Review: Mojave

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William Monahan has stated that Mojave is definitely not a neo-noir film, which seems to be a strange thing to say. The reason this film came to my attention is because of most of the reviews I read on this film stated it was a modern L.A. noir or a neo noir. The other reason this seems strange is that Monahan has done nothing but neo noir and noirish work for the last 10 years!

This film is based around Tom played by Garrett Hedlund, who is a filmmaker from Hollywood. When he wrecks his vehicle out in the Mojave, he meets Jack, played by Oscar Isaac. Jack is a cold blooded serial killer and when Tom gets the upper hand a cat and mouse game of epic proportions begins.

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As themes of murder, drug dealing movie producers, accidental murder, revenge and a dark look at the film industry are all themes that may appear in a neo noir and also appear in this film. With most all the film shot in low light areas and at night making it very neo noir in style as well. So why would Monahan say this is not a neo noir film?

After watching this film, I would say it falls solidly in the neo noir genre and feel Monahan was saying this film is more than a genre picture. With elements of a modern day western and dialog from a arthouse film, it is more than a neo noir film. I have enjoyed most everything Monahan has written and I like his eye for direction, even if some of the reviews and ratings are not that favorable for his work. I love the way he writes a conversation, though these conversations seem a little too smart for the characters that are speaking them, they are very entertaining and original. Though he is known more for his writing and this is only the second film he has directed, I liked the look of this film and look forward to seeing what he does next.

Mark Wahlberg and Walton Goggins shine in smaller roles.

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Mojave has not really found an audience yet and some of those that have seen it have not been kind. I really enjoyed this film on many levels and think neo noir fans will enjoy it too, even if the writer/director was hoping for a wider fan base.

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Review: Across 110th Street

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Across 110th Street is a neo noir film from 1972, directed by Barry Shear. Shear mostly worked in television, but did a few feature films, this one being his most well-known film. The film is based on a book by Wally Ferris by the same name.

The film is a mash up of blaxploitation, hardboiled detective, and Mafia films into a neo noir stew. The film starts with a bold heist by three black men who rob the Mafia who is counting money in an upstairs apartment. The robbery goes wrong when one of the men starts firing his machine gun and kills everybody in the room. They get away with the money, but the getaway driver played by Antonio Fargas maybe the worst getaway driver in cinema history. This very slow and bad timed drive causes a few cops to end up dead.

This is the springboard for three crossing story lines.  The first is our three thieves trying to get away with $300,000 of the Mafia’s money. The second is the two New York detectives who are trying to catch the thieves/cop killers. The third is the story of the Mafia trying to find the thieves and get their money back.

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Anthony Quinn plays our veteran hardboiled detective, who is a bit of a racist. He is a throwback from a pre-1960’s era. This role was turned down by such big names as John Wayne, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. The lead detective is played by Yaphet Kotto, a black man working his way up the ladder with skill and hard work. The two have an interesting dynamic of respect, even though race gets in the way of that respect.

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Anthony Franciosa plays the man the Mafia put in charge of finding the thieves and getting their money back. He is a very violent man who gets results.

This movie from the early 1970’s tackles topics that are still current today. The biggest one this film tackles is racism in the police force and the targeting of blacks. This film has language which may offend, and the violence is extreme, but both of these facts seem to make the film feel more real. This film feels like Quentin Tarantino went back in time and made it. In fact Tarantino used the Bobby Womack theme song from this film in his famous opening to Jackie Brown.

If you are a fan of gritty 1970’s films, or blaxploitation films from the era, you need to seek this film out.

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Favorite Tidbit: Look for Burt Young in one of his early roles as one of the mobsters in the opening scene.

Review: The Limey

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“You tell him, tell him I’m coming” 

Just watching Terence Stamp say these words are worth watching this film. Directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1999, The Limey is a neo noir film that may not be as popular as his other films around this time, but it should be.

The film revolves around Stamp’s character Wilson, who has just got out of prison in Britain. Wilson’s daughter has recently died in a horrible car accident in Los Angeles. Wilson has also received a letter from Eduardo Roel, played by Luis Guzmán, about his daughter’s death. Wilson travels to Los Angeles to meet Roel and find out what really happened to his daughter.

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Will Wilson get to the bottom of his daughter’s death? Will he like what he finds if he does?

Look for Nicky Katt playing a hitman and  Lesley Ann Warren playing a friend of Wilson’s daughter. Also Amelia Heinle as the young trophy girlfriend and her creepy evil business mogul of a a boyfriend Peter Fonda are also interestingly great.

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If your a fan of Fonda or Stamp it is a film you will really like.  This may not be Soderbergh’s best film, but it isn’t his worst. I really enjoyed his cinematography and interesting editing for this film. The story is fairly simple with a conclusion that is not surprising, but a fun film to watch none the less.

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Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the ’50s – Bright Lights Film Journal

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Here is an interesting look at the history of noir from writer C. Jerry Kutner. Though I don’t agree with some of what he says, a lot of what he says does make sense. He also talks about some films I have not seen yet and will be taking a look at.  Read the full article below and tell us some of your thoughts on his idea of noir:

 

“There is only Noir!” The Noir Vision To discuss the history of film noir since the ’50s is to fly in the face of conventional studies, which assume the “genre”[…]

Source: Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the ’50s – Bright Lights Film Journal

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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News: Margot Robbie Set To Headline Vaughn Stein’s Noir Thriller Terminal

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One of the most popular new talents in Hollywood is ready to take on noir! Margot Robbie has just signed to headline the new film Terminal. This will be writer director Vaughn Stein first feature film, but he has worked as an Assistant Director on a number of television shows and big Hollywood films. Sounds like an interesting movie, read all the details here:

Margot Robbie Set To Headline Vaughn Stein’s Noir Thriller Terminal

Review: Marshland or La isla mínima

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Marshland is a Spanish neo-noir for 2014, recently released on DVD in the United States. This film is written by Alberto Rodríguez and Rafael Cobos and also directed by Alberto Rodríguez. This film takes place in Southern Spain in a poor community in the Marshland. The story takes place in 1980, where there was a lot of political turmoil taking place, with the working class on strike, demanding higher wages.

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Two homicide detectives are sent into the small town to solve the disappearance of two young sisters.  Juan, played by Javier Gutiérrez, is an older, more hardened detective. He realizes his best days are behind him and is happy to finish out his career in his current position. He also has some health issues and may not have long to live.

Pedro, played by Raúl Arévalo, is a young and upcoming detective with a lot of talent for the job. He is sent on this case as punishment for writing a letter to the editor of the paper expressing his political beliefs. The higher ups are not happy with him for this. If he can solve this case in a timely manner, he can get himself back on track for his career goals.

Shortly after arriving on the case, our duo is given some clues that lead to the bodies of our sisters. Soon a few cold cases come to light that show this may be a serial killer. With a slew of local characters adding some great spice to this film and some amazing cinematography this is a well made film.

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I really enjoyed this film and think most noir fans will too. This film really reminded me a lot of True Detective season 1. This is due more to atmosphere then anything. The setting of the film reminded me of the locations in the South where True Detective takes place. There are similarities in both sets of detectives as well. The plot covers some of the same topics, but the story is totally unique. I’m not sure if Rodríguez was inspired by the American television series or not. Filming of this movie had to be underway when True Detective started airing on H.B.O. so I can’t imagine it was a big influence, but the coincidences are uncanny.

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This film is for fans of foreign cinema and those who like a good neo noir. I would also recommend this to those who loved the first season of True Detective. No this is not as brilliant as that series, but it is very good and has the same feel.

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