Review: Homicide

Homicide is a neo noir from 1991 by modern film great David Mamet.  Mamet who wrote and directed this film has also wrote a ton of great neo noir and crime films over the last 4 decades.  He writes some of the best dialog around with a rhythm to it that is hypnotic.  It is street level crime poetry, and the flow and delivery from some of the best actors around.  This is the first time I’ve seen this film, but it won’t be the last.  I’m not sure how I missed this in the early 90’s at the video store, or never really heard much about it.  It popped up on a few neo noir lists and when I seen who stared in it as well as it being a Mamet film, I put it to the top of my Netflix Queue.

This film revolves around Joe Mantegna as our Homicide Detective lead.  He is tough, but tough in a different way than our normal hardboiled detective.  He uses his people skills and smarts rather than his fists and gun.  In fact we see a number of pivotal scenes where his physical strength is tested and he fails these tests.  We also see him get back up and keep trucking along.  This film has a lot of racial tension as well.  Our hero is Jewish and seems to shun this at first, but later is torn between being a great cop or a good Jew.

William H. Macy plays Mantegna’s partner and their dialog and banter is some of the best in modern noir.  Macy is always good and doesn’t disappoint here. He plays the sidekick who doesn’t question anything his partner does, because to him, his partner can do no wrong.  Will this be his downfall?

This story starts with an F.B.I. raid on an apartment, they kill an innocent black women and their suspect gets away.  It’s a mess the F.B.I. dumps on the local Homicide division.  Our two detectives take the case, with a lead they think will pan out.  On the way to apprehend the suspects brother to see if he will roll over on his brother, we come to some flashing lights and a cop in need of some help.  As Macy takes the car and goes on to the planned meet with the suspects brother, Mantegna stays behind to help the uniformed police officers.  An old Jewish women has been shot with a shotgun and her store robbed.  Mantegna catches the case and is taken off the more high-profile original case.  He continues to juggle the two cases.  On one hand he is helping his people solve the murder case of a Jew.  On the other he is trying to find the black man the F.B.I. is desperate to find.

This has some great actors in this besides our two leads.  Though all are great in this, the two small parts that stand out to me are Ving Rhames in one of his earliest movie roles as the black suspect the first case revolves around, and Ricky Jay as one of the members of the Jewish community the second case revolves around.

The movie isn’t just noir in story but also is filmed in a classic film noir style, using washed out colors and shadows through out.

I really loved this film and think noir lovers of the classic era as well as the modern neo noir lovers will like it too. This film has more to say then a simple murder mystery and touches on racial tensions not only between whites and blacks but the Jewish community as well. I look forward to watching and re-watching more from Mamet for this site in the future.

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Re-Watching a New Classic: Out of Sight

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Out of Sight is best known for the relationship between George Clooney’s Jack Foley and Jennifer Lopez’s Karen Sisco, but it is so much more than that.  I haven’t seen this since it came out in 1998 and just re-watched it.  I remember that Steven Soderbergh directed this Elmore Leonard story.  I didn’t realize this was Soderbergh’s first big budget film, not a bad first try, Though this was a box office flop for the studio. This is also one of my favorite Leonard adoptions, it’s funny but it’s the classic one liners and a few characters that don’t quite fit into society that make it funny, not trying to make it a comedy, that happens way to much with Leonard’s work.  Leonard is a crime storyteller first, funny second.  What I forgot about this film is the rest of the cast is brilliant! Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Catherine Keener, Dennis Farina,Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Nancy Allen and Luis Guzmán!

This movie’s most famous scene happens towards the beginning of the film and sets in motion what is to come.  That scene happens after Foley out smarts the prison guards and escapes prison.  When he is getting picked up by his buddy…Buddy, played by Rhames, FBI Agent Sisco is in the parking lot on an unrelated mater.  They steal her car and throw her in the trunk with Foley for the escape.  Their conversation about movies, which includes the classics Bonnie and Clyde, Network, and Three Days of the Condor, and life in general make for an intimate conversation that changes both of their lives.  We find from this scene that there is chemistry between our two leads, and both have a mutual attraction.  Both know this might just be their downfall.

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This gives a different spin on our plot.  Foley can’t keep away from Sisco even though he knows she will eventually put him back in jail and Sisco can’t stay away from Foley, even though she knows she should put him back in jail.  This is also unique because Lopez is not only our femme fatale, but also our hero for good. We have noir’s favorite sport-boxing, bank robbers, kidnappers, magician assistants, ex-cops, F.B.I., Detroit detectives, and a surprise appearance by none other than Samuel L. Jackson.

Enjoy this Leonard romp in the way a Leonard romp should be done.

Favorite tidbit:  Michael Keaton reprises his role as Ray Nicolette in a cameo, Keaton played Nicolette in Jackie Brown(another of my favorite Leonard adoptions) as well.