Phil Karlson – 5 Against the House (1955)

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Synopsis:
Four college buddies enjoy a night at a Reno casino and overhear a cop saying that robbing the casino “cannot be done.” That gets the brainiest rich kid among them thinking up a plan for the perfect robbery. He convinces the others to join in when they hear that it will only be a college hoax, his plan being to let the police know where the money is afterwards. The thing is, one of his friends has a head injury from the war, and has no intention of returning a dime. Continue reading

William Friedkin – Cruising (1980)

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A 1980 psychological thriller film directed by William Friedkin and starring Al Pacino. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name, by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker, about a serial killer targeting gay men, in particular those associated with the S&M scene.
Poorly reviewed by critics, Cruising was a modest financial success, though the filming and promotion were dogged by gay rights protesters. The title is a play on words with a dual meaning, as “cruising” can describe police officers on patrol and also cruising for sex. Continue reading

Takashi Miike – Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (1999)

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Quote:
Handed a tedious script about a turf war in Shinjuku’s Kabuki-cho entertainment district (a maverick Chinese gang pulls a robbery which upsets organised crime; a care-worn cop lumbers towards a showdown with the troublemakers), Miike threw away half of it and used the rest as a springboard to amazing inventions. The exposition scenes are boiled down to an entire reel of ‘abstract’ action – a cataclysmic restaurant ambush, a gay man killed while sodomising a kid, the world’s longest line of coke, a homo-erotic knife-throwing act in a girlie bar – while the unrevealable ending is turned into the ultimate blast. In between, Miike offers a series of electrifyingly sad vignettes of death, failure and loss, including what must be the most disturbing stoned murder scene the genre has ever known. A future classic. (Time Out Film Guide) Continue reading

Seijun Suzuki – Tôkyô nagaremono AKA Tokyo Drifter (1966)

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Quote:
Tokyo Drifter stands with Branded to Kill as one of the best-known and most acclaimed films of Seijun Suzuki, one of Japan’s most talented maverick directors. A colorful riot of an action drama, Tokyo Drifter, like many of Suzuki’s films, transforms a standard gangster film plot into a vehicle for his own loopy brand of filmmaking, featuring gorgeous cinematography, unconventional storytelling techniques, and a dark sense of humor. This particular example centers on Tetsu, a yakuza member who, when his gang is disbanded, remains loyal to his boss and attempts to go straight. This is no easy task, however, as the yakuza are determined to get him back into the life — or kill him if he refuses. The pressure soon forces Tetsu to go on the road, becoming the “Tokyo drifter” of the title, but even this is not enough to prevent his past from violently catching up with him. The film’s choreographed action and vibrant color palette make the frequent action sequences, including one of the most raucous barroom brawls ever put on film, seem almost like musical numbers, resulting in a spectacularly entertaining and truly original take on the gangster drama. Continue reading

Lev Kulidzhanov – Prestuplenie i nakazanie AKA Crime and Punishment (1969)

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Plot Synopsis
This Russian adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment packs nearly every pivotal event from the mammoth novel into its 200 minute running time. Georgi Taratorkin stars as Raskolnikov, the impressionable student who believes himself to be above the law-and commits murder to prove his theory. Innokenti Smoktunovskiy, best known for his brilliant interpretation of the title character in the Russian Hamlet (1964), costars as police inspector Porfiry, who humbly but diligently wears down Raskolnikov’s alibi. Most cinemadaptations of Crime and Punishment end with the protagonist’s arrest; this one retains Dostoyevsky’s lengthy post-prison epilogue, in which Raskolnikov learns at long last how to be a human being.

All Movie Guide Continue reading

Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah – Black (2015)

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A 15-year-old girl in a black gang in Brussels must choose between loyalty and love when she falls for a Moroccan boy from a rival gang. The city of Brussels, plagued by high rates of youth unemployment, is home to nearly forty street gangs, and the number of young people drawn into the city’s gang culture increases each year. It’s in this criminal milieu that directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah set Black, a pulse-pounding contemporary take on a Shakespearean tragedy. Worlds collide when Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio), a teenage girl with ties to Brussels’ Black Bronx gang, meets Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi), a member of a rival Moroccan gang, at a police station. Keenly aware of the consequences of getting involved with someone from another gang, they at first resist their attraction to one another, but they can only resist for so long. Continue reading

Kostas Manoussakis – O fovos AKA The fear (1966)

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Plot:
A socially isolated young man (Anestis Vlachos) attacks the family’s deaf-mute adopted daughter, whom he abuses sexually and then kills. His parents, even though they discover his crime and are enraged, decide to hide the truth and throw the body into the lake to make it disappear. From that moment on, Anestis lives in fear, and all his actions are now defined by the crime he committed. Continue reading