Category Archives: Thriller

Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro

Synopsis: An aging flight attendant gets caught smuggling money into the US for a gun-runner. Unfortunately, some coke was hidden with the money. She then becomes the central figure in a plot to deceive both the dealer and the cops.

I have a theory that you can instantly tell what a person is like based on what their favourite Tarantino movie is. After more than twenty years in the industry, Tarantino has produced a diverse filmography that not only caters to his own individual style but also to the varied tastes of his audience. For the aesthetes, you have the visual glory of Kill Bill. For the experimental, you have the intoxicating effect of Pulp Fiction. And for those who love boobs and cars, you have Death Proof. My favourite Tarantino movie, however, is one of his least well-received: Jackie Brown. This film is for those who love complex characters and those who give greater weight to substance as opposed to style.

That’s not to say that Jackie Brown is lacking in style because it’s not. On the contrary, the film is chock-full of gorgeous camera work and the hallmarks of a traditional Tarantino film (think rapid and sharp conversation, a soundtrack that is on point, and feet). What I mean to say is that Jackie Brown feels like a more mature and a more subdued version of a Tarantino film. It is a film that functions as a character study and, for the majority of its duration, the audience is left to observe the complexities the central characters. Other Tarantino staples, such as ultra-violence and general fucked-up-ness, take a back-seat.

It would be impossible to write this review without saying anything about Pam Grier. Let’s just get one thing straight: I love that girl with all my heart. I remember the first time I saw Coffy. I knew it was love right away. Any woman who dumps a salad bowl on a cracker bitch and is smart enough to hide razor blades in her weave automatically wins my respect.

In Jackie Brown, Grier delivers a nuanced performance and gives Jackie layers. We see her character’s strength, her intelligence, her wit, and also her vulnerability. As the film progresses, the audience’s affectation and admiration for her grows and, by the end, we are all rooting for her. She is a character we can all respect and one we can all identify with on some level. Grier is not the only one who delivers a stellar performance. Robert Forster and Samuel L. Jackson both give it their all, Forster as a love-struck bondsman and Jackson as the ruthless gun-runner Ordell. In fact, I would say that this is Jackson’s best performance ever. While some may prefer his role in Pulp Fiction, I think it’s this film that allows him to display his range: he’s funny, quick, and terrifying all at the same time. Plus, the man gets props for putting a bullet in one of the most annoying fuckers in the galaxy.

Ruby RhodBZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!

To be frank, you can’t go wrong with this movie. I’m having a difficult time picking out anything I actively disliked. This is simply Tarantino at his finest.

High-lights:

  • Pam Grier kicking ass.
  • Samuel L. Jackson with the rattiest looking weave I have ever seen.
  • A well-paced and developed storyline that isn’t going to make you say: “say wut???”
  • The hooker dancing to The Supremes was hysterical.
  • A lovely ending: bitter-sweet with just the right amount of romance.
  • Killer soundtrack.

Downers:

  • Sharonda the rock ho is pretty depressing.

Summary:

If this is a Tarantino film you have yet to see then you are in for a treat my friend. It’s got top-notch characters, acting, writing, the whole shebang. Plus, it’s on Netflix. I’m almost tempted to give you my log in details just so you can watch it now.

10/10

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Filed under Drama, Mind Blowingly Awesome, Thriller

Collateral (2004)

Collateral

Genre: Thriller

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo, Jada Pinkett Smith

Synopsis: An unfortunate cabbie is forced to drive a hitman around LA so he can kill his targets.

A few days ago I noticed a post on Reddit that asked about good “unofficial trilogies.” The post that caught my eye was one in which someone suggested Collateral, Drive, and Nightcrawler. If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I love the last two movies. However, at the time I couldn’t confirm whether the suggestion was a good one because I hadn’t seen Collateral. I decided to change that and, after one of the most stressful work weeks of my life, I settled down for the night with my good friend Mary Jane, this film, and a bag of almonds because I had a wicked craving for almonds….not that that’s relevant.

