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Crime/Heist

crime, con artist, heist, grifter

Sparrow (Man jeuk)

dir: Johnnie To
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Hong Kong director Johnnie To has made so many films that saying something like “and so I’m going to review the latest film by Johnnie To” is a pointless endeavour, because by the time you’ve finished writing the review, he’s put out another film.

At the very least I can say this is a recent film of his, and that I managed to catch it as part of a retrospective in honour of the great man that played recently at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Apparently he even came out to Australia for it, which is pretty sensational. He was probably pissed off that he couldn’t smoke in the theatre, if I can hazard a guess based on anecdote and on most of his films, in which every single goddamn character has to smoke constantly.

Of course even a fairly knowledgeable film watcher / movie goer would be saying to themselves, “yeah, and who the fuck is Johnnie To anyway, and why should I care?” And right you are.

It doesn’t matter. He is a good Hong Kong director who has made a string of decent movies. Sparrow is his latest, is a very good film, and I would even call it a significant departure for the director if his career wasn’t already littered with examples of genre-ignoring endeavours on his part.

Rating:

In Bruges

dir: Martin McDonough
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It’s not often that I am completely ignorant of a film’s content or worth prior to checking it out, but I can honestly say that I knew nothing about In Bruges, Bruges or director Martin McDonough before watching this flick.

Sure, I’d heard that it was an okay film, but I had no practical knowledge of what would transpire when I watched it. And that’s a good thing.

Two criminals, Ray (Colin Farell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are forced by their boss Harry (Ralph Feinnes) to take a little trip to a medieval town in Belgium called Bruges. We don’t know why for the film’s first half hour at least.

Ken finds the town beautiful, and is excited about doing some sightseeing. Ray is jittery, and acts like a reluctant five-year-old boy being dragged to cultural sights and delights that he couldn’t possibly give a toss about. Ken and Ray seem to have that snippy, comfortable relationship of people who’ve known each other long enough to know how far to go before pulling back, what, with the constant insults and sharing of drugs.

Rating:

21

dir: Robert Luketic
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Love films about gambling. Can’t get enough of Vegas films about high stakes gambling. Having an addictive personality myself, and having the tenuous self-control to be able to completely stay away from any forms of gambling simply because I know how all consuming they would be for me, I get to live vicariously through these kinds of flicks.

But 21 isn’t like Rounders, Lucky Me, The Hustler, Let it Ride, Owning Mahoney or the recent biopic High Roller about Stu “The Kid” Unger. It’s not about a person or people good at gambling risking everything to win a hefty pot o’ gold at the end of a compulsive / obsessive rainbow. 21, based on a book about these MIT math nerds who made good, is about some students who figured out a way to beat the house at its own game with both counting cards and a system to exploit it.

The risk, or the danger, here, is not losing everything through the vagaries of chance or being outplayed or through losing the battle with one’s own demons. It’s being crushed by the people Vegas casinos hire to ensure card counters, who aren’t doing anything illegal, don’t beat the house at its own game.

Rating:

Street Kings

dir: David Ayer
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For my money, any film based on a screenplay that James Ellroy worked on is necessary watching. Obligatory watching. It would be a crime not to.

Now that I think about this a bit more, I start to wonder why this should be the case. Sure, LA Confidential did all right, and I really liked Dark Blue. But Black Dahlia is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t really Ellroy’s fault: we can parcel out the blame to superhack Brian DePalma, Josh Hartnett’s beady little eyes and complete inability to act and a whole host of bad actors looking foolish and acting worse.

Then again, since it was a pretty ludicrous story, maybe it was Ellroy’s fault. For all the gritty crime writing he’s been responsible for, he also, like Stephen King, had a long period of time working fuelled by stimulants, whereby both have written lots of stuff neither remembers writing at all. And it shows, if you know the respective time periods involved.

He remains, though, someone I very much respect in the field of crime writing. I’m not sure how well his work meshes with the world of David Ayer, whose script for Training Day trod a very Ellroyesque path of very corrupt cops doing very corrupt things, but it would seem to be a natural fit.

