Neo-Noir Hall of Fame

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The trick is not minding
La Haine

Paris is a city in turmoil. Social and violent upheaval has thrown it into disarray. Racism and racial targeting has become normal for the police.
This could have been made in New York or Los Angeles just as easily.

Kassovitz, the directory, farmed all of this around 3 youths. Each from a different background, ethnically. The hotheaded Caucasian gangster wannabe, Vinz. The calm and collected young black boxer, Hubert, and the young and Impressionable Arab, Said, trying hard to be tough as well.

Through the course of a day we follow the three of them around the projects of Paris, each dealing with their anger in their own ways over the events that transpired in the previous night. A mutual friend was beaten into a coma by the police, which resulted in a riot the night before.

Vinz and Hubert argue throughout the film, as Vinz wants revenge on the cops. Thereís a lot of social political messages here, and a lot of thought went into it, but ultimately the film doesnít quite work as a Neo noir, for me. It just seems like a straight crime film. Still a good movie, however.



Red Rock West

This has all the basic ingredients you really need for a noir movie, and the hick / neo-western setting was a nice touch. Nic Cage really cemented his stereotypical with movies like this, and this is probably one of the best examples of his type. Dennis Hopper did a good job in this one, too, but I feel like when the Marine aspect of his character is removed, he's essentially a less vulgar Frank Booth. But aside from a cool setting and a fairly well-progressing plot, I really didn't feel like this was something I needed to watch again. It's a thrilling movie with some good suspense build-up and a little action on the side, but I also feel like this is the kind of movie I've seen before. Every character basically filled the bare basics of a trope that I've seen in plenty of movies from the 40's and 50's. The good thing is they did what they could to keep the story going in a brisk runtime, but otherwise it's a decent western-thriller that's more a little too tropy to stand out as one of the greats as its fans say it does.





And with that review, KeyserCorleone inches closer to the finish line! He's one film away from finishing so good job.

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And with that review, KeyserCorleone inches closer to the finish line! He's one film away from finishing so good job.

Nevermind my dumb self, Keyser is the first one to finish! So cheers indeed...




Nevermind my dumb self, Keyser is the first one to finish! So cheers indeed...

Thanks. To be honest, I really didn't think I'd finish first. I had so many things to do on the Internet and the real world, and it's increased now that I'm joining a Pathfinder campaign.



Everybody, I'm trying to link all of your reviews as soon as I see them, but make sure I haven't missed any on the first post.



Everybody, I'm trying to link all of your reviews as soon as I see them, but make sure I haven't missed any on the first post.
Just missing my Sin City one on page 5.



Red Rock West

This has all the basic ingredients you really need for a noir movie, and the hick / neo-western setting was a nice touch. Nic Cage really cemented his stereotypical with movies like this, and this is probably one of the best examples of his type. Dennis Hopper did a good job in this one, too, but I feel like when the Marine aspect of his character is removed, he's essentially a less vulgar Frank Booth. But aside from a cool setting and a fairly well-progressing plot, I really didn't feel like this was something I needed to watch again. It's a thrilling movie with some good suspense build-up and a little action on the side, but I also feel like this is the kind of movie I've seen before. Every character basically filled the bare basics of a trope that I've seen in plenty of movies from the 40's and 50's. The good thing is they did what they could to keep the story going in a brisk runtime, but otherwise it's a decent western-thriller that's more a little too tropy to stand out as one of the greats as its fans say it does.


Heh, I made the same observation. I guess Hopper was originally cast in J.T. Walsh's role, but he fought for the Lyle role instead, which the director was hesitant to cast him in due to the Frank Booth similarities. I would have liked to have seen Walsh in the Lyle role. Walsh - one of my favorite character actors, by the way - could be pretty terrifying (not to say he didn't have such moments as Wayne, though).





Sin City (2005)

20th aniversary of this film is coming up...and that makes me feel sad. Let me explain...this film isn't a masterpiece it has it's flaws but as a comic book film and a CGI it is leaps and bounds better than the junk that's produced today. And while it's an anthology series it's handled in a smart way where characters are given economical screen time. This film has like 40 characters in it cand yet they are distinctive and memorable.

