Book Review: Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

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Tower is a unique literary experiment in noir fiction, published in 2009. The story is about two lifetime friends from New York City. The first part of the story is Nick’s tale about his friend Todd, who has been living in Boston, and has come back to Nick’s life and New York City. Todd has changed while out of town and now seems to be a violent criminal who has crossed an invisible line that Nick doesn’t want to cross, but may have no choice.

The second part of the book is Todd’s version of the same story and his hope to save his friend Nick from a life of crime. It also goes back a bit and tells us why he went to Philadelphia and Boston before coming back into Nick’s life and New York.

This was a fun read, as we read one author’s version of events from his main character and think we know what is happening when everything is turned upside down and find we never really had the whole story when we get the other author’s version with his main character telling us a different version of what is going on. Can a lifelong friendship survive lost love, crime, lies, betrayal, and even murder? As the first part lays down a great foundation and is a good story on its own, the second part adds to the plot with new information we did not see coming.

I’ve been a fan of Ken Bruen for awhile now and that is the reason I read this book, but have never read Reed Farrel Coleman. Coleman maybe best known for taking over Robert B. Parker’s Spencer book series and is an author I will have to read more from in the future. I’m always leery of books with more then one author and I don’t really know why. I guess I like one continues train of thought from one prospective and sometimes think using two authors to tell a story muddies the waters. In this case it works, because they don’t seem to be writing the book together, but rather each author is telling his version of the story and we read them back to back so we can take both sides of the story to come to our own conclusions. This was an unique journey worth reading if you are a fan of either of these writers.

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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Book Review: Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze

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Black Wings Has My Angel is a noir novel first published in 1953 by Elliott Chaze. This novel had gone somewhat unnoticed over the decades, but is getting a lot of talk lately. Part of that is due to a new edition from New York Review Books.

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The other reason is this book is maybe made into a movie starring Tom Hiddleston, Anna Paquin and Elijah Wood. Barry Gifford who helped with the screenplay wrote an introduction in the new edition of the book. I unfortunately read an older edition of this, so did not get to read this intro. This film took the makers more then a decade to obtain the rights to the book. It was supposed to be filmed in 2012, but due to Paquin having twins filming was postponed. The film is still in pre-production, but maybe with the boost in popularity that the book is getting we will still see a film in the future.

This book revolves around Tim Sunblade, who is an escaped convict and Virginia, who is a high class escort on the run from the law. After Sunblade gets done with a legitimate job, he knows it is time to move on before people start looking into his background. He has a pocket full of money and decides to get a prostitute for the night. When Virginia shows up, Sunblade is surprised by the classy woman that shows up at his room. They soon go on a road trip to Colorado. This leads to the idea of a armored car heist and that is only the beginning.

A bit of a Bonnie and Clyde story with Virginia being a femme fatale for Sunblade. Our leads have a love and hate relationship with some domestic abuse on both parts, but an attraction to each other that is disturbing on some level. This story is a big road trip for our two leads, going from the South to Colorado, back to New Orleans and then to Sunblade’s small hometown and back to Colorado. Sunblade has returned from the war and has changed into a violent criminal, a theme tackled in many noir books and films noir of the time.

This book is for fans of 1950’s pulp noir books and is a well written story. I feel fans of Jim Thompson will enjoy this book. It reminded me of his work a lot while reading it. A forgotten classic that we hope will never be forgotten again and hopefully a film that does justice to the source material.

 

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Favorite Tidbit: This book was re-published twice under different titles, in 1962 as One for My Money and in 1985 as One for the Money.(I found this information on Wikipedia, but this cover looks like it is from 1962 and is titled One for the Money.)

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.