I’ve always been a lover of crime shows and those of a procedural nature. When I was in high school, I religiously watched NCIS and CSI. Recently, I’ve seen quite a bit of Law and Order and it’s many spin off. It appears that there’s no stopping the success of such shows. But do you have any love for them?
- Drew Barrymore as Anita Minteer
- James LeGros as Howard Hickok
- Billy Drago as Hank Fulton
- Michael Ironside as Kincaid
- Joe Dallesandro as Rooney
- Ione Skye as Joy
A crime drama of two abused souls and lovers gaining what they consider power through automatic weapons in an unfair world, Guncrazy is pretty compelling in how it establishes the doomed love between the two misfits and the tragic consequences of it all. With effective performances from Drew Barrymore and James LeGros, plus some eye-catching direction from Tamra Davis in her debut, Guncrazy is a film worthy of attention.
Anita is a lonely teenager who is constantly bullied and harassed by schoolboys and sexually abused by her absentee mother’s boyfriend Rooney, who she lives with in his trailer. She retains something of a hopeful demeanor, though her way of sleeping with any guy, even if they treat her horribly, makes her an outcast and bad news to many in her desolate town. Her dire existence takes a turn when her geography teacher assigns a project of finding pen pals to converse with. While others write to people from around the world, Anita finds correspondence with Howard Hickok, a convict who is serving term for a manslaughter charge. As soon as she begins receiving his letters, Anita is madly in love as Howard talks to her with a sincerity and kindness that she’s never known. Adopting Howard’s love of guns, Anita gets slimy Rooney to teach her how to shoot. When he sexually abuses her again, she uses her newfound prowess to kill him. Howard becomes available for parole and Anita manages to persuade slightly zany local preacher and part-time mechanic Hank Fulton to give him a job within both capacities and vouch for him. Upon Howard’s arrival, him and Anita completely give themselves to the other. Howard is far from a hardened criminal; instead seeming vulnerable and tragic, and only using a gun when he can’t think of another way to get out of a situation. He feels a gun is making up for the fact that he is impotent, but Anita is actually happy that for once a man doesn’t want to take advantage of her. Meanwhile, stern local parole officer Kincaid doesn’t like the look of Howard and makes this feeling known to him, saying he believes he should never have been let out of jail. The two become besotted with each other, eventually marrying after Hank catches them together and as both of them have used the church to help themselves, but largely because they are infatuated with the presence of the other. Yet while attempting to get through the unfair and cruel life each has experienced, the gun lust that influences both takes over and things spiral. As they stumble into accidental killing that mounts to a body count and forces them to flee, the spectre of tragedy hangs over runaways Anita and Howard, getting closer by the second.
Considering it was her directing debut, Tamra Davis did a commendable job with the material and invested it with quite a bit of emotion. She never condones the actions of the protagonists, rather presenting them as two list people getting some feeling of illusory power with something dangerous. Davis doesn’t glamorize gun use, but more examines the reasons why Anita and Howard would become so enamoured with them. The run down and festering setting for a large chunk of Guncrazy points to the isolation and holed up feeling, envisioned by Tamra Davis through an attention to detail that is markedly unvarnished. Guncrazy features quite a lot foreshadowing through various visual imagery and some of the dialogue from Hank, which hints at darkness and turmoil even when someone is trying to gain salvation. Anita and Howard are basically doomed from the get go; stemming from the society around them and the mistreatment by others. By using firearms, they believe they have some control over their lives for once. Howard mainly obsesses over them as he sees them as the solution to problems and probably a symbol of manhood that he feels he lacks. While Anita adopts his love as it gives her what she considers strength to finally stand up for herself, starting with Rooney who pays the price for all the horror he has put Anita through. Some of it over stretches into melodrama and occasionally float into slow-moving, though there are enough touches to make Guncrazy still watchable and different in an offbeat way. A little bit longer on the running time might have benefited it, but the main story and characters invest you in it and paper over this flaw. It might not be Bonnie and Clyde or Badlands, but Guncrazy does a commendable job at delving into the turmoil of the two main characters and their tragic companionship. The largely electronic and rock influenced soundtrack suits the overall mood and angst of the piece.
Drew Barrymore turns in a stellar performance as the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who needs a feeling of belonging and care. The part of Anita is someone who is a misunderstood and mistreated girl, finally discovering at least for a while, a feeling of power and respect in the arms of the only man who has treated her right. Drew Barrymore burrows into Anita’s naivety and sunny, adorable need for love that ultimately is heartbreaking to watch. Anita just wants some acceptance in her bleak and unfortunate life, which Drew Barrymore plays naturally and with skill, ensuring that even when Anita is shooting others and on the run from the law, we feel a sense of sorrow for her. It’s a fascinating portrayal from Drew Barrymore, that really stands out. Equally as good is James LeGros, playing the gun obsessed Howard in a way that is different from what you’d expect. He has a quiet charm, sadness and even polite demeanor, that makes it hard to believe at first that he has ever committed a crime. Yet once a gun is put in his view, his boiling anger comes out with dangerous results and unpredictable outcomes. Both main actors work great together, finding an intense yet reflective understanding of each other, even if they are doomed throughout the whole thing. Billy Drago has always boasted for me a slightly off-kilter and strange vibe, which makes him perfect as the snake-handling preacher who is slightly crazy. His flair for the unusual is ideally utilised in this chief supporting role. Then there is Michael Ironside, who is gruff and disapproving as they come when acting as the skeptical parole officer. Joe Dallesandro is all sweaty and slobbering brutality after Anita, eventually getting what he deserves for his sadistic actions and abhorrent behaviour. Ione Skye is the only real weak link in the cast, partly because she is given hardly anything to do within the whole story.
