July 1, 2014 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink


July 1, 2014 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink

The Brave One

As its blandly heroic title forecasts, "The Brave One" is a revenge fantasy that floats like a narrative helium balloon waiting to find its ceiling. Jodie Foster plays Manhattan talk radio personality Erica Bain, whose poetic "Street Walk" monologue segment invites WNKW listeners to contemplate the "safest big city in the country" with a bittersweet nostalgia for the ripe culture wiped out by corporate ideology. And yes, some of that nostalgia is for the all-night cafeteria atmosphere of pimps, druggies and prostitutes that inhabited Scorsese’s "Taxi Driver" and Michael Winner’s "Death Wish." The movie dredges up the bad old days of perpetual street hassles in the Big Apple and drops a bag of rotting fruit at the feet of its impressionable protagonist. Special features include English, French, and Spanish language, English, French, and Spanish subtitles, a making-of featurette, and additional scenes. Aspect ratio is anamorphic widescreen, with sound quality processed in Dolby Digital 5.1. (Movie – Three Stars, DVD features Two Stars) Rated R, 122 mins. (Warner Bros.)

February 24, 2008 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink


After overblown stories of walkouts by critics during its Toronto film festival debut, "Rendition" proves to have enough substance, momentum and drama to validate its entertainment value as a politically charged thriller. Reese Witherspoon plays Isabella, the pregnant wife of Egyptian American Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), a chemical engineer who gets abducted by U.S. Special Forces on suspicion of terrorism upon his return from a business convention in South Africa. El-Ibrahimi is secreted to a North African dungeon where local police kingpin Abasi gleefully tortures him with the tacit assistance of CIA cat’s paw Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who survived the suicide bombing that gave rise to El-Ibrahimi’s abduction.

"Rendition" comes out in a season of R-word film tittles (see "Redacted" and "Reservation Road") set to assault cinema marquees with bloody threads of alliteration. What these films share in common is the death of young people by mechanized forces. Cars, bullets and bombs dismantle callow human life with an abstract force and logic that most people can comprehend, if not rationalize, in a way that lets those responsible off the hook. "Rendition" is the best of the three movies because it’s a humanitarian film rather than a political one even if that subtext is present. It might not rise to the complexity of "Syriana," but "Rendition" isn’t a flimsy movie either. Special features include English and Spanish subtitles, audio commentary with director Gavin Hood, a documentary short, and a making-of featurette. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with sound quality produced in Dolby Digital 5.1, and 2.0. (Movie – Three Stars, DVD features – Three Stars) Rated R, 122 mins. (New Line)

February 24, 2008 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink

Inside Man

Since bankrupting his film production company with dreadful movies like "Bamboozled" and "He Hate Me" Spike Lee now works as a Hollywood gun-for-hire creating a blasé and muddy suspense police drama. Clive Owen plays Dalton Russell a bank robbing mastermind who holds 50 New Yorkers hostage in an enormous downtown bank owned by former Nazi profiteer Arthur Case (well played by Christopher Plummer). Denzel Washington plays hostage negotiator Detective Keith Frazier assigned to resolve the crisis. Screenwriter Russell Gerwirtz mistakenly emancipates much of the story’s potential suspense by revealing the fate of Dalton’s hostages in early flashback segments. However, it’s Spike Lee who commits the film to utter mediocrity with ballad-tempo music, an equally dragging cadence from the actors and a visual flourish that has Denzel Washington apparently riding a Segway scooter toward the camera in a long dolly shot that comes at the film’s zero hour. Special features include an audio commentary track by Lee, five deleted scenes, and two making-of featurettes. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen sound quality processed in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. (Movie – Two Stars), DVD features – Two Stars) Rated R, 128 mins. (Universal)

August 20, 2006 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink

Basic Instinct 2

In spite of Sharon Stone’s hearty encore performance as the ultimate femme fatale, "Basic Instinct 2" falls unbearably flat. Husband-and-wife screenwriters Leora Barish and Henry Bean employ such labored plotting and clinical bits of sex and violence that there isn’t anything to savor. There is not a trace present of the Hitchcock-inspired suspense that director Paul Verhoeven powerfully exerted over the original "Basic Instinct." Instead we get a futile change of locale for Catherine Tramell (Stone) who has moved her novel-writer’s desk to London in search of high-risk episodes of sexual gratification. David Morrissey is painfully miscast as Dr. Michael Glass ("Derailed") a criminal psychiatrist brought in to analyze Catherine after her involvement in the death of her sex partner during a high-speed car ride. Director Michael Caton-Jones ("Scandal") proves himself incapable of handling the rigid demands of a suspense thriller, albeit a poorly written one. Special features include director's commentary with Michael Caton-Jones, a making-of featurette, and ten deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary. Aspect ratio is 2.43:1, with sound quality processed in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.
(Movie – One Star, DVD features – One Star) Rated R, 114 mins. (Sony Pictures)

August 1, 2006 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink


"In the CIA, as elsewhere in the federal government, you’re innocent until you’re investigated." That line, from former CIA operative Robert Baer’s source material memoir "See No Evil," sums up the ambiguous conduct of characters in writer/director Stephen Gaghan’s worldly movie about the corruption and greed underlying the geopolitical system’s myopic focus on oil. The title takes its name from a think-tank term for a reconfigured Middle East in the same way that "Chinatown" represented a kind of corrupt limbo. Gaghan zooms in and out of four intertwined stories with breathtaking precision toward a gut-wrenching denouement. It’s an interactive political thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat attempting to gauge every opposing character’s clandestine motives and their kinship to real life Texas oilmen, Gulf emirs, Islamic terrorists and White House wonks. Special features include English, French and Spanish subtitles, a George Clooney interview featurette, three deleted scenes, an ecology featurette, and the film’s theatrical trailer. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1, with sound quality processed in Dolby Digital 5.1. (Movie – Four Stars, DVD features – Two Stars) Rated R, 128 mins. (Warner Brothers)

July 1, 2006 in Drama, Suspense Thriller | Permalink

Cache (Hidden)

Austrian provocateur filmmaker Michael Haneke ("Funny Games") pursues his polemic of seething societal violence in a sterile film about Georges (Daniel Auteuil) a French talk show host being quietly terrorized by a mysterious person sending surveillance tapes of Georges’ house. Only Georges’ dreams provide insight into who the culprit might be. It seems that the smug Georges indulged in some petty violence against a childhood acquaintance who might still hold a grudge. Haneke never ties the film together in a satisfying manner, but he does present one virtuosic splash of graphic brutality that is sure to give more than a few viewers nightmares for many nights to come. Special features include an interview featurette with Michael Haneke, and a making-of featurette. Aspect ratio is 1.75:1, with sound quality processed in Dolby Digital 5.0 (Movie – Two Stars, DVD features – Two Stars) Rated R, 117 mins. (Sony Pictures)

July 1, 2006 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink