Review: Victoria

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Victoria is a German neo noir from 2015 that has been getting rave reviews. The film takes place in real time and was shot in one take! This is amazing, and though I’m not a film student or know much about how things work behind the camera, I do appreciate the difficulty of doing this type of film. With all that said, does this make a good film?

The film starts out with Victoria, played by Laia Costa, having a night out at the dance club. When she is leaving, she meets four men trying to get into the club, but follow her outside. Victoria takes to one of the men and decides to join them for the rest of her night.

From there Victoria decides to help the gang when they need a driver for a small job. This is when this movie really takes off! I’ll be honest, the first hour of this film is boring. It is a very slow burn, but stick with it. I understand to make this film in real time with one take, we have to build a foundation on why our protagonist would help these four strangers(even then you ask yourself “why is she doing this?”) Once you get through the first hour of this film you are in for one hell of a ride!

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I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed in this film. Based on the reviews and articles I read on this film, I had very high expectations.  If you take away the fact this is in real time and shot in one continues shot it is a average film. With that being said it is still worth watching for the fact it is one continues shot and well done with no edits, this boosts this film to a very good film. I give props to Sebastian Schipper for his direction and the cast for basically knowing where the story was going, but ad-libbing most of their lines along the way. This is an unique movie experience that you have to watch at least once. Enjoy the roller coaster ride, even if the pull to the top is a little slow, you will remember the ride for a long time.

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Review: Dillinger

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Dillinger is a film noir from 1945 based on one of, if not the most famous gangster in American history. This film was released 11 years after John Dillinger’s death and is the first film based on his exploits. Though Dillinger’s likeness appeared as fictional characters a few times before this film, including Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra of which the book by the same name was loosely based on Dillinger. Here is a look at that film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/12/30/film-vs-film-high-sierra-vs-i-died-a-thousand-times/

This is a film that Robert Mitchum wanted to star in, but the studio thought it would be a perfect fit for their new talent,  Lawrence Tierney. I’m not sure if this would have been a better film if it starred Mitchum, but it sure was a good fit for Tierney. In only his second credited role, Dillinger launched Tierney’s star.

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This film starts with Dillinger at a bar with a woman. When the bartender will not take his check, Dillinger excuses himself and holds up a store. He doesn’t make it very far before he is arrested. In prison he soon befriends some criminals with a better track record than himself. He is soon released from prison and comes up with a plan to break his new friends out. Once he is successful at this, the gang goes on a bank robbing spree which would capture the American imagination.

This film is only 70 minutes long, so it has left out key elements of this story. Public Enemy from 2009 starring Johnny Depp is probably the film to watch to get a more accurate historical prospective. That said I would say Tierney’s more brutal portrayal of Dillinger doesn’t hint at any sympathy for this criminal.

Look for Edmund Lowe, Marc Lawrence and the always great Elisha Cook Jr. as members of Dillinger’s gang.

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This isn’t the greatest film noir, but is worth watching for Tierney’s performance. You can see a noir great in the making in this film. This was a successful B-noir at the box office as well as being a censored film at the time of its release. In fact it took two years before it was shown in Chicago.

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Article: The 10 Best Neo Noir Films of The 2010’s (So Far)

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Taste of Cinema is at it again, this time with the best neo noir films of the current decade so far. Danilo Castro from Film Noir Archive  created the list and I got to say he did a pretty good job. In fact his top two picks also made our Best of 2015 list. Many of these films have been covered here as well so you can look at his view as well as our review of many of these films.

10. Blue Ruin

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/10/review-blue-ruin/

9. Man from Reno

https://everythingnoir.com/2016/03/09/review-man-from-reno/

8. The Town

7. Black Coal, Thin Ice

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/11/22/review-black-coal-thin-ice-or-bai-ri-yan-huo/

6. Victoria

5. Looper

4. Drive

3. Nightcrawler

2. Glass Chin

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/08/24/review-glass-chin/

1. Inherent Vice

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/02/review-inherent-vice/

Read Castro’s full look at these ten films here:

The 10 Best Neo-Noir Films of The 2010s (So Far)

Is there any films he missed you feel should be on this list? The two that come to mind right away for me are David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl.

