Small Town Crime (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a solid crime thriller with some good, at times extremely graphic, bursts of action. The cinematography looks great as well. Saturated colors and deep shadows are featured. It’s nice to see Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Walking the Edge, Alligator, etc) given lots of screen time. Small Town Crime is an enjoyable dark film, with a lot packed into 90 minutes.

Available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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River’s Edge (1986)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

Metalhead teens are in turmoil as one of their group has killed his girlfriend (very loosely based on a true case). This film has a particularly important place in my heart. However if you’re not sympathetic to outsider metal kids, or at least a big fan of ‘80s drama, or Dennis Hopper, you may want to skip it. Back when I first saw this on a VHS tape rented from the local grocery store, I had already been one of those jean jacket wearing thrash nerds for a while. That and my natural love of dark subject matter quickly made me fall in love with River’s Edge. The soundtrack LP is killer, mostly thanks to early Slayer, but it also features the best song by Hallows Eve, and a fantastically not-metal Wipers song that you can barely hear in the film. I wish someone would have thought to include some of the amazing and hilarious dialogue on the album. If you like this one, check out director Tim Hunter’s previous film Over the Edge. It’s not quite as dark, but has a similar troubled kid angle, and it was mostly filmed in the suburban Colorado city I grew up in. Hunter went on to direct episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men (and a ton of other forgettable stuff). All the performances here are perfect, but Crispin Glover steals the show. If you’re a fan of his you already saw this years ago. Also I must admit that the locations used probably planted the seed for me moving to the West Coast. There’s a few houses in my neighborhood in Portland that could pass for ones in the film. A few years ago I went to a River’s Edge screening and Q and A with Daniel Roebuck who played killer teen John / Samson. He told a ton of great stories, shared a slideshow of his own on-set photos, and more. He mentioned that he and other cast members spent a lot of time with co-star Hopper, mostly asking for stories about the filming of Apocalypse Now. When the audience question round came up I asked him for details. The one tidbit I hadn’t ever heard before was that Martin Sheen’s brother was a stand-in on Apocalypse when he had a heart attack. There are probably a couple of moments of the final film where you’re seeing Joe Estevez as Captain Willard. Anyway dude, River’s Edge rules, and is also the only fictional time capsule of what American metal kids were like back then. You might want to look up the short doc Heavy Metal Parking Lot for a more realistic (and hilarious) picture. We weren’t all THAT stupid… but yeah, it’s a mostly accurate representation.

Bonus: Vice did an Oral History of River’s Edge a while back. Don’t read until you’ve seen the film. 

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is out of print. More info here.

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The Sisters Brothers (2018)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

It seems impossible, but this film successfully blends a violent western with a bit of dark comedy. It all looks beautiful as well. The Sisters Brothers is deliberately paced between shootouts, and runs on the long side, but I was never bored. Recommended weirdness.

Available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox.

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Night in Paradise (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a very good South Korean dramatic crime thriller. The cinematography is beautiful, and the performances are all strong. There are a few good shootout scenes too. They are only hampered by unrealistic gun action, which is a very common problem in movies. If you’ve never fired a gun, you won’t notice. The barely-kicking guns were easy for me to ignore because this really is an enjoyable, dark movie. The only other blemish is that the film on the slow side. However the climax is well worth the wait. I wish Netflix would invest in more movies like this. That streaming service has a real crap hoarding problem.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

This is my favorite comedy of the late ‘80s. Written, directed, and starring Keenen Ivory Wayans, it’s essentially a parody of ‘70s Blaxploitation Cinema. The good news is that it works even if you’ve never seen one of those films. Sucka has got some of the very best Black Action stars too. Isaac Hayes, aka Truck Turner, is particularly funny. Yep, this film is very offensive, so if you were born after 2000, be warned… your head might just explode while viewing.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

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Croupier (1998)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I like Clive Owen, and this is a pretty damned good drama with him as the lead. It’s got many twists and turns, a little skin, and some brawling too. Not a bad way to spend 90 minutes, compared to the vast universe of crap that is Netflix these days.

Available on Blu-ray from Henstooth.

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Dredd (2012)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

In a bleak future, Judge Dredd is a brutal super-cop who teams up with a trainee to take on a drug gang. I learned a major lesson with this one. I was so staunchly against big budget Hollywood movies at the time that I didn’t even contemplate seeing it in the theater. Huge mistake. Not only is it absolutely amazing, it was in 3D. Not the static, pointless, 3D either. We’re talking the lovingly crafted kind. Now I pay much closer attention, and don’t automatically dismiss any movie in a genre of interest before doing my research. 

I’m kind of depressed now. What were we talking about? 

Oh yes… Dredd

It’s one of the very best action movies made in the last 20 years. There was talk of making it into a TV series. Didn’t happen. There was also a petition to make a sequel. Nope. Well, at least we have Dredd. It’s a thing of pitch black beauty.

Available on Blu-ray through Lionsgate.

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Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is simply a very good, deliberately paced, revenge drama. The artwork might make you think Bad Day… is a violent shoot-em-up. No, but that’s really ok. The performances by Nigel O’Neill and Susan Lynch alone make it well worth a watch.

Available on Blu-ray from Well Go.

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Bully (2001)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Larry Clark got his start by taking photos of fellow juvenile delinquents, which made up his fantastic book Tulsa. After years as an acclaimed art photographer, he directed the agonizing, but highly regarded film Kids, about the same topic, set in ‘90s New York City. Later he made Bully, which is based on a real life murder perpetrated by, you guessed it, juvenile delinquents. This is Clark’s best film by far. It pushes almost EVERY button, so sensitive folks should flat out avoid it. Bully is so shocking that I am honestly impressed that it has been made available on streaming services in our current “trigger warning” times. In spite of its controversial content, this film managed to receive a lot of critical acclaim at the time of its release. Unfortunately Larry Clark did not continue making films of the same quality. He’s following his obsessions with smaller movies, which I admire, but Bully shows all elements falling into place to make a near-perfect film.

RIP Brad Renfro. I wish we could have seen what movies you’d go on to make.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Jallikattu (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am happy to share another excellent movie out of India (you may recall that I recommended Tumbaad not long ago). This story revolves around a rampaging Water Buffalo, but it’s a lot more interesting than that might make you think. Human folly is on full display, with scenes ranging from hilarious to quite dark. There are a few slow moments, but overall this film is awesome, and beautifully shot. The soundtrack is damn good too. Jallikattu is available on Prime, in 4k no less.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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