Whenever I approach a Tom Cruise movie, I always worry it’s going to be terrible. I am not sure why that is exactly but it might have something to do with the Katie Holmes/Scientology affair. Whatever the reason, I am always forced to eat my words because the guy always manages to prove his worth. The same thing happened when I saw Edge of Tomorrow this year. In Collateral, he gives hitman Vincent a cool and steely demeanour but you can see that Cruise adds a hidden edge. You never know quite what to expect and the unpredictability of Cruise’s character heightens the film’s tension because anything could happen. This is perhaps best shown in the jazz club scene. The climax, although not entirely unexpected, was still a shock. Kind of like when my asshole colleague gives me Earl Grey tea when I ask for regular tea.

British-Simpsons-Tea-SpitMe….every damn day

The rest of the cast put in solid performances too but, for me, the real star of the film is the camera work. The film is noted as being the first major motion picture that used the Viper FilmStream High-Definition Camera. Michael Mann’s decision to use a digital camera for some of the scenes was a stroke of genius because it allows the audience to witness the Los Angeles in its raw glory. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Los Angeles is a beautiful city but it’s not an obvious beauty. It’s not beautiful in the way that San Francisco or Paris is beautiful. Los Angeles has grit and, on first glance, you would probably dismiss the city. However, the city’s beauty comes from the small details injected into the dark corners. It’s stuff like seeing the Downtown skyline surrounded by oranges, reds, and indigos at sunset. It’s seeing the wind blowing through the palm trees and knowing that the rugged wilderness of the desert mountains is at your door step. At times it feels as if nature is reclaiming the city. Collateral captures those moments very well, as evidenced by this scene.

When I first watched this scene, I thought it was a bit cheesy but I found myself rewatching it and every time I saw it my appreciation grew. Any film that captures the duality of the city’s character immediately gets my approval and this film does it every bit as well as Drive and Nightcrawler. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to lump these films together as an unofficial trilogy. If I were to name the trilogy, it would be something along the lines of the “LA Traffic Light Trilogy.”

However, it is my personal belief that Collateral is the weakest of the three films. That’s not to say that it is bad. I just feel that the film didn’t do enough to push the envelope in the way that Drive and Nightcrawler did. Those two films delivered an emotional experience that hit a lot harder and ended on an ambiguous note, ensuring that the experience kept in the mind of the audience after they left their seats. Collateral is a very good film but it feels a little too clean-cut. The ambiguity isn’t there and it ends with a nice little bow on top. I would have preferred something a bit more complex.

High-lights:

  • The beauty of Los Angeles is on full display here.
  • KTOWN!!! My old hood!
  • Solid performances, including a cameo from Javier Bardem.
  • Astonishing camera work.

Downers:

  • Why are these people still dancing in the club after some guy has been killed in front of them?
  • You wouldn’t walk away from a car accident like that.

Summary:

Collateral is a very good Los Angeles neo-noire and I’m glad that I finally got around to watching it. If you’re a fan of the genre, as I am, then by all accounts you should see this movie. While it does have its flaws, they do not spoil the positives and the film may just encourage you to take that trip to LA….which is kind of weird because this movie is about people getting shot in LA.

7.5/10

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Kiss the Girls (1997)

Kiss the Girls

Genre: Thriller

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes

Synopsis: After his niece is kidnapped, maverick copper Alex Cross must find the culprit and bring him to justice.

Only one week to go before my favourite holiday arrives. Long-time subscribers will know what that means. Yes! It’s time for my official Halloween count-down posts. With one week to go before the big day I thought I would start you off with something light. Although Kiss the Girls is not technically a horror film, I feel as though it should be classed as ‘horror-light’ as the premise is fucking terrifying. For those of you who are unaware, Kiss the Girls is about a cop who forced to hunt down a psychopathic collector of women.