The film has three stars, Bruce Willis a retiring Cop, Mickey Rorke basically a private eye/thug for hire, and Clive Owen a drifter who took home a waitress. These are noir archetype characters without actually being characters you normally see in noir. Each one has a physical aspect to them (heart condition, facial surgery, mental ilness) which works as a solid framing device. The characters come into contact with the corrupt power class in Sin City and exact revenge or fail doing so.

The film is incredibly stylized, it's black and white except when it's not. This comes from the source material and it lloks great here. It's a choice that you don't see in the modern sanitized for global consumption modern films. The film starts with a little girl onscreen and word of an older woman offscreen. It frames the audience because after that opening every woman in Sin City is a sex object for the male gaze...and it's done well.

Unfortunately as an anthology some parts are stronger than the others. Actually the wrap around, the Willis story, and Marv are all excellent...it's only the Clive Owen/Benecio Del Toro story that feels out of place, off theme and frankly poorly written. It sinks the film from being an outright masterpiece but still this was a good film.

B+





Nightcrawler (2014)

This is another film that get's noir right. Nightcrawler tells the story of a petty thief with mental issues and his journey through the world of getting footage for the evening news. Like most indie films it's a four actor structure, unlike most indie films it feels like a bigger film and that is incredibly valuable.

Actually one of the things that this film does really right is the little things. This movie has a good score that doesn't really fit the characters interpretation that the audience has for him..rather it's sort of what he sees himself as. Jake Glyhenhaall gives a layered and nuanced performance as a guy that's a bad person but seems less bad because everyone is bad in this film. The more you watch it the darker certain aspects of the film seem to be.

You see him constantly thinking of all the crimes he can/will commit but then you also see how he tries to avoid doing them. This is a man of experience who is a loser but also a very intelligent person. Everytime you watch this film it gets darker and darker for me. I love how the story never goes in the direction that you think it's going. The best part of the film is when we see his relationship with Rick played by Riz Ahmed.

Louis and Rick's relationship is the core of the film. Louis is basically conning this guy to put his life at risk but he needs to feel good about himself so he's also mentoring him. The third act of the film is when the cover begins to slip from Rick and I'm not sure how I feel about what happened at the end of the film from a moral point of view. And that's really what makes this a great film...lots of good ideas well executed in an underrepresented genre.

A





Shallow Grave (1994)

Dany Boyle is an excellent film maker who I would love to revisit a number of his works. I almost cried several times during the film Yesterday...I started the thread when it was announced 28 years later was coming out, I will defend Sunshine as a forgotten masterpiece. But holy hell do I hate this movie. I mean I didn't hate the first time I saw it...it was just mediocre and a disappointment. But then I watched it again in another Hall I think it was my first hall when I joined this site and it was worse spending more time with these characters...now this is my third viewing and this might be one of my most hated films.

Now why does this film particularly annoy me so much. Perhaps its the timing of the film...this was made during the Gen X extreme movie explosion of the early 90's. This is a story of three yuppies who live in a palace but yet they have to rent out a room for money. But the people that come along they mock and torment. In other words it's edgy 90's cynicism which is annoying watching it the first time...for my third viewing I wanted to just turn it off and walk away. We then get the murder, the suitcase full of money, the strange people coming for it...the stuff that feels more like a writing exercise and less like a real story.

I feel bad for hating this movie as much as I do, because I think this was nominated in good faith, For people of a certain generation these 90's films were cool and edgy and the voice of their generation. But I don't even know what was up with the actors in this film...it almost felt like they shot half the film and then decided to change personalities and just not bother to rewrite/reshoot the earlier scenes. McGregor's character in particular feels like a different person like their was supposed to be a fourth character and they just dumped it and combined it with him.

D



I forgot the opening line.