Rating:

Bank Job, The

dir: Roger Donaldson
[img_assist|nid=90|title=The Bank Job|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=475]
I loves me a good heist movie, I does. Big fan of heist movies. Probably one of my favourite genres, since my tolerance for vampire movies, zombie movies and Merchant Ivory productions has waned.

Who am I kidding, I still love that lace doily, maiden aunt with scones Merchant Ivory shit.

The Bank Job, you might think, is something of a heist movie. But it has the added bonus of allegedly being based on a true story. As well!

As far as I’m concerned, this is based on a true story the way 10,000 BC, Pearl Harbor and Transformers were based on true stories. Sure there were woolly mammoths building the pyramids. Sure giant robots travelled to our planet searching for Rubik’s cubes. Sure, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale fought the Japanese and won with their dignity and 40s hairstyles intact in a love triangle story that echoes throughout the ages..

So, to reiterate, I believe the “true” elements in The Bank Job involve the fact that there is a place called London, and it is populated by people, some of whom are British. And there was a calendar year called 1971.

Other than that, I don’t even believe there was such a time and place as the so-called 70s, at least not as represented here. And a Princess Margaret? Who ever heard of such a being?

Rating:

American Gangster

dir: Ridley Scott
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There was a time when Ridley Scott’s name commanded respect. People took him seriously. No matter the film or the subject matter, people would say “Well, this is the guy who made Blade Runner and Alien, so let’s all gather round and listen to what he has to say.” Film wankers and aesthetes (such as myself) would reach even further back and say “Well, this is the guy who made The Duellists, so he’s capable of greatness, so let’s eagerly anticipate his next movie with, um, eager anticipation.”

Then he made Hannibal.

After that, Scott’s feet of clay kept growing to swallow up the rest of his body and brain, to the extent where he just seemed like every other British-born Hollywood hack, as capable of an okay film or a terrible shitfest as any other director.

With American Gangster, he’s gone all out to craft an American Prestige Epic worthy of Oscar nomination, critical column inches and applause from the sweatpants-wearing masses. Note the cast, the topic, and the length of the flick. No-one makes a flick this long (nearly three hours in the ‘unrated’ version) with this many A-listers with this subject matter unless they’re expecting, nay, demanding recognition in February / March.

Rating:

Gone Baby Gone

dir: Ben Affleck
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To me, and I suspect a lot of other audience members, the concept of a film directed by Ben Affleck starring Casey Affleck seems like one of those perfect storm conditions for a Shit Storm of the Century-type of outcomes.

And setting it in Boston amongst working class, criminal and trashy Southies? That’s like a tornado inside a hurricane inside a campaign of sustained aerial bombardment hitting your trailer park.

The suburb of Dorchester, which is both the setting for the film and where the book’s author Dennis Lehane was birthed and growed, looks like the trashiest, grungiest shithole in America. Whatever initial claim it might have had to being the Irish heart of old Boston is long gone. It looks like the kind of place that not only houses the highest levels per capita of Jerry Springer viewers, but also the greatest amount of participants in the show.

Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) is just another one of these Southie scumbags, who manages to be repellent and compelling at the same time. She’s one of those alcoholic drug addicts who would probably start a lot of sentences with the phrase “Now I’m never going to win a ‘Mother of the Year’ award, but…” and then proves it with her behaviour on a continual basis.

Rating:

No Country For Old Men

dir: The Brothers Coen
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I never thought the Coen Brothers would ever make another movie that completely and utterly achieved greatness. That’s the only superlative I’m going to use in the review, because belabouring the point that this is a pretty strong film and one of their best for over a decade will only prompt people brought in by the hype to say “Eh, it’s not so great.”

More important that saying “It’s Great, Mate!” is being able to articulate as to why I think it’s so good, and why I enjoyed it so much. It’s actually quite odd, because the elements that really made it stand out for me might not even seem that important to anyone else.

