Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul Schrader, who wrote classics like Taxi Driver before turning director with American Gigolo. This movie has a kitsch tone as it spirals through a violently absurd story with a bunch of idiots who shoot first and then realise they can't ask any questions now. There are some intriguing issues gurgling under the surface, although they're kind of swamped by the mayhem.
It's set in Cleveland, where Troy (Cage) has just been released from prison and rejoins his buddies Mad Dog and Diesel (Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook). Unable to get real jobs because they're ex-cons, they have no choice but to turn back to crime to make a living. So they contact mob boss El Greco (Schrader himself) for some freelance work. Their first job is ruthlessly convincing a gangsta-rapper (Omar J. Dorsey) to give them his drugs and cash. And then they move on to an even bigger target, the Latino kingpin Chepe (Reynaldo Gallegos). To get to him, they decide to kidnap the infant child of Brennan (Louis Perez), who is heavily in Chepe's debt. The problem is that Troy, Mad Dog and Diesel have no clue what they're doing, so the plan spirals out of control immediately.
The film looks almost swampy with its deep shadows and lurid colours, complete with visual flourishes that include wacky visual effects and clips shot in murky black and white. In other words, it's all very cool and nasty, with violence that's both unexpected and very grisly. People die horribly in almost every scene, but this seems to be rather run-of-the-mill for both the cops and criminals in this strata of society. No one has even a hint of a moral compass here; their goal is just to grab whatever they can. Cage gives another of his enjoyably deranged performances as Troy, bouncing hilariously off of Dafoe and Cook's carelessly murderous goons.
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Relentlessly quirky and strange, this pitch black comedy manages to combine its outrageous silliness with some surprising emotional resonance. Swedish filmmaker Akerlund (who directed Lady Gaga's Telephone) keeps the film's pace snappy as it lurches through a series of crazy situations that aren't remotely believable. But the starry cast manages to hold our interest.
Everything centres on a run-down apartment complex in Los Angeles, where Franklin (Lucas) lives in his dumpy flat, dreaming of someday moving to Switzerland to play his alpine horn in the mountains. Clearly unhinged, Franklin desperately misses his brother Bernard (Marsden), who went away but still sends him a daily audio-tape message. Then on the first day a tape fails to turn up, Franklin's whole life starts to unravel, starting with the fact that his landlord (Stormare) is lying dead on his kitchen floor. Franklin's attempt to get rid of the body draws the attention of two detectives (Crystal and Koechner), who start quizzing the neighbours (Knoxville and Caan). But this is only the start of Franklin's big adventure.
The story is structured as a series of wacky set-pieces set apart by luridly colourful flashbacks and fantasy sequences that fill in the back-stories for each of the characters. As a result, everyone on screen bursts with personality as well as motivations for everything they do, which makes watching them a lot more interesting than we expect. Crystal and Caan emerge as the most engaging people on screen, but even nuttier characters like Lundgren's "Brain Brawn" pop psychologist are fun to watch. By contrast, Lucas gives Franklin an eerily blank face: this is a man who still hasn't figured out who he is.
Continue reading: Small Apartments Review
We follow the frantic, out-of-control maneuvers of two cops in particular, Salim Adel (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Armando Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr.). These are two law enforcement officers out of the barrio, familiar with its culture and the scummy men who run it. But paragons of law they are not, and they have about as much resistance to corruption as a tin badge in seawater.
Continue reading: Dirty Review
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