Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

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A Walk Among the Tombstones is a Matthew Scudder movie from 2014.  Matthew Scudder is a character written by Lawrence Block that has been in one other movie and in 17 books.  This story comes from the 10th book in the series.  I’ve recently just read the first book in the series and reviewed it here:

http://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/23/review-the-sins-of-the-fathers-by-lawrence-block/

Though I’ve only read one book and now seen this movie, I’m a big fan of Scudder and look forward to reading more of the books.  Liam Neeson plays Scudder, a recovering alcoholic, ex-police officer that isn’t a private detective, but does favors for people and for those favors, these people give Scudder gifts.

This film is written for the screen and directed by Scott Frank who also wrote and directed The Lookout.  He is also bringing another classic noir character to the screen soon, Hoke Mosely a character that has appeared in 5 books by Charles Willeford.  This story will be coming to the television screen instead of the big screen, but I still look forward to seeing it when it is released.  Frank has also written many other crime and neo-noir stories for the screen, he seems to have a good sense of taking a classic crime or noir novel and bringing it screen.

Some of the notable supporting cast is David Harbour, who often plays the creepy character, goes above and beyond in this film.  Dan Stevens plays a drug dealer/business type very well.  Stevens come onto my radar after his starring role in “The Guest.”  The Guest is a very fun movie that covers a lot of genres, if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it as well.  Ólafur Darri Ólafsson also plays a pretty creepy role that is a very interesting character.

So the story for this movie is a fellow AA member’s brother needs Scudder’s help.  Scudder meets with him and quickly figures out that he is a drug dealer.  This dealer has had his wife kidnapped and killed, but because he is a drug dealer he can not ask for the police’s help.  He asks Scudder for help and soon Scudder takes on the case.  The story takes off from there.  This is not only a neo-noir film in story, but is very much filmed in a classic noir style as well.  I really enjoyed this story and the visuals of the film. I really hope this is a new franchise for Liam Neeson now that Taken has run its course.  I would really look forward to seeing more movies with him as Scudder.  If you’re a Lawrence Block fan, or a Liam Neeson fan, or just a fan of a hardboiled tone, you will like this film.

Review: Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride

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Frank Sinatra in a Blender may be the best title for a novel in a while.  Frank Sinatra is Matthew McBride’s first novel and was published by New Pulp Press.  NPP is a great source for some new inventive noir and pulp books and I look forward to reading more from this publisher in the future.

This book’s protagonist is Nick Valentine, an ex-cop that was really good at his job, but had substance abuse problems.  Nick is not drinking coffee anymore, because when he has a cup of coffee he wants a cigarette too and he’s quite smoking.  Well that’s a good start, unfortunately he has no desire to quite alcohol…or cocaine….or oxy or etc, etc.  Nick has a small Yorkie named Frank Sinatra, named for his fathers love of old blue eyes.  Nick’s father was a police officer as well, so Nick followed in his father’s footsteps.  Now that he is an ex-cop he has many contacts on the wrong side of the law.  He usually hangs out with them at a strip club and isn’t afraid to ride the fence and work both sides of the law for his personal gain.

We have Nick, down on his luck financially and is staying at his office with his dog.  He is called by the police to help with an apparent suicide that doesn’t look quite right.  Soon a credit union is robbed and one of the robbers is shot in the back and left for dead during the escape.  Nick puts 2 and 2 together and thinks both cases are connected.  He gets his underworld contacts to help him, while he is appearing to help the police on the case.  All this seems to be a plot to end up with some of the cash from the robbery.  This is where the story takes off and we have strippers, thugs from England, tweekers, fat thieves with a pension for them same strippers, an Amish cop, and of course our hero and his dog.  Who will get away with the money?  Who will get away alive?

This story is very dark, but has quite a bit of humor in it as well.  This is showcased in the blurbs on the book.  One is from Charlie Sheen on the cover telling us he loved it and the other is the forward from Ken Bruen, who feel in love with the book.  I think that sums up the book very well: “For fans of Charlie Sheen and/or Ken Bruen”

The movie rights for this book have been sold so we may see a movie version of this someday!  I think this would be a great film if done right.

I’ve read Matthew McBride’s other book as well, A Swollen Red Sun.  This book was even darker and I didn’t find any humor in it.  It is beautifully written with a more literary feel to it.  I read it a few months ago so I don’t want to give a review of that book with out a fresh look.

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I think both books are very good and feel McBride has a bright future.  I look forward to reading more from him.  I would also love to see more Nick Valentine and Frank Sinatra in the future as well.

Review: Cut Bank

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Cut Bank is a country noir written by Roberto Patino.  Patino has also worked on Sons of Anarchy and Prime Suspect so he has some good experience with crime and drama.  Patino looks to be also working on bringing The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite to the screen.  This book is on my to-read list and I hope to review it later on this blog.

Matt Shakman is the director, it is his first feature, but he is an accomplished television director.  Because he has worked on so many different kinds of television, he brings a little of everything to the film.  We have some black comedy, western, thriller and noir elements through out.

