know their genre tropes and have fun playing with expectations all the way through while sticking to them faithfully, it's exactly the kind of measured, skillfully executed mystery film that I can enjoy without feeling like an asshole afterward.

Black Dahlia - Brian De Palma - This film was understandably a big disappointment for fans of the superior source novel by James Ellroy about two cops embroiled in a lot more muck than the murder of Elizabeth Short, but for fans of De Palma and stylish style and handsome style and stylized violence and set pieces I still think it's underrated. Your favorite De Palma shit is represented: voyeurism, leering cameras, secret sexual obsessions, doubles, handsomely lit staircases, bright splashes of blood, slo-motion tumble over a precipice... Look, but don't touch and don't be caught looking and don't always listen - it's a look party and you're a looker.

Black '47 - Lance Daly - In this fucking grim famine drama James Frecheville plays an Irish ranger returned home from fighting the empire's wars to find his kith and kin facing eviction on top of starvation - their homes systematically destroyed rather than shelter them as soon as they can no longer afford to pay live in them and the meager crops being shipped away to their land lords and sovereigns. An entirely legal all-out war on the poor is being waged and with approximately zero hesitation the former soldier turns his formidable murderous skills to the private sector turning his weaponry against the same oppressors that taught them to him and taught him it was his duty to use them for their purpose. Sent after the rogue ranger is Hugo Weaving's conflicted, disgraced and condemned detective who once fought alongside his quarry. Strains of First Blood, The Proposition and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid run through, the violence is up close and personal and the supporting cast is top notch to boot (Jim Broadbent, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene). 

Black Rain - Ridley Scott - Two American cops (Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia) burdened with the task of delivering an extradited Japanese prisoner home, promptly lose their charge upon arrival and take it personally and insist upon sticking around and making big, ugly American pains in the asses of themselves until they have the satisfaction that the baddy is visited by justice. Douglas as a cop really should be its own movie genre - always surly, always named Nick, or Vic or Rick, ridiculously coiffed and aftershave so strong you can smell it from the screen. Visually amazing, babe.

Black Sea - Kevin McDonald - A dirty dozen of out of work sailors put together a crew in a hurry to recover Nazi gold from the bottom of the ocean under the nose of various world governments. It's a dangerous, dirty job, but the recovery is the least of their problems - once recovered, can they survive each other? Great cast - Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy and Michael Smiley and a crew of 'that guy' faces. Great premise. Great looking small-scale, large-scale adventure/thriller. I want more. 

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