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The Thomas Crown Affair – John McTiernan (1999)

  • crime

In the time that Pierce Brosnan also played James Bond, he also played Thomas Crown. A similar part, but in a way, here he is the ‘bad guy’.

Thomas Crown is an extremely rich business man with a love of art. As a sort of game, he decides to steal a painting of Monet from a museum that he visits daily. One of the investigators of the heist is Catherine Banning (Rene Russo), a self-certain employer of the insurance company that insured the Monet for $ 100 million that they rather not pay.

Banning quickly finds out that Crown got his hands on the painting and in a way of testing who is the most cunning, the two start to grow closer and closer. The film is not so much a ‘whodunnit’, but rather a ‘who is going to win’. The result is an amusing crime movie.

Hardcore Never Dies – Jim Taihuttu (2023)

  • crime

This is not the documentary about “gabber” (hardcore techno) that I thought it would be. It is more or a Dutch crime film.

Michael lives with his parents. He prefers playing the piano over school and dropped out of school, doing some low-payed job, continiously hoping to be discovered as a pianist. Then his older brother who has left the parental house comes back into his life. Brother Danny discovered the “gabber” scene, but mostly, the drug scene surrounding it. He is a small dealer, thinking he is a big shot.

Michael discovers the escapism that the pounding beats offer and the experience is soon enhanced with XTC and cocaine. Soon he gets stuck in the web that his brother got caught in earlier on. Danny has debts to some people and every time thinks that a new loan will result in a profiting sale and the end of his financial problems. Needless to say that his problems only get bigger.

“Hardcore Never Dies” plays in a time when having a website was something special and when mobile phones still were only for making phonecalls. There are several scenes at hardcore parties, but the characters and their lives in general are mostly the focus.

Amsterdam – David O. Russell (2022)

Another old style crime movie with a star cast. Two American friends get wounded during WWI in France. In the hospital they meet Valerie. Valerie has got contacts in Amsterdam who can patch up the heavily wounded men and the three remain in Amsterdam for a while becoming the closest of friends.

After a while, Burt, wants to go back to his practice and his wife in the USA. Somewhat later Harold follows, leaving Valerie behind.

Odd circumstances make old problems catch up with Burt and Harold and while the two are trying to climb out of the mess, they meet Valerie again.

“Amsterdam” is a very amusing screwball comedy. The film has got amusing characters, funny situations, a whole stack of familiar faces.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – Rian Johnson (2022)

The first “Knives Out” was a classic murder mystery in a 1980’ies style. A group of people in a big mansion, somebody dies and a detective comes to sort things out. For the sequel a more modern setting was chosen.

A group of rich and influential friends spend a luxury weekend every year at a surprise location. We have got our businessman, scientist, “influencer”, fashion icon, YouTube hit, etc. They are lured to a remote Greek island where they will play a murder mystery. For some reason Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is part of the group, the famous detective of part 1. Regarding the theme, this is of course fitting.

Blanc has solved the murder before it even happened and the weekend risks becoming a disaster. Of course, things are not that easy. The friends prove not to be as close as they thought they were.

The second “Knives Out” is -like the first- amusing. Critical towards (internet) celebraties and the richest of the rich. Again, there are some famous faces in the film.

Fargo (series) (season 4 2020)

I missed that there was a fourth “installment”. To quote my opening line of season three: “Once again the creators of the series have found an unlikely story in a remote part of the USA.” Well, perhaps not that remote this time, but unlikely the story sure is.

Kansas City has a long line of criminal organisations that share the area. They have a way of trying to keep peace among each other, the exchange of sons. In the 1950’ies the parties are an African American group and an Italian one. The series show how the parties try to keep some sort of balance.

But “Fargo” would not be “Fargo” if there were not a few initially separate, but towards the end connecting, story lines. We have a family with a white father, a black mother and a black way too intelligent daughter (also the story teller). The parents run a funeral home from their house.
Then there is a strange nurse, a nervous corrupt cop, his eerie colleague and two highly dangerous lady criminals.

In a wonderfully meandering story we follow all characters going through strange situations eventually working towards colliding stories. Violence, humour, great camera work, interesting characters.

Indeed, the fourth season is again a good one.

The Pale Blue Eye – Scott Cooper (2022)

  • crime

Another ‘whodunnit’ playing in past times on Netflix. A West Point cadet is found dead and nearby detective (played by Christian Bale) is asked to look into the matter.

