"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Ambulance (2022)

Monday, April 18th, 2022

Over my [redacted] years of writing about movies, my relationship with the works of Michael Bay has evolved. It’s fair to say I once held hatred in my heart for them. I think I thought BAD BOYS was so-so when it first came to video (have not revisited – should I?) but THE ROCK, ARMAGEDDON and TRANSFORMERS 1 and 2 were some of the top offenders that sent me on a crusade against incomprehensible action back in the day. BAD BOYS 2 at least impressed me with its unprecedented levels of excess and aggression toward humanity, but I was young and full of hot air and worried that all movies were gonna start being hard to look at like that. Although that doesn’t stress me anymore, those movies still don’t appeal to me.

But since then I’ve watched each of Bay’s movies with more of a sense of humor about how unhinged they are, and thankfully his action has become less of a smear. The TRANSFORMERSes kinda blur together in my mind (as on screen), but checking my reviews I see it was the fourth one where he first showed he could do them with clean action. I gave it a rare 4.5 out of 5 ACR (Action Comprehensability Rating)! And I noted in my PAIN & GAIN review that having a mid-sized budget where he had to plan what shots he needed instead of shooting a giant pile of footage and chopping it into salad was a blessing. I would say the same of 13 HOURS. Finally, 6 UNDERGROUND is maybe his most entertaining mix of outlandish stupidity and incredible action spectacle. So I’ve been feeling positive about him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ambulance (2005)

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

When I realized the upcoming Michael Bay joint AMBULANCE was a remake of a 2005 Danish movie, I figured that meant it was probly a pretty good high concept film. The last time Jake Gyllenhaal starred in a remake of a limited location foreign language film it was THE GUILTY, which I had really enjoyed. So I rented an import DVD of AMBULANCE (Ambulancen), and it fulfilled my hopes.

I actually think the Bay movie looks potentially good, and it’s obviously gonna be very different – way bigger, way more expensive, way more pretty, way more complicated, way more blowing hot air about our great military heroes and what not. Seeing the elegant economy of this one actual makes the remake trailer seem more laughable… of fucking course they saw this and said “How can we get the War on Terror in here?” (If not “How do we get them out of this ambulance?”)

But that’s fine. However that one turns out, I’m glad it led to me to this really solid movie that uses simplicity to its great advantage. It doesn’t have to be epic to be a total rush. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nightmare Alley (2021)

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

“Folks here, they don’t make no never mind who you are or what you done.”


The first shot in Guillermo Del Toro’s Depression-era noir movie NIGHTMARE ALLEY is of Bradley Cooper dragging a wrapped-up corpse into frame. It reminded me of the teaser trailer for THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 (2007). That was not a good movie, but it was a great teaser, so when a best picture nominee reminds me of it, that’s pretty impressive. If BELFAST or THE POWER OF THE DOG started out like the legendary Lady in the Lake teaser for LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III they would move up a notch for me, personally.

Cooper’s character Stan is inside a small house in disrepair, and he drops the body into a hole in the floorboards, puts on his coat and hat, takes a moment to contemplate and light a cigarette, sets the place on fire and leaves. If anybody walked into the movie exactly two minutes and saw him on a bus out of town they probly spent a good chunk of the movie thinking he was a good ol’ salt of the earth everyman trying to survive day-to-day through hard, humble work. The rest of us had to watch him very unsettled, wondering what he’s up to, questioning the sincerity of everything he says or does. ‘Cause you can never fully trust a corpse dragger. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alphabet City

Wednesday, February 9th, 2022

ALPHABET CITY is a unique, stylish little 1984 crime drama directed by Amos Poe, a New York City legend best known for co-directing the 1976 punk documentary THE BLANK GENERATION. This one’s only about 70% story and 30% ambience, but I kind of loved that about it.

It stars Vincent Spano (already in OVER THE EDGE, THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS and RUMBLE FISH, but still very young) as Johnny, a hot shot drug dealer who zooms around in a white Trans-Am (25th Anniversary Daytona 500 Edition according to Wikipedia) lording over the small area of the East Village named after its Avenues A through D. His license plate says “CHUNGA,” and I don’t know what it means, but it’s also his password when he knocks on the door at the crackhouse. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fear City

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

FEAR CITY is a 1984 crime movie by Abel Ferrara, his followup to MS. 45 and prelude to the TV movie THE GLADIATOR. This one has that sleazy Ferrara New York City, but compared to MS. 45 it seems pretty normal and commercial, getting him ready for those TV gigs.

Tom Berenger (between EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS and RUSTLERS’ RHAPSODY) plays Matt Rossi, well known and liked for his days as a boxer (before he killed a guy in the ring), now running Starlite Talent Agency in Manhattan with his buddy Nicky Parzeno (Jack Scalia, right after AMAZONS). That means booking the strip clubs in the neighborhood, basically. They do the rounds at the clubs and everybody’s treating him like a V.I.P. or an old friend, smiling or saying “hi, baby” when he shows up. And he’s Tom Berenger so he’s fucking cool.

He’s troubled, though. One of those guys who likes to go out to some spot on the shore where there’s nobody else around and just look across. Day or night, doesn’t matter, the man likes to brood with good scenery. And he has flashbacks about the fateful boxing match. It really changed him. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Simple Plan

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

“You work for the American dream. You don’t steal it.”
“This is even better.”