A largely excellent film that strikingly gets across the alienation and desperation of two youths and their penchant for weaponry, Guncrazy is a memorable crime drama, highlighted by the work of Drew Barrymore in the lead. If you ever had any doubt about her versatility, check this out to see her sterling performance, surrounding by an array of interesting supporting players.
- William H. Macy as Alex
- Donald Sutherland as Michael
- Neve Campbell as Sarah
- John Ritter as Dr. Josh Parks
- Tracey Ullman as Martha
A crime drama with roots in themes of twisted family manipulations and the want to change, Panic is one of those movies that really takes you by surprise in my instances. Panic is an unexpected and extremely underrated gem of a film with a feeling of inexorable tragedy slowly coming out in its story of a man in midlife crisis of a most unusual kind.
Alex is a sad-eyed, middle-aged man who goes to see a psychotherapist named Josh Parks to get his life in order. Once there, he surprisingly reveals that he is actually a hit man who has been trained by his sly and corrupting father Michael since he has young. Dr. Parks listens in shock and dismay, but wants to know more if anything to possibly help a desperate Alex. Though Alex is a hit man, he doesn’t want to be one anymore. Yet as he is so scared of his imposing father and knows that it won’t be easy to just discard that part of his life, that he is currently undergoing a severe crisis of conscience. He keeps his deadly profession hidden from his wife Martha and young son to protect them, even though his relationship with his wife is on shaky ground as it is. Around this trying time for poor Alex, he encounters Sarah; a sprightly, sexually adventurous young woman who is completely forward and ever so neurotic. He finds himself drawn and infatuated with this kooky girl and this is one of the things that makes him want to quit. Yet just as he wants to tell his domineering father that he can’t do it anymore, the man gives him his next assignment. The man he is expected to kill is Dr. Parks, which throws everything out of control and puts more strain on the already pressured Alex. Alex is put through the wringer as he deliberates what he is going to do about the issues and dangerous circumstances surrounding him.
Henry Bromell adroitly directs this drama that involves crime, but is largely focused on the conscience of a man wanting to escape it all. Although the title suggests overt drama, it’s the internal struggle and scruples of the main character that elicit the most power and turbulence. Panic is a dark and engrossing study of warped family loyalty and pressure disguised by parental superiority. Everyone has a feeling when they are younger of being a good child and looking up to your parents, but what if your parents aren’t what you thought? That’s the main thing going on in Panic; Alex is smothered by his father’s dominance that he’s slyly held over him and employed in such a way that his son knows no different and is now suffering. We frequently get shots of important moments in a non-linear fashion that highlight the history of the characters, in particular how Alex was trained by his father in a scene where he has his young son shoot a squirrel as his first kill. Scenes like this are shocking( but not because they are bloody, no violence is explicitly seen) but for how it frames the father as a corrupting and malevolent presence over his son’s life that simply won’t let go of him in adulthood. There’s an exceptional back and forth between the past and present, filmed without the need for intertitles, as it respects the audience and can frequently be audacious. From what I’ve read about the movie, it was praised on release but never quite connected with audiences. This is a shame because Panic has much to offer movie fans, in how it mixes genres and has a certain haunting quality about it that stays with you. A peppering of black and ironic humour is sprinkled into Panic, particularly in how Michael discusses the business of killing people in a way that is so blasé yet menacing to his son and how the therapist listens with both a dumbfounded shock and yet inquisitive ear to Alex’s mournful confessions. Occasionally, the tone gets muddled but this is few and far between in an accomplished and atypical story that has a real poignancy. A lot of the success is down to the script written by director Henry Bromell, that fleshes out the dilemma of Alex and his predicament in a seemingly impossible situation. A moody and pulsing score is simply exemplary throughout Panic, hinting at the spiral of one man attempting to break out of his chains.
William H. Macy cuts a mournful and tired figure playing Alex; who wants out of the family business, but is buckling under the weight of everything on him. The ever so talented Macy wonderfully and subtly brings the nervousness and sadness of this man at tipping point out for the audience to see, which makes it a stellar performance of buried anguish and stifling anger. You couldn’t have asked for a better person for the role, as William H. Macy invests it with a real soulful melancholy. On hand to play the manipulative and quite horrid father is the always excellent Donald Sutherland. Like Macy, Sutherland’s approach to the character is a measured one that allows differing sides to emerge; from the seemingly genial and hospitable man to the ruthless and bullying father whose ingratiating manner starts to reveal his choke hold over his son. Neve Campbell stunningly stars as the catalyst for Alex’s need for change, exhibiting attitude, feistiness and that something else that is usually missing from other women roles in cinema. John Ritter excels as the shocked therapist whose curious about Alex and equally horrified, while Tracey Ullman gets across suspicion and a genuine feeling of being lost in her own life as her husband becomes distant from her for reasons she is ignorant of.
A compelling crime drama of morality and darkness, Panic makes its mark through the strong sense of purpose, direction and acting that give life to the unexpectedly melancholy rumination on family and crisis.
The Thomas Crown Affair
- Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown
- Faye Dunaway as Vicki Anderson
- Paul Burke as Detective Eddie Malone
- Jack Weston as Erwin Weaver
A super stylish crime caper brimming with verve and visual flourishes, The Thomas Crown Affair may occasionally lack depth but that is more than made up for in the lightness of foot and sexy but conflicted chemistry between stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.