Shallow Grave - 1994

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by John Hodge

Starring Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston & Ewan McGregor

I distinctly remember Shallow Grave being one of those 'word of mouth' movies in the mid-90s, with the common refrain "Have you seen Shallow Grave? You should watch Shallow Grave," often heard regarding good movie suggestions and crime-film discussions. These were the VHS days, and these were the days immediately preceding Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - when we weren't used to as much hard core violence rocking the scenes that made up British crime thrillers. Something had been knocked a little loose by the brutality in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs in the U.S., and Danny Boyle was ready to reinterpret this in a much-removed Edinburgh setting (the movie was filmed in Glasgow for financial reasons) and in an energetic way. I remember being psyched that it featured Ewan McGregor, who I'd really enjoyed watching in Dennis Potter's Lipstick on Your Collar in 1993.

Ewan features as Alex Law, one of three flatmates (the other two being accountant David Stevens (Christopher Eccleston) and doctor Juliet Miller (Kerry Fox) - both young and happy) who aren't the average people you'd normally find sharing accommodation. When interviewing for a fourth flatmate, they want to make sure first and foremost that the prospective tenant is not boring. Juliet, in the end, lets Hugo (Keith Allen) move in - he claims to be a writer, but seems the introspective, mysterious type. Not long after moving in, he's found dead of a drug overdose - leaving a suitcase absolutely stuffed with cash in his room. A fortune. Alex wants the trio to keep the money - and to do that they have to cut up and dispose of the body. Doing this sends David over the deep end, and if that's not bad enough, there are two homicidal maniacs slowly making their way towards Hugo's last address. The keeping of this windfall is going to be a bloody, violent affair which may make the three close friends worst enemies before the stabbing and beating is over.

Shallow Grave opens with Leftfield's techno track of the same name, another sign of the changing times and that this was going to be a modern crime thriller involving young people. The sped up footage keeping pace with the techno beats (the feel of all this reminiscent of Boyle's follow-up breakthrough classic Trainspotting) - and it's the attitude of our three protagonists which sells the left-field counterculture ethos of the entire film. They procede to mock all of the prospective flatmates they interview, throwing weird questions at them and sly jabs at what they see as boring attitudes or cliched social trends. What we have are three characters who see themselves as being on a higher plane than most others - but are about to be brought down to earth when they stumble into a culture that is completely foreign to them. For an accountant, a hack journalist (who Alex is) and a doctor, this criminal conspiracy involving dead bodies and a large sum of money isn't something they're confident attitudes can mock.

On a deeper level Shallow Grave also dissects the fragility of friendship when it's on a superficial level. These three share a flat - and although they often eat together, their intimacy doesn't extend far enough to survive any great tests of loyalty and devotion. As soon as it comes to cutting up Hugo's body, it should have been all three of them doing the work. Instead, David pulls out, then Juliet pulls out - before the lack of fairness in the situation leads to the drawing of straws. This is already dividing the group, because now someone has done far more than the others in this criminal enterprise. The trust rapidly erodes, especially when David's mental health deteriorates and the police come asking questions. Constant strain always eats away at the fabric of friendship, as does the fact that any one of the three could fold and talk to the cops. There's no longer any bonding going on once David goes downhill, and tempers become short. Before too long, all three characters are thinking as individuals - the undoing of any criminal enterprise - but Shallow Grave still has a few twists in store.

Although it looks and sounds pretty decent, Shallow Grave was made on a tight budget. Cinematographer Brian Tufano had been around a while, and would continue on with Boyle, doing director of photography duties on many of his films. Simon Boswell's theme and scoring is pretty basic and simplistic - background stuff to the forefront dialogue, laughter, shouting and manic Alex - who likes to drink. Masahiro Hirakubo, who Boyle would often return to for editing duties needed to do a lot of work on this fast-paced, rapid cut, speed-driven movie which has many changes in perspective, fantasy sequences, video-in-film, and other wild kind of moments. The scene where two thugs are dunking a poor man's head in a bath full of water has the neat feature of showing us his face from deep within the tub, which must have taken all kinds of effort to set up and film, from within what must have been a mock-up tub with a lot of depth to it. Shallow Grave is snappy like that - bristling with ideas.