A SIMPLE PLAN is the first Sam Raimi movie not to be easily recognizable as a Sam Raimi movie. It even has a Danny Elfman score that’s not recognizable as a Danny Elfman score. It’s a grim, uncomfortable neo-noir, stylistically subdued, what little humor it has dry enough that it likely doesn’t register with everybody. If anything, it seems most akin to BLOOD SIMPLE by Raimi’s former roommates/CRIMEWAVE co-writers/DARKMAN cameo-ers the Coen Brothers, transplanted to a snowy Minnesota environment more like FARGO.

Like THE QUICK AND THE DEAD it was a for-hire project, but this time he didn’t want it to feel like any of his other movies. He and cinematographer Alar Kivilo (THE LOOKOUT) agreed that the camerawork should be simple, “invisible,” basically the opposite of what everyone loves about his earlier films. I don’t advocate doing that all the time, or even often, or honestly ever again, but here it definitely works for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Perdita Durango

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

Twenty years ago when I was an enthusiastic but not that good internet movie reviewer I wrote a column called “I have seen the future of Badass pictures,” because I had seen THE DAY OF THE BEAST (1995) and PERDITA DURANGO (1997), the second and third films of Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. Although the director hasn’t quite become a household name here in the intervening years, he has made many interesting films, of which I’ve reviewed 800 BULLETS (2002), FERPECT CRIME (2004) and THE LAST CIRCUS (2010). He’s still going strong, for example I’ve heard good things about his recent TV show 30 Coins.

For the holidays I rewatched the Christmas-Eve-set THE DAY OF THE BEAST (it held up – I wrote about it a little bit on Letterboxd) and I’d been meaning to revisit PERDITA DURANGO for quite some time. Reviewing Javier Bardem’s first English language movie, where he plays a human-sacrificing psycho who looks like this…


…as a followup to his more Oscar-baity turn in BEING THE RICARDOS is the sort of thing that amuses me, so I pulled the trigger.

PERDITA DURANGO is based on a 1992 book called 59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango by Barry Gifford (who co-wrote the script with de la Iglesia and two others). It’s part 3 in the Sailor and Lula series, part 1 being the basis of WILD AT HEART. (Isabella Rossellini played Perdita in David Lynch’s movie.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Copshop

Monday, December 20th, 2021

COPSHOP is the latest smart-alecky, artfully lowbrow violencefest from director Joe Carnahan (rewriting a script credited to Canadian financial advisor Kurt McLeod, story by Mark Williams [HONEST THIEF]). I tend to like Carnahan’s work more than dislike it, and I like that he seems to have settled on Frank Grillo (THE GREY) as his main guy and gotten a little better grip on the collar of that SMOKIN’ ACES chaos he likes to set loose. In both this and last year’s time-loop movie BOSS LEVEL Carnahan has found a good balance between the macho rowdiness, the cleverness and touches of sentimentality, and given Grillo a good sleazy-likable-asshole-antihero-fuckup to play.

I guess he’s more anti and less hero in this one. It’s clearly a modern western, and if it’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY he sure ain’t the good. But his main motivation throughout the movie is to warn his ex-wife and daughter that they’re in danger, so how could we completely hate him? He plays Teddy Murretto, a Vegas (or Reno?) fixer on the run with a bag of something valuable. On foot with time running out, enemies closing in and nowhere to go, he punches a random cop so that he can hide out in a jail cell. (read the rest of this shit…)

Good to Go a.k.a. Short Fuse

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

“They’ve got a sound that the world is gonna love. The world.”

For many years I was aware that there was an old ‘80s movie released on VHS called SHORT FUSE starring Art Garfunkel. Because of that tough sounding title I figured it was some kind of WALKING TALL or DEATH WISH type shit where Art Garfunkel had a short fuse and some motherfucker made the mistake of lighting it. And then Art Garfunkel went off faster than expected on account of his fuse’s shortness.

Then Mr. Subtlety told me I should check out this movie called GOOD TO GO “a deliberate attempt to make a Go-Go version of THE HARDER THEY COME, with a bunch of local artists playing themselves,” which he noted was called SHORT FUSE on video and had Garfunkel in it. He knew I was into funk, and go-go is a related subgenre I could theoretically be into.

I was intrigued, but then kinda forgot about it until I was record shopping and bought the GOOD TO GO soundtrack because it was cheap and had Trouble Funk and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers on it. And then I saw Art Garfunkel on the back and could tell from the picture that this was a guy with a really short fuse. (read the rest of this shit…)

Danger: Diabolik

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK stars John Phillip Law, who to me will always be Pygar, the blind angel of love from BARBARELLA. This one came out earlier the same year, 1968, and kinda seems like BARBARELLA’s evil crime movie cousin. It is in fact another Dino De Laurentiis international co-production based on a comic book, and reportedly uses some of the same sets (though I’m not sure which ones). It feels very much like a super hero movie at the beginning: we hear police talking about Law’s character Diabolik as some kind of legendary figure, he first appears in a long black car (Jaguar, not Batmobile), he shows up in a mask, does his thing, makes an escape to a secret entrance to an amazing hidden base inside a cave. But this guy is no super hero, he’s just a thief with a whole lot of flair.

Police Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE) is determined to not let Diabolik steal the $10 million that needs to be transported, going out of his way to deliver decoy money and send the real shipment in a Rolls-Royce with cops disguised as diplomats. But that car finds itself engulfed in plumes of multi-colored smoke and then lifted up by a crane operated by by Diabolik. The camera zooms in on him for a diabolical laugh when the title comes up. (read the rest of this shit…)