By far the part of the flick that struck me most profoundly was not the Southern Gothic tone, the (admittedly) strong performances, the dialogue, plot or the production values. What struck me the most was the use of sound, and the fact that there was barely any music used in the flick at all.

Rating:

Ocean's Thirteen

dir: Steven Soderbergh
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Lord Jesus, Satan, Buddha, Easter Bunny: save me from myself. If a punter ventures forth to the cinema or a rental place and buys a ticket or hires something they know nothing about, I guess they’ve got the right to be pissed off when it turns out to be woeful and blowful.

If you watch something knowing full well how much of a craptacular experience it’s going to be, then how much of a right do you have to complain?

Bugger-all, but rights don’t always dictate actions.

Ocean’s 13 or Thirteen is the unlucky third entry in this glib, shallow franchise centred around the fact that Brad Pitt and George Clooney occasionally want to get paid a shitload of money so that they can remain high in the public’s celebrity consciousness without having to actually act in a film. They’re being paid to play themselves, which I’m sure is wonderful for the women who routinely swoon whenever they watch them being ‘interviewed’ on Oprah, but it is of little interest to me.

Several times during this flick our two main protagonists are almost interrupted by the camera in the middle of an anecdote that sounds something like:

Rating:

Eastern Promises

dir: David Cronenberg
[img_assist|nid=754|title=Viggo is so the Man|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=417]
Eastern Promises, being a David Cronenberg film, promises more than it should and delivers more than you’d expect. There’s no shortage of flicks out there about organised crime, but it takes a unique one to stand out from the morass.

A look at the Russian mafia isn’t exactly new either. But the screenplay by Stephen Knight and the whole bloody production, overseen by one of the masters of cinema (even if he is Canadian), creates a living, breathing, unnerving story about, amongst other things, how nasty old people can be.

A pregnant fourteen-year-old girl (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) staggers into a chemist, bleeding all over the place. She gives birth to a tiny girl later in hospital, and promptly dies. The midwife, Anna (Naomi Watts) searches the poor girl’s belongings to find out where she comes from so see can give the little baby (who she’s named Christina, in honour of rapidly approaching Christmas) to her family.

The problem is, all she has to go on is a diary in Russian. Anna has a Russian background, but needs the diary to be translated. Propelling the plot forward, she also finds a card which directs her to a Russian restaurant called the Trans-Siberian in the heart of London.

Rating:

Zodiac

dir: David Fincher
[img_assist|nid=768|title=It's hard for me to play a drunk|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
The director with one of the most variable records in Hollywood has returned to us mere plebs with a police procedural flick about the hunt for the Zodiac killer.

Fincher’s flicks have an almost odd-even quality, in that he has a good film follow a mediocre one with grim predictability. I don’t have to nuts and bolts it for you: suffice to say I really like half of his movies, and am indifferent to the other half, and they follow each other like night follows day, like hangover follows drinking binge.

I can’t really say if Zodiac breaks the cycle, because the formula would require that a good film follow his last mediocre one, being Panic Room. But I can’t say that it blew my socks off.

It’s just over two and a half hours long, which in itself is no crime. As long as it does something magical with that time, who would complain. It’s just that, for my money, it is two and a half hours of tedium with no pay off.

Rating:

Macbeth

dir: Geoffrey Wright
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With the last 20 or so murders that occurred in during the so-called Melbourne Underworld war, I guess it seemed like a good idea to combine the Shakespeare play about ruthless ambition and the crime pages of the daily newspapers. A natural alliance, like whisky and baby formula, or dope and speed.

They decide to play it fairly straight, despite the contemporary and Melbournian setting, and keep the language as the Bard would have liked it. So the dialogue hasn’t been made modern with people saying ‘like’ or ‘whatever’ all the time.

Macbeth (Sam Worthington) loyal to mobster king Duncan (Gary Sweet), oversees something like a drug deal gone wrong that results in lots of dead Asians. Victorious, Macbeth is commended by the king and seems like he’s on top of the world.

