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Crime/Heist

Collateral

dir: Michael Mann
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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
[img_assist|nid=1062|title=Let's be all French and cool|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=269]
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.

Rating:

Dark Blue

dir: Ron Shelton
[img_assist|nid=1060|title=Dark Blue Kurt|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=346|height=520]
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.

Rating:

Narc

dir: Joe Carnahan
[img_assist|nid=1040|title=Narcoleptics need not apply|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=664]
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.

Rating:

Training Day

dir: Antoine Fuqua
[img_assist|nid=1073|title=Now with more machismo!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=519]
Could have been. This flick could have been a contender. It is well acted (mostly), well directed, and with one monumental example to the contrary, mostly well scripted. It is deeply unfortunate that the monumental fuck-up that occurs in the script at about the 1 hour mark renders the rest of the film an exercise in pointlessness, but then again, if life has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t have everything, and even if you did, some bastard would probably break in and steal all your shit when you were at work.

It’s the way of the world. None of this justifies the awful and insulting way that the film degenerates into a true Hollywood morass by its end, but hell, as I’ve mentioned a million times before, most films stuff up the ending because they never put as much work into the conclusion as they do with the pitch:
(pitch meeting between producers and studio execs)
“Um, Denzel as the bad guy?”
- “Sold!”

Rating:

Way of the Gun, The

The Way of the Gun

The way of all things in the States is gun-related

dir: Christopher McQuarrie

2000

The Hollywood variation on the American Dream, which is the regular American Dream anyway, is that a screenwriter, actor or director previously subsisting on tips from being waiters and valets to the bourgeoisie can get the big break and become another star in the firmament. Glowing bright, suspended above the masses; all they need is that one big break.

The problem is, there are no guarantees in this or any other life. The big break can just as easily catapult you back into obscurity after you crash and burn.

Christopher McQuarrie’s claim to fame was that he scripted The Usual Suspects, which propelled director Bryan Singer into the stratosphere, got Kevin Spacey an Oscar for his role as Verbal Kint, and gave audiences one of their favourite overly convoluted crime movies of 1995. It also garnered an Oscar for McQuarrie as well. But then again, who really gives a good goddamn about Oscars in general and Oscars for Best Original Screenplay anyway. I bet you don’t, don’t pretend otherwise, I won’t believe you.

Someone must have thought McQuarrie deserved to get paid as well, so despite having no experience as a director, he was given the money and the freedom to try to repeat the magic of Suspects. Did it work?

Rating:

Tokyo Drifter (Tokyo nagaremono)

Tokyo Drifter

I have no fucking idea what's going on...

dir: Seijun Suzuki

1966

What the fuck was all that about?

Tokyo Drifter is cool. It’s cool in the sense that the hero is the hero because he’s cool. He looks cool, he dresses cool, and he has his own theme song, which is played a bunch of times and which he even sings through the course of the film. So what if the flick makes no sense? It’s cool, you squaresville-daddy-o.

The film looks pretty. There’s a very interesting use of colour and sets. The clothing is nice. Other than that, this flick is fucking insane. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone I hated.

Maybe it’s too quintessentially Japanese, but I doubt it. The movie, at the very least, is somewhat more comprehensible than the last one of Suzuki’s that I saw, but that’s not saying much. Made in an obviously cheap and nasty fashion, the flick eschews continuity and logic to construct a story that does not make sense on our planet.

Tetsu (Testuya Watari) is a yakuza gangster who’s really good at looking cool, walking around casually, and being loyal to his boss. When his boss decides to opt out of the criminal game, Tetsu loyally goes along with him, like the dog that he is. Some other gangsters want to screw Testsu’s boss out of the ownership of a building, so some violence ensues. Tetsu doesn’t want to kill anymore, so he takes some beatings. Then he decides he no longer has a problem killing people, so he kills a bunch of people.

Rating:

Pusher

Pusher

This is unpleasant and these are not nice people, shock horror

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

1996

There was an explosion of drug films after, I dunno, some indeterminate point. Probably after Trainspotting, I’d say. Whatever and wherever the origin point of the renaissance in this nasty genre was, the one thing we do know is that even the Danish needed to get in on the act.

Now, I have to admit a certain amount of ignorance about Denmark. I know vaguely where it is, I imagine it’s very cold there, but I had this ridiculous idea that it was some kind of idyllic winter wonderland that would delight Hans Christian Anderson himself, what with his tales of naked emperors and little mermaids, even today.

Imagine my horror when Copenhagen is revealed to be as grimy and sleazy a place as everywhere else.

Pusher, part of a series of films that screened as a retrospective at the 2006 Melbourne Film Festival, is an ugly, grim, vicious film about drug dealing in Denmark’s capital. There’s isn’t a single sympathetic character in the whole film with a single redemptive quality.

None of that prevents the film from being somewhat entertaining.

Pusher represents drug dealing as anything but cool or sexy. It’s shown as the trade of desperate and amoral sociopaths who would feed each other through a meat grinder alive if there was a kroner in it. That was their currency prior to the Euro, in case you’re wondering whether it’s the beer I’m referring to.

Frankie (Kim Bodnia) is a low-level drug dealer scrambling to make a living. He has multiple deals going at any given time, and always has an ear open for anything else in the offing. Though goddamn ugly, he seems to have a thuggish ease with which he carries himself through life.

When not dealing, which initially only represents a fraction of his time, he spends the rest of his time drunk and coked up, hanging out with his practically retarded friend Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen). They routinely talk about whatever crap pops into their addled heads, most of which is banal, much of which is crude. Much of the dialogue here sounds and feels improvised, which adds to the impression that you’re eavesdropping on a real conversation between two morons.

Rating:

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