crime

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.

Duisburg Linea Di Sangue – Enzo Monteleone (2019)

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This Italian Netflix crime is not bad, but made so little impression that I almost forgot to review it.

In Duisburg, Germany, a maffia killing takes place. Italy sends an investigator to prevent the Germans from making faulty conclusions and hurt Italy’s name. The German colleague conveniently speaks Italian, so even though a large part of the film takes place in Germany, the film is spoken in Italian.

The film revolves around the idea that outside Italy people, including law enforcement, do not understand the maffia, the way they work and the way they think.

And so the German/Italian duo sets out to find the shooters, each with their own experience, but learning from the other.

Not bad, not great. Amusing is a part that plays in the Netherlands.

The Valhalla Murders – Thordur Palsson (series 2019)

A Netflix Scandinavian crime from Iceland. “The Valhalla Murders” is quite a typical Scandinavian crime too.

In a not unseen story, recent killings can be traced back to maltreatment of children in an institute in the past. The small Reykjavik police force, later joined by even smaller force from in other Icelandic towns, set out to catch a killer on the loose. The story unfolds, has a few obligatory plot twists and new suspects and a wee bit of violence.

The series are shot in the snowy season, so Iceland really looks like an icy land. The acting, as the story, is alright.

Not a high-flyer, but a descent and moody Scandinavian crime series.

Kill the Irishman – Jonathan Hensleigh (2011)

Also known as “Bulletproof Gangster”, this film tells the true story of Danny Greene. In the 1970’ies Greene is an American laborer of Irish descent. Not afraid for anyone he works himself up to being head of the union he works for.

Power getting to his head, Greene and his buddies enrich themselves and go against their peers causing Greene to be dropped. So he tries his luck in criminal activities.

In doing so, Greene encounters the local (Cleveland) maffia of whom is also is not afraid. Perhaps he better should. A feud develops and Greene proves to be a cat with nine lives.

In a format known by now, the film shows original footage through the film which makes a bit of a documentary style film. The film is amusing and has a few big names on the actors list.

Lilyhammer (series)

Some time ago I was looking for a somewhat lighter series to watch and I ran into “Lilyhammer” on Netflix.

The main character is played by Steven van Zandt whom “Sopranos” watchers (which I am not) will know. He plays the Brooklyn mafioso Frank Tagliano who testifies against his former associates and moves to Lillehammer, Norway and takes the name Johnny Hendrickson, because he was impressed by the winter Olympics held in that place. Another main actor in the series is Trond Fausa who we have met before in “The Bothersome Man“.

Johnny is used to getting his way and he has got several ways of persuasion. Norway is a whole different game though, but Johnny manages to blend his old nature with his new.

The series are made by mostly Norwegians and is largely spoken in Norwegian too. It makes fun of the Norwegian way of life with its extremely social system, men in healthcare, immigration policies, etc. Then there is the blunt approach of Johnny who is a heartily man to the people he likes, but you do not want him as your enemy.

Johnny opens a club which allows the creators to put in quite some music in the series. Besides his club, Johnny puts his fingers in about every pudding that comes by. These situation make fairly thin (and usually short) story-lines which are only to make a couple of jokes in a few episodes.

The series are amusing. Van Zandt is a funny guy and the enlarged differences between American and Norwegian ways of handling things is amusing too.

Not a high-flyer, but if you are looking for something light. Three seasons was quite on the edge for me though.

Journal 64 – Christoffer Boe (2018)

Apparently there is a “Department Q” series of Danish films. We meet the same couple as in “Kvinden I Buret” that you can see on the cover. Carl Mørck is the grumpy detective and Assad plans to move to another vocation. Of course the two have a last case.

A gruesome find is done in an apartment. Mørck steals the case from a colleague and he hauls in his partner-for-only-one-more-week Assad.

The film jumps back and forth in time. We find an institution for girls in the past which somehow connects to the find in the apartment. Of course Mørck and Assad find that connection and go after the bad guys.

The story involves a past that may well be historical and the somewhat extravagant present may be somewhat far fetched, but also shows present tendencies.

The film is an alright Scandinavian crime thriller.

Kill Me Three Times – Kriv Stenders (2014)

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Something light. A bit of a “Fargo” type black humor action film.

Charlie Wolfe is a hitman and he is asked for a job in a rural community. For most the situation does not exactly go as hoped, and Wolfe navigates between all parties to get the most out of it for himself.

Amusing, not great.

Mean Streets – Martin Scorsese (1973)

I may be old, but I am not as old as this film! This old Scorsese is available on Netflix.

“Mean Streets” has a very young Harvey Keitel, Robert de Niro and other actors that made name later.

The story seems to play at the lowest layer of New York mafia. The youngsters are set to collect money from restaurants, rough up some people here and there, selling drugs and -of course- trying to work themselves up the ladder.

The result is an amusing crime film, not about mafia big shots as you see most often, but the lives like those of most people who grew up in these surroundings.

The Departed – Martin Scorsese (2006)

Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon in a Scorsese film noir rated 8.5 on IMDb.com. How comes that I had not seen it?

“The Departed” tells two stories, or perhaps it is only one. Both Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon play “Southies” who join the police force. Their background disqualifies them from the start, but Damon manages to launch a rocket career, while Di Caprio’s character is immediately muffled to undercover work, pretty much his old life.

As Collin (Damon) tries to work for his family from within the police force, Billy (Di Caprio) has a growing dislike for the function he was put in. A 2.5 hour crime drama unfolds in which both sides are compromised looking for the rats in their organisation.

The acting is great (Nicholson reminds a lot of Ian McShane by the way), the story is not unnecessarily complicated, the atmosphere is good too. A very descent ‘thrillerish’ drama.

Mindhunter (series) – Joe Penhall (2017/9)

I guess I missed why these series are so lauded. 8.6 At IMDb.com? Not by far in my opinion. Not that “Mindhunter” is boring, but neither did it live up much to my expectations.

We mostly follow Holden Ford, a young FBI agent who in the 1970’ies wants to use psychology to profile delinquents in order to be able to catch them faster. This is completely new in the time. He teams up with Bill Tench who has been doing something similar in the Behavioral Science Unit. Through Tench they come in contact with psychologist Wendy Carr who eventually joins the team.

In order to create profiles, Ford decides that he is going to interview convicted people who have committed multiple crimes (not yet called serial killers then). They start with Edmund Kemper, immediately a success as Kemper is a very talkative person. With Richard Speck things do not go as smooth and when the star of the team rises they even talk to Charles Manson.

The team records the interviews and starts to categorize the perpetrators adding new categories as they go along. Slowly but surely they are able to use the knowledge in running investigations.

The main part of the series is interesting. The first season has some unnecessary drama. Holden has a girlfriend who studies sociology so I expected her to get involved in his work somehow, but she does not and that storyline is pretty superfluous. In the second series a new angle is brought in when Carr proves to fancy women rather than man. The series put a magnifying class on a few elements of society of the 1970’ies. Homosexuality was still taboo and through an investigation also the treatment of blacks in American society is dealt with.

Actually, both these extra storylines again do not add much to the series which also suddenly stop. I expect work is done on a third season.

“Mindhunter” is alright, but not more than that.