Which Way Is Up: Michael Mann’s Miami Vice

The simple truth is that I hated Michael Mann’s Miami Vice on first viewing. On a technical level, it was marred by hideously poor sound reproduction — for which I blamed the particular theater I happened to see it in, but a friend of mine had the same complaint about a totally different venue, suggesting […]

Gritty, Grimy, and Graffitied: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Plenty of genre movies have been set in New York City, such as Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (devilry on the Upper West Side), Walter Salles’ Dark Water (ghosts on Roosevelt Island), Guillermo Del Toro’s Mimic (vermin in the subway), and Spike Lee’s Inside Man (thievery on Wall Street). The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, […]

Cool Britannia: David Yates’ BBC Miniseries State of Play

The 2003 BBC miniseries State of Play is nothing less than six straight hours of intelligent drama, liberally spiced with suspense, action, and tasty plot twists. The entire epic tale is delivered by a veritable plethora of British Isles telly & movie who’s who: writer Paul Abbot, director David Yates, and actors David Morrissey, John […]

Circumnavigating The Guggenheim in Tom Twyker’s The International

The International is a disappointment coming from Tom Tykwer, director of the kinetic classic Run Lola Run, the mystical The Princess & The Warrior, and the lunatic, perverse Perfume. The International is by far his most conventional in subject matter, and lacking his energy and spirit. It especially suffers in comparison to its closest contemporary […]

The Tenuous Border Between Merely Scraping By and True Poverty: Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River

The title of Courtney Hunt’s suspenseful Frozen River refers to both a literal body of water separating countries, and to the tenuous border between merely scraping by and true poverty. Melissa Leo was rightly praised last year for her performance as Ray, a woman struggling to support two boys in upstate New York. Her family […]

Material Witness: Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me

Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) is more of a drama than a police thriller, refreshingly focused on its characters over suspense and action alone. Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) is a salt-of-the-earth Queens detective assigned to protect material witness Claire (Mimi Rogers) from assassination. Keegan is a modest family man, recently promoted to […]

Le fugitif: Guillaume Canet’s Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One)

Tell No One enjoyed a surprisingly wide US theatrical release for a French film without huge English-speaking stars (except for Englishwoman Kristin Scott Thomas, perfectly fluent in French). Roger Ebert rightly compared the tightly crafted thriller with The Fugitive, placing it squarely in Hitchcockian wrong-man-accused territory. Pediatrician Alex Beck (François Cluzet) finds himself the prime […]

Michael Mann’s stylish but slight Miami Vice (2006)

Miami Vice is decidedly slight on character and depth, which is not surprising considering the source material. It is quite so, however, considering writer/director Michael Mann‘s track record once leaving the iconic 80s tv show behind. The deep characterization in all his crime dramas ranging from Thief through Collateral elevate them above the ultrastylized and […]

Red Eye

I had heard Red Eye was a refreshingly unpretentious thriller that played on Americans’ changed relationship with air travel in a post 9/11 world. While technically true, it’s actually a very disappointing runaround decidedly lacking in the most routine pleasures that come with thrillers. Where’s the expected third-act twist? Is the twist that there actually […]

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