Whilst taking drugs, he sees three jailbait redhead witches, who tell him he will be king.

Rating:

Harsh Times

dir: David Ayer
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This was touted as a kind of follow-up to Training Day, since it had the same writer involved, now graduating to the big leagues by taking on directorial duties as well. Hoo-fucking-ray. And since we were told it would be a sequel to that horribly scripted film with incredible performances, we could look forward to more of the same.

Denzel got the Oscar for Training Day, but I don’t think Harsh Times is going to win any awards, despite having exactly the same quantity of overacting in it. Substitute Christian Bale in place of Denzel, and make him a returned Ranger veteran with post traumatic stress disorder instead of being a nasty, corrupt cop, and you have Harsh Times, set on the mean streets of San Andreas. I mean, Los Angeles.

Rating:

Running Scared

dir: Wayne Kramer
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Running Scared is two hours long, and over the course of those two hours it tries to ensure that at least some element will offend everyone. It is loud, extremely violent, profane, visually aggressive and completely over the top. It is thus, for me, a very entertaining film.

It also has an entertaining performance by Paul Walker, which I never thought were words I would ever write down in a review. As an actor I’ve generally considered him to be the acting equivalent of elevator music, though now that I’ve used that phrase, I’m trying to recall the last time I heard elevator music. I don’t think it’s been in the last fifteen years, so there could be an entire confused generation of people who’ve never heard of elevator music (or muzak, as it used to be known), and are now despondent and heartbroken. For that I am truly sorry.

Rating:

Freedomland

dir: Joe Roth
[img_assist|nid=833|title=Terrible, just terrible goddamn film|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
As the old phrase goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s also drenched in an oil slick of egotism, smug righteousness and self-delusion.

Freedomland is a terrible mess of a film made by a director who hasn’t made a semi-decent movie in his entire career, unless you count Revenge of the Nerds II.

The plot isn’t the worst thing about this film, nor are (all) the acting performances, or its pacing or length, width or girth. The biggest problem is Julianne Moore’s performance as one of the main characters. For someone who’s considered to be so good, goddamn does she stink up the joint with her surreal attempts to act ‘down’. She is completely and fundamentally unbelievable in the role.

She plays Brenda, a recovering junkie whose son has gone missing. She works at a community outreach centre near some New Jersey projects, and tells police that she was carjacked with her son in the back seat on the way home.

Because her brother is a policeman in an adjoining borough, and because she’s white, the police go berserk on the projects, locking them down in order to find the kid.

Rating:

Miami Vice

dir: Michael Mann
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The world was crying out for a film version of Miami Vice the way that the world was crying out for a remake of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Mind Your Language or Filthy, Rich and Catflap. Yet, here it is, and here we are again, staring down the barrel of yet another review for a film that really shouldn’t exist.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Michael Mann is a wonderful director, and the film is competently and professionally well made. But it just doesn’t matter. I’ve had more heated experiences chatting to tombstones at the Carlton cemetery in a drunken stupor. Me, not the tombstones, though they were probably stoned (insert canned laughter here).

Some reviewers have had the temerity to say the film has nothing to do with the original series. I can only guess that these reviewers never watched that pastel and neon suffused series, and don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Apart from the grainy cinematography, this could virtually be a two hour version of a Miami Vice episode. The script for the film is lifted from an early first season episode. The only major difference is that there is plenty more swearing, violence and fucking than they ever could have shown on the telly.

Sweet, tender fucking. Not actual fucking of course. But, you know, it’s something different.

Rating:

Brick

dir: Rian Johnson
[img_assist|nid=854|title=Brick - neo noir for the tween set|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=338]
Brick has a central conceit who presence balances the movie on a knife’s edge of being tolerable or intolerable: if you can stomach teenagers (or actors pretending to be teenagers) chewing over the hard-boiled dialogue of 40s noir in a contemporary setting, then you might enjoy Brick. If not, Brick will be one of the more pointless experiences you will endure this or any other year.

