The Greats: Crime Pictures

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Top Lists
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Holy crap! Someone stole the intro for this piece. Darn them thieves.

The Asphalt Jungle
This is a fantastic movie where we’re shown the many stages of a heist. We watch as a plan is formed, a crew is gathered, the crime is committed, and then stick with them as everything goes wrong. We don’t end them movie until all the participants are either arrested or dead, leaving off each character as they reach their final destination. There is a lot to digest in this movie, so I leave it to you to watch.

Layer Cake
A nice, twisty-turny, crossy and double-crossy modern crime movie. An unnamed hero, a drug trade gone wrong, a plot that exists within a plot, this movie has everything. Well, not everything, it doesn’t have space invaders or anything. It does have drugs, guns, girls, cars and the guy who was about to become James Bond though. That’s something, right?

The Maltese Falcon
Probably the best adaptation of a mystery novel ever done. A lot of people forget that this was the big star-making vehicle for Humphrey Bogart. Before this, he was a minor player, mostly being the guy that Jimmy Cagney shot down in the last 10 minutes of the movie. This however, put Bogart up into another class and let him play heroes instead of heels. What also makes this a great adaptation is how close they stay to the book, which is one of the better detective novels of the time. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Probably tops when it comes to car classic car chase movies. While the car chase came back in the 00s with the Bourne movies, I’m not sure we’ll ever see the like of a John Frankenheimer car chase again. This movie feels like a throwback, since while it was made in the late 90s, it’s remarkably free of modern effect work, relying on the sort of tricks that had been working since the 70s. The plot itself is a throwback to the 70s suspense as well, relying on a MacGuffin in the form of a large silver briefcase to drive the action along. This is another great movie with only a few (but noticeable) errors.

The French Connection
Probably still the best police procedural film ever made. A semi-fictionalized account of the 1961 French Connection heroin bust. There is some good action, but really this is a movie where the criminals and police dance around each other trying to out smart the other side. You actually get to see a lot of details into how each side works, which is really interesting. Trying to think of something else quick to say, but I’m coming up dry. Sorry.

When I watched this, I asked “Do you suppose actual grown-ups made this movie?” It’s such a silly, fun movie, which goes into so many strange places. The movie is seriously childish, and extremely silly, but it is fun and exciting. It’s not a stupid movie either, and the two directors are clearly well informed on the language of visual expression. There’s a lot more here than just the surface movie, if you know what you’re looking at.

Is this the first great car chase movie? Well, I can’t think of a really great car chase that preceded it, so probably. There were car chases in movies before, but Bullit elevated it into a complete action sequence in and of itself. This started what I like to call the car chase wars of the 70s and 80s. After this movie, the car chase became a staple of action movies and each one had to outdo the last one. After a while, they’d gone as far as they could and everyone got bored with it, opting for bigger machine guns instead. What’s sort of sad is that the whole car chase thing has eclipsed the rest of the movie, which is actually a pretty tight little police story. It’s not a bad little movie and you should maybe check it out.

Remember all I said about The Asphalt Jungle a few minutes ago? Now apply that to the modern age and put Robert DeNiro into the movie. This also has one of the best shootouts every recorded on film, at least I think so. A precise movie about crime, crime prevention, and about people as well. Probably Michael Mann’s best movie, at least the one all others since have been compared to.

Hard Boiled
Is this the best Heroic Bloodshed movie out there? You know, I think it probably is. Some might argue for The Killer, but I like this one just a little bit more. It might be the opening shoot out in the Teahouse, or the end battle in the hospital, or just that the characters seem a little more well-developed here. Whatever it is, I have a preference for Hard Boiled. Strangely, while I really like this one, I’m not really into the Heroic Bloodshed genre as a whole and I’m not fond of the two hand gun things for the most part. Still like this one though, so Woo must have done something right. While at it’s heart it’s an action movie, this film also contains both sides of a gun running operation and the police effort to stop it. As such, I’m putting it here.

Smokey and the Bandit
This is probably the best movie about Southern bootleggers driving really fast from Texas to Georgia ever made. I enjoy so many aspects of this film, not just the driving scenes, although that is a large draw to the movie. Sally Field and Burt Reynolds have a fantastic amount of chemistry, and Jackie Gleason gives the performance of a lifetime as Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Once you get past the driving though, this movie really has something to say about the modern American South that’s not often seen in movies or TV. Crime is the main motivation here, just a little more light hearted than the other movies.

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