Lookin’ To Get Out (1982)
Written by Jon Voight
Directed by Hal Ashby
For some reason, in the 1980s, Hal Ashby made three crime films and a pilot for a failed crime series. I have no idea why he was given this material or why he would be attracted to it. Throughout his 1970s work Ashby reflected a deeply anti-authoritarian theme, particularly toward law enforcement. That’s not to say these movies a pro-police, they traffic in annoying criminal cliches and don’t necessarily give their roguish protagonists anything interesting or unique to do.
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Uncut Gems (2019)
Written by Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, & Bennie Safdie
Directed by Josh & Bennie Safdie
Josh & Bennie Safdie first came to my attention with Good Time, which presented its seemingly simple story with such stylish confidence that it left me stunned. They have a much deeper film career than I realized, and I have also seen Heaven Knows What, which does a similar job of telling a naturalistic story with an evident personal aesthetic. I plan on delving deeper into their filmography in 2020, but for now, I want to look at their latest release, Uncut Gems.
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The Irishman (2019)
Written by Steve Zaillian
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Frank Sheerhan sits in a nursing home, hair gray and receding. He’s telling his story of rising from the ranks of a truck driver in Philadelphia to the close confidante of Jimmy Hoffa to no one. As the film unfolds, we can surmise his daughter Peggy is the imagined audience. She is perceptive in her youth, realizing the violent work her father does, and finding a more positive role model in Hoffa. She refuses not only to hear Frank’s story but will also not speak to him.
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The Death of Dick Long (2019)
Written by Billy Chew
Directed by Daniel Scheinert
The Coen Brothers so successfully cornered the market on rural crime/mystery that a review of any film that falls into that genre will inevitably mention them. So here’s the mandatory mention. The Death of Dick Long is very much in the vein of movies like Blood Simple, dark and funny with a biting wit. The filmmaker understands his characters to a depth that they avoid becoming caricatures. It would be easy to lazily portray everyone here as ridiculously stupid, but the film manages to show them like idiots in a totally realistic way. The lies told to cover up what happened are so paper-thin the audience cringes knowing these guys are going to get caught.
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Birds of Passage (2018)
Written by Maria Camila Arias & Jacques Toulemonde Vidal, Cristina Gallego, and Ciro Guerra
Directed by Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra
Colombia is a Central American country that has sadly come to be associated with the cocaine industry of the 1980s. Lost in the greed and violence that came out of the black market drug trade were diverse and vibrant cultures. Birds of Passage follows a family of Wayuu, an indigenous people, who get caught up in the first sprouts of that brutal blight that came to Colombia because of wealthier countries’ desire for drugs. While this story takes place on the dusty plains and humid jungles, the core of the tale is something that is timeless and has been popping up in literature for centuries. Birds of Passage is in many ways Shakespearean, a tragedy fueled by greed with no foresight.
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Written & Directed by Michael Pearce
Everything Beast is predicated on could become cliche so quickly in the hands of a lazy filmmaker. A serial killer is targeting teenage girls on the island of Jersey, England. The movie could be an investigative procedural, but it isn’t. There’s a dark romance between protagonist Moll and local poacher Pascal that could be something Twilight adjacent, but the director refuses to go there, though he will hint at it. What Beast ultimately reveals itself as is a dark psychological profile about a young woman coming into her own, shaking off the repressive elements of her middle-class upbringing and her label as a “damaged woman.”
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Lethal Weapon (1986)
Written by Shane Black
Directed by Richard Donner
I was looking over the films that came out in 1989 to find some 30th-anniversary content and saw Lethal Weapon 2 came out this weekend that many years ago. I realized I’d never seen the first Lethal Weapon and decided to sit down and watch this flick finally. I like both gentlemen involved in the making of this picture. Shane Black is a pretty good screenwriter, and I enjoyed both Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Richard Donner is the filmmaker behind The Omen, The Goonies, and one of my all-time favorites Superman the Movie. I am a bit more negative on one of the film’s stars, Mel Gibson for obvious reasons if you have kept up with pop culture for the last twenty years. But I decided to give the picture a shot and see if it made sense there’d be three more movies and television series in this franchise.
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