“How do you feel about the people you killed?”
- HBO’s “The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman”, 2001
That is the cold, remorseless response of Richard Kuklinski, the contract killer at the brutal centre of Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman. The title comes from Kuklinski’s media monicker, and while the name does not fall short of sensationalism it borders on dead accuracy too. He never blinked looking down the barrel of a gun, and he had even fewer reservations about pulling its trigger. (continue reading…)
The Place Beyond the Pines is an affecting conceit, a 140-minute triptych that spans multiple generations in order to arrive at an intractable moral dilemma. Despite the gravitas, the film resonates more for its epic scale than crushing realizations and truths. It is director Derek Cianfrance’s opportunity to demonstrate his craft and ability to manufacture important themes into a film of novel proportions. He makes us of that. (continue reading…)
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is so lavishly absurd, irreverent – cruel even – and unapologetically self-indulgent that you’re almost compelled to think the director is getting at something. Almost. Korine, a notorious enfant terrible, uses the cinema as a prodding rod, too willingly that he often overlooks the medium’s ability to necessitate social critiques. Alas, Spring Breakers is mostly an empty provocation…but not entirely. (continue reading…)
There is a great scene near the end of Orson Welles’s very good 1947 film The Lady from Shanghai when three characters try to gun each other down in a hall of mirrors. Bullets fly shattering all the glass – we’re not sure what’s what and who’s who – until Rita Hayworth’s character is fatally hit. This sequence, taking place in a fun house, was supposed to last 20 minutes but was cut to three by the studios. Luckily the cinematic, visceral impact was still there and we were interestingly dipped in Welles’ character’s warped psychological state. (continue reading…)
2.5 Stars out of 4
If you’ve seen a Takeshi Kitano film, you will understand when I say he makes the word “subtle” melodramatic. What I mean is Kitano has always preferred to surpass the simple gestures of subtleties and create his own definition of low-key. I highly doubt you will enjoy your first Kitano film. They embody premises that should be knee-deep in Tarantino-esque violence (note: Kitano hates Tarantino’s films), but are really cautiously calm. It’s like thinking you are walking into a foul storm only to receive a gentle, humid breeze. (continue reading…)
3 Stars out of 4
Viva Riva! is a rare crime film from the busy, densely populated streets of Kinshasa, Congo. Surrounding a Fuel Crisis, Viva Riva! is essentially Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars with new digs. It’s not quite a Spaghetti Western though than a… I’m sorry, what’s a popular dish in the Congo? (continue reading…)
3.5 Stars out of 4
I Saw The Devil is a merciless film about merciless people doing merciless things. It is an unholy delight - 144 minutes of exuberant moral irony and neo-noir elegance. This is not for the vulnerable or ones who can barely handle Dario Argento movies. I can barely. I Saw The Devil is more gratuitous than it needs to be, but it mutates from cinema to perspective: this film is about greeting and grappling with the Devil.
The opening had the gradual build of the introduction to Fincher’s Zodiac. A shot of a car, with two blue lights attached to rear-view mirror, drives down a snowy, empty road on a murky Korean night. These blue lights have a mind of their own almost; they look like eyes and seem to be guiding the car in its direction. We then meet Officer Soo-Hyun (Byung-hun Lee), who is on the phone with his fiancée. She is having car troubles. Don’t damsels in distress always? Kyung-Chul (Choi Min-sik), a stout man, offers to help her but then accompanies her after with a hammer to her head. (continue reading…)
4 Stars out of 4
My immediate reaction when watching the opening to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs is “who are these guys?” Why is one of them, Mr. Brown (Tarantino himself) so fascinated by the meaning of Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’? Why won’t one tip? – that is Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi). The characters are drenched in black attire, but act like a knitting group, discussing the nitty gritty of pop culture. Reservoir Dogs is an aimless movie, not necessarily interested in accomplishing itself as drama, but more about revealing its characters bit by bit. That answers my initial question.
It’s pyrotechnics galore. Tarantino then cuts to a montage of the cohorts parading down an alley way to Little Green Bag by the George Baker Selection. We meet them all, framed in a closeup to distinguish them from the crowd and get a reaction. You have Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), the aforementioned Mr. Brown and Mr. Pink, Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker), and Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney). That’s an ensemble for you. Some of these characters we get to know very well, almost too much so and others are more in the background and a commentary on our racing thoughts. (continue reading…)
4 Stars out of 4
David Fincher’s Zodiac is not about a killer but what surrounds a killer. Most of the film is addressed through nuanced, subtle, and ponderous banter about characters trying to connect-the-dots but always drawing square circles. The Zodiac Killer was a tease; he got what he wanted - infamy, power, and control - and regardless of his motives, he got away with his killings. Zodiac, therefore, punishes our expectations: we sit through this almost three-hour movie not for a payoff but to be put in our place, only allowed to speculate and try to logically resolve a case that has no resolution. (continue reading…)
3.5 Stars out of 4
“My father always told me: Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” — Michael Corleone
It’s not a masterpiece. That’s first off. But I was riveted by The Godfather Part II. It’s a sequel that is more than just that. The Godfather was about a rise, codes among men, offers that should never be refused, and when the Don had died another soon followed. The Godfather Part II (Coppola was keen on having ‘Part II’ follow the title) is much about, I think, what Nina Rota’s Godfather-theme evoked: loss, downfall, sorrow, yet an intrinsic beauty.
There’s little empowerment at first. Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin) threatens the death of Vito Corleone, but Vito after the abrupt death of his mother, escapes from Sicily and arrives in New York – the land of opportunity. Vito is young vagrant, but The American Dream is in his grasp. (continue reading…)