Brick has dialogue sometimes so hard to say and so hard to understand that you wonder if you’re watching a National Geographic documentary about some hitherto unknown American tribe discovered in the ruins of an ancient mall. But therein, for me at least, lies the fun. The director had been trying to get this project off the ground for nearly a decade, and has succeeded where so many others would have given up or caved in to soulless studio reps.

Take the thickened plot and chewy dialogue out, and you’re left with nothing of interest to anyone. Leave it in, and you get something that works most of the time, falters at others, but still remains interesting throughout. This first time director’s mistakes are sometimes as interesting as the times when he gets it right.

Rating:

Departed, The

dir: Martin Scorsese
[img_assist|nid=871|title=Dearly Departed|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=447]
The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs (Wu jian dao) manages something few remakes ever do: it improves on the original and contributes something more than just proving that there are no new ideas left in Hollywood.

People will argue endlessly over which is the better film, but it’s an irrelevant argument. Both films stand independently of each other, and do what they do best in their own ways. It’s not a competition, after all.

Scorsese and screenwriter William Monahan take as much as they need from the original script, and add enough distinctive original material to make the film their own. They go to a lot of trouble to add substantial detail to make the story look like a product of its place and time, which makes many of the more central characters seem more believable.

The story is transplanted from Hong Kong to Boston, and the villains are transformed from triad gangsters to an Irish mob led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). With the location change, the premise remains the same: two men pretend to be something they are not.

Rating:

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

dir: Chan-wook Park
[img_assist|nid=880|title=Lady Vengeance Herself|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=428]
Considering the sheer quantity of crap that comes out at the cinemas and on DVD, it’s refreshing to occasionally get excited about a specific director’s work. It’s a grand affair to ‘discover’ a director whose work you’ve known nothing about before, whose work opens up a whole new world for you. You search out their earlier films, and you eagerly anticipate their new flicks.

The Chan-wook Park film I saw was Oldboy, just before the Lumiere cinema shut down, a year or two ago. The film, to put it mildly, and Americanly, rocked my world. It was a revelation, and not only did I set out to find out if his other films were as masterful, but I also became even more interested in checking out Korean films in general.

If you’re lucky, when this happens, you discover that the director and his people are even better film makers than you expected from the first effort you got to see. If you’re unlucky, you find out they’re a lucky bunch of hacks and their one good film was a fluke. You know, like Star Wars.

Rating:

Inside Man

dir: Spike Lee
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This would have to be the most conventional film Lee has made in his career, and of his recent films, one of his most successful.

Lacking the elegiac tone of The 25th Hour, it’s still another love letter to New York in the shape of a crime thriller with more stars than it has work for. Really, it’s too many. I’m sure Jodie Foster doesn’t really need the extra money.

Lee’s not as prolific as Woody Allen, but fellow New York spruiker Spike Lee does pump the flicks out. He has a bigger cast than usual, and a script written by someone else for once, alongside a bigger budget probably than many of his other films combined.

It’s unlikely that the racial and class themes permeating his earlier work have been abandoned. Here, they’re mostly put on hold in order to deliver a mainstream heist flick with a high wattage cast that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and, though profoundly unlikely in its conclusion, doesn’t make me want to punch random strangers in the crotch.

Rating:

Matador, The

dir: Richard Shepard
[img_assist|nid=891|title=Its no Remington Steele, but still.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=442]
For a low-key comedy made up mostly of two and then three people chatting, this is a surprisingly enjoyable flick. Also, as part of the done-to-death genre of hitmen and the people that love them, this flick manages to rise above the common morass and actually represents an amusing and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

It surprised me, and I am rarely surprised, not counting the last time the cops knocked on my front door. No, Officer, I don’t know anything about anything. No, Officer, I don’t know anything about those death threats sent to Humphrey B. Bear, but if you ask me, the bitch had it coming.