Thomas Crown is a suave and dashing business tycoon, who boasts wealth that many would simply die for. Though he has everything he could possibly ask for, he craves adventure and is now bored with the system of riches that he is a part of. So he carefully plots a bank heist, even though he doesn’t have any need for the money. He employs five men to orchestrate this elaborate scheme, making sure that his identity is left unknown to them to avoid any trace back. The plan works and the heist is a success, with Thomas thrilled with the results. Thomas is very pleased with what he’s accomplished, knowing that his plan is pretty much airtight for the most part. Yet those who were affected by the theft are not going to be quiet and soon questions are being raised. Insurance investigator Vicki Anderson, who always gets the job done, is called in to examine this theft and piece it together. Her incentive is 10% of the and with her array of charm, allure and intelligence she manages to pinpoint Thomas as the culprit. But rather than just take him in, Vicki finds herself attracted to the beguiling and wily Thomas. Both know that the other is up to something and yet this doesn’t distract them from falling into passionate clinches with each other. It does however throw a spanner in the works for them as loyalties are severely tested and their affair is proving difficult as well as compromising. The question is, how willing is Vicki ready to look the other way because of her feelings for Thomas or how much will her personal pride and efficiency take control?
Norman Jewison has that cinematic touch and eye for visual impact that this film and needs and forms the backbone of it with a deft clockwork like precision. The use of split screen pushes the movie along with free abandon and lively verve, that keeps the attention for a very long time. The leads play off each other in a game of questioning the other but being extremely attracted at the same time. indecision and allure, along with the potential of possible courtship, despite them being on opposite sides of the law is what makes the core of The Thomas Crown Affair lively and sexy. The best example of this is the almost wordless chess scene where the two eye each other up and gradually tease the other in a game of minds and bodies. Everything is left to the imagination as they embrace and the camera spins, proving that you don’t need copious nudity to be erotic and can be very naughty by suggestion. Though the story is not exactly what you would call thought-provoking, the quick pace and sizzle of things keeps you involved and along for the entertaining ride. The main selling point of The Thomas Crown Affair is the glamour and intrigue it has. The lifestyle of Thomas is enviable and through bright and very colourful moments of polo matches, it’s a fine life that we view for this man who has everything. A brimming score of skittish rhythms and languid romantic strings is simply gorgeous to listen to. The greatest instance of music in The Thomas Crown Affair is Windmills of Your Mind ,which is a hauntingly romantic and apt song that describes the way that Thomas is constantly on the move and a million steps ahead of everyone. The song won an Academy Award and I can see why, it really contributes to the aura of the film and is utilized gorgeously throughout.
In the title role, Steve McQueen is the suave, epitome of cool and collected. His Cheshire Cat smile and smooth demeanor belie a boredom and restlessness with life( even though he has almost everything a man could dream for). As nonchalant as the character seems, McQueen quietly displays the vast intellect and forward thinking that is often not realized by those around him until it is often too late. The best word for McQueen’s portrayal is cool, he is a man who many guys would kill to be and many women would love to be near. Faye Dunaway is the dogged but ultimately torn foil to McQueen’s charms, her unease at her own feelings for Thomas making most of the drama. Dunaway, while being extremely seductive in the part, brings forth the required determination and inner conflict out in varying degrees of nuance. As I previously noted, the rapport between McQueen and Dunaway is excellent and the Sparks are most definitely there, even as personal feelings come into question and stands must be taken that could jeopardize and further heat between the red-hot duo. Paul Burke does good work as the detective on the case, as does Jack Weston playing the getaway driver in the heist set up by Thomas.
Stylish and intricately done, The Thomas Crown Affair has oodles of appeal through its 60’s atmosphere and scintillating partnership of the main leads that essentially bring out more to the film than the story might suffer to some.
The Big Easy
- Dennis Quaid as Remy McSwain
- Ellen Barkin as Anne Osborne
- Ned Beatty as Captain Jack Kellom
- John Goodman as Detective Andre
- Grace Zabriskie as Mama
A hot and spicy crime drama that gains a lot from the New Orleans setting, The Big Easy scores big points thanks to its host of idiosyncratic characters and sexy romance at play in a tasty slice of gumbo.
Remy McSwain is a laid-back police lieutenant in New Orleans who along with Captain and good family friend Jack Kellom, discover the body of a local mobster while on the job. It is thought that the slaying is part of a gang war brewing between two rival parties. Arriving later is assistant District Attorney Anne Osborne, who is there to take a look at the killing and also prominently investigate police corruption. This poses a problem for Remy, as while he’s a good enough guy he has been known to look the other way and take bribes. He attempts to charm the law-abiding Anne, which appears to work as she tangles with her feelings about the case and Remy. As more murders from both gang factions take place and the drug operations and police corruption angle hots up, it is up to the to discover something. This isn’t going to be easy as they are frequently at odds over moral conduct. Though antagonistic over each other’s methods and fighting undeniable attraction, Remy and Anne dig into the murders and corruption, uncovering a big can of worms in the process that goes a lot higher than imagined.
Jim McBride’s full-blooded and breezy direction is the ideal thing that is needed in a film like this one. He makes it a dynamic and alternately playful movie that knows how to steam things up and use the surroundings of New Orleans to their full potential. New Orleans itself becomes a character in the story; a hotbed of colourful people and seamy passions, dashed with dark intrigue and a compelling glamour. There’s something special about New Orleans that adds immeasurably to the essence and ambience of this drama and can’t be faulted in the slightest. The Big Easy would never have had the same effectiveness if the setting was different, because the whole thing feels pretty authentic and full of vigor. The aura of the place hangs over The Big Easy like a glistening canopy. It does become a little broad at various intervals in the story that can induce a few instances of irritation, but The Big Easy keeps hold of you with the quickness of it all and the feisty romance. The film is at its most persuasive and enjoyable when it focuses on the clash between Remy and Anne, which in turn leads to sexual fireworks that are complicated by their differing attitudes and the possibility of danger with every step they take. The sassy script ensures a quality rapport and an amusing back and forth is created, bringing humour into the drama that actually benefits rather than distracts from the overall crime narrative. Sometimes crime dramas can be overly solemn, but The Big Easy takes another route and works out splendidly. It also fleshes out characters that are kooky and full of quirkiness, particularly Remy whose extrovert charms and mile wide grin are never far from view when being his ever so corrupt but devilishly likable self. The Big Easy often gets mentioned as a thriller and while I can see that in stretches of the film( such as a tense car chase and explosive last act), crime drama with healthy overtones of romance is probably how I’d describe it and I love that it’s that very thing. It flips between darkness in the crime and corruption to red-hot potential romance between without really missing a beat as it goes on its exciting way. A Cajun soundtrack and subsequent score provide the fire for which this cauldron of mixtures is rested on, providing some outstanding moments of music to echo the lively happenings.
