Okay I want to focus on more fun stuff and discussions on a subject I really enjoy: Movies! I've decided that over the course of the next few days, I'm going to put up top ten lists of films from various genres and sub-genres including Crime, Drama, War, Horror, Sci-Fi, Westerns and other stuff. Let's start this one with a genre that I always enjoy watching: Crime.
real quick before we get started, a little notice here: These will be loosely ranked, as in my absolute favs will be higher on the list while the ones I only occasionally watch will be lower, but again they're based on my personal enjoyment and not how good I think they are, so to speak.
10. The Godfather: Yup, cliche as it may be to include this on the list, no such list is complete without it! What I find interesting about it however is, while the story is completely fictional, the plot does address something that was indeed the turning point in the history of the Mafia: Distribution of drugs. When approached by a "business man" at the beginning of the film who wants to partner up and distribute heroin in the U.S., Don Vito Corleone rejects him, saying that although he does have friends in powerful legal positions (politicians, senators, etc.) that getting involved in the distribution of narcotics would alienate those friends and bring all kinds of trouble on them. As it turned out in real life, Don Vito was very right and that's what ultimately ruined the mafia as people knew it. Although this movie is a great one, it is a long one as well. I forget how long exactly but well over two and a half hours.
9. The Departed: This movie is a really interesting one that takes place in Boston. It focuses on two men on opposite sides of the law who act as moles for their respective sides. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a trusted confidant of Irsh mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is sent into the Boston State Police as a mole, rising up through the ranks quickly to a detective all the while. Meanwhile, Captain Queenan of the state PD (Martin Sheen) and his right hand, Dignam (played gloriously by Mark Wahlberg) send in Billy Costigan Jr. into Costello's operation as a mole for their side. Inevitably, the two are assigned to sniff each other out and expose them to their respective bosses. I love the acting in this one, but top props go to Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. I was extremely amused to find out Wahlberg based his performance off his father and the cops who had to deal with him when he was making trouble in his younger days.
8. The Godfather Part 2: Yes the sequel is higher on the list than the original. The reason for this being that even though this is a longer movie, the pacing is great. The narrative swaps back and forth between a young Vito Corleone and his rise to power and his successor and son, Michael Corleone. The parallel storylines are used to compare and contrast father to son in their actions and ruthlessness, setting the stage for a tragedy. I can't recommend that anyone sees this one without watching the first one, but this one certainly is worth the time!
7. Eastern Promises: This is the Russian Mafia counterpart to The Godfather and explores the depths of London's nasty underworld run by the Vory V Zakone, a Russian criminal organization. When a 14 year old girl dies from complications and blood loss during childbirth, the hospital midwife Anna (Naomi Watts) finds the girl's diary. Concerned about the baby's future and lack of family, she asks her Russian immigrant uncle, Stepan, to translate it. When he initially refuses, Anna looks through it and finds a business card for a local restaurant owned by Semyon. He expresses interest in translating the girl's diary for Anna, but she soon finds out that he may have ulterior motives. She also becomes intrigued by his enigmatic driver, Nickolai (Viggo Mortensen) and even more wary of Semyon's violent son, Kirill. Not all is what it seems and Anna soon discovers, in horrifying detail, that the baby's mother had been forced into prostitution by Semyon.
One thing I enjoyed about this one was the focus and detail they put on the tattoos worn by the Russian criminals. An amusing behind-the-scenes story Viggo Mortensen discussed about the production was he didn't want to have the fake tattoos removed when he would go to lunch because they took a few hours to apply and he was in a pub and overheard two Russian immigrants talking (they filmed on-location in London). Viggo had studied and learned Russian before production began for more authenticity and started listening in to see what he could pick up from the two Russian men. They noticed him watching them, saw his tattoos and the way he was dressed and immediately left the pub, scared shitless. Of course, Viggo felt terrible about it XD
6. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang: Everybody knows Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man now, but before doing Iron Man, he was in this movie starring alongside Val Kilmer. It's a comedic noir-ish film about a petty thief who stumbles into a film audition while evading police and finds himself in Los Angeles studying with a Private Investigator known as "Gay Perry". Perry's wit is spectacular and hilarious and he seems to only be able to speak in sarcasm as seen in the exchange where RDJ's character, Harry, asks him "So...are you still gay?" without missing a beat, Perry replies with such a straight face that I honestly thought he was serious for a moment "No, actually, I'm knee-deep in pussy. i just like the name so much I can't get rid of it." This is a trend of dialogue continued through the movie that makes it so much fun to watch. Just watch it!