In a bit of a ‘gothic horror’ style typical murder investigation, the viewer is tossed between suspects and solutions, of course leading towards an unexpected conclusion.

Did the cadet kill himself or was he murdered? What lurks below the surface on this fine academy? In a slow pace and moody, grey images, Cooper introduces and works out different characters, not in the last place Augustus Landor himself.

A nice watch.

Knives Out – Rian Johnson (2019)

Is it because a follow up was recently launched that Netflix is pushing this film?

“Knives Out” is an old style murder mystery. A family is gathered in a big mansion, somebody ends up dead and a witty detective comes to figure out what happened. So far, so good.

Now the witty detective is Daniel Craig and we also have Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer. You get it, some old-timers wanted to have some fun with an old-time movie.

Like in Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” you get a humorist murder mystery. There are perhaps no surprises (besides -perhaps- “Murder She Wrote” on the television), but “Knives Out” is an amusing, light watch.

Once Upon A Time In America – Sergio Leone (1984)

Trying to find good films on Netflix, I found an IMDb list with high rated films on Netflix. Of course not all of those are available on Netflix in my country. Also of course, this mostly concerns ‘classics’ and that is exactly what “Once Upon…” is.

In a massive length of almost four hours, the story is told of a group of Jewish criminals in New York who work themselves up from petty criminals to big maffia shots. From the start the group had competition and in this line of ‘work’, competition is a treat.

In a slow pace with quite a cast, Leone tells the story while jumping back and forth in time. The film begins with a violent settlement of business. In the following hours we learn about “Noodles” (Robert de Niro), Max (James Woods), their buddies and their foes.

Of course something happened that triggered the violence, but things are not as they initially seem. Having to come back at the events of 35 years ago, the actual story slowly unfolds for the viewer.

“Once Upon A Time In America” is a descent maffia drama with a few violent outbursts.

Yakuza And The Family – Michihito Fujii (2020)

  • crime

Available on Netflix as “A Family”. It is a very descent, Japanese maffia film.

Kenji is a bit of a petty criminal who by some accident stumbles into one of the two maffia families in his home town after his father dies. The father of that family becomes a surrogate father for Kenji.

The film jumps through Kenji’s life in big strides. We see him as a young man, showing how he became part of the Yakuza. Years later an incident has him put in jail for 14 years and then we jump to the time he got out. The world has changed drastically and being connected to the maffia is no longer prestige, but a massive stain on a person.

The film goes from a bit of a crime thriller towards a drama which is also how the feeling of the story itself develops.

As I said, the film is very descent. Nice peeks into Japanese (criminal) culture, good atmosphere, great camera work. I will have to see what other films Fujii has available.

Gotham (series) – Bruno Heller (2014-2019)

This has been long ‘in the watching’. Some years ago I was looking for a ‘filler up series’. Something to watch when I had 45 minutes to spare. I figured a “Batman” theme series would be nicely gloomy.

“Gotham” is a ‘prequel’ to the Batman franchise. The main character in the five seasons is not really Bruce Wayne, but rather “GCPD” officer James/Jim Gordon. Gordon wants to do everything correct, but this makes him both a hero as an enemy to many. All this shifting between him being the good guy and the bad guy is not really worked out that well in my opinion.

Of course there is Bruce Wayne. Just as in the movies, he is usually accompanied by his “butler” Alfred Pennyworth. In the first seasons, Wayne is a winy little brat, a bit of a drama queen. Actually this remains mostly so as the series continue. In general, his character is not worked out well enough to carry the series.

The series have characters that you will know from the films. The “catwoman” actually has a name in the series: Selina Kyle who develops a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wayne.

The series contain some themes that are (somewhat) familiar. The authors have tried to ‘foreshadow’ elements from the films. To fill up the episodes there are also a whole range of fairly boring bad guys who want James Gordon dead. These storylines are as unlikely or thin as the next and sometimes they appear and disappear when enough episodes have been filled.

A few characters undergo massive character changes, especially Gordons first girlfriend Barbara Kean, which is not always wildly interesting, but which sure brings a red thread to the series. Worked out better is “Penguin” (Oswald Cobblepot). Quite overdone, but sometimes nicely so, “The Riddler” (Edward Nygma).

In any case, way towards the end, the bridge to Batman is made. “Gotham” as a series is about the city where Batman rose before he did. The series are not great, but not bad enough to stop watching either.