Dennis Quaid is superb as the ever so corrupt but wholly enjoyable Remy, whose alligator smile and wild ways are more than a little endearing in an amusing fashion. Remy may be a very crooked guy who eventually begins to view how deep he’s in, but Quaid morphs him into an ingratiating charmer, who it is impossible to not to be taken in by, despite his foibles and many faults. Ellen Barkin matches Quaid with an equally excellent performance of the uptight Anne, whose usual adherence to rules is tested by a burgeoning attraction to Remy. The undecided and smouldering face of Barkin is employed exquisitely to showcase the moral dilemma she endures, tempered with a curious sense of carnality beneath the surface which the actress exudes gorgeously. Quaid and Barkin share a scintillating chemistry that is hot stuff from the moment they meet. I’m not kidding when I say their passion burns like fire in an extended form of foreplay, which is interrupted and comes up against barriers in a way that resembles a dance of emerging desire gaining power. You simply couldn’t have asked for anything better from the two stars, who ignite the screen as the total opposites in almost every way lock horns masterfully. Ned Beatty provides memorable support as the seemingly amiable Captain who Remy sees as something of a father figure, while John Goodman is fun as a lazy yet joking detective. One should also look out for Grace Zabriskie as Remy’s withering and quick-witted mother.
With lashings of local flavour and unique atmosphere that it seems only New Orleans can offer, The Big Easy is a fun, sexy and thoroughly entertaining crime drama, that soars essentially from the sultry chemistry of the leads and the eventful, lively direction.
1990's, A Time to Kill, Ashley Judd, Brenda Fricker, Charles S. Dutton, Chris Cooper, Courtroom Drama, Crime, Donald Sutherland, Drama, Joel Schumacher, John Grisham, Kevin Spacey, Kiefer Sutherland, Legal Drama, Matthew McConaughey, Oliver Platt, Patrick McGoohan, Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock
A Time to Kill
- Matthew McConaughey as Jake Brigance
- Samuel L. Jackson as Carl Lee Hailey
- Sandra Bullock as Ellen Roark
- Kevin Spacey as Rufus Buckley
- Oliver Platt as Harry Rex Vonner
- Kiefer Sutherland as Freddie Lee Cobb
- Donald Sutherland as Lucien Wilbanks
- Ashley Judd as Carla Brigance
- Brenda Fricker as Ethel Twitty
- Charles S. Dutton as Sheriff Ozzie Walls
- Chris Cooper as Dwayne Looney
- Patrick McGoohan as Judge Omar Noose
An incendiary and well mounted adaptation of the John Grisham legal/courtroom drama, A Time to Kill ensures that the moral and ethical debates come through strong, thanks to the story, script and cast.
In the town of Canton, Mississippi, a 10-year-old black girl by the name of Tonya Hailey is walking home after getting groceries from the local store. Suddenly, she is targeted by two sneering and utterly vile rednecks who violently rape and attempt to kill her by hanging. Tonya survives, but the damage to her has been done, which sends shock waves through the community. Tonya’s father Carl Lee is devastated when he discovers what has happened to his little girl and knowing that due to the racism that pervades the town and that the two men may get a light sentence, decides to take matters into his own hands. He responds by gunning down both men on their way to trial, in front of over a dozen witnesses. Arrested, Carl Lee contacts young and idealistic lawyer Jake Brigance to represent him. Jake had previously helped Carl Lee’s brother in the past and feels he must represent him; mainly because he was aware that Carl Lee might have gone through with his retribution after talking with him earlier. Jake is warned that this case will be dangerous and because he doesn’t have that much experience, he is bright and wants to help. Hurdles and stumbling blocks come up as the manipulative district attorney and prosecutor Rufus Buckley, who has his eye on office, decides to seek the death penalty and manages to stir the situation up. The climate of racism and clashing opposition makes the whole thing a powder keg as Jake finds his life in danger, as well as those closest to him being threatened by a resurgent faction of the Ku Klux Klan, brought out by one of the brothers of the men slain by Carl Lee. Yet with all the hostility and violence being thrown his way, Jake refuses to back down and his resolve is strengthened as he is soon in the courtroom representing his client in a case that could spark even more eruptions of unrest and horror for everyone. He is aided by the young law student Ellen Roark, who is a know it all but very passionate and good friend plus occasional divorce lawyer cynical Harry Rex Vonner. Yet getting a fair trial is going to be anything but easy as tensions threaten to explode.