Flavor of love…but not this one

I like to think that I’m a hard-man when it comes to horror movies. I can watch all kinds of subgenres and be relatively unaffected. The ones that do affect me though are the twisted thrillers about serial killers. You want to know why? It’s because that shit could happen. A ghost isn’t suddenly going to pop out in front of me and I’m not going to be possessed by the devil. A randomer might bundle me into his car though and keep me prisoner in his basement though. People are sick. Because of this, you would think that Kiss the Girls would terrify the shit out of me, but it doesn’t.

The problem with Kiss the Girls is that it tries too hard to be something it’s not. Specifically, it tries to be Silence of the Lambs, which is a genuinely terrifying film and has a genuinely creepy villain. Buffalo Bill was a rube who kidnaps women and keeps them in a well in his basement before killing them and skinning them. There was something real and graceless and ruthless about him. He could have been your neighbour. The villain in Kiss the Girls is too organised. He keeps his women in a series of elaborate and stylised underground tunnels in the woods. He also carries enough tranquilisers to take down a rogue elephant. Nobody has access to either of those things in real life without appearing on an FBI database.

In addition, Silence of the Lambs had characters you cared about. You admired Clarice Starling because she was the underdog. You don’t admire Alex Cross much because he’s too perfect and Ashley Judd’s character is Little Miss Apple Fucking Pie. I mean, who has time to be a surgical intern, kickbox, and get home in time to cook a balanced and nutritious dinner? I hate people like that.

Can we also briefly talk about how much this film is a slightly more (or less) fucked up version of Flavor of Love? Think about it. The men in this film and in that TV show amass a harem of women for their own sick pleasure. The only difference is that in Kiss the Girls the villain collects talented women whereas in Flavor of Love Flavor Flav collects women with a history of violence and psychological problems…the kind of women who shit on the floor or spit on each other. Case in point, 25 seconds in:

High-lights:

  • The mask the villain wears in this is kind of scary and the kidnapping scene is scary as hell.
  • The lols when Morgan Freeman pulls out his gun on an elderly couple. If that conservative looking white lady wasn’t already a racist then she sure as hell is now.
  • It held my interest.

Downers:

  • A disappointing Silence of the Lambs knock-off.
  • I don’t think firing a gun through a milk carton would do anything to stop the room from exploding because you fired the mother-fucker in a room full of gas!

Summary:

Kiss the Girls is the sort of film that should be watched when you simply need something to watch. It’s not as well-crafted as other thrillers and it’s not going to rock your world. It definitely won’t make your top 10 list, but there will be enough to hold your attention.

5.5/10

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Red Riding Hood (2011)

red riding hood

Genre: Romance, Thriller

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie

Synopsis: It’s basically a retarded but sexed-up version of the fairy tale we all know and love.

Little girl in a red cape goes into the forest to visit her grandmother. She gets to the house and finds that her grandmother has been eaten by a wolf. Wold gets killed. The end. It’s a story that we’ve all grown up with and one that we all know off by heart. It’s a simple story, for sure, and that’s probably why there have not been many attempts to adapt the story for cinema. I mean, how can you stretch the story of Red Riding Hood into 90 minutes? Catherine Hardwicke certainly had an idea…one that maybe wasn’t entirely obvious. Her plan was basically to turn little red riding hood into a ho.

red riding hood“Grandma! What a big erection you have!”

Let’s examine this idea for the moment. In my honest opinion, it’s not THAT bad. As I mentioned in my review for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a lot of fun could be had with adapting traditional fairy tales for modern audiences. They would have to be dark though. That’s where Hansel and Gretel failed. Red Riding Hood is an improvement as it deals with the theme of female sexuality; something that works well with the original tale. Where the film fails, however, is with the execution.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Hardwicke did direct Twilight and this film has a similar feel. It’s too teen friendly with its hunks and budding ingénue. A proper adaptation would be about prostitution with a serial killer thrown into the mix. Instead we get a film about a werewolf and a girl being torn between two guys who performs a pseudo-lesbian dance to seduce one of them. Seriously girls, that’s the oldest trick in the book and doing it in medieval dress is in no way sexy. You need to watch Showgirls and take some lessons from Nomi Malone.

nomi1

What is surprising is that this film has a very good cast. It’s got Julie Christie in it who, may I remind you, has an Oscar. Gary Oldman is also a brilliant actor. I even think Amanda Seyfried is a good actress. I’ve seen Lovelace and I was impressed with her performance in that. I think the problem with her is that she picks terrible roles and this film’s central character (who is horribly named Valerie) is another role that is beneath her talent.

