Showing posts with label pyschological thrillers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pyschological thrillers. Show all posts

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Once Upon A Time In Texas- “No Country For Old Men”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film No Country For Old Men

DVD Review

No Country For Old Men, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, directed by the Coen Brothers, written by Cormac McCarthy, Miramax Films, 2007

Cinematic studies of murderous psychopaths have a long and honored position in film history. Early on in the gangster movies of the 1930s, in such films as The Petrified Forest (with Humphrey Bogart as Duke Mantee) and, perhaps more famously, White Heat with true stone-killer mad man James Cagney ready to blow up everything (and throw an off-hand grapefruit or two), audiences got to confront truly banal (thanks Hannah Arendt) evil characters. Remorseless, if not always efficient. The psycho (played understatedly by Javier Bardem)in No Country For Old Men carries on that tradition, although as we are now a little more inured to mass murders and odd-ball methods of killing on the screen that those earlier audiences, the methods have been ramped up. In short, take no prisoners. None. Moreover, the Brothers Coen want to, around the murder and mayhem, squeeze in a little tale about how this country (well, Texas, great American West country, Larry McMurtry Last Picture Show country, anyway) has gone to hell in a handbasket since the old western frontiers vanished into, well, civilization.

Of course no savage tale of the New West, the border New West, would be complete without some drug deal going south (no pun intended), going south badly. The action of this film is centered on a discover of some dough, some serious dough, just waiting to be plucked like taking it from the low branches of a tree by the first guy (played by Josh Brolin) who comes on the scene, the first hungry, break-out hungry guy who comes along. Now if you or I, maybe not hungry enough, came upon a desert scene with a bunch of stone shoot-out dead bodies, a truckload of dope, and a satchel of dough, we would walk, hell, run away, right. There would be no story then though. So our lonesome hungry cowboy grabs for the brass ring. Unfortunately said dough belongs to those who have hired a bad-ass stone killer ready, very ready, and very willing to exterminate whatever number it takes to get said dough back. And throw in a few innocent by-standers and others for laughs.

But this is Texas remember and so once the chase is on the local law, in the person mainly, of one wised-up, old-timey sheriff, played by Tommy Lee Jones, a little out of his element in these new times when there is no honor among thieves (there really never was) and the crimes pile up more quickly and haphazardly than in the old days, is on the hunt. But age and world-weariness have taken their toll and old Tommy Lee is always about a step, maybe two steps, behind the central action. Needless to say things cannot turn out well here, and they don’t. Ya, this is no country for old men. Got it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

“First Let’s Kill All The Lawyers”-Not- “The Lincoln Lawyer”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film The Lincoln Lawyer.

DVD Review

The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tormei, based on the novel by Michael Connelly, Liongate, 2011

Yes, I know, everybody, everybody including Richard III, I think, who uttered some variation of that idea in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, hates lawyers. Hates them until old justice time comes along and everyone, including this writer, hopes to high heaven that their lawyer is up to the task of representing them zealously, and in some desperate cases more than zealously. And that combination of sentiments, that hate/love thing, is what drives this film which according to my usually reliable sources follows the Michael Connelly novel pretty closely.

Needless to say, except for the thugs, pimps, dope dealers, hellish motorcycle angels, bail bondmen, public servant grifters and grafters and a bewitching lawyer ex-wife (played by Marissa Tormei) nobody, no viewer anyway, is suppose to like the Lincoln lawyer at the outset. (Named the Lincoln lawyer, by the way, not for his ethical resemblance to Father Abraham but because he rides around in a chauffeur-driven Lincoln.) His wheeling and dealing just this side of the law is what makes him the darling of that rogue’s gallery of characters listed above (except, of course, the fetching ex-wife, and maybe her a little too) and the bane of the District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department establishment.

That deft and ruthless maneuvering is what also draws him to the attention of a vicious killer of women, women of the night to use a quaint phrase, and a surefire way to commit the “perfect murder” and like so many before him said murderer thought he was scot-free as is the usual case once the Lincoln lawyer was on the case. But see, said Lincoln lawyer “got religion” along the way after he and those around him were slated to take the fall if that vicious killer (a mommy’s boy to boot) got tripped up.

So you know damn well pretty early on that our trusty Lincoln lawyer is not taking the fall and, moreover, is going to see that an actual piece of real justice occurs in the process by the freeing a framed man who was sitting in stir through his negligence (and disbelief in innocence) by seeing that that vicious killer gets his jolt up at Q. Therefore you see we had it all wrong. There is some rough justice in the world. And one had better not kill off all those lawyers if there is going to be even that amount. The twists and turns getting there, although fairly well-worn by now in movie-dom, are what make this film one to see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Out Of The Be-Bop Film Noir Night- The Crime Noir “The Kiss of Death”

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film noir classic, Kiss of Death.

DVD Review

Kiss of Death, Victor Mature, Coleen Gray, Richard Widmark, directed by Henry Hathaway, 20th Century Fox, 1947

Sure I am an aficionado of film noir, especially those 1940s detective epics like the film adaptations of Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Nothing like that gritty black and white film, ominous musical background and shadowy moments to stir the imagination. Others in the genre like Gilda, The Lady From Shang-hai, and Out Of The Past rate a nod because, in addition to those attributes mentioned above, they have classic femme fatales to add a little off-hand spice to the plot line, and, oh ya, they look nice too. Beyond those classics this period (say, roughly from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s) produced many black and white film noir set pieces, some good, some not so good. For plot line, and plot interest, the film under review, Kiss of Death, is under that latter category.

But hold on though. Although the plot line is thin, mainly about a middle level career con gone wrong once again who, to save his kids from a fatherless and motherless future (mother having committed suicide), decides to play ball with the law. Thus, chump Nick Bianco (played pretty well by Victor Mature, given what he had to work with) turned stoolie, rat, fink, turncoat and the other ten thousand names for such a wrong gee and the rest of the plot hangs on that idea. Say idea being that it is not good business (and for all I know, maybe, unethical, unethical in the criminal code of conduct, although my own very small youthful experience is that it is "every man for himself") to turn stoolie, especially if the price of “freedom” is to tangle, tango, or whatever with one Tommy Udo. No way, no how, not for anything.

And that is what saves this thing as a crime noir classic, the performance of Richard Widmark as psycho-killer for hire Tommy Udo. Everything about him from minute one says wrong gee, don’t mess. Although, needless to say, Nick will mess (Tommy has threatened his kids and his new honey after all). Yes, although I was only a babe then I will give a retroactive vote to Richard Widmark for that 1947 Oscar he won for best supporting actor. There have been a lot of scary psycho-killers that have come down the pike since then but I would not, and would not advise others, to tangle with this guy. And you would too. Kudos.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle- "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
DVD Review

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2009

Now, normally, I am not a fan of psychological thrillers but this one, this Swedish one, sub-titled in English, had me hooked after the first several minutes. Put together an abused, overwrought young woman (with full dragon tattoo and full psychic scars) who has seen her share of life’s misery but who is also a technie whiz, a middle-aged Indy news journalist who has been set up by forces unknown (although we know it is some nefarious capitalist, Swedish variety) while just doing his usual thorough investigative job and a request to find a long missing (forty years) girl by a good Swedish capitalist “father” figure and we are off. For a land that is suppose to be something of a” paradise” there is more social and psychological pathology here in two hours than one would find in, well, America. This is the first of Larsson’s books (out of the trilogy) to hit the screen. Bring on the next one.