Sunday, 14 February 2016

Three Great Movies About... L.A. Criminals

A weekly series in which I watch a bunch of movies and pick out three of the best, each week a different theme and always spoiler-free. Published every Sunday.





What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by treating your loved one to a stay-at-home screening of one or more films from this concluding part of my Los Angeles crime season. If their response is negative, then you know it’s time to get rid. For the occasion I have gathered three treats celebrating the fine work of everyone’s movie favourites: the criminals. I wanted them to be more interesting than your bog standard criminal though, and so I went looking for those who are just a little more, shall we say, unusual. And as a bonus, they all dress terribly smartly as they go about their business.

Falling Down (1993)




You're having a terrible day. In fact a terrible time of it in general. You're stuck in a traffic jam, and it's a sweltering L.A. day. If you're Michael Douglas, that's enough to make you snap, abandon your car, and go on a fantastically fearless rampage across the city (still carrying your briefcase and dressed in shirt and tie). Except he’s nice about it, he’ll only violently attack people who irritate him in some way. Just wait for the diner scene and his reaction when he's told they’ve stopped serving breakfast. For the most part this is good clean violent fun, I suppose the attempted balance of comedy and drama compares it to something like Beverly Hills Cop, and although it fizzles out a little towards the end, it passed an enjoyable afternoon.

Harsh Times (2005)


One of the less well known of writer/director David Ayer's L.A. crime stories, and one that I think was very underrated on release. Christian Bale is immense in the role of a 26 year old war veteran, who on the one hand is applying to become a cop, and on the other has been damaged by combat experience to the point of a borderline psychopath who is increasingly losing control of his desire for drink, drugs and violence. It's a film that is all about Bale, when you see the way he builds his performance from low key to lunatic, with just the right L.A. accent, lingo and mannerisms - it feels like watching a masterclass in acting. It's easy to forget he's actually English, so used are we to seeing him doing American characters. There are probably plenty of actors that could have performed this role, but few that could have performed it so well.

Jackie Brown (1997)


I couldn’t have an L.A. crime season and not include a Quentin Tarantino picture. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are equally deserving of inclusion, but I opted for Jackie Brown. Played by Pam Grier, she fits the bill of not being your everyday criminal; a sophisticated, stylish yet underpaid flight attendant who smuggles money through L.A. International Airport and into the hands of an illegal arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson). The police latch onto her, and before you know it, everyone is scheming each other to get their hands on the money. The dialogue and action are pure Tarantino, though I didn’t realise before that it’s his only adapted screenplay, you wouldn’t know as it feels like his story. The cast are all superb, too many to mention, but I particularly liked Robert Forster’s role as the bail bondsman - it’s the most down to earth character and performance in any of Tarantino’s work, and all the better for it. I was also taken by how well the soundtrack was worked into the scenes, he always does a great soundtrack but this song selection matched especially well with the story (and is mainly love songs, so I guess the film is actually appropriate for today). There’s a beautiful flow to the film, almost effortlessly cool, and the most subtle of his films. I think it’s growing into one of my favourites. Happy Valentines Day motherf*****s!



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