crime discs dissected
A look at the latest movie releases, including Hell Or High Water and Dog Eat Dog.
Acted, directed and scored to the hilt, David Mackenzie’s neowestern heist drama, HELL OR HIGH WATER, bulges with muscle and pedigree. Mackenzie maintains the clout of his British prison movie, Starred Up, as he transfers to Texas for the tale of bankrobbing brothers and the cops tailing them.
Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges – channelling Rooster Cogburn – make deeply invested work of Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan’s morally meaty script, which bristles with achingly current themes of poverty, property issues and corrupt banking practices. As doom looms, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis prove just the right men to soundtrack the way to the grimly tense climax.
The amoral pleasures mount in DOG EAT DOG (out 2 January), where a customarily un-muzzled Nicolas Cage banks an atypically decent role. Directed by Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader, from Edward Bunker’s novel, the chaotic Cleveland caper follows three ex-cons ( Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook and Cage) on a dirty job to steal a gangster’s baby. Don’t anticipate much edification from the irredeemable trio, but do expect raucous entertainment and some seriously gamey acting. Vintage Dafoe ham is served in TO LIVE
AND DIE IN LA, re-released in tripleformat (4K, BD, DVD). William Friedkin’s 1985 thriller casts Dafoe as a gym-pumped, art-loving counterfeiter pursued by Manhunter’s William Petersen. The ’80s stylings are just a hair away from a mullet, but the script’s salty, the action punchy, the shocks jolting and the car chase is a belter which Friedkin drives against the traffic.
Further maverick pleasures beckon in the Blu-ray re-release of Brian De Palma’s controversystoking BODY DOUBLE of 1984. Taking his Hitchcock fetish to an extreme, De Palma apes Rear Window and Vertigo for this tale of an unemployed actor who watches his often-naked neighbour murdered – mind the drill – before turning his attentions to Melanie Griffith’s porn star. De Palma piles up the torrid twists with serious art-trash chutzpah.
Another man unafraid of flaunting his influences is John Carpenter. In a blazing act of exploitation as cine-buff celebration, Carpenter shifted the set-up of Rio Bravo to gangstrife LA in his 1976, no-budget siege movie,
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, which is reissued as a 40th anniversary Blu-ray. Matching homage with craftsmanship, Carpenter composed gorgeous widescreen images, made the social subtexts sizzle and set the whole thing to his own benchmark score of gloriously clipped synths.
Doctor Who talent in a twisty thriller? No, it’s not Broadchurch, but it is a Welsh feature from one of the Who directors. Euros Lyn oversees THE LIBRARY SUICIDES, adapted from Fflur Dafydd’s novel. Doctor Who’s Catrin Stewart doubles up as twin sisters and librarians, Ana and Nan, who are plotting revenge on the biographer who they suspect of murdering their mother, an author.
In regards to re-releases, the choppy history of Elmore Leonard adaptations came up trumps with director John Frankenheimer’s 52 PICKUP, a bracingly cynical 1986 thriller starring Roy Scheider as a husband whose mistress is murdered by extortionists. As Scheider’s businessman plays the crooks off against each other and everyone gets in over their heads, the cast take to Leonard’s lacerating dialogue like sharks scenting
blood. Clarence Williams III and Ann-margret stand out. Missing the pre-beard, crime-ruled image of London’s East End? Then try THE GUV’NOR, Paul van Carter’s docu-study of bareknuckle boxer Lenny Mclean from his son Jamie’s POV. Cast in Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Lenny was one scary geezer but Van Carter draws a complex picture of a cake-loving brawler with hidden scars.