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    • crime
    • film noir
    • neo noir
    • thriller
    | Sept. 3, 2017, 4:17 p.m.
    Chinatown wasn’t the first neo-noir, but it remains the strongest. It and many other films embraced the noir by challenging its central tenets. Jake Gittes matches wits with a femme fatale, he corners the guilty man and announces the particulars of the murder, but where Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell succeeded, he failed. Blood Simple belongs to this tradition. After delivering a sage treatise on the nature of justice in Texas, M. Emmet Walsh is discovered trailing a pair of illicit lovers within the first five minutes of screen time. I think back on Bogart in The
    • comedy
    • crime
    • thriller
    | Aug. 26, 2017, 12:04 p.m.
    The white picket fences and horse ranches beckoned Sterling Hayden in the Asphalt Jungle. Salvation from the cruel grime of city life. Those picket fences and horse farms make a brief appearance in Blue Ruin. Although they show up in the middle of the feature, and instead of offering a glimpse of the promised land it’s only a brief peak at sanity. Dwight (Macon Blair) has a fresh corpse in the trunk, the second Cleland boy he’s killed since returning to his hometown to avenge the murder of his parents. The first was Wade Cleland. News of
    • action
    • crime
    • thriller
    | Jan. 30, 2018, 4:15 p.m.
    Ah... to be trapped in a decades-long crime spiral. Violence increasing every day and the authorities are powerless to prevent it. Music teacher Andrew Norris returns to teaching after a brief absence, taking a job at an inner city school. He’s shocked to find metal detectors for the students and that his fellow faculty are carrying guns for protection. It’s soon clear that violence and lawlessness are endemic in the halls. Student gangs fight for real estate to deal drugs, while coddled by feckless school administrators and ignored by police who won’t act on any crime without a witness.
    • comedy
    • crime
    | July 18, 2016, 10:33 p.m.
    The eighties were the last gasp for the Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries in the popular psyche. The airwaves were ruled by Murder She Wrote, The Father Dowling Mysteries, Matlock, and the frequent Perry Mason made-for-tv films. In 90 minutes or less, you got a victim, a murderer, and the omniscient sleuth deducing the whole sordid plot with time for a snarky closing line. What better time to torpedo the whole genre? Clue strikes at the achilles heel of Murder Mysteries: it really doesn’t matter who the killer was. Writers often confess to picking out the murderer and
    • crime
    • drama
    • pre code
    | July 25, 2016, 11:58 p.m.
    The Criminal Code released in 1931 beat the Hays Code enforcement by a good three years. Cinema in pre-code America was free to be fully amoral and give a frank assessment of modern culture. Howard Hawks always made you feel like he was getting away with something. He was an especially clever, even mischievous, filmmaker in an era where the ink hadn’t quite dried on the rules of filmmaking. His precode work displayed precious little respect for the very institutions that would be lauded without question in the decades hence. In The Criminal Code, the legal system is given
    • crime
    • neo noir
    | April 21, 2018, 4:19 p.m.
    Bill Duke directed Deep Cover as if he thought he’d never get to make another film. He adopts a number of stylish techniques; fancy wipes; and camera tricks. Every scene is an excuse to try out a new cinematic toy. Most of these fall flat, distracting rather than enhancing. At its heart Deep Cover wants to be a neo noir. Film Noir often dealt with normal people communing with the underworld. Deep Cover’s plot of a DEA undercover officer becoming seduced by the allure of drug culture isn’t too far a stretch. Duke throws in
    • crime
    | June 25, 2017, 2:28 p.m.
    It takes a great deal of effort for a production in Rome to not feature any ancient Roman buildings. All a director need do is turn the camera slightly to the right or the left and get rewarded with a shot of impressive architecture and fantastic sculpture. “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” doesn’t want to belong to Caesar, Nero, or the Borgias though. It’s Mussolini’s echoes you’re supposed to hear in the jack-wingtipped stomp of its elite civil class. In this the film goes above and beyond. So well chosen are sets and costumes that even
    • action
    • crime
    • thriller
    | May 5, 2018, 7:28 p.m.