Joel Schumacher impeccably displays a flair for the material; making it both extremely gripping and equally as powerful in what it brings to the table. A Time to Kill raises many moral questions in a series of ways that delve into the quagmire of what is deemed right and wrong, and how there is a difficult grey area in between. There are those that will say that the movie is more in favour of one view than the other, but even if that is true, A Time to Kill deserves credit for presenting issues like justice, fairness and racism with many degrees of thought-provoking effectiveness. I believe that the film tries to show both sides of things. While Carl Lee did kill the men who raped his daughter, you can understand many of the reasons why he did it. A Time to Kill asks us to consider what we would do in that situation, which allows the film to get under the skin deeply. The difficulty in the topic of morality and justice is best summed up by a speech given by Donald Sutherland’s character. He says, “If you win this case, justice will prevail, and if you lose, justice will also prevail”, which perfectly and simply reflects the complex issue at hand. The legal nature of A Time to Kill is pretty compelling to watch as the ethics of lawyers and the inevitable courtroom examinations of whether someone is guilty are put under the spotlight. The build up to the courtroom is equally as excellent, showing just how dangerous a case of this magnitude can be in a climate of uncertainty and intolerance. Yet when the courtroom drama hits, the fireworks really start to occur. The testimonies and confrontations have rippling consequences that influence the society around them, that is already at boiling point on account of racism and violence. The dignified and quick-moving script makes the legal terminology easy to digest, yet doesn’t forget the battle going on between many things within the fabric of the story. And speaking of quick-moving, A Time to Kill runs for two and a half hours, yet interest is kept in check and held throughout most of it. Sure some moments could have been expanded on, but the atmosphere and climate of the piece brings immediate attention and confronting intent to the viewer, that will get them to look at the ethics of the trial intensely. The music provided by Elliot Goldenthal is dynamic and matches the escalating emotions and tensions within the story.
A Time to Kill was the movie that really launched Matthew McConaughey to stardom and it isn’t difficult to see why. With his charming yet astute persona, he naturally plays Jake as a man put through the difficulties of the case, yet spurned on by what he sees as just cause. The gravity of the situation dawns on him after realising how complex events will turn out, but he won’t give up on this case and soldiers through it with unwavering determination. McConaughey is the right fit for the part and his closing speech in the film is powerful stuff that shows just what an excellent actor he is. Samuel L. Jackson is particularly memorable as the man on trial, evoking the self-possessed man whose temper was pushed to the edge by the brutality his daughter endured. Jackson’s work is very subtle and while he has two scenes of outburst( the first when he kills the men and the second in court) he is largely a modulated presence, though behind his eyes the fury and hurt is there as clear as day. This performance impressed me as I usually think of Jackson as manic and loud, yet he delivered a finely tuned performance as the avenging Carl Lee that reveals another side to him. We have Sandra Bullock portraying the over-eager and brainy Ellen with a good mix of sass and smarts, while Kevin Spacey can be discovered slithering his way across the screen, inhabiting the egotistical and ambitious prosecutor. Oliver Platt provides some levity from the intense drama in the sidekick role of being a cynical wise ass with questionable morals, yet also with surprising depth to match. Kiefer Sutherland is appropriately nasty and shocking, starring as the angered brother of one of the slain who riles up the Klan once more and delights in causing horror to all in order to get what he perceives as his own justice. His father Donald also makes a hell of a mark, exuding the wily silver fox persona ideal for his part of Jake’s former mentor, who despite being disbarred from court, manages to aid his young charge. It is interesting to note that Donald and Kiefer never share a scene in the film. Ashley Judd and Brenda Fricker have less to do in the film, but each is good in their respective roles of concerned wife and long-serving secretary. In smaller roles, Charles S. Dutton, Chris Cooper and Patrick McGoohan add their expertise to various people involved in the case and make the most of the time they get to be shown.
A Time to Kill emerges as an engaging crime drama that explores culpability, legality and racism in a powerful way, benefiting from confident direction and a star-studded cast.
A two-part mini series recounting the life of Victorian serial killer and black widow Mary Ann Cotton, Dark Angel is pretty chilling stuff to watch. Though I feel it could have been more effective of it had more episodes, Dark Angel still hits the creepy notes of disturbance and turmoil that evoked the hardships of life at the time and how one woman took murderous charge over her own. Be warned, spoilers will follow in my review of the series based on true events.
We begin with Mary Ann Cotton(Joanne Froggatt) in prison in Durham, England, awaiting her execution by hanging in 1873. From here, we flashback to many years before when she came back to her home along with her first husband William(Tom Varey) and a young daughter. She had lost five children through gastric fever and coming back was something of an attempted fresh start. She moves in with her mother(Penny Layden) and step father(Alun Armstrong) for a while, yet when William gets a job on a steamship they have to move. Several children later and several more deaths follow Mary Ann, who finds the bed sit she lives in a dirty and horrible place designed to crush her spirit. Importantly, she has to purchase arsenic to get rid of bed bugs in the dank home. When William returns from work with a busted leg which means the family won’t be able to survive with no one earning money, a light comes on in Mary Ann’s head. Knowing that William has taken out life insurance( which was just coming into prominence with many families at the time), she slowly begins poisoning him by lacing his meals and tea with arsenic. William eventually dies painfully and his death is put down to disease, as it was so rife at the time. Mary Ann collects on the life insurance as a result of this and survives from possibly starving. Seeing how easy this is, Mary Ann moves around the North East and continues to gain more husbands, who all perish( but one) when they become no use to her anymore or can’t provide for her. And it isn’t just husbands that drop like flies, step-children, her own mother and best friend all end up six feet under, ensuring more money for her and that she won’t be found out. It is only years later that a suspicious grocer finds the woman a little menacing and slowly deduces how evil this Mary Ann Cotton truly is; leading to her arrest and eventual hanging.