Review: Man from Reno

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Man from Reno is a hidden gem that has recently been released on DVD and is also available on Netflix. This film is directed by Dave Boyle, who also helped with the screenplay.

This film starts with a small town police sheriff, played by Pepe Serna, driving in the fog when he hits a man in the middle of the road. The man was severally beat up before he was hit and is not conscious when brought to the hospital. The Sheriff wants to question him about the incident when the stranger soon named The Running Man escapes the hospital.

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Meanwhile in San Francisco a Japanese detective story writer, played by Ayako Fujitani, is on an American book tour. She needs a break from the spotlight and disappears to a small hotel where she meets a handsome stranger, played by Kazuki Kitamura, at the hotel bar. When the stranger disappears the next morning, leaving his suitcase behind our mystery writer starts her own investigation into his unusual disappearance.

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So do our two cases intertwine? Will our well educated author from Japan be able to help our small town sheriff?

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This film has a great, complex story and one of the most original MacGuffins I have seen in recent years. The movie keeps you guessing right to the end.

Man from Reno is a small film that was actually funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It went on the film festival circuit and received great reviews and picked up a number of awards and nominations at the festivals. While Hollywood is saying they need more diversity, here is a great film where the two leads are Hispanic-American and Japanese that has got only strong, positive reviews in major publications like Entertainment Weekly and Variety, yet nobody has seen it.

This is a film that needs more people watching it! This is a great little film which any noir and neo noir fan will love. Stream it or rent it and tell your friends about it if you loved it. Well made small films like this need to be promoted by word of mouth and this is one that needs more people enjoying it.

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Re-watching the Classics: Diabolique

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Diabolique is a classic French film from 1955, loved by fans of foreign film, film noir and horror. This film is directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot based on a book by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. This film revolves around three main characters in a love triangle.

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Christina Delassalle, played by Véra Clouzot, is a wealthy woman who owns a private school. She has a weak heart and is not going to live much longer.

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Nicole Horner, played by Simone Signoret, works at the school and is Christina’s confidant and friend.

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Michel Delassalle, played by Paul Meurisse, is married to Christina and is having an affair with Nicole. He beats both women and makes it well known to Christina that he wants her dead so he can sell the school and , her money.

When the two women cannot put up with Michel any longer, they plot his murder. Over a three day holiday they lure him away from the school, drug him and drowned him. They go back to the school, and throw Michel in the dirty pool. Everybody believes Michel has not left the school over the holiday. Everybody also has seen the two women leave the school for the holiday to go to Nicole’s home, hours away. Nicole has tenants who live up stairs to reinforce the alibi.

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This film is a slow burn and the tension increases with every passing scene. This has one of the best endings in all of film and will not be spoiled for those who have not seen it. The film actually tells you at the end not to talk about the ending so you do not ruin the film for everybody else. I guess spoilers where as common in 1955 as they are today.

This film needs to be seen by everybody who loves film. If you like suspense, thrillers, horror, or film noir, this is a must see.

The film got more notoriety five years later, when star Véra Clouzot died from a heart attack at 46, mirroring her character’s weak heart from this film. The film has made a number of best of lists, mostly in the horror genre, including Time Magazine’s Top 25 Horror films and Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. This film has been remade 4 times, or at least used the same source material, over the years. The best know, is the remake starring Sharon Stone from 1996. This version pales in comparison to the original.

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Favorite Tidbit: If you think this film has a very Hitchcockian feel, you are not alone. Hitchcock himself tried to get the rights to the book, but was to late. This film was also a huge influence on Hitchcock when he made Psycho. It also influenced Robert Bloch when he wrote the book, and Bloch says Diabolique was his all time favorite horror film. In fact when Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac heard Hitchcock wanted to buy the rights to their book, they wrote their next book with Hitchcock in mind. Hitchcock did get the film rights to that novel, it became the film Vertigo.

 

Review: Criminal Activities

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Criminal Activities is a small budget neo-noir marketed as a John Travolta film, and though Travolta is great in this film and if you are a fan it is a must watch, he has a fairly small role. The real star for this film is  Jackie Earle Haley. Haley took a script from the 1970’s that has been shelved for decades, rewrote it for a more modern time and changed some of the story. He did this without taking a screenplay credit. This is also his directorial debut and he also has a small but great role in the film.