In the end this is still a great film to watch, despite it not hitting with the revolutionary force it did when first released. But perhaps it's better for being down to earth compared to crime thrillers which would come later, after much one-upmanship led to these kind of films having convoluted plots and too many big-name stars in them. At the time, the three actors in Shallow Grave weren't all that well known. I like it for it's simplicity, and it's range of tone - starting something like a comedy and getting darker and more serious the further we proceed, much like what the characters are getting into gets darker and darker after being a joyful lark (dead body or not.) The final twist was the one thing I still remembered from this blast from the past - the rest all rediscovered. The 90s seemed to rewrite all the rules as far as crime thrillers went and Shallow Grave was in the vanguard - as a movie watcher it was the forerunner to much of the same stuff we still see today. Something very new from Britain, pre-Guy Ritchie.

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Le Cercle Rouge -


The hardest working cop pitted against the hardest working thief? An epic length? A centerpiece heist scene? Is this the Heat of its era? I mean, there's an even a chaotic partner in crime (Vogel in this, Waingro in Heat) who cannot be totally trusted. Whether it is or not, it's an easy recommendation for a Heat lover who is looking for something similar.

I'll go ahead and admit that Jean-Pierre Melville is one of my very favorite directors, with this movie having pretty much all the qualities that explain why. The camerawork and editing are so elegant that if he had filmed something dull like a tax seminar, I would probably watch it. There's never a hint of friction; the bad kind if you know what I mean. Also, I'm not someone who thinks "show and don't tell" is a rule all directors should always follow, but Melville proves he understands that bit of advice here. I would not be surprised if all the dialogue fits on one page, in other words. I also love how Mattei jokingly comments on this while watching the security footage by mentioning that the thieves are not much for talking. There's also Melville's relationship with Alain Delon, which is on par with Scorsese's relationships with De Niro and DiCaprio, and his understanding that action scenes that are over in a blink of an eye often hit harder than ones that are drawn out. Oh, and ďcoolĒ is a word that's still used so often that everyone has their own definition of it. If you want a reminder of what it actually means, watch this.

A claim like "all men are guilty" is a bold one despite how much in line it is with the noir genre. Regardless, this movie puts forth a convincing argument in its favor. Hopefully without spoiling the ending too much, while it has its detractors, the way it makes you wonder if even a virtuous and nurturing cat lover like Mattei is susceptible to the claim is haunting in the best way. Much has been made of the nearly 30-minute silent heist scene, and rightly so, but I still think it's a bridesmaid to Rififi's. As much as I like Melville's direction, my attention wavered and my eyelids got heavy here and there and I don't think my internet-addled attention span is to blame. With that said, it's not my favorite Melville - I'd rank Le Samourai and Army of Shadows higher - but it is a great movie and it explains why I look to France first whenever I'm in the mood for this genre.



The deadline is still more than a week away. There's still time.

I only need to watch Le Cercle Rouge, Body Heat, and Sin City.



The trick is not minding
Tightrope

Tightrope presents us with a more vulnerable, lonely Eastwood. A detective who is divorced, raising two daughters on his own. He is currently caught up in a sexual predator murdering his victims and leaving clues for him. It becomes obvious itís personal. This is more than the usual crime Neo noir however.

Eastwoodís Detective Block balances a dark side within himself that he entertains at night, yet hides from others. Itís almost like he is ashamed of it. Disgusted almost. Thereís a scene where Genevieve Bujold reaches out to him but he recoils, not out of repulsion, but more like heís afraid she may stain herself at a mere touch.

Itís this balancing act that is more interesting to me. A family man at home. A detective driven to protect and catch a killer. Yet, also a man with sexual fantasies. Itís unlike what eh had done before this film, his portrayals usually tough guys. Itís one of his more deeper roles, alongside his turn in Play Misty For Me.

The film looks great, but my only quibble, as it was the first time I saw this years ago, was that Bujold doesnít seem to have any chemistry with Eastwood. I just donít see anything between them during this film.