Kudos to Dark Angel for how it telegraphs the squalor of Victorian life and how dank it all was. With a grey and brown colour palette, the world is unrelentingly grim for Mary Ann, who obviously chafed at her lack of prospects and eventually turned to murder to assert some form of power. Seriously, Dark Angel is enough to put anyone off tea for a long time, watching as this was one of Mary Ann’s wicked ways of slipping poison to her unwitting victims. I never thought the words ‘Everything will look better after a nice cup of tea’ could carry so much malevolence. Now the issue of pace is something of a double-edged sword as far as Dark Angel is concerned. On one hand, it moves pretty rapidly that it can be hard to keep up with what time frame we are in and what exactly is happening. Yet in another breath, it also conveys the grim efficiency of Mary Ann and how she managed to elude detection for so long by moving about and insidiously worming her way into people’s lives. Overall, the uneasiness is pretty darn effective, though I couldn’t escape that lingering feeling that a few more episodes may have done the story more justice. For what it’s worth, Dark Angel is still alarmingly watchable, as there is something grimly fascinating about watching how an average woman of the time took devious command of her life after feeling so slighted by the hand it had dealt her. And though we know the end result, it’s the lead up the captures the most interest for a lot of it. Be warned that Dark Angel is more than a little squirm inducing as historians have estimated that she may have killed up to 21 people, though we don’t see this, what we do witness certainly makes it appear possible that she was capable of anything. We may never really know why Mary Ann Cotton did what she did, but this drama provides a compelling visualization of her emergence as a woman of greed and horror. The music used is pretty minimal and through this, out attention is drawn more to the darkness and stark nature of this horrifying true story.
Joanne Froggatt is the series ace in the hole, embodying the part of Mary Ann Cotton exquisitely. At first, there is some genuine sympathy that Joanne Froggatt projects as Mary Ann; you can clearly see that life is one long drudge of housework, child rearing and soul-crushing poverty in the beginning. It’s the following events as she becomes very selfish and callous, killing anyone who stands in her way to financial gain or security that make the part truly horrifying. Froggatt doesn’t miss a beat, charting the rise in her killer instinct and avaricious ways that are captured through nuances of seductive charm, boiled anger and unrepentant mind. I admire her commitment to the role and how she played it with a certain subtlety rather than going for an overtly dramatic approach. Alun Armstrong is particularly good as the stepfather; a hardworking man who can’t help but have that nagging concern that something is just not right. The same goes for Penny Layden who compliments him well as Mary Ann’s mother, who while caring for her daughter, just doesn’t have the strength to shake off her suspicions of foul play. Sam Hoare is seen the most out of the four husband’s as he plays the rich and grieving widower in need of a nanny for his children. Hoare gets the sadness of the character across, but wisely he is the only husband to live as he realises that Mary Ann is not the sweet girl who came into his house when he discovers her thieving of money from his account. Jonas Armstrong plays Joe, a bit of rough who engages in a long affair with the devious Mary Ann. The part doesn’t particular call for a lot, but Armstrong gets the uncouth manner of the miner right enough. Laura Morgan fares very well in the supporting part of Mary Ann’s unsuspecting best friend, while as two of the unfortunate men who are offed by the wicked woman, Tom Varey and Thomas Howes evoke sympathy in their brief tenures.
So while it could have benefited from some more expansion to it, Dark Angel successfully gets by due to the shock of it all and the excellent work from Joanne Froggatt as the murderous Mary Ann Cotton.
And if anyone wants to get an idea of the series, below is the trailer.
She Done Him Wrong
- Mae West as Lady Lou
- Cary Grant as Captain Cummings
- Noah Beery as Gus Jordan
- Owen Moore as Chick Clarke
- Gilbert Roland as Serge
- Rafaela Ottiano as Rita
A big moneymaker in its day that saved Paramount from bankruptcy and announced Mae West as something of a sexual firebrand chafing at views of purity, She Done Him Wrong has quite a lot of historical value attached to it. Based on a Broadway play of West’s, the plot is a bit lacking, but the star vehicle for West is very entertaining due to her iconic personality and sense of impudent humour.
1890’s Bowery, New York; Lady Lou is a bejeweled and popular entertainer at a local saloon. She enjoys the company of many men, in particular those who can provide her with jewelry. The latest man in her life is the owner of the saloon Gus Jordan, who showers her with diamonds and luxuries as she is the star attraction. On the side however, along with two sleazy associates Serge and Rita, he is involved in seedy dealings in order to fund the flow of diamonds. Lou also catches the attentions of a young mission director named Captain Cummings, who she also takes a bit of a shine to( despite him having a secret agenda). While stringing men along, Lou must contend with her former flame Chick Clarke. He is currently in prison and is very possessive of the irrepressible Lou, and vows that if she strays he will make her sorry. Soon things start getting eventful around the saloon for all the men in Lou’s life and the woman herself, especially when Chick Clark escapes and heads straight to her. But as always, Lady Lou knows what to do in order to look after her own interests in typically sexy fashion.
Lowell Sherman’s direction is simple and straightforward, allowing the various events to play out in a quick and easy way. The plot in She Done Him Wrong is largely secondary to the sassy persona of West, though it has its moments of eventfulness as it includes crime and comedy. The biggest draw of the film is how it revels in a sense of naughtiness that caused a bit of a stir back in the day(hell the production code was introduced not long after this movie was released.) Some of it may appear take today, but the sheer amount of innuendo, ribald suggestion and rudeness is for all to witness, and for my money you can still see why this had tongues wagging and people a little shocked as parts of it still have a blue pizzazz. And we shouldn’t forget, Mae West had a writing credit for this film taken from her own play, which firmly established her as a shrewd and witty comedienne who did things her way and wouldn’t compromise. The script, especially the dialogue for the part of Lady Lou practically fizzes with saucy verve and sly wit( who can forget her classic line of ‘Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?’); making the film a brisk affair that you don’t have to deeply think about, but you can just sit back and appreciate the playful sexiness it has by the bucket load. You’re not going into the film expecting an intricate plot, you’re going in for the rollicking excitement and to view how the movie obviously caused scandal in a gleeful way upon initial release in the 30’s. One can get the feeling that too much is trying to be put into this short film and to some extent that is a little true, but this flaw is largely compensated for by the energy and bawdy humour that can cover that crack. A bit more coherence could have been put in, but one can overlook that with the help of West’s larger than life appearance and button pushing attitude. A jaunty score is the excellent thing to accompany this and includes a good few musical numbers performed by West herself.