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This story starts with a young man that dies, it looks like suicide or an accident, but was it murder? He is hit by a bus, but was very paranoid in the days leading up to the incident. When four classmates meet up at the funeral, a drink leads to smoking weed in a car and talking. When one friend mentions some insider information on a stock, the four decide to go in as partners on the deal. Another says he can get the money and they can split the profits after they sell the stock. When the information backfires and the stock is worthless, they find out they have to payback a mob boss at a large premium. When they cannot pay it back the mob boss has the four friends commit a kidnapping to pay off the debt. This is where things get interesting.

Travolta plays the mob boss and Haley plays one of his thugs. Michael Pitt,  Christopher Abbott, Rob Brown and Dan Stevens play the four friends. Stevens’ work is something that has stood out to me lately in small films. The Guest is another small film he is in that is well worth checking out. Edi Gathegi is also great as the kidnap victim.

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I have always enjoyed Haley as an actor, but now I also look forward to his work behind the camera. If you are a noir fan and have been skipping by this film thinking it is another low budget Travolta vehicle, you need to stop. Not only is Travolta a minor character in this film, he is also at his best. This is the best Travolta I have seen in the last 10 years. This is a very good film I really enjoyed and I think neo noir fans will enjoy it too.

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Review: Triple 9

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When you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, life is pretty great 99% of the time. The 1% it isn’t that great is when you want to see that small film on the big screen. In this case I drove 100 miles in one direction to see a film on opening weekend that I have been excited to see for months now. Sometimes the movie going general public surprises me. Here is a film that stars…well lets just say this film has so many great actors in it, it maybe easier to list who wasn’t in it. The film opens on the same weekend as the “blockbuster” Gods of Egypt, that happened to be this year’s first flop(who didn’t see that coming?). I really thought this crime noir might surprise the box office. Triple 9 finished 5th at the box office this weekend with $6.1 million and very little coverage and fanfare. With a budget of $28 million, this is far from a hit, but should still make a decent return on investment after its full theater run and DVD release.

So is this film worth going to the theater for or should you just wait for the DVD release to watch it at home some quite night?

This film has a great ensemble cast with a lot of noir fan favorites. Casey Affleck plays the clean cop that wants to make a difference. Woody Harrelson plays his Uncle who isn’t such a clean cop and has a lot of power in the police force. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the head of the team of thieves who is not just doing this job for the money, but to save his son. Gal Gadot plays the mother of that son and her sister runs the Jewish Russian mob.  Kate Winslet plays the sister that is the head of the Jewish Russian mob. Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus and Clifton Collins Jr. make up the heist team, some are cops, some ex-military. As a bonus,Teresa Palmer plays Affleck’s wife.

This makes a modern noir stew of people doing the wrong things for the right reasons, double crosses, crooked cops of various degrees, and just plain evil men and women using whoever they can to get what they want. All these characters could be the main character in their own neo-noir film and all are interesting and entertaining in their own ways. I liked all the actors in this film. The standouts in this film?  Woody Harrelson, though he does nothing new here, he is David Douglas Brown from Rampart with a little bit more control of his anger or Marty Hart from True Detective with less family issues, but still has plenty of problems to make him an interesting hardboiled detective. Kate Winslet plays something totally different than what I have seen her do in the past as the female mob boss with no heart. Both were great, just for different reasons.

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This film has some interesting cinematography with a very film noir feel. No, it isn’t in black and white, but you do get a feel of black and red, as you can see from the posters and I found that coloring throughout the film. John Hillcoat is one of those directors that consistently makes good films, but seems to stay under the radar. If you haven’t seen Lawless, do it! I look forward to seeing more from Hillcoat in the future.

So back to our original question, is this worth going to the theater to see? I enjoyed this film and found it an above average movie. This film doesn’t cover any real new ground, but twists up old themes into a story I found complex and well put together. The acting is top notch and though it isn’t an instant classic I would say noir fans will enjoy this film and it is worth going to a matinee to see it, even if that matinee is 100 miles away.

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Favorite Tidbit: Look for Michael Kenneth Williams in a small role like you have never seen him before. If you are not looking for him, you may miss him.