by Marcus Sakey
I love movies. I especially love crime movies. I don't mean gangster films, or at least not specifically those; I mean movies that explore the seamier side of life, that are unabashed about having a plot and yet also handle character with grace and explore a larger issue.
Here's the problem. There aren't enough of 'em. And a lot of great ones slip through the cracks.
Ever see Spy Game? Odds are you didn't. It was badly trailered, promoted as a sort of pretty-boy actionfest. In truth, there's not much of what you'd call action. But it's a masterful film about loyalty, about country, about the things we can convince ourselves to do for a cause we believe is larger than ourselves--and what happens when we're wrong.
Plus it's damned entertaining.
How about The Peacemaker? George Clooney and Nicole Kidman chasing a load of stolen nuclear weapons. Not new in its own right, but handled with sophistication and subtlety, and every character, good and bad, is smart, motivated, and believable. The subject matter, timely when it came out, now plays as damn-near prescient. And it's even fairly accurate about nuclear weapons, something you just never see.
Obviously, no one needs me to recommend The Usual Suspects, or Goodfellas, or Silence of the Lambs. But did you ever see Manhunter, the first movie to introduce Hannibal Lector, chillingly played by Brian Cox? Okay, the soundtrack is a little eighties, but the film is otherwise fantastic, in many ways the equal to its Academy Award winning sequel.
Miller's Crossing may be the smartest (and oddest) gangster movie ever made. Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels is a perfect film, without a wasted scene or throwaway moment. Bound is so painfully tense it's hard to sit through. I watched Layer Cake three times in two days, and I could fire it up again right now.
So those are some of my favorites. What are some of yours, and why? Help a brother out--otherwise I'll just end watching Training Day for the fifteenth time.