Mae West for lack of better words, is the picture and the star attraction. Everything revolves around her outrageous attitude and forthright view on sex. And boy does Mae West know how to up the ante in what was her second film and the one that really announced her as a force of nature. The way she acts as Lady Lou is just so open and raunchy, with saucy dialogue coming from her mouth by the minute and the way she struts across the screen like a diva. It’s fun to see West sashay through the picture with a cheeky twinkle and supreme confidence in massive amounts. I must say from seeing her in this film, it isn’t difficult to see why she was so popular and controversial. Plus it has me interested to see more of her no cares in the world attitude in other movies. When you have someone as brash and scene stealing as Mae West on film, the rest of the cast somewhat pales in comparison, though some have their moments. It’s interesting to see a young Cary Grant as the slightly awkward mission captain who may not be as innocent as he appears. He displays quite a few glimpses of that debonair charisma that the world would come to love when he became a Hollywood King. Noah Beery is good enough as the benefactor, while Owen Moore is impressive as Lou’s imprisoned beau. Gilbert Roland and Rafaela Ottiano are also good enough touches to the film, if somewhat overly secondary. These roles are somewhat small as West is the real draw and driving force in She Done Him Wrong.
The plot is nothing really special, but the salty script, unmistakable Mae West and an early performance from one Cary Grant are the chief attractions in She Done Him Wrong. If you want a film to give you the essence of Mae West and her persona, She Done Him Wrong is a very good place to begin.
The Big Sleep
- Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe
- Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge
- John Ridgely as Eddie Mars
- Martha Vickers as Carmen Sternwood
- Charles Waldron as General Sternwood
- Dorothy Malone as Book Shop Girl
- Elisha Cook Jr. as Harry Jones
A film noir thriller at its most complex and convoluted, The Big Sleep is cryptic but endlessly entertaining stuff. With a real feel for the dark material shown by director Howard Hawks and the sultry chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, The Big Sleep keeps you glued.
World weary and intelligent private detective Philip Marlowe is summoned to the home of the old General Sternwood. The elderly and frail man is concerned about his youngest daughter Carmen, who has a reputation for being loose. She has had compromising photos taken of herself and someone is using the sordid images to blackmail Sternwood. The person that appears to be behind the blackmailing is a man named Geiger, whose book store doubles as a crime racket. The General also wants Marlowe to locate Shawn Regan, a confidante close to the family who has disappeared strangely. While at the house, Marlowe also encounters older sister Vivian, a more cool and collected lady who knows how to flirt with him, yet keep something of a distance. Investigating further into muddy waters, he finds that the blackmailing crime racket ties with the missing Shawn Regan, though Marlowe is bewildered by how they could possibly do so. Just as he gets close, Geiger is murdered, complicating matters even more. Yet it also transpires that Vivian may also have some involvement in the sinister activities as nearby shady casino owner Eddie Mars appears to have a strange hold on her that she desperately attempts to remain hidden. Quickly, Marlowe is sucked into a seedy world of corruption and double crosses where he is desperate to find answers, as everything is spun in a web of underhand tricks and cloak and dagger activities.
Howard Hawks majestically gets the hard-boiled aura of this Raymond Chandler adaptation, coating everything in a shadowy and seedy vibe as Marlowe journeys into a corrupt underworld of suspicion and classic noir. The black and white cinematography is employed in a pretty amazing way with chiaroscuro taking precedent here and making the atmosphere tangible to the audience from the smoky opening titles. Now I must talk about the plot of The Big Sleep, as it is one mystifying and at times very confusing puzzle. This is actually far from a criticism of this film noir thriller, because it grasps the attention, gets you to pay attention and often moves at such a blistering pace, you won’t realise certain things that don’t add up. Sure everything is pretty cryptic and has you scratching your head, but oh what fun there is to be gained from this movie because of its pace and sexual tension, that are kept on high from start to end. What really brings a film like The Big Sleep to life is the scintillating screenplay, that practically bursts with repartee and innuendo that is some of the most sexual dialogue to be found in a movie from the 40’s, when the censors where usually on full patrol to eliminate anything suggestive . The script takes full advantage of the Bogart/Bacall relationship on and off-screen and serves up some double entendre laden exchanges that push the boat out on risqué (be sure to check the scene between Marlowe and Vivian in which she uses horse-riding and saddles as a reference to another physical activity.) As dark and mysterious as the film is, heck it brings new meaning to the word confounding, there is a playful spirit tone gleaned among all the dodgy dealings, blackmail and sleazy events that are usually hinted at rather than shown. Max Steiner is on score duties and transfers every ounce of tension and stunning sexiness to the viewer, matching the dark yet enticing underbelly The Big Sleep has to offer.
