Review: American Heist

American Heist is a new film recently released on DVD from director Sarik Andreasyan and writer Raul Inglis. This film starts with Adrien Brody getting out of prison and after a night out on the town is taken to a warehouse were he meets some old friends played by Akon and Tory Kittles who go by Sugar and Ray. He soon finds out he is going to have to payback his debts to his old friends and part of that is getting his brother, played by Hayden Christensen, involved.

One of the most interesting parts of this film is a femme fatale that does not know she is one. Jordana Brewster plays an old flame that is brought back into Christensen’s life and that attraction is used against him.

This film doesn’t have a very original or outstanding plot by any means. It does have another great performance from Brody and I liked Brewster in this as well. I don’t know why I got this vibe, maybe it was because of Brewster playing his love interest or because there is a bit of a resemblance I did not notice before, but I felt that Christensen’s part was written for Paul Walker and Christensen was just trying to do his best impression of him. This doesn’t mean Christensen did a bad job, just once this got in my head I could not get it out for the duration of the film.

While I was doing some research on this film, I found out it is actually a remake of The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery starring Steve McQueen. This movie was based on the true life incident involving the bank robber Fred William Bowerman. I have not seen this original film, but looks to have taken a lot of time and effort to be as accurate as possible. Reading a bit about The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery and the history of the bank robbery it is based on, I would say this film is very loosely based on the original film and has little to nothing to do with the real life bank robbery.  While the original took place in St. Louis and the film was made in 1959 only 6 years after the 1953 attempted bank robbery, this film takes place in a modern time frame and in New Orleans. The original didn’t have brothers involved, which is a key part of this films plot as well. I hope to watch The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery at some point and further compare the two films.

This film is not a modern-day classic that somehow slipped through the cracks. There is good reason you may not have heard of this film. That being said, it is not a horrible film and if you are in the mood for a heist film and do not want to watch Heat for the 100th time, this may fit the bill for you. I think fans of Adrien Brody will also enjoy his performance in this film.

Favorite Tidbit: Look for Hayden Christensen’s girlfriend Rachel Bilson in a small non-speaking but pivotal cameo appearance.

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Articles: Film Noir’s Inner Character by Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop is a writer of crime fiction and a 35 year vet of the Los Angeles Police Department. He has written his take on classic film noir and the outside influences on it as well as why it was so popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Part 1 of his article concentrates on the 1940’s and can be read over at The Huffington Post here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-bishop/film-noirs-inner-characte_b_8186130.html

The second part of his article looks at the 1950’s and can be read here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-bishop/film-noirs-inner-characte_1_b_8186198.html

His articles are informative and I found interesting in the fact he doesn’t name any films in his article, but looks at why the films were made and why they were popular.

Article: EVOLVING VERSIONS OF FILM NOIR EXPLORE TODAY’S UNEASY FEELINGS by Roger Ebert

I came across this article written by Roger Ebert in the mid 1990’s. It’s about how popular, noir films are today and how they have changed from the classic era. It looks at many of the great neo-noir films of the mid 1990’s and breaks them down into three different categories: Classic Noir, Deadpan Noir and Neo Noir. This is a great article and talks about some films I have not revisited in a long time, but really want to take another look at them now. What do you think of the three types of noir and do they still hold up today, 20 years later?

http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/evolving-versions-of-film-noir-explore-todays-uneasy-feelings

Re-Watching the Classics: Cat People

Cat People from 1942 is a cult classic for many reasons. It has a following from film noir fans, horror fans and fans of well done B-movies.  Credit for this can be given to Val Lewton and this production of his very first film. Val Lewton used a bunch of techniques in filming and storytelling that gave him a signature style. R.K.O. gave him a small budget to make some horror films to try to compete with the Universal Monster films. Lewton took the opportunity, but ran with it in a slightly different direction. Lewton had this picture directed by Jacques Tourneur, who he used on his next few projects as well. Tourneur went on to direct his fair share of classic film noir films with his high point being Out of the Past.

This film revolves around Irena Dubrovna played by Simone Simon. She believes she is cursed and will harm any man who falls in love with her. She believes she will turn into a large cat and kill! When she catches the eye of Oliver Reed, played by Kent Smith, she has feelings for him as well. They eventually get married, but things soon start to change as Oliver is not happy in his marriage. Irena goes to a psychiatrist, played by Tom Conway, to help her overcome her fears and save her marriage. To make things worse Oliver and co-worker Alice Moore, played by Jane Randolph, start a relationship. This angers Irena and she starts to stock both of them. Does Irena really turn into a large cat or is she just going crazy? Will Alice and Oliver survive either way?

