Coming as it did after critical darlings Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, it's perhaps not surprising that Quentin Tarantino's next film failed to - at the time - scale those giddy heights. Yet on reflection these days, when viewing Tarantino's career nearly twenty years later, it's one of his tightest works.
Working from master pulper Elmore Leonard's novel "Rum Punch", Tarantino had a concrete base from which to build on, which he does with aplomb. Cleaving close to the spirit of Leonard, Jackie Brown is rich with glorious chatter, each conversation either pings with a biting hard ass edge, or alternatively deconstructing the vagaries of the human condition.
Oh for sure Jackie Brown is talky, but nothing is ever twee or pointless, it's a film that pays rich rewards to those prepared to grasp the characters on show, to be aware that all is building towards the final third. It's then here where the story brings about its stings, with a complex operation cloaked in double crosses and evasive captures, of violence and more...
There's a wonderful portion of the story that sees Tarantino play the same sequence out from different character perspectives, but it's not indulgent. Tarantino reins himself in, not letting stylisations detract from the characters we are so heavily involved with. His other triumph is bringing Pam Grier and Robert Forster to the fore, who both deliver terrific performances. It's through these pair, with their deft characterisations, where Jackie Brown is most poignant and purposeful.
Is Jackie Brown undervalued in Tarantino's armoury? Perhaps it is? But it's ageless, holding up as a piece of intelligent work of note, and well worth revisiting by anyone who hasn't seen it since it was first released. 9/10
A funny story about 6 and 9.
6ixtynin9 (Ruang talok 69) is without doubt a film of acquired tastes, a pic that's hard to recommend with any great confidence. That is, though, unless you have a kink for violent black comedy crime movies, where the narrative drive is quirky and fulsome, even winsome in some regards.
Story finds Lalita Panyopas (excellent) as Tum, a lady who has just been laid off from work courtesy of lots being drawn. Feeling desperate and at the end of her tether, she's amazed to find on her doorstep a noodle box with $25,000 in it. A gift from the gods? Not quite! And once some shifty gangster types come knocking at her door, nothing will ever be the same again...
There's a whole ream of films this draws from, but favourably so, especially since the films often referenced in reviews are pretty tasty in themselves. Yet this is no hack job, director and writer Pen-Ek Ratanaruang has crafted a splendid pot of Thai neo-noir curry, putting his own stamp on things, imbuing the pic with his own flourishes, such as showing acts of violence off screen! Via a shadow, a splatter of blood, or a pair of legs going limp.
The characters who inhabit this world are gloriously strange or purely deranged. The henchmen are from a Thai boxing club, garishly attired in bright red clobber (film is packed with pronounced reds), one of them is even deaf, while their boss is a bit off the map, likes to have one of his charges massage him with is feet. There's a phone sex pest, who ends up being a real key component to how things pan out, and one of the baddies reveals tears and a most bizarre death in the family!
It's all deliciously off kilter, even as the bodies pile up, the black comedy tongue is prodding away at the inside of the cheek. But ultimately its noir heart is with the vagary of fate and of the coincidences that pitch our everyday woman (she's no moll or assassin type) into a bloody and bonkers world. All of which has hinged, ironically, on a number badly screwed to an apartment door! 8/10
Everybody oughta listen to his mother.
Boston criminal Eddie 'Fingers' Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is in the mire, the cops have him bang to rights and he's facing a long stretch in the big house. However, if he turns informant he will keep out of poky...
For far too long this film had been stuck hidden away in pirate hell, thankfully it finally saw the light of day and can be seen for all its glory. Peter Yates directs and Paul Monash adapts the screenplay from the George V. Higgins novel. Supporting Mitchum are Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats and Alex Rocco. Music is by Dave Grusin and cinematography by Victor J. Kemper.
It's a film noir lovers picture, a throw back to the halcyon days of the first wave of noir back in the 1940s. So who better than a battered pug faced Mitchum to front up the story? Pic is perpetually downbeat, with the air of despondency hanging over our protagonist like the grim reaper. The underworld painted by Yates and his team is smartly stripped down to basics, it's a world that is after all, always moving in secretive circles. There's no frilly glamour here, there's crime and consequences, realistic street operations, and brilliantly there's believable characterisations.
With dialogue dominating the narrative, it's not one for the action junkie - though the set-pieces are superbly staged by Yates, this is a neo-noir of high respect to previous blood lines. And it boasts a quite brilliant turn from Mitchum whilst not copping out at the finale. Noir heads rejoice! 9/10
That doesn't mean I'm gonna roll over and play informer. If you're looking for a pigeon, go to the park.
To Live and Die in L.A. is directed by William Friedkin who co-adapts the screenplay with Gerald Petievich from Petievich's own novel. It stars William Petersen, Wiiliam Dafoe, John Pankow, Debra Feuer, John Turturo, Darlanne Fluegel and Dean Stockwell. Music is by Wang Chung and cinematography by Robby Muller.
Secret Service agent Richard Chance (Petersen) swears to bring down those responsible for the death of his partner...
