Review: Desperate

Desperate is a B-film from 1947. Anthony Mann Directs and helps with the original story. Of course Mann went on to A films soon after this and created some classics in the noir genre as well as some other Hollywood classics.  I recently reviewed Two O’Clock Courage from Mann which he made 2 years before Desperate and you can see his growth between those two films is petty huge. Though I liked Two O’Clock Courage, Desperate is darker, the story is better and the cinematography is way ahead. There are a couple of scenes in this film that are noir cinematography at its best. The first scene where Burr and his gang is torturing our hero is amazing. The last scene with the chase/gun fight on the stairwell is worth watching the whole film just to for this one.

Our story is a basic noir tale, but it is always worth seeing different takes on it all these years later. Our hero is played by Steve Brodie who has his own truck and is recently married to Audrey Long. He gets a call from a stranger for a last-minute trucking job. He had plans with his wife but can’t pass up the $50 this job will pay.

What he doesn’t know is this is a job where he will be hauling stolen goods for Raymond Burr and his gang of thieves. When he figures out he is on a robbery, he flashes his lights at a police officer. The officer is shot and soon dies by the hand of Burr’s little brother. Our hero pulls the truck away and Burr’s brother falls off the loading dock and is knocked out. Burr’s little brother is caught and charged with murder. Burr is soon on a rampage to free his little brother and frame our hero for the whole job, including the murder of the police officer. Our hero’s sole objective now is to get his wife to safety before Burr can find them. Will he succeed? Will he be able to save himself too? Will Burr and his gang get revenge?

This is a very good B-movie noir and well worth checking out. Fans of Mann will like this film and will want to seet his early work. As per usual Raymond Burr steals the show, this being only his 4th film and his first film noir. This maybe the reason Burr was cast for years to come as the ultimate heavy in film noir. His performance is worth watching this film for as well.

Article in Rolling Stone Magazine: ‘Ray Donovan’: How to Get L.A. Noir Right


A couple of weeks ago I shared an article from titled The Modern Noir Has Atrophied. Though it had some good points one of the main ones was how Season 2 of True Detective has disappointed.

Today Rolling Stone has come out with an article by Rob Sheffield about how great Season 3 of Ray Donovan is and how it has done modern noir right. Here is a link to the full article:

This is interesting because I have had a few discussions with noir fans talking about how bad season 2 of True Detective is and nobody is talking about Ray Donovan and how good it is. If you haven’t watched Ray Donovan I encourage you to do so. I agree with the above article, I almost stopped watching after Season 1 but fell in love with this show during Season 2 and Season 3 is amazing so far.

I have not seen Season 2 of True Detective yet and will hold judgement until I do, but I am not surprised that it has been a let down given Season 1 was so amazing! Here is a link to my review of Season 1:

Here is a link to the Vulture article I mentioned before:

Re-watching: Revolver

Revolver is a film by Guy Richie made in 2005. So on its 10 year anniversary I decided to take another look at it. We have an ensemble cast of neo noir and gangster regulars revolving around Jason Statham.  Luc Besson also helped Richie in the writing of the film.

This film starts out with Statham getting out of prison and looking for revenge on a casino owner played by Ray Liotta. He goes to the casino and wins a bunch of money. He then gets a business card from a stranger, played by Vincent Pastore, on his way out of the casino. He falls down the stairs for an unknown reason and is soon in the hospital. He finds he has a rare blood disease and is going to die soon.  Vincent Pastore and André Benjamin are business partners who have a proposition for Statham to get revenge before he dies. Along the way we meet Mark Strong playing a hit-man for the mob, and Terence Maynard as Liotta’s right hand man. The story pits Liotta against an Asian mob boss along the way and the story twists and turns through out the film. Nobody is who they seem and every reveal just leaves more questions as we go.

This film has a very neo noir filming style with some interesting camera work through out. It also dives into some psychological subjects I will not get into here, because it may be a bit of a spoiler. This film is entertaining, but not Richie’s best neo noir work. If you are a huge fan of his or Statham you will find this film entertaining. The story will leave you thinking about it and it maybe one of those films that is better on a second viewing.

Short Film Review: Lover’s Leap


I was contacted by writer/director Jonathan Zuck to take a look at his new short film/music video. So I was lucky enough to get a preview of the 7 minute film a few weeks ago. The clip is dripping in classic noir with tons of shadow play, fedoras, a smokey bar and dark streets. Our lead character is a chain-smoking, heavy drinking, hardboiled detective and of course we have a fiery red-head of a femme fatale. We even have a twist with a downer of an ending told in a classic flashback form!

All this is set to the song Lover’s Leap by Exit 10,a band I have never heard of, but based on this song I will be looking for more of their music.

Check out the full video below:

Hardboiled Wonderland 50 Crime Flick Picks From the 50s

Author Jedidiah Ayres has his list of the 50 best crime films of the 1950’s. There are a lot of great films on this list and a few I haven’t seen yet. Check out the full list using the original movie poster art for each film here:

And if you missed it, here is a link to his 40 best crime films of the 1940’s:

Re-watching Fear

Fear is a film from 1996 with a two young actors getting their start in the movie business. I think both of them have done pretty well since this film. Mark Wahlberg was more well-known for being a rapper at this time then an actor. This was his first starring role after having a few supporting roles. Reese Witherspoon had a few starring roles under her belt by this time, but most where in low-budget films. This was these two stars introduction to most film goers.

Our two stars were put in pretty good hands with James Foley directing, coming off directing an all time classic Glengarry Glen Ross. Foley has had a pretty good career in the thriller and neo-noir genre. With some classics under his belt and a few misses this one falls somewhere in-between. We also have veterans William Petersen and Amy Brenneman playing Witherspoon’s parents. Alyssa Milano who had already been in the spotlight quite a bit by this time in her career stars as Witherspoon’s best friend.