All in all, I found this film to be wholly underwhelming. It’s like watching a mediocre slutty Sleepy Hollow. It has some great performers, a fresh theme, and even some good style but it lacks the bite and the shock-value that it sorely needs. This film doesn’t really have much to keep your attention if you’re over the age of 15.

High-lights:

  • Max Irons is adorable and he is well buff in The Riot Club.
  • Some beautiful scenery.
  • Good theme.
  • Red Riding Hood’s mum is hysterical. The film is supposed to be set in the middle ages but with all that makeup it looks like the mother just came from the club.

Downers:

  • Poor execution.
  • Inappropriate use of the pseudo-lesbian dance.
  • Creepy incest moment.
  • Boring characters.

Summary:

I’m still waiting on someone to come along and bowl me over with a fresh and exciting fairy tale adaptation. I hear that they’re making a sequel to Hansel and Gretel so it looks like we won’t be getting one for quite some time. Shit.

3.5/10

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Fatal Attraction (1987)

Fatal Attraction

Genre: Thriller

Cast: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer

Synopsis: A loving husband and father has an affair with a crazy woman who just doesn’t know the meaning of “fuck off.”

I like to think that all good movies will have some kind of moral to learn, just like fairy tales do. For Fatal Attraction, the message behind the film is clearly: “don’t stick your dick in crazy.” This film has attracted something of a legendary status thanks, in part, to Close’s performance. Close portrays a lady who epitomises bat-shit insanity. But this is not regular bat-shit insanity, this is something else. This is a Sean-Young-stalking-Tim-Burton-in-a-Catwoman-outfit kind of cray.

Catwoman…yet it’s not quite as crazy as this kind of Catwoman

Close really does stand out in this film. It’s a blessing that this plot is super simple, because it really enables Close to take centre-stage and build a memorable and shocking performance that is all her own. It’s the kind of performance only two women in the world could have pulled off: Close and Meryl Streep (who could play a turd on the street and it would still be convincing and Oscar-nominated). Applause needs to go to Close for researching the role and bringing to it a believability. She didn’t go with an over-the-top kind of crazy like Ali Larter did in Obsessed. Close’s performance is more subtle: up until maybe the last 10 minutes or so, it feels as if you’re looking at a real-life human close to breaking point. Part of the fun is waiting for her to snap.

While Close’s performance dominates, the other actors put in a lot of effort that pays off too. Anne Archer plays little miss perfect Susie housewife and Douglas, again, plays a lead who is not supposed to be particularly likeable. Sure, he’s a loving father, but he fucks some publishing ho on the weekend. Why? Who knows! Maybe because his wife is so prim and proper and you know Close’s character is the sort of woman who will have anal sex before vaginal.

Glenn CloseIt’s the whore-ish red nails that gives it away

Another fun thing about this movie is how completely 80s it is. You all know how much I love the 80s. It was a decade full of craziness, a craziness that compliments the insanity of the main actress. Take Close’s hairstyle for instance. What kind of moron thought it would be a good idea to give Close a perm? It frames the weirdness of her face (my mum says it’s like a strip of face between an oversized forehead and chin). Not only that, she’s in shoulder pads for half of the movie and then they all go to a Japanese-themed party because culturally insensitive and patronising shin-digs were all the rage in 1987. God I wish I lived in the 80s. You could get away with so much shit back then.

High-lights:

  • Glenn Close’s performance is electric.
  • Glenn Close’s face is terrifying.
  • The tape recording Close gives to Douglas is hilarious. One minute she says she loves him, the next minute she’s calling him a fag. Clearly he’s not one if he banged you in the elevator.
  • The sex scenes are hysterical. What kind of skank-ho has sex in the sink while there’s dirty dishes in there? And why is she turning on the tap to wet her shirt? Just take it the fuck off!