There are only three roles of note in the flick, with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis assaying those roles. Each of them does decent work in a talky flick with characters that seem simple but really needed to be nuanced in order to be memorable and sympathetic, which at least two of them are.

Julian (Brosnan) is a middle-aged hitman at the end of his professional tether. Though he’s enjoyed a lifetime of professional success, he finds he is losing his ability to perform at the crucial moment. As you might expect, such a person doesn’t really have an overly stable personality, and tends to live somewhat outside the norms of standard contemporary human behaviour.

Rating:

Sin City

dir: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino and a bunch of circus monkeys on rollerskates
[img_assist|nid=892|title=All sorts of sins abound in Basin City|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=297]
Take the very essence of film noir, the constant smoking, the femme fatales, the violent goons, the black and white universe (especially). Distil it down to its purest elements, devoid of any pretensions apart from delivering the most violent, sleaziest explosion of trashy entertainment possible, and you have Sin City in all its vile glory.

And it is glorious. Glorious and unrepentant trash. It is the first movie adaptation of a comic book that looks exactly like the comic book (sorry, graphic novel). It is essentially a moving comic, animation with ‘real’ people in it. Of the recent crop of films where the only real thing in the scene is the people, Sin City is the most accomplished and best realised (on a slender budget), because it really achieves what it sets out to achieve. And at a fraction of the price.

Rating:

Election (Hak Se Wui)

dir: Johnny To
[img_assist|nid=915|title=Only slightly less corrupt than our own elections|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=588]
First off, this isn’t a review of the Alexander Payne flick of the same name from 1999. Reese Witherspoon does not star in this as an annoying overachiever who gets involved in a titanic struggle with Matthew Broderick.

This is not exactly a rare entry in Hong Kong cinema. More than half of the films made in Hong Kong since at least the 70s have been about the triads and their wicked ways. Election wants to go a little further than the usual, and tries to depict a story where the political machinations of the behind the scenes power struggles are more important than the machete fights and the slapping around of prostitutes. It also delves into the history and customs of the triads, making them seem as wholesome and long-standing as your local Rotary club or Masonic Hall.

Rating:

A History of Violence

dir: David Cronenberg
[img_assist|nid=947|title=Under the gun|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=666]
Two men casually prepare to leave a fleabag motel in the morning. They are unhurried, a little drowsy, probably thinking about the long drive ahead. We don’t sense that there’s anything wrong until everything is so wrong that even I was surprised by their brutality.

In the next scene, a father comforts his daughter, who’s had nightmares about monsters in her closet. He keeps telling her repeatedly that monsters don’t exist, despite our recent evidence to the contrary. It is so overplayed that you know it’s not meant to just be foreshadowing. It’s meant to be Ironic.

There are monsters out there, but they’re not always the ones we expect them to be.

David Cronenberg, Canadian auteur and primary exponent of the ‘body horror’ genre, makes films too infrequently for my liking. All of his films, including the ones that don’t entirely work, are worth watching, His weakest films are better and more interesting than the best work most other directors are capable of.

Rating:

Collateral

dir: Michael Mann
[img_assist|nid=966|title=Stop mentioning Xenu!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=431|height=300]
Collateral is genuinely an excellent film. For what it is. And it may
just be an extended episode of Miami Vice. I might be projecting
substantially, but much of what I saw over the film's two hour length
kept taking me back to the era of people wearing loafers without socks
and suit jackets with pastel t-shirts. Ah, sweet, sweet memory, what
an affliction thou truly art.

If you ever catch any episodes of Miami Vice on cable you might notice
that they look incredibly dated now even more than they did then, and
that's not just because of the clothes and hairstyles. As television
it really wasn't that different from any of the other cop based dramas
that preceded it. It wasn't a million miles away from Starsky and
Hutch
or Hawaii Five O or any other cop show where two cops with very
different styles aggressively pursue criminals and maintain that thin
tissue of lies and self-interest we call the fabric of society.