Critics of the time were very divided on the quality of Friedkin's movie, with some being way off the mark by trying to put it in the same ball park as TV show Miami Vice! On reflection you like to think that many of those critics view it now and see just how damn down and gritty it actually is. A common misconception is that the film wasn't supported by the paying public, with some quarters suggesting it flopped, not so since it cleared $10 million in profit in North America alone.
The story is set over 41 days in December and January, but forget any notion that this has any hint of the Christmas holidays, for there is no joy here. This trawls the unglamourous side of Los Angeles, crime and corruption dwells here in a world of strip joints and working class graft locales. There are no heroes either, all characters are either flawed or trapped by their situation, alienation figures prominently, as does fatal obsession, and Robby Muller's photography dovetails with the character's mental health by way of colour and composition. In short, this is classic neo-noir.
As an action film it also scores high, with the brutal violence handled with kinetic assurance by Friedkin, while the "famous" car chase that precedes the finale is worthy of all the praise thrown its way over the years. Taking six weeks to shoot, and with Friedkin challenging himself to trump the car chase in The French Connection, it's a dizzying array of accelerated thrusts, spins and nail biting breathlessness, one of the finest car chases in cinematic history for sure. That finale that follows also proves to be a throat grabber, no cop-outs here as Friedkin sneakily put in the ending that the studio didn't want. The script stings with snide asides and moody exchanges and a splendid cast are led by Petersen and Dafoe turning in classical noir protagonist/antagonist portrayals.
It's very 80s, Wang Chung's electro synth musical score ensures that is the case, as do the garish reds and greens that adorn the opening credits, but this is a good thing, for it's not a film of god awful mullets and spangle dressage. A moody and miserable film it is, and thankfully so. 8/10
Seen and thoroughly enjoyed The Hot Spot (1990), bear with me, trying to catch up on my reviews this next week. Also for reference, since you mentioned it, I'm watching QuiÃ©n sabe? (1966) very soon as part of the CFB up-coming poll for 1966. Twas a tasty year for Spag Westerns!
When you watch QuiÃ©n sabe? let me know if GianMaria Volonte was dubbed in English by a different voice actor than the one that dubbed him in For a Few Dollars More.
Retirement - Replicants - Resplendent.
Blade Runner is one of those glorious films that has gained in popularity the older it has gotten. Ridley Scott's follow up to the critical and commercial darling that was Alien, was by and large considered a flop and damned for not being a science fiction action blockbuster. There was of course some fans who recognised its many many strengths during the initial weeks of its 1982 release, but many who now claim to have loved it back then are surely looking sheepishly in the mirror these days, for the hard-core minority of 82 fans remember it very differently.
Remember the spider that lived outside your window? Orange body, green legs. Watched her build a web all summer, then one day there's a big egg in it. The egg hatched...
Anyway, that's by the by, the point being that a film can sometimes be ahead of its time, misunderstood or miss-marketed, Scott's masterpiece is one such case. Story, adapted in fashion from Philip K. Dick's story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Is pretty simple. It's a dystopian Los Angeles, 2019, and there are four genetically engineered Replicants - human in appearance - in the city, which is illegal. They were designed to work on off-world colonies, any Replicant who defies the rules will be retired by special police assassins known as Blade Runners, and Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is on this case. A case that will prove to have many layers...
A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!
Ridley Scott gets to have all his cakes to eat here, managing to blend intriguing science fiction with film noir. That the visuals are outstanding is a given, even the film's most hardest critics grudgingly acknowledge this to be an eye popping piece of visual class - the mention of eyes is on purpose since it's forms a key narrative thread. That it is awash with eye orgasms has led to critics calling a charge of beauty over substance, but the deep themes at work here tickle the brain and gnaw away at the senses.
Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave.
Mood is set at perpetually bleak, a classic film noir trait, and paced accordingly. Scott isn't here to perk anyone up, he's here to ask questions whilst filtering his main characters through a prism of techno decay, of humanity questioned to the max, for a film so stunning in visuals, it's surprisingly nightmarish at its core. The emotional spine is ever present, troubled when violence shows its hand, but it's there posing an intriguing question as the Replicants kill because they want to live. And this as our antagonist, Deckard (Ford a brilliantly miserable Marlowe clone), starts to fall for Rachael (a sensually effective femme fatale portrayal), one of his retirement targets.
Tears in the Rain.
As Rutger Hauer (never better) saunters more prominently into the story as head Replicant Roy Batty, the pic evolves still more. Haunting lyricism starts pulsing away in conjunction with Vangelis' rib shaking techno score, while Jordan Cronenweth's cinematography brings Scott's masterful visions to life, key characters one and all. Visuals, aural splendour and dark thematics - so just what does it mean to be human? - Indeed, curl as one in a magnificent cinematic achievement. A number of cuts of the film are out there, and all of them have fans, but Scott's Final Cut is the one where he had total artistic control, and the scrub up job across the board is quite literally breath taking. 10/10
The "spider outside your window" scene has always been one of my favorites too. She looked so sad and lost - I think that's when he fell for her.
The Final Cut sparked all the talk of Deckard being a replicant, which to me is a bit disappointing as I've always thought that Deckard falling for a replicant was incredibly human. Anyway, the relationship did add some much needed pathos to the story.