Downers:

  • That’s a little girl!?
  • That poor rabbit…but it was a scary white one with red eyes so I guess it’s ok.

Summary:

This is a movie everyone should see at least once. It’s pretty much the perfect thriller: tense yet engrossing and very well-paced. Close’s performance drives this film but it’s not the only appealing quality. You can’t really go wrong with this one and, if you’re married, it’s a good tool to encourage fidelity. Nobody wants some frizzy-permed psycho bitch up in their grill boiling their pets and throwing acid at vehicles.

9.5/10

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Passion (2012)

Passion

Genre: Erotic Thriller

Cast: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace

Synopsis: An assistant is in a love-hate relationship with her advertising executive boss, who proceeds to humiliate her and then make out with her. Throw a murder in the mix and it all gets out of hand.

To be a successful erotic thriller, a film has to do two things. The first is titillate. A thriller cannot be called erotic if it doesn’t cause a certain amount of tightness in the trouser-crotch area. The second is thrill. The plot needs to grab the audience by the balls and not let go. It needs to keep viewers entertained and keep them guessing. Sounds simple enough, right? So why is it that Brian De Palma’s film Passion fails to titillate and thrill? Well, for the titillation part, perhaps it’s because it is a German film and we all know nothing sexy ever came out of Germany.

lederhosenI rest my case

OK, that’s not true. Watching the German football team play in the World Cup has convinced me that the country is full of stud-muffins but that doesn’t change the fact that this film is not sexy. It recycles a lot of the traditional erotic thriller fair such as lesbianism and aggressive vadge-banging so good the couple clearly forgot to use protection. However, at no point did any of this get me hot under the collar. I am tempted to say that the film’s central problem in the boner-inducing department is that the eroticism feels forced: it’s De Palma telling you what should be sexy by relying on conventional and well-worn formulas. Passion takes no risks with eroticism. I think back to Drive and I remember that scene in the elevator when Gosling kisses that lucky bitch and then pummels the shit out of the guy. That was hot…probably because it shouldn’t be. Erotic thrillers are successful when they push boundaries. McAdams and Rapace making out in the back of a limo pushes no boundaries.

So, the film is not erotic. Is it thrilling? Well, not really. The film is basically about women being mean to one another at work. If I wanted to see that I would just show up to my regular job and spread some shade amongst my female colleagues e.g. “so-and-so called you a bitch,” “what’s-her-face slept with your boyfriend,” “that chick over there said you smell like bad-decisions and week-old happy meals.” I could go on. Point is, there’s nothing terribly exciting about people hating their colleagues. That’s just everyday life. By the time the murder actually happens in this movie you’ve stopped caring and you’re just shouting at Noomi Rapace to fucking quit her job. Seriously, why is she still there!?

That’s not to say that Passion is a complete waste of time. It does have hints of glory. For instance, the scene where Noomi Rapace has a panic attack in a lift was very good but then it gets a little OTT when she crashes her car. Also, the random scenes in German were very good and displayed a lot of the actors’ talents when playing roles in their native language. The best scene, however, is when the two main characters go to a private runway show and some model stacks it. If life has taught me one thing, it’s that there is nothing funnier than watching good-looking people hit the floor like a sack of shit.

Model falling downSee what I mean?

High-lights:

  • I seriously laughed for a good five minutes when the model fell over. It’s even funnier when you realise there is a camp German guys shouting abuse at her.
  • The film kind of makes you realise that your job isn’t so terrible.
  • Screaming at the screen: “WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL IN THIS JOB!!??”

Downers:

  • Eurotrash houses…makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
  • Idiotic characters. “Isobel, are you alright?” OF COURSE SHE’S NOT FUCKING ALRIGHT!!!! She’s popping prescription pills like they’re pez!
  • Rachel McAdams really can’t handle the scene where she describes her twin’s death. It’s so stale.

