49 posts categorized "Crime Drama"

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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May 04, 2016

A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS

A-Monster-with-a-Thousand-Heads

The “monster” in Uruguayan-Mexican director Rodrito Pla’s crime drama is a bureaucratic medical insurance hydra that prevents the desperate Sonia Bonet (powerfully played by Jana Raluy) from obtaining proper medical care for her husband Guillermo, who has cancer. Her insurance company refuses to pay for an expensive drug that could be effective in treating Guillermo’s tumor. Sonia’s husband is dying, but she will go to any lengths to save him.

If the Mexican medical system has aspects in common with North America’s notorious Big Pharma-driven health care structure and its conspiratorial insurance complex, the coincidence is built on a pattern of blind greed overriding concerns for the wellbeing of patients.

Sonia takes her punk rock-loving teenage son Dario (Sebastian Aguirre Boeda) with her to track down her husband’s doctor (Dr. Villalba — Hugo Albores), with whom she has discussed her husband’s situation in depth over the phone. Sonia doesn’t fall for the stalling tactics employed by the quack physician’s secretary. Instead, Sonia intuits Villalba’s identity when he tries to sneak out of his office. A pistol in her purse comes in handy in convincing the doctor to see things her way. Still, blood must be spilled.    

A-monster-with-a-thousand-heads1

It’s a nice start. Unfortunately, clocking in at just 74 minutes, “A Monster With a Thousand Heads” feels like a film missing its third act. The filmmaker cobbles together a four-angle courtroom surveillance composite shot to serve as a tableau to say that Sonia will pay for her crimes. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t see fit to better flesh out what could have been a thought-provoking commentary on the corporate medical system in Mexico. The film has some good things going for it, but the version being released isn’t really a complete movie.    

Not Rated. 74 mins. (C-) (One star — out of five / no halves)

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June 01, 2015

MIKEY AND NICKY — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Mikey and Nicky Elaine May wrote and directed “Mikey and Nicky” (1976) with the intention of creating a feminist think piece driven by her volatile male characters. The violence-prone machismo that Peter Falk and John Cassavetes display speaks to chronic social ills that continue in America. Though she allowed the production to go three times over budget, May created an exquisite companion piece to Cassavetes’s own films. “Mikey and Nicky” is perfectly on par with “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.” Naturally, Paramount hated this gritty picture because of its unconventional nature. The studio took the film away from May to complete editing without her input. In 1986 May presented her approved version.


Mikey’s and Nicky’s ethically feeble relationship to the world around them presents a racist and sexist cocktail of public menace. Alcoholic Nick (Cassavetes) holes up in a fleabag hotel with a “thousand bucks” in downtown Philadelphia. He’s attempting to evade the “hit” his mob boss took out since catching Nick stealing. Nick calls on his childhood friend Mikey (Falk) to help him get out of town, or at least bring some half-and-half for Nick’s raging ulcer. Nick rightfully suspects that his closest pal might be in on the hit, but has no one else to turn to in his darkest hour. Cassavetes and Falk tear into their roles like hungry lions of a dying generation feasting for one last time. May’s story-rich script accommodates her actors’ improvisational riffing sprees.


Mikey&NickyPlot details bristle with emotional tension, as when Nick asks Mikey to trade overcoats with him before exiting the hotel because he thinks a hitman waits outside. Nick goes on to request that they exchange watches, “for luck.” In return Mikey asks to borrow Nick’s gun “in case they shoot at me it’d be lucky if I could shoot back.” Nick will test Mikey’s loyalty right up until the film's last tragic frame.



Over the course of the night Mikey and Nicky revisit their long history together even as Mikey conspires with the assassin (played by Ned Beatty) driving around looking for Nick. An impromptu visit to Nick's mother's grave leads to a fistfight.


Mikey&Nicky2May reaches the tone, rhythm, and kinetic gut-punch of a Cassavetes movie (think “Husbands,” 1970). The male-centric parameters plant disturbingly uncomfortable episodes of racist and sexist abuse at the hands of the characters with whom we are led to empathize. In one such scene a seemingly suicidal Nick makes trouble in a black bar where the patrons suppose Mikey and Nick to be undercover cops. Nick insults the boyfriend of a woman for whom he buys a drink, when he claims to share the man’s name “Mel.” The scene’s vehemence boils.


The showstopper comes when Nick takes Mikey to visit Nellie (Carol Grace) a girl who Nick characterizes as a slut. After having his way with Nellie on the living room floor while Mikey’s sits on a trashcan in the kitchen, Nick sends in Mikey to take his turn. The dramatically loaded scene proves a stunning indictment of ingrained sexist attitudes that explodes like a well-placed time bomb in a narrative that never stops looking for a fight.

Mikey and Nicky

Rated R. 119 mins. (A) (A Stars - out of five/no halves)


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