The film noir techniques used in this film are both beautiful and suspenseful. I particularly liked the swimming pool scene and the scene in the drawing-room also works well. This film would be the first time for the use of the “Lewton bus,” I will not explain that here as it may give away to much of the film, if not in story but feel. This film became a huge hit for R.K.O. and ran in theaters for a long time. In fact some critics wrote bad reviews for this, but because it was in theaters so long, some critics re-watched it and retracted some of those bad reviews. It also caused the next two Lewton films to be put on the shelf until Cat People’s theatrical run was over. Lewton’s filming style and way of making film was a big influence on film noir to come and film in general.

Well worth checking out to see how great a cheap B-movie can be done. This is a fun little film with some great performances and a twist at the end which still works today.

Article: The terror is lurking either in the home, or just outside of it”: How women writers redefined postwar noir

“Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and ’50s” editor Sarah Weinman did an interview with Scott Timberg over at Salon.com. This collection of novels looks great, with 6 of the 8 books being adapted to movies and the other two for television. This interview has a lot of great information about the women of crime fiction in the 40’s and 50’s. Check out the film interview here:

http://www.salon.com/2015/09/19/the_terror_is_lurking_either_in_the_home_or_just_outside_of_it_how_women_writers_redefined_postwar_noir/?utm_content=buffer2b960&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Book Review: Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer

Solomon’s Vineyard is a dark pulp noir, written by Jonathan Latimer in 1941. It was instantly banned as soon as it was released and not available in America for years. You can see why this book was banned, it is ripe with casual sex, drug use, alcoholism, a religious cult, over the top violence and racism, though that last one was probably not as big a deal in 1941 as it is when you read it today. Though this book was hard to come by in the past, today E-copies are available at a very reasonable price.

This is my first Latimer book and was not familiar with his work, even though I have enjoyed it in the past, even reviewing some of his past work right here, without realizing it! He worked in Hollywood for many years with much success. He wrote the screenplay for two amazing films noir I reviewed:

The Glass Key

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/28/review-the-glass-key/

The Big Clock

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/31/review-the-big-clock/

Though Latimer is mostly forgotten today, back in his pulp days he was writing best sellers and in the copy of this book I read there is an interesting interview with him where he talks about his contemporaries Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain.

Solomon’s Vineyard is told in the first person by Karl Craven. Craven is a private investigator, who has come to a small town to investigate his partner’s recent murder as well as finish the case his partner was working on. His partner was shot with no clues or leads to go on, except it probably had to do with the case he was working. Craven and his partner were paid good money from a father wanting to get his daughter back. His daughter is in a religious cult, whose leader has passed 5 years ago and is supposed to rise from the dead this year. Along the way Craven meets two beautiful women, one is the Princess from the cult and the other is the girlfriend of the local gangster.

When this book was written in 1941 it must have seemed pretty far-fetched. Since then we have had many cults, which seem to have a similar story to this book. The Mason Family came to mind and the author even brings this up in the interview in my copy of the book. I got to say, the new television show Aquarius has more than a passing resemblance to this book. I also got a bit of a Wicker Man vibe from this book. I’m sure both of these is more of a coincidence then anything, but it would be interesting to know if this book did influence these.

I would recommend this book to anybody that loves the early period of noir and hardboiled fiction. If you are a fan of those pulp fiction authors of the 1930’s and 1940’s you will love this book.

Review: The Living

The Living is a neo noir from writer and director Jack Bryan. This film made the independent film festival circuit in 2014 and was recently released on DVD. This film is a bit of a slow burn, but very interesting. It is especially interesting on what Bryan left out as much as what he has put in the film.

The film starts out with Teddy, played by Fran Kranz on the floor of his living-room and waking up disoriented. Teddy gets in his truck and heads down the road. He pulls up to a house where we see Gordon played by Kenny Wormald and Angela played by Joelle Carter. They are angry with Teddy and start arguing with him. We then find out why, when Molly played by Jocelin Donahue is reveled. Molly is Teddy’s wife and comes out of the house severely beaten.  Supposedly Teddy has beat Molly the night before and Molly escaped back to her mother’s home. Molly ends up going home with Teddy to try to work out their problems. Gordon, Molly’s brother, decides to take justice in his own hands and when he tells his friends, one comes through with a guy who knows a guy….

This is where the film splits into two different tangents as Teddy and Molly start to work out their demons and it almost comes across as a romantic drama. The other story line is Gordon travelling to pick up his hired hit-man played by Chris Mulkey.

This film never shows Teddy drunk and hitting his wife, all we see is a loving Teddy trying to win back his wife. I think this adds to the shock and who we are cheering for as the film goes on. This is an interesting take on varying degrees of evil men and how those evil men change good men. Chris Mulkey’s portrayal of a hit-man steals the show as he isn’t the glamour hit-man we have come to expect. He has a sense of realism that is more than a little scary.

This film is worth checking out with what seems like a simple plot, but it has a lot going on. This is Bryan’s second film and he shows great promise. I hope he explores more neo noir projects in the future.