28 posts categorized "Crime Drama"

April 23, 2018


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.


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.

Screen Shot 2022-03-24 at 3.27.58 PM

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. 


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 (read lazy) than the arcane ones you find in a Tarantino movie. Then again Quentin Tarantino is a real filmmaker; Lynne Ramsey isn’t.

Screen Shot 2022-03-24 at 3.28.05 PM

Rated R. 89 mins.

Zero Stars 


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December 04, 2013


American HustleA Sloppy Con
Good Delivery — Bad Form

If awards were handed out for the sloppiest movies, “American Hustle” would be a dead ringer for such a booby prize. This damn thing is all over the place. It can’t decide if it wants to be a comedy, a period crime drama or a music video. Dueling voiceover narration — between Christian Bale and Amy Adams — finally ceases after an eternity, and the film segues into something resembling a movie only to flit away a in series of music sequence montages that make you pine for the glory days of MTV.

The good news is that the film’s acting ensemble is as committed as they can be. When those actors happen to include Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper, it’s sufficient cause to head out to the nearest cinema with the knowledge that you’re there for the performances but not the format. The players are great but the rules of the game don’t apply.
Conspicuously cribbing from Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” director/co-screenwriter David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) creates a hodgepodge caper movie (an exaggeratedly fictionalized account of a real-life ‘70s era sting operation involving the FBI) that falls apart so many times that there’s nothing left by the time the third act closes.

Anyone familiar with the term “Abscam” remembers the decades-old FBI political-corruption probe that used the obvious moniker as a phony business front to entrap nearly 20 political figures — including a U.S. senator, House Representatives, New Jersey state officials, Philadelphia City Council members, and a handful of attorneys.

Drycleaning and art-forgery businessman Irving Rosenfeld (played by a paunchy Bale) has one of the worst comb-overs you’ve ever seen. It takes him many minutes in front of a mirror to stick a patch of black toupee on his pate before carefully spraying down the hair he pulls across the top of his head at an unnatural angle. The unsightly disguise gives Irving the confidence he needs to go out in the world and rip off investors dumb enough to believe that the $5,000 they give him will be returned tenfold. There’s one born every minute.

Irving wastes no time charming the pants off Edith [not-her-real-name] (Adams), a redhead looker with a British accent who is just as devious as Irving. It takes awhile before Edith discovers that Irving is married to a tacky woman named Rosalyn (Lawrence), but by then the romantically-attracted Edith has already signed on to participate in Irving’s con games.

Irving calls his arms-length wife Rosalyn a “Picasso of passive aggression” for good reason. Jennifer Lawrence steals the movie whenever she’s onscreen — which is saying something considering the caliber of actors she shares it with. A couple of scenes in particular provide the movie with two of its high points — one involving a microwave oven, and another in which Rosalyn’s crocodile tears leave Irving, and the audience, speechless.

Irving’s and Lady Edith’s con games aren’t as polished as they imagine. An eventful run-in with undercover FBI agent Richie DiMasso (Cooper) leaves the felonious couple with an option of spending many years in the pokey, or participating in four sting operations that will wipe their record clean. Unfortunately for Irving and Edith, DiMasso doesn’t really know how to count to four.

For all of its awkward narrative tics, “American Hustle” is more than a little entertaining, but it comes no where near living up to the hype surrounding it. “Goodfellas” — “American Hustle” ain't.

Rated R. 129 mins. (B-) Three Stars - out of five/no halves)


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December 03, 2013



Out of the FurnaceScott Cooper’s American character study-thriller bursts at the seams. After his directorial debut with “Crazy Heart,” Cooper returns from his Oscar win with a sophomore movie that fulfills his promise as a filmmaker of vision and grit. While it doesn’t carry “Crazy Heart’s” satisfying range of emotional texture and ironic wit, it’s a solid effort that bodes well for Cooper’s growth as a filmmaker.

The industrial look of “Out of the Furnace” is exquisitely grungy. Set in Braddock, Pennsylvania, the story resonates with “The Deer Hunter” without needing to visit upon the ravages of America’s sundry wars overseas; Americans are already plenty ravaged enough at home. That’s the message of the movie. Cooper doesn’t sugarcoat anything.


The nation’s downturned economy is a pervasive quicksand that drains color and life out of everything, especially in the town of Braddock, where Christian Bale’s Russell Baze works at its soon-to-be-closed Carrie Furnace Complex.


Russell’s brother Rodney is an Iraq war vet who has done too many tours of duty. Some people have read too many books, or seen too many movies. Rodney has seen too much mindless killing, and been a part of it too. He’s damaged goods. If anyone thought Affleck fell off the planet after “The Killer Inside Me,” this exceptional actor is back with a vengeance. Affleck’s immersion in the role of a universal soldier with a permanent chip on his shoulder is thoroughly compelling. Rodney finds distraction in over-leveraging his social condition — namely that of an unemployable (broke) war vet — with a taste for stupid gambling. The only money Rodney makes comes from fighting in an illegal fight club run by a local bar owner played by Willem Dafoe. Still, Rodney is a military badass who hasn’t yet learned how to take a fall.

You would be hard pressed to find three finer performances than those delivered by Affleck, Bale, or Woody Harrelson (playing an inbred Appalachian brute). “Out of the Furnace” is a straightforward revenge thriller with plenty of atmosphere, character development, and plot twists to make the experience matter. It’s a movie that raises questions without trying too hard. What comes out of the furnace, and where does it go next?


Rated R. 106 mins. (B) (Three stars - out of five/no halves)

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