Category — crime & noir
In director Spike Lee‘s 25th Hour (2002), Edward Norton play Monty Brogan, a drug dealer facing serious time in prison. He has one day and night to say adios to his closest friends and loved ones before the rest of his life is altered forever. His father James (played wonderfully by acting powerhouse Brian Cox) does his best to entertain his son during this bleakest of days, but as you can imagine it’s a hard enough road to face – let alone discuss. When Monty excuses himself to use the restroom he experiences a moment that Spike Lee punctuates with a reflection of not only the man but an audience sitting in the dark. Staring into the mirror (but detached in his movement), a lost Monty sees the simple words “Fuck You” underlined and accented with an . A common enough occurrence in all our lives, but what follows is cinematic brilliance, the ultimate montage, laced with hatred and wrapped in venom. Monty unloads on his native New York, highlighting everything – and everyone – he thinks is wrong with it. Blame is cast like buckshot as he eviscerates all races, creeds and walks of life. But before the audience can scream “enough already” it clicks: Monty’s the only soul to blame. His pain is his alone, earned alone, and to try to pin the situation on anyone else would be the ultimate lie. A grand illustration of the old adage, “you made your bed, now lie in it.” And though he used a similar scene in He Got Game (1998), Spike Lee employs it better here – where it lands like a ton of bricks and reveals the darkness in all of us, which seeps out when times get tough and we seek to take things out on our neighbors.
January 29, 2013 2 Comments
In honor of the late Sir Laurence Olivier’s birthday (May 22, 1907) I thought we’d run one of the great actor’s most memorable scenes – the torture scene from John Schlesinger‘s Marathon Man (1976), adapted for the screen by the great William Goldman from his own novel. I love these epic thespian face-offs – like when Pacino and DeNiro met in Michael Mann’s Heat – because of the competitive tension lying just beneath the surface. When you consider the fact that Olivier is torturing Dustin Hoffman – one of the most celebrated of the next generation of superstar actors – it lends the proceedings a little extra flavor, whether real or imaginary. Either way, it’s a fantastic scene that shows off the acting chops of both men. Is it Safe? Yes. No. I don’t know. What the Hell are you talking about, Sir Larry?
May 22, 2012 No Comments
There are many fine performances in Luc Besson’s unhinged tale of a hit man with a heart of gold. Jean Reno strikes a perfect balance of nonchalant brutality and childlike vulnerability as the film’s titular “cleaner” and Natalie Portman pretty much set a bar for performances from child actors that wouldn’t be cracked until Lena Leandersson wreaked bloody havoc across the screen in Let The Right One In. However, it is Gary Oldman’s role as corrupt DEA agent Stansfield that really made the movie shine. Popping pills and rocking out to Beethoven, Oldman redefined drug-feuled scenery chewing in a manner that would make Dennis Hopper uncomfortable. While it is true that every time he stepped in front of the camera Oldman delivered a display of unhinged genius, it was the kill-crazy rampage he brought down on Matilda’s family that was his master stroke. Besson’s camera seems to be fleeing from his psychotic death march as he jerkily blasts his way through the hallways of a cramped NYC tenement building, raining buckshot and classical music upon all who stand in his way. Of particular note is the highly realistic looking shotgunning of the woman in the bathtub, which stands as a testament to the fact that, when he is not disappearing up his own ass, Besson is one of the best action directors in the business.
July 28, 2011 No Comments
MIKEY & NICKY is a thinking man’s mob movie way ahead of its time.
Though later her star would dim thanks to the infamous debacle Ishtar, writer/director Elaine May has been one of the consistently talented trailblazers in the field of entertainment, first as half of the comedy duo Nichols & May (along with The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? director Mike Nichols) and later as a director and writer in her own right. In 1976 she joined forces with John Cassavetes and Peter Falk to make Mikey & Nicky, one of the more unique and enduring mob films out there. When we first meet Nicky (John Cassavetes) he’s out of his mind paranoid, hiding out in a run-down hotel, watching the window and sucking down cigarettes, convinced a local mob boss is out to get him. There’s no one he can trust except his old friend Mikey (Peter Falk), who shows up to help him get out of town. What follows is a night spent travelling – to a bar, a movie theater, to the cemetery where Nicky’s mother is buried, and to Nicky’s girlfriend’s apartment. At each of these places we discover something about the friendship, and reevaluate the stakes. Old grudges resurface, as charismatic, abusive Nicky finds himself reliant upon the unsuccessful and pathetic Mikey, reversing the power dynamic which has defined their friendship over the years. May manages the audience’s curiosity expertly, and fills our minds with questions: is Mikey dependable? What exactly is their relationship? Does Nicky deserve to get rubbed out? Does Mikey have what it takes to set Nicky up? It’s a character study in the hands of two of the finest actors ever to walk the Earth, and by blending Cassavetes’ improvisational, chamber-drama style with her own comic and dramatic sensibilities, May achieves a perfect balance of underground and mainstream filmmaking, and creates a classic crime-film that delves into the heart of friendship and loyalty. It’s a fascinating movie, at once intimate and universal, and it’s a testament to the talents of all involved.
February 21, 2011 No Comments