Rating:

Pusher II - With Blood on My Hands

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
[img_assist|nid=952|title=We all have blood on our hands|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=410]
The second part of the Danish Pusher trilogy continues the slide down the human evolutionary scale by showing the mundane lives of Danish petty criminals as the shit-soaked nightmares that they might truly be.

Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) returns as the main character in this one, previously in a supporting role in the first flick. He’s fresh out of jail and dumb as always. A skinhead by preference, he has the word ‘respect’ tattooed across the back of his head, yet, amazingly enough, this inspires little respect in the people who see the tattoo.

You see, Tonny is pretty dumb. He’s dumb even for a petty thug. But he is not as unrepentantly evil as some of the people around him, and nowhere near as vile as his former friend Frankie who the first Pusher flick focussed on. In fact, many of Tonny’s problems may date back to a horrific beating he survived at Frankie’s hands which has left his memory scattered.

He could just be simple. He doesn’t have the mental wattage to think through any of the stuff he does, and he lacks the viciousness and ambition of his criminal compadres. Also, he’s grown in up the shadow of his crime boss father, the Duke (Leif Sylvester), who loathes him and wants nothing to do with him.

Rating:

Good Thief, The

dir: Neil Jordan
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Doing a remake of a classic by one of the renowned masters of the cinematic art form takes a lot of balls, or ovaries, as the case may be. Jean Pierre Melville is that master, and Bob le Flambeur is that classic. Of course from a commercial point of view few potential audience members are going to care, but the wizened ye olde film reviewers will stroke their beards and tut tut loudly if it doesn’t sufficiently honour or even surpass the original (which let’s face it never happens). I’m not one of those beard stroking pipe smoking crones, but it makes me sit up and take notice when someone has the gall to embark on this type of endeavour.

Audiences don’t care on the most part. Although if, as often gets bandied about like the Sword of Damocles, they decide to do an official remake of Casablanca starring some guy from a boy band as Rick and co-starring someone whose last name is Hilton as Elsa, you’re going to have ugly, angry mob riots on your hands. Theatres being burnt to the ground. Celebrities being hunted in the streets. Colourful language.

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Dark Blue

dir: Ron Shelton
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This film succeeds where Training Day dismally failed. Which is good, because it means that in peddling the same script twice David Ayer gets to double dip and earn twice the money that he deserves. But all the same, second time lucky, eh? This time they got it right. Or at least they got it more right than in the terribly overrated Denzel vehicle.

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Narc

dir: Joe Carnahan
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Narc was one of two outstanding recent police-focussed dramas that came out recently, both of which were criminally ignored by audiences and deserved more respect: The other was Dark Blue, but that’s a different review. What they both had was a healthy distrust of the nobility of the boys in blue, and an eye to putting some otherwise decent, hard-working lads in a situation which shows just how much of the law they are willing to break in order to get the job done.

Jason Patric, well, he owns the film. Yeah, so it’s hard to stand up to Ray Liotta, seeing as Liotta always looks like he’s only a second away from biting your face off, but he more than holds his own over the duration of the running time. He is the film’s protagonist, Liotta is, well, we’re not sure what exactly he is, because he is clearly a chameleon whose purpose changes as the story progresses.

Road to Perdition

dir: Sam Mendes
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I have been waiting a long time to watch this film, and it has to be said that I was not disappointed, but it was not the film I expected it to be.

It's a beautiful film, to be sure to be, to be sure, but I can't help but feel that the film kind of collapses under the weight of its own self-importance. Every scene is immaculately constructed, scored and acted, and it all has this pervading gravitas which is supposed to be reminding us constantly of how serious it all is, but it did make me wonder: does a story this simple justify such an extravaganza?

For it is an utterly simple story: good man gets done wrong, good man vows revenge and takes on the mob, good man kills pretty much anyone that ever pissed him off. This has been a staple for so long that you know everything that will come to pass before the opening credits have finished rolling.

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