    Every era had its superhumans. If we’re currently in the arc of the superheros, the 80’s had its impervious action heros, the mid twentieth century had its sharp shooting cowboys, and the dawning decades of the twentieth century had their master criminals and vigilantes. The Germans had Dr. Mabuse. The Americans had the Shadow. The French had their Fantomas, Lupin, and Judex. The particulars are often similar. The resourceful detective every bit the foil of the protagonist, the masked figure attacking the elite whether seeking justice or just their wealth. Judex is pure vigilante, operating in an
    • crime
    • drama
    | July 9, 2016, 1:42 a.m.
    Killing Them Softly should be a simple story. 30 minutes tops. A couple smacked out losers rob a mafia gambling ring, acting with only the faintest assurance that the game’s runner will take the heat. An enforcer’s called in, determines the guilty parties and dispatches them in efficient but gory style. This could’ve served as a one of the Godfather’s myraid tangents without tacking too much onto the running time. Call Luca Brasi. In, out, done. But times aren’t so simple. Killng them Softly is set against the onset of the financial crisis that chased
    • action
    • crime
    | May 12, 2018, 5:53 p.m.
    Two scenes best personify Johnny Mak’s “Long Arm of the Law”. In one the “O Gang” perform a hit in a crowded Hong Kong mall. They execute their mark and throw him off a skybridge. The body lands hard onto a skating rink below, and then springs into motion, darting through the crowd of skaters and ricocheting off the rink walls, a blood trail traces the trajectory of the body. Mak takes incredible glee in this sequence, using POV shots of the body separating the screaming crowd of skaters and multiple establishing shots just emphasize the full extent of
    • crime
    • low budget
    | March 9, 2017, 11:37 p.m.
    With “Massacre Mafia Style” it’s not a question of whether the gun we see in the first act will be fired in the third. The film lives up to its billing immediately. After exchanging words with a receptionist two thugs enter the office of a wheelchair-bound man. They’re plain with their intentions: gagging the man, rolling him to a restroom and using a running urinal and exposed electrical wire to finish the deed. The act concluded, the two men draw their pistols. They walk back past the receptionist and calmly shoot her through the head. They turn their attentions
    • crime
    • low budget
    • martial arts
    | Aug. 18, 2016, 11:02 p.m.
    Woo-Sang Park is an auteur on par with Ed Wood. While neither never troubled the cinema world with classics, they still were able to build up a surprising number of films before their luck ran out. IMDB lists twenty directing credits for Woo-Sang Park stretching from the early seventies to the late nineties. As Wood found out, when busking on the edges of cinema you pretty much hop from sucker to sucker, giving your patrons enough of what they want while sneaking in at least part of your vision. The sucker this time was one Y. K.
    • crime
    • low budget
    • thriller
    | Oct. 28, 2017, 9:56 p.m.
    While mute seamstress Thana (Zoe Lund) makes her way home, a burglar is breaking into her apartment. As if to reassure the audience, his fumbling through the belongings is intercut with shots of dead meat, neatly stacked in a supermarket that Thana peruses. On her way home, groceries in tow, Thana is pulled into an alley by a masked man (director Abel Ferrara, one upping Dario Argento). He slings Thana over a trash can and quickly rapes her, whispering creepy nothings in her ear. He promises they’ll see each other again as he runs off. <span
    • comedy
    • crime
    • drama
    • pre code
    | Aug. 12, 2017, 4:09 p.m.
    The synopsis for Night Nurse hangs over it like a dense fog. Certainly it reads like a candidate for the bleakest film of any era: an unproven nurse is pitted against a thug chauffeur who sees a ways to riches through starving a couple of children to death and claiming their inheritance. The thug chauffeur? None other than Clark Gable looking more like Boris Karloff’s evil twin than Rhett Butler. But Night Nurse is an incredibly balanced film, indeed duality is a major theme throughout. Even if after years of “realistic” and “gritty” features, Hollywood still hews to morals
    • crime
    • drama
    • mindfuck
    | July 1, 2017, 5:57 p.m.
    There isn’t a frame in Ploy that doesn’t feel like an intrusion. Characters are often alone and defensively silent in the frame. The camera rarely captures its subject in full. We see arms and legs, crumpled coats on disturbed sheets, but the faces and bodies often stay out of frame. Rather than panning or zooming to capture more of the scene, the camera stays static, seldomly moving from the partial compositions. The effect makes a member of the audience feel like their spying into the world of Wit and Dang through peepholes. Wit owns a restaurant in
    • crime
    • horror
    | Aug. 17, 2016, 10:31 p.m.
    Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake is a bad film, but such talent went into the production that it’s a wonder. In terms of acting, Vince Vaughn, Viggo Mortenson and Julianne Moore would all develop into top tier leading actors in the 2010s. As it’s become clear that director Van Sant has maintained a level of quality in his work, many are looking back at this film as if the awfulness was the point all along. Although I doubt the actors signed onto a project based on that deception, it’s still an interesting case study on what makes a successful
    • comedy
    • crime
    • drama
    • southern
    | May 20, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
    The James Garner con man is an archetype unto itself. Affable, flintly, always working a scheme while working just as hard to avoid physical confrontation. Garner mostly plied his trade in Westerns and Film Noirs (or their stylistic descendants), self contained worlds with little bearing on our reality. The consequences of the gunfights, car chases, duels, and card games didn’t even carry over into subsequent episodes. Maverick and Jim Rockford made a point of avoiding minefields like American race relations. Not for bad reason, either. Race and slavery remain an enormously complicated topic even in the modern
    • action
    • crime
    | Sept. 2, 2016, 9:55 p.m.
    Duane Johnson’s casting as John Matthews first comes off as a misfire. He’s an alpha male, a father, a successful blue collar business owner, who happens to look like the Rock, swagger like the Rock, and even cock his head abruptly during conversation as if to smell what is cooking. John Matthews spends the first thirty minutes of Snitch as a typical action hero waiting for glorious combat. When the feds frame his pampered son as a drug dealer, Matthews is not content to let the legal process play out. The boy faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years
    • crime
    • documentary
    | Aug. 1, 2016, 9:31 p.m.
    “The Imposter” poses a much more realistic and insidious version of that old logic question:  you’re presented with a party that will only lie, often for purely self serving and malicious ends; and another party that’s withholds the truth about a key event.  How do you determine what happened?
    • crime
    • drama
    | Feb. 25, 2018, 6:38 p.m.
    Carol Reed’s The Third Man held its central character, Harry Lime, like a privileged secret. There are no flashbacks just other characters' spoken recollections. Its a deeply nuanced route as every person is not just unreliable, but playing their own game. Their accounts of Harry Lime are at the same time selling their version of the man while sussing out the motivations of their audience. The Mask of Dimitrios, made five years prior to the Third Man shows the immediate flaws of using flashbacks to sell such a story. It was billed, and remembered, as one of Peter Lorre
    • action
    • crime
    • martial arts
    | Aug. 9, 2016, 12:17 a.m.
    Comparing a film to a video game is generally a slight made by critics who couldn’t even turn on a console. Being marked as such doesn’t mean the production set out to pay homage to video games, instead that they let their excesses overwhelm the production in terms of violence, thin characterization, or sexuality. However, what if a movie really took its cues from a genuine video game experience? The narrative frameworks that grown and evolved with the successful medium? Even the films based on game properties cherry pick pieces from their sources and graft them onto typical Syd
    • crime
    • horror
    | Sept. 24, 2017, 10:23 p.m.
    “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” chronicles the real life reign of a masked serial killer who stalked Texarkana in the days following the end of World War 2. Had the “Town that Dreaded Sundown” been released just two years later, it may have all been different. John Carpenter’s Halloween had yet to establish the slasher genre and its rules. Without this template, “Sundown” feels adrift. Part real life crime, part historical period piece, part slasher, part 70’s character driven drama. But while investing in all these themes at once, it manages to fail magnificently at the last point.
    • crime
    • mystery
    | Oct. 20, 2016, 10:48 p.m.
    There’s something about the allure of a great talent, a legitimately great talent. The people drawn to them either to worship or gawk at the novelty. Darryl Zero is such a man. The self proclaimed greatest private investigator in the world (as if there were a credible, objective, ranking) has sealed himself off from society, locked behind steel doors and computer terminals. The whole act is a dramatic act of validation. The only people who wind up in his orbit are clients must fight for his attentions with large sums of money, or Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) who handles