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crime drama

Proud Mary (2018)

DIRECTOR: Babak Najafi

CAST: Taraji P. Henson, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Xander Berkeley, Neal McDonough, Rade Sherbedgia

REVIEW:

One strongly suspects Proud Mary would have been straight-to-video fare if not for the presence of multi-Emmy and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson in the title role, and that’s where the quality level lies.  Proud Mary is an enjoyable enough diversion in the moment, but a generic and uninspired shoot-em-up that doesn’t offer anything memorable. Continue reading

I, Tonya (2017)

DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie

CAST: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Alison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, McKenna Grace

REVIEW:

I, Tonya is not a straightforward docudrama of the infamous 1994 assault on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan that implicated her rival Tonya Harding, Harding’s husband Jeff Gilooly, and other associates.  Rather, director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers have tackled the material as a dark comedy which in the third act has tinges of something the Coen Brothers might have come up with (given the amount of criminal bumbling that takes place, that’s a not altogether inappropriate approach to take).  The movie takes its material from the sometimes completely contradictory interviews of Harding, Gilooly, and others, giving us multiple unreliable narrators, and also asks us to, if not necessarily condone or exonerate Harding, to come to at least some measure of understanding of what led up to the moment that, fairly or unfairly, would define her. Continue reading

The Accountant (2016)

accountant3DIRECTOR: Gavin O’Connor

CAST: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart

REVIEW:

The Accountant is a curiously inert thriller mixed with a character study, or perhaps, as some have called it, a character study masquerading as a thriller.  A perfunctory attempt at portraying the symptoms of a character with high-functioning autism/Asperger’s (the movie is slightly vague about his specific diagnosis) gives way to a generic shoot-em-up.  An unneccessarily convoluted narrative structure—featuring flashbacks to several different time periods in the main character’s life, myriad superfluous subplots and extraneous supporting characters—serves only to muddy the waters and disguise the fact that, when all is said and done, there wasn’t that much to it.  For a movie centering on a man of simplistic single-minded purpose, The Accountant seems desperate to convince us it’s more complex than it actually is. Continue reading

Sicario (2015)

DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve

CAST: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber, Jeffrey Donovan, Jon Bernthal

REVIEW:

Sicario, the latest from Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), is not for those seeking a couple hours of escapism from grim realities at the movie theater, nor is it an action movie.  It’s also further evidence that Villeneuve has a bleak worldview.  But for fans of gritty, down-to-earth crime dramas that deal in shades of gray and don’t shy away from unsympathetic characters or downbeat endings, Sicario may have things to offer. Continue reading

Black Mass (2015)

BulgerDIRECTOR: Scott Cooper

CAST: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Peter Sarsgaard, Corey Stoll

REVIEW:

Black Mass, a docudrama of the unholy alliance between FBI agents and 1970s-1990s crime lord Whitey Bulger, has a feel of “Scorsese-lite” (Jack Nicholson’s mob boss in Scorsese’s The Departed was loosely modeled after Bulger).  Solid acting and some memorable individual scenes enliven a straightforward gangster crime drama that’s otherwise serviceable but generic.  Black Mass is reasonably engaging, but nothing groundbreaking, and there’s a sense of a rushed and underdeveloped storyline.  Among the many gangland flicks to come out over the years, it’s not a bad installment, but also not a classic.  A chilling lead performance by Johnny Depp is likely to linger longer in the memory than the pedestrian narrative. Continue reading

The Drop (2014)

downloadDIRECTOR: Michael Roskam

CAST: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz

REVIEW:

The Drop is the kind of slow-burn, low-key crime drama that can be rewarding to fans of the genre who appreciate a story that unfolds at its own pace, but will be dismissed as boring by mainstream crowds, devoid of sex, explosions, car chases, or gunfights.  What little violence there is comes in brief, sudden bursts, few and far between.  If you’re looking for action, this is not the movie for you.  Even for those interested, a little hunting for a theater may be required; The Drop was initially released as a low-profile indie film in only 809 theaters, delaying this review for a week until positive critical reviews and a decent performance at the box office led to an expansion of showings.  Despite the lack of attention, The Drop comes from a respectable pedigree.   Continue reading

Lawless (2012)

DIRECTOR: John Hillcoat

CAST: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Dane DeHaan

REVIEW:

Based on Matt Bondurant’s 2008 historical novel The Wettest County in the World, a semi-fictionalized account of the Prohibition-era bootlegging activities of his grandfather Jack Bondurant and his grand-uncles Forrest and Howard, Lawless doesn’t reach the level of the bootlegging film classics it aspires toward, but it’s still an entertaining and engaging, if unspectacular, outlaw adventure that’s soaked in enough blood and moonshine to appeal to fans of the genre.  Its release in late August, generally regarded as a dumping ground for films the studios are not confident enough about to release at the height of summer, is a bit of a shame.  Lawless is a well-made movie that deserves a higher profile than it received. Continue reading

Zodiac (2007)

zodiacDIRECTOR: David Fincher

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Philip Baker Hall, John Carroll Lynch

REVIEW:

While it tells the true unsolved story of one of America’s most notorious serial killers–at least that which is publicly known–Zodiac is not a thriller, at least not in a conventional sense.  Rather, it’s a police procedural and docudrama.  Based on a true crime book by Robert Graysmith, it puts the focus not on Zodiac himself, who remains a shadowy, elusive, nameless and faceless figure (although the movie’s viewpoint is blatantly slanted toward one suspect), but on the men (including Graysmith himself) who were involved in the long-running, ultimately fruitless manhunt.  To this end, Zodiac is a bit like a souped-up, two-and-a-half hour episode of Law & Order, and will appeal to some of the same audience fascinated by the details of police procedure and investigating.   Continue reading

The Score (2001)

DIRECTOR: Frank Oz

CAST: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett

REVIEW:

The Score isn’t a classic entry in the heist movie genre, but it’s a slick little diversion that sets fairly modest goals and achieves them, gives us some interesting interplay between accomplished actors, and treads familiar ground with enough assurance to make us not mind coming along for the ride. Continue reading

Payback (1999)

DIRECTOR: Brian Helgeland

CAST: Mel Gibson, Maria Bello, Gregg Henry, William Devane, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Lucy Liu, David Paymer, Bill Duke, Jack Conley, John Glover, Deborah Kara Unger

REVIEW:

Payback, from director and co-writer Brian Helgeland (Oscar-winning screenwriter of 1997’s LA Confidential in his directorial debut) is a deliciously hard-boiled crime caper and an ode to film noir.  It’s actually more-or-less a remake of John Boorman’s 1967 Point Blank, and both films are based on Richard Stark’s novel The Hunter, but Payback has enough style and personality to stand on its own as an engaging 100 minutes that serves up a noir-esque narrative, supplies a lineup of colorful characters, gives Mel Gibson some juicy one-liners to chew on, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Continue reading

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