5. Suicide Kings: This is an independent film that not many have apparently seen that stars Christopher Walken, Denis Leary, and a group of B-list actors who are mostly unknown (save Sean Patrick Flannery). Charlie Bartolucci (Walken) is a retired crime lord who gets kidnapped by a group of college kids and taken to a remote cabin outside of New York City. When he wakes up tied to an office chair, the group tells him that one of their siblings has been kidnapped and a ransom of two million dollars has been demanded. With seemingly no other options, Charlie reluctantly agrees to help and provide the ransom money. However, immediately after getting in touch with his people, he's informed that an inside player-a member of his captors-is involved in the kidnapping. As the time to the exchange ticks down, Charlie begins questioning each of the friends, informing the few who he feels is...less dishonest than the others, about the inside man, setting them against each other.
One thing that left an impression on me from this movie was how Charlie seamlessly shifts from a soft-spoken nice guy to a vicious and hardened criminal. One line of his is especially jarring when he tells the group about how he was able to find out so much about the kidnap victim, her captors, and the members of the groups with a single phone call : "That phone call I got, it came from outside high walls and fancy gates; it comes from a place you know about, maybe, from the movies. But I come from out there, and everybody out there knows: everybody lies. Cops lie, newspapers lie...your parents lie. The one thing you can count on: word on the street. Yeah, that's solid."
4. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels: Before he became well-known for the Sherlock Holmes films, starring RDJ and Jude Law, Guy Ritchie made clever crime comedies. This one stars, among others, Jason Statham before he became famous in American cinema. He isn't the central character however, this one focuses more on the antics of a group of friends when one of them gets in way too deep in debt with a London crime lord after a rigged poker game. Hilarity ensues as the situations brings other groups into the conflict, including marijuana growers, their boss the borderline psychopathic Rory Breaker, and several independent workers. There's a lot of "British" humor in this one and copious use of "Rhyming slang", so much so that one notable scene actually has to use subtitles.
3. The Usual Suspects: The sole survivor (Verbal Kent played by Kevin Spacey) of a gun fight on board a docked shipped owned by Hungarian criminals is pressed for information involving the shootout and events leading up to it. The police officer, Dave Kujan (Chazz Palmantari), questioning him has the fate of one specific man on his mind; Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a corrupt former police officer who was involved in a whole manner of nasty things. Then another name gets thrown into the mix that catches the questioning officers completely off guard. Another survivor, one of the Hungarian criminals, drops the name of a mythical figure in the criminal underworld, Keyser Soze. As Kent tells the rest of his story, Kujan begins to realize the mythical criminal may not be so mythical after all.
2. Gone, Baby, Gone: Another film that takes place in Boston. This one focuses on the case of a missing little girl whose mother is a negligent drug addict and all-around scum bag. After the police are initially contacted, the girl's aunt decides to call a private investigator, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck). Patrick is joined and assisted by his girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monoghan) who ask the aunt why she would choose to involve them when the police are genuinely putting everything they have into finding the girl. Knowing the neighborhoods and the city, she says she believes people who don't carry badges or wear uniforms will get more answers more easily, and she's right. The case eventually unwinds into a shocking revelation.
1. Heat: Both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro starred in The Godfather Part 2, playing Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone respectively. But in this film, they star opposite each other with De Niro playing a professional thief, Neil McCauly arriving in Los Angeles to do a last series of jobs before retiring. Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hannah who, because of his intense focus or even obsession on his job, is in the twilight of a failing marriage, his third marriage in fact. When a botched job gets Vincent's attention on McCauly, the two begin to study each other, leading up to a very famous scene where Vincent pulls Neil over...and asks him if he would like to grab a coffee at a diner. Neil accepts. As the two discuss their positions in the diner, with neither of them hiding or lying at all, they come to see that because of their consummate professionalism they both lead very lonely and alienating lives. When they both admit they know their lines of work may well end with them being killed, possibly by each other, Neil sarcastically suggests they should maybe do something else. Vincent replies in a mix of remorse and contentment "I don't how to do anything else." In the same tone, Neil replies "Neither do I." Vincent then adds "I don't much want to." Neil replies "Neither do I." the scene ends with them saying they hope they don't see each other again, having gained respect for each other, but they both hold firm that if they have to, they will kill the other. I love this movie, that's about as simple as it gets.