Humphrey Bogart heads up things with a fine performance as the iconic detective Philip Marlowe. Bogart impressively injects the part with cynicism, a quick talking attitude and weariness from all the years on the job. You couldn’t have asked for anyone better than Bogart to essay this part, which he plays with charm, dashes of dry humour and smarts that tell him to keep looking for the outcome of a most baffling case. He is simply on point during the whole run of this movie and makes it look effortless. Lauren Bacall practically oozes confidence and enigmatic sexuality as Vivian, whose feisty encounters and suspicious behaviour form a lot of the proceedings, particularly as Marlowe finds himself falling for her. Bacall was only in her early 20’s in this film, yet she has the innate ability to project the impression of a young woman who has seen a lot, seems to be in control and is adept at being secretive. Having already showed their undeniable chemistry in To Have and Have Not, Bogart and Bacall pretty much set the screen ablaze here, as they once more trade innuendos and tantalizing dialogue that flows from their lips like vintage whiskey. You simply couldn’t have asked for a better pairing than Bogart and Bacall, as they where exceptional together, both on film and in reality. John Ridgely has enough slimy energy and enigmatic ways to keep the shady Eddie Mars memorable in the long run. Martha Vickers features as the childlike and coy sister whose extracurricular activities are the start of Marlowe’s investigation into the unknown. A stately presence is to be found in the work of Charles Waldron as the old General calling upon the skills of Marlowe to eliminate the scandal surrounding his daughter. Popping up in small but still memorable parts, there is Dorothy Malone as a coquettish book shop worker and Elisha Cook Jr. as a very tragic fall guy who comes off badly within the darkness in doomed fashion.
As mystifying and mysterious as it all is, The Big Sleep earns its status as a classic noir due to the hard-boiled style and the iconic partnership of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
1970's, Arthur Marks, Blaxploitation, Carl Weathers, Crime, Eartha Kitt, Friday Foster, Godfrey Cambridge, Julius Harris, Pam Grier, Scatman Crothers, Ted Lange, Thalmus Rasulala, Thriller, Yaphet Kotto
- Pam Grier as Friday Foster
- Yaphet Kotto as Colt Hawkins
- Carl Weathers as Yarbro
- Thalmus Rasulala as Blake Tarr
- Eartha Kitt as Madame Rena
- Ted Lange as Fancy Dexter
- Godfrey Cambridge as Ford Malotte
- Scatman Crothers as Noble Franklin
- Julius Harris as Monk Riley
It lacks the raw power of some Blaxploitation movies, but Friday Foster attempts to offer more of a polished product. And for the most part, it is very fun and exciting. The plot gets a bit convoluted, but the energy, colourful characters and style of the piece(which takes its basis from a comic strip) entertain.
Friday Foster is a dedicated former fashion model turned photographer for a magazine. Though immensely good at her job, she commonly gets herself in way too deep on assignment, yet always thankfully has a way out. Her latest job is to photograph the nation’s wealthiest black man Blake Tarr, who is notoriously reclusive but is making his way to Los Angeles. Seizing the opportunity, Friday goes to the airport and through her charms manages to sneak into the back. What she gets is a lot more than she bargained for. She witnesses an assassination attempt on Tarr and manages to photograph it. Having been present, she is now in real danger, especially after a friend of hers is murdered and a mysterious man begins stalking her. The last words of her friend ‘Black Widow’ set Friday’s mind racing with questions of what it could possibly mean. She teams up with private eye Colt Hawkins, who can’t resist the chance to uncover a rat in a maze. Lead to Washington, D.C., the two unravel a most complex conspiracy of the highest proportions that reaches up to high levels of political power and could spell something sinister.
Arthur Marks thrusts us right into the adventure from the get-go, incorporating quick camera edits and action to suck us right into the crime thriller. Exciting sequences can be found in abundance here, in particular the assassination attempt, a jumping rooftop chase and Friday being pursued by a hit man in an abandoned warehouse. The plot is winding and twisting to the extreme, with some of it coming off better than other parts. I am all for a plot of unexpected surprise and intrigue as much as the next guy, and it must be stated that this film sets up an exciting feeling of mystery that Friday finds herself embroiled in. It is in the latter stages that the twists get way too confusing and sometimes bewilder and boggle the mind. Still, any mystery is better than one at all. A bit more cohesion is what the plot needed. The budget on this film seems higher than on others in the Blaxploitation genre, ensuring a more glossy and cleaner film. I would have liked a bit more grit to it, but I can still appreciate colourful style and set design which are both things to praise in Friday Foster. You can tell that this is a film based on a comic strip from the fantastical quality it has, and to be honest, it does provide escapist fare pretty well. Yet it also taps into themes of race and community which surprised me, that added something different to the film in between the action and thrills. I like films to have some underlying context and the sub-plots and issues Friday Foster deals with stand up well even today. A slinky score puts the groove in groovy so much that I had the temptation to jump up and shake my hips to it.
As confusing as the film gets in the later half of it, the winning cast keeps you really invested in the action. Pam Grier is softer here, yet can still handle herself in a dangerous situation. She comes across as smart and flirty, with a real nose for getting into potentially fatal situations. Grier makes Friday a largely unflappable heroine whose killer smile and unwavering loyalty to the job once she unearths the conspiracy are good traits to have. Once more, the sassy energy of Pam Grier is on full display as the crusading central character which gives her a chance to play some vulnerable but still strong notes. And I have to point out that Pam Grier has never looked more lovely than how she does here. Yaphet Kotto exudes a real sense of physical as well as intelligent prowess when playing the smiling private detective, who can solve a situation with both his fists and his mind. The imposing presence of Carl Weathers colours the largely silent character of Yarbro, a hit man who is constantly after Friday with menacing intent. There is Thalmus Rasulala in the part of the billionaire whose attempted assassinations pulls everyone into a scheme. Rasulala has a real charisma and style to him that is nicely observed in his acting. A scene-stealing Eartha Kitt is theatrical and bitchy as a fashion designer friend of Friday’s with a flair for the exotic and eccentric. Ted Lange brings humour to proceedings playing a pimp who is kept at arm’s length by Friday, despite his rich and flamboyant gifts. Godfrey Cambridge, Scatman Crothers and Julius Harris each give their supporting characters something to do and make their brief appearances count.
So while it isn’t a big shining example of the Blaxploitation genre, Friday Foster undoubtedly has its pluses to promise an action-filled movie.