Summary:

After a stint of watching erotic thrillers, I think it’s time to put a pin in it but it’s a shame I didn’t end my marathon on a high-note. I mean, was certainly high but that’s not the same thing. Passion is a very run-of-the-mill thriller that does not excite it audience. Instead of doing anything controversial or interesting, the film simply relies on the old “bisexuals are serial killers” theme. It’s bland and forgettable. I was hoping for more from De Palma.

4/10

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Pathology (2008)

Pathology

Genre: Thriller

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Alyssa Milano

Synopsis: A bunch of psycho doctors smoke crack and kill people for sport and then try to guess how the murder was done.

We have a doctor in our family. My twin brother, who has gotten many shout-outs on this blog, is that doctor. He currently works in a hospital outside of London and, although I don’t see him as much as I would like to, we talk regularly. As such, I like to think I have a pretty good insight into what the life of a doctor is like. It is hard work, long hours, crazy stress, and even crazier patients. It is not a crack orgy in the morgue. If you don’t know any doctors and watch this movie, you may be fooled into thinking that’s what a career in medicine is like. Unfortunately, that is not the case. That’s what a career in law is like.

RBGYou don’t even want to know the shit RBG gets up to on the weekend

This movie gets so many things wrong. I will start with the writing because clearly the writers have never met another human being in their lifetime. Why would a doctor decide to start killing people for fun just because a bunch of “popular” kids do it? THIS ISN’T FUCKING HIGH SCHOOL! If someone came up to me and said: “Hey do you want to join our secret society but first you have to kill someone and smoke crack”, I would agree to it, wait until they left the room, and then call the cops. It wouldn’t make for a very exciting movie but I feel as though people would have more respect for me that way.

Also, what kind of person would get turned on and want to fuck another person while surrounded by dead people? The answer? No-one. No-one would get turned on. Yet this is what happens in this movie when Milo Venti-whoosit joins the team of pathologists. All of a sudden he sees some crazy red head playfully stroke a dead body and suddenly he wants to get all up inside that crazy. Seriously, a dog with two dicks would have shown more restraint.

That’s part of the reason why this film is fucking terrible: it tries to inject eroticism into a situation that is in no way sexy. Autopsies and sex do not go well together. Ever. Getting aroused while watching this film is like trying to watch someone shove a roast ham into an electrical socket. It’s an exercise in futility. That shit just won’t go. What’s worse, there’s this huge sex scene after this girl kills her abusive stepdad who she says raped her as a child. Why on earth would a guy have sex with someone who’s: 1) just killed someone; and 2) just revealed seconds before that she is the victim of sexual abuse? Does crack make you do that? If so then I’m sticking to weed. The stuff I smoked on Friday gave me couchlock so fierce I doubt I could have fucked anyone even if I wanted to.

flat-girl-above-the-influence-elite-dailyI need to get me some of the stuff this girl was smoking

This film gives me a headache and I think I can feel my blood pressure rising. I could go on and on about all the things that it did wrong but, for the good of my health, I think I had better stop. Just know that this film is the reason why I have no faith in mankind.

High-lights:

  • Milo Venti-something or other has a cute ass.

Downers:

  • Why is everything on screen happening? Why is no-one acting like a normal person? Why is that Asian woman getting off with the redhead woman while those guys are cutting some dead person open!?
  • Alyssa Milano was rude about that girl’s dress. I mean, she said she liked it and all but you can tell she was lying. The dress was fucking ugly but you don’t need to draw attention to it. Just don’t say anything. Rude.
  • Aaaahhhh, nipple piercing! AAAAAAAAAAHHHH NEEDLE IN THE EAR!!!
  • “You never forget your first fuck.” Perhaps the worst thing that could ever be said about child abuse.

Summary:

This movie is like when you show up for a Grindr/Tinder date and the other person shows up and looks very little like the photo they sent you. That sweeping sense of mortification is present in this film also. Proceed with caution.

1.5/10

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