40 posts categorized "Crime Drama"

April 24, 2018

POLICE BEAT

Police BeatA poetic character study etched in its primrose Portland, Seattle locations, “Police Beat” is a clear-eyed dissection of the immigrant experience in pre-smartphone America. Senegalese non-actor (and former Junior World Cup Soccer Team star) Pape Side Niang plays Z, a newly hired bicycle cop attempting to create a romantic life with an American white girl more interested in playing head-games than spending time with him. Barely into his 20s Z is a Muslim struggling with Western culture from the ground up. His motivations are unfettered. He saw an ad in the newspaper, passed the test, and became a police officer.  

Co-writer/director Robinson Devor (“Zoo”) frames the weeklong narrative in police procedural terms based on actual case files. As such, every day-to-day social encounter rings with an element of banal, unpredictable truth beneath Z’s running inner monologue that narrates the movie. Our protagonist deals with frequently stressful tasks by concentrating on things in his personal life. The device works well in keeping the audience engaged. Every scene has multiple layers of emotional and physical suspense inherently built in.   

Pape Side Niang

Z wants to be promoted to a patrol car. In the meantime he’s stuck patrolling downtown Portland on a mountain bike. His sometime partner (Eric Breedlove) is a heroin-addicted white cop whose girlfriend is a prostitute.

Pape Side Niang’s character is the same person in or out of uniform. He brings his own method of common sense in dealing deal with the normal, confused, irate, or outright insane (largely white) locals he comes into contact with. His exotic West African accent expedites rather than hinders.  

Police Beat

“Police Beat” (2003) is far from a perfect film, but its originality unites with its quietly charismatic lead actor and keen compositions to generate a haunting human experience brimming with truthful social commentary.

Sadly, Pape Side Niang passed away at the age of 25 with “Police Beat” as his only film.

Not Rated. 80 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)   

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

April 22, 2018

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE — CANNES 2017

You_were_never_really_hereIf only I had never really seen this atrocity of a movie I’d feel much better. That does it; I’m giving up on Lynne Ramsay for good. I loathed Ramsay’s last film “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (2011). Still, I was willing to give her latest effort a chance. Big mistake. I thought it possible that Ramsay had grown as a filmmaker. The complete opposite appears to be the case.

Ramsey steals a dozen little tropes from movies like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Taxi Driver” to piece together a baloney narrative that hangs together like wet seaweed on the beach. Some people might call it experimental, and I can see why. You certainly feel like a guinea pig being experimented on while watching this awful movie. Ramsey based her self-penned screenplay on Jonathan Ames’s novel, but you’d never guess that this movie had any formal underpinnings.

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Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a hit man/cop killer who rescues underage girls from sex traffickers. A New York politician hires Joe to rescue his pubescent daughter. So topical, you think. Wrong. Ramsay treats the issue with such cavalier sloppiness that she trivializes sex trafficking into something so fake that it's no wonder so many people don't believe such a thing even exists. Judging from this film, it doesn't.

If revenge fantasy is your thing, Michael Winners 1974 “Death Wish” did it meaner and with real heart from the great Charles Bronson. Joaquin Phoenix just looks like he needs a good long nap. Joe suffers from delusions, so not everything we see is for real. Joe is a white dude sociopath whose chosen weapon is a hammer. If I never see Joaquin Phoenix with his shirt off, it will be too soon. 

Joaquin

If this set-up sounds like something you want or need to see for some imagined reason, just know that there is an underwater scene that is a very close copy of a similar scene in “The Shape of Water.” You could always stream “You Were Never Really Here” and turn it into a drinking game where you have to drink a shot every time you see a reference to another movie. The influences here are much more accessible than the arcane ones you find in a Tarantino movie. Then again Quentin Tarantino is a real filmmaker; Lynne Ramsey isn’t.

Rated R. 89 mins. (D-) Zero stars — out of five / no halves

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

June 14, 2016

CHOUF — CANNES 2016

Chouf2Cannes, France —Audiences new to modern-day gang related international crime dramas could get a crash course in the genre from Tunisian-French writer/director Karim Dridi. The filmmaker checks off every violent trope right down to a shock ending that will seem oh-so-profound to the film’s targeted audience of urban youth.

Chouf” means “look” in Arabic, and takes on the meaning of a lookout for the purposes of this formulaic waste of celluloid. The heading doesn’t have much to do with the Marseilles-set drama that takes place in an area of high-rise housing projects, but that’s beside the point. “Chouf” is an exploitation crime flick meant to send hearts racing for pubescent boys who dream of the thug life. Such fantasies of making fast money selling drugs in the company a bunch of predictably volatile thugs goes exactly as you would expect for good-kid-turned-bad Sofiane (Sofian Khammes).

Chouf

Our not-so-gold-hearted protagonist visits his high-rise-living Muslim family in Marseilles while on summer vacation from college in Lyon. The family patriarch is a disciplinarian hard-ass for all the good it does for his ostensibly doomed sons. Naturally, Sofiane’s older brother runs with the local hoods that shoot him dead in the film’s first act. Rather than following through on the promise that his more educated mind seems fated for, 20-year-old Sofiane chooses to seek revenge instead. He joins up with his brother's gang of drug dealers. Evidently, the best thing college has taught Sofiane is how to run a drug operation like a McDonalds. Genius. 

It’s an old saying, if you seek revenge dig two graves. There, I just saved you the two or three hours you might have wasted seeing this piece of cinematic garbage. Next.

Not Rated. 108 mins. (C-) (One star — out of five / no halves)

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