Fear starts out with our two best friends accompanied by their male friend to a coffee shop in the wrong part of town. This is where Wahlberg catches her eye. We soon realize that Witherspoon lives in an overprotective house while her best friend runs free. Wanting a taste of her friend’s freedom, she soon joins her to go to a party. Here she meets and talks to Wahlberg and after a fight breaks out and the police come in, Wahlberg is her knight in shining armor as he leads her out of the mayhem to safety. A young romance starts until Witherspoon sees a side of Wahlberg that scares her. He is violent and bets up her male friend out of jealousy. This starts a chain of events which pits Witherspoon’s father, played by Petersen and Wahlberg against each other for the love of Witherspoon.

I really liked this film when I watched it back in the 1990’s and after re-watching it I still do. After revisiting it, I can see glimmers of greatness to come. I thought Wahlberg was great as the psycho boyfriend and have always enjoyed his work. Witherspoon  shows her charm and you easily side with her in this film. I also thought Milano was great as wild and free friend that makes some bad choices. Petersen is always good in these thrillers as the average joe that rises to the occasion.

This film is worth watching for fans of Witherspoon, Milano and Wahlberg. It is also a must see for fans of Foley. If you are looking for a modern noir thriller it is worth a look.

Review: Two O’Clock Courage

Two O’Clock Courage is an early film noir from 1945 that isn’t as well-known as other films from the era, and probably deservedly so.  So why should you watch this short noir? Two reasons I think film noir junkies should search this one out is:

  1. This is an early film of future directing great Anthony Mann
  2. This is the first credited role of femme fatale great Jane Greer, under the name Bettejane Greer here.

Two O’Clock Courage starts out with our hero, played by Tom Conway, on the side of a street with blood trickling from his head. He stumbles out into the street and almost gets hit by a taxi. The taxi driver is played by Ann Rutherford and decides to help our hero. Conway has amnesia and Rutherford wants to take him to the hospital. When it comes over the radio that a murder has been committed and the description of the main suspect happens to be Conway. Soon the two travel through town trying to solve who Conway real is and if he is innocent of the murder.

This film is very short and has a fair plot, probably pretty original for a film in 1945 and one of the first films noir to use the amnesia device, a device that would be used often in the following years. This film uses humor to great effect as well, it is not over the top and flows nicely with the dark story. The chemistry between Rutherford and Conway is very good with Rutherford being the source of most of the comedic moments. She really did well as with quick one liners throughout the film and you can see why Conway is attracted to her.

You can also see Anthony Mann does very well with an obvious small budget and B movie actors. It is interesting to watch this and see glimpses of a director who would go on to make some great films. We also see one of film noir fans favorite actresses, Jane Greer, in only her second film and her first credited role. It is a small part, but you can already see the femme fatale roots that would launch her into legendary statues only two years later in Out of the Past.

Is this film a forgotten gem somehow missed by film noir fans? Probably not. I did like the way it balanced comedy and the dark noir story line very well. This is a decent film and will entertain you for the little over the hour you are watching it. If you are a huge Greer or Mann fan, it is worth seeking out for a viewing.

Review: Glass Chin

Variety called this film “Pure Pulp Poetry” and that about sums up this film. This has a lot in common with classic film noir B-films, it was shot over only 18 days on a small modern budget of around $1,000,000. This film is written and directed by Noah Buschel about a down on his luck prize-fighter looking to turn his luck around.   We have a great cast which is allowed to flex their acting talent. The scenes are sparse and not over edited or much background music.  This is a new film recently released on a number of formats, I watched the DVD.

Glass Chin revolves around a fighter who is broke and looking for a way to get back on top. He has lost everything including his fan base and a restaurant he put the last of his money into. We find him in a modest apartment with his girlfriend played by Marin Ireland. He goes out to meet with his old gym owner about helping train an up and coming boxer who is about to get a title fight at Madison Square Garden. He says he will, but he is also having dinner with J.J., played by Billy Crudup later that night to look at a job. The meeting goes well where we meet J.J. who is a gangster and wants to help our hero reopen his restaurant if he goes into business with him. It sounds like he just wants the boxer on his side and use him for muscle. We also meet the bartender played by Kelly Lynch who our hero has eyes for, and the muscle he will be working with played by Yul Vazquez. The first night working for J.J. seems to go pretty smooth, until our hero reads the paper the next day and finds he is in big trouble with no way out.

I really loved this little film and it looks like the critics have too. The general public isn’t taking to it like they should…yet. I really hope this film finds an audience, because it has a lot to offer. This doesn’t have a lot of violence or a big car chase or much action at all, and that maybe what people watching this are looking for. It doesn’t need all of that with great acting, well written dialog, and the struggle of the fallen hero in today’s society. There is a very big fight within our hero, after being a star in the boxing world and everybody loving him, can he go to an ordinary life or is it worth doing what you have to, to get back on top? The acting is top-notch and the washed out neo noir style of filming is visually stunning. New York is a character in this film like a lot of classic films noir, and makes for a great backdrop for both the haves and the have-nots. I highly recommend this film.

Favorite Tidbits: I caught two meta moments in this film, that maybe meant as inside jokes or Easter Eggs.

  1. In the boxing gym the owner tells our hero that H.B.O. wanted to come in and film their fighter training, but declined the offer. Our hero mentions how do you turn down H.B.O.? the H.B.O. of Boardwalk Empire and Girls? Co-star Marin Ireland has appeared on Girls.
  2. One of the people who owes money to J.J., that our hero has to go put pressure on is played by David Johansen, lead singer of the New York Dolls. The Dolls song Trash plays prominently on the soundtrack for the film.