Liam Hemsworth and Teresa Palmer play our young couple that are desperate to leave the small town of Cut Bank, MT.  Even though they may be our lead characters, they may be the most boring ones of the film.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Palmer’s father and Hemsworth’s boss.  He doesn’t see much screen time but his interactions with Malkovich are great.

John Malkovich worked as a fire fighter in Glacier Park and actually lived in Cut Bank for a short time when he was in college.  He really wanted to do this film based on his love for the little town of Cut Bank and stayed attached to the project for over 2 years to be in it.  Malkovich plays the local sheriff, that is a fish out of water with this being his first murder case.

Michael Stuhlbarg may be the smallest name on the cast, but plays one of the most interesting parts.  He is a recluse in Cut Bank.  I don’t know if his character is based on real life serial killer Ed Gain, but if it is not, there are many similarities.  Ed Gain is also the basis for Norman Bates in Psycho, Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and has also had his likeness appear in many other movies and documentaries.

Bruce Dern plays the mailman that everybody recognizes by sight, but not to many people really know.

Oliver Platt plays the post office official sent up from Washington D.C. to give a reward for the evidence of the crime.

I can not find who played the big mute Native American, but he was a cool character and I loved his non-verbal dialog.

So the story starts out with our lead couple in an open field, daydreaming about their future.  As Palmer practices her speech for an upcoming beauty pageant and Hemsworth films it, he notices a hooded man walk up to the mail man and shot him 2 times in the chest and gets the whole thing on film.  They take the evidence into town and turn it over to the Sheriff. The plot thickens and twists and turns as we try to figure out who’s on who’s side and who knows what.  By the way, what is in that lunch box?  This is a good story in a unique setting, worth watching for anybody looking for something new to watch in the genre.

Re-Watching the Classics: Dog Day Afternoon

986260100c954ce9b2b37bf8ad8c3417Dog Day Afternoon is a neo-noir film made in 1975, based on real events from 1972.  John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile try to rob a branch of Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn, New York. The reason they are trying to rob the bank is  for Wojtowicz’s lover, Ernest Aron, who is trying to pay for a sex change operation.  This is to crazy to be true but it is!

Even though this film was mostly improvised, Frank Pierson won an Academy Award for his screenplay. He got the idea from a Life Magazine article.  This was nominated for 5 Academy Awards in total, but only won one.  This movie was unfortunately up against One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest for most of its awards.  This will be remembered as one of Al Pacino’s best performances and the 4th time he was nominated for an Academy Award in 4 consecutive years.  All 4 nominations where for classic neo-noir roles as well, with The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather Part II, and this performance.  All 4 are now legendary roles, but he didn’t win for any of them.

This film was directed by legendary director Sidney Lumet.  Lumet made some of the greatest films of all time including many neo-noir films.  We will be re-looking at many of his films later on this blog.

Our co-star is John Cazale, who was way to old to play the part of real-life 18-year-old Sal.  Pacino insisted on Cazale playing the role, even though Lumet thought he was all wrong.  When Lumet saw his audition he hired him on the spot. Cazale, who’s short career only produced 5 films before his death from cancer didn’t disappoint.  All 5 films he appeared in were nominated for best picture and all 5 are classics.  They are:

The Godfather

The Conversation

The Godfather II

Dog Day Afternoon

The Deer Hunter

Who knows what Cazale could have done if his time here was longer.

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Other standouts in the cast are Charles Durning as our Police Sargent in charge, Carol Kane and Penelope Allen as two of the bank tellers who become hostages, and Lance Henriksen as the bus driver.

This is required viewing for the fan of grimy 1970’s film, and noir and neo-noir fans.  Trivia note, John Wojtowicz lover did get his sex change operation after all, paid for by Wojtowicz earnings from selling his story for this film.

Review: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is based on the book and true story of Robert E. Burns.

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This movie was a commentary of the overall situation going on in America after World War I and how the veterans coming back from war were treated.  This is also a look at how prisoners in the state of Georgia were treated, this was changed partly because of this book and movie.  Watching this movie you can see how influential it was on future movies.  This picture captured a time in history with 2 iconic elements, the blood hounds and black and white striped prison uniforms.  The film is directed by Mervyn LeRoy, he also directed Johnny Eager a film I reviewed recently here:

http://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/16/review-johnny-eager/

The movie is overall true to fact, but one big fact, Burns really did steal the little over $5 because he needed it for food.  In the film he is just an innocent bystander, which gives the film more of a noir feel.  We love the average guy that gets caught up on the wrong side of the law.

Paul Muni is the star and comes across as your everyday man, perfect for this part.  Glenda Farrell plays the femme fatale that wants to marry our hero, for better or worse.  Helen Vinson plays another lady in our hero’s life.

This movie had a lot of impact on human rights and the way people are treated when in prison.  This is also one of the first noir films, and influenced a lot of films to come in the next 3 decades.  This is a very interesting story and is well worth watching.  If you are a film-noir buff it is required watching.