By Russel D McLean
Okay, I promised you eighties and nineties, as per my choices for movies from the SHADOWS RISING panel at Bouchercon, and here we are. Yes, we have two films from the 90’s and only one from the 80’s, but again it was one of those areas where I had to do a lot of pruning. And let me remind you that its not just about my personal favourites, but more about movies we thought people at the panel had to see to get the full spectrum of crime movies. Which is a pretty difficult task all told.
Anyway, again here’s my three movies and a little blurb about why I chose each one.
And yes, my Sacred Cow I’d Love To Gore came from the eighties, but we’ll talk about that later.
“Is that Moron Number One? Yeah, lemme speak to moron number two.”
“Smoking or non smoking?” “Take a wild fucking guess.”
“Hey, I got two words for you: shut the fuck up.”
Witty, exciting and plain under-rated, Midnight Run is my ultimate comfort movie. De-Niro’s effortless performance as a grouchy bounty hunter is perfectly complemented by Grodin’s turn as the accountant who pulled a scam on the mob and is now being called back as a witness. Together, they eschew that often elusive chemistry that buddy movies strive for, and that’s just one of the reasons to love this movie.
Throw in a brilliant supporting cast including the always reliable Dennis Farina and the under-used Yaphett Koto, and you have the ideal “action comedy” in a way that pretenders like the Lethal Weapon movies can only dream of. I come back to this movie at least once a year, and just let the script wash over me.
An odd choice for me in a way, but one I had to make as we were talking essential crime movies, and I felt I had to give some love to the low budget scots thriller that made a name for Ewan McGregor and director Danny Boyle who would later go on to bigger budget films like Sunshine and The Beach. But for me, Shallow Grave is pretty much perfect as a simple, dark little fable about three people and a bagful of money. Its kind of the Scottish answer to movies like A SIMPLE PLAN, and what I love about it is that it’s a crime thriller with no police, no procedural elements or anything like that. It’s a tale about temptation and greed and the fragility of friendship. And then there’s a brilliantly unhinged performance from Christopher Ecclestone.
It’s not a gamechanging movie, but its tight, its well handled and it launched the career of someone who would become a major movie star (McGregor). Not only that but I felt it would offer something a little different from what the rest of my panellists would select. I also think its perhaps the purest film Danny Boyle would make. While others would have higher budgets, there’s something in the nourish simplicity of the movie that makes you think of something like the Coen’s Blood Simple. I also think its been sadly overlooked in the shadow of many of Boyle’s later movies (Trainspotting, Sunshine, 127 Hours etc).
How can one ignore LA Confidential? A film that managed the impossible by bringing James Ellroy’s novel to the screen in a tonally accurate and comprehensible fashion (to see how badly it can all go wrong just watch The Black Dahlia). It also has a cast performing at the top of their game and a top notch 1940’s soundtrack.
It’s a story about corruption in the LAPD in the forties and the three men who decide to stand up against the established order. Right from the start, with Danny DeVito’s tabloid editor giving an overview of 1940’s LA, the dream and the reality, you know you’re in for something special. It is pretty much a perfect movie. It never gives in to the temptation to go over the top, and yet there’s a real sense of danger and fear that permeates the frame. And while credit must be given to Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey for their electrifying performances, James Cromwell really stands out as he wipes every fond memory of Arthur Hoggett, the farmer from kids movie Babe in which he starred four years earlier.