Another 48 Hrs. (1990) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 93 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte return for more in this so-so sequel to 48 Hrs. (1982). Once again, tough guy cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) recruits the help of conman Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to help him on a case. This time, the police officer wants to take down a mysterious drug lord known as “The Iceman” as well as clear his name after being accused of killing an unarmed man.

The plot of Another 48 Hrs. feels rather formless, which is the biggest problem with the film. In retrospect, it just seems like our dynamic duo are chasing various leads until the final shootout arrives. Sure, Nolte and Murphy do no wrong here, but the plot needed a little more meat on it. Oh well, at least the adequate pacing and relatively short runtime keep this flaw from being fatal.

The action scenes here are actually better than the ones in the first installment of this motion picture duology. They’re definitely not top-tier, but they are filmed and edited in a more coherent fashion than in 48 Hrs. This picture is somewhat famous for the amount of glass that gets smashed in it and, yeah, panes of that stuff are being broken left and right. I guess it adds to the fun of the whole experience.

Another 48 Hrs. features less racist and homophobic dialogue than the original, which may make it easier to watch for modern audiences. It’s also less grimy- and gritty-feeling, but – hey – if that’s the cost of superior action set-pieces, I’ll pay it. Okay, the bottom line is that this one isn’t quite as good as the 1982 flick, but it certainly is watchable.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Review

Director: Arthur Penn

Genre(s): Action, Biography, Crime, Drama, Romance

Runtime: 111 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The 1967 gangster movie Bonnie and Clyde feels just as alive, fresh, zesty, and vital now as it did during its original theatrical run. As you probably know, the plot concerns bandit duo and lovers Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), who tear through the Central-Southern United States on a crime spree in the 1930s. One of the best of its kind, this film took the sensibilities of the French New Wave and applied them to these American folk figures.

Bonnie and Clyde remains dazzling partially because of its expert juggling of action, drama, romance, comedy, suspense, and historical context. Unless you abhor pictures that glamorize murderous criminals (which this one has a tendency to do), there’s something here for just about everybody. The feature starts off adventurous and relatively light, but, by the time of the third act, it feels like a road trip to Hell.

It’s generally a fast-paced piece of work, with some very, very good action sequences (the violence that they contain was considered shocking back in 1967). A special shout-out has to go to the cast, who all play their distinctive characters with aplomb. The Great Depression-era United States is convincingly recreated here, and the flick is surprisingly funny at times.

Bonnie and Clyde is sometimes credited with playing a critical role in tearing down the old Hollywood Production Code, which dictated what content could and couldn’t be in American movies. The film’s graphic violence, sexual undercurrents, and glorification of ruthless criminals made the Code impotent. It was soon to be replaced by the MPAA rating system (you know, like G, R, etc.). Talk about a movie that left an impact! However, this motion picture is still highly recommended, regardless of its influence and significance in cinema history.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

48 Hrs. (1982) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The 1982 action-comedy 48 Hrs. is an excellent example of how the right casting can save a movie. Here, Eddie Murphy is the hero of the production. The story of the picture in question is about a down-on-his-luck San Francisco police officer named Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) who reluctantly teams up with imprisoned con man Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to track down a pair of cop killers. It’s often considered one of the first of the “buddy-cop” subgenre, but, in this case, only one of the two main characters is a lawman.

It’s largely thanks to Eddie Murphy that this gritty crime-thriller keeps afloat. The movie really comes alive when he shows up, and it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role. The plot may be nothing worth writing home about, but when Murphy’s on a roll, he’s on a roll. Be warned, though, that this flick contains quite a bit of racist, sexist, and homophobic language that makes it a little awkward at times.

Director Walter Hill is generally very good at handling action scenes, but I don’t think 48 Hrs. is one of his better outings when judged by carnage alone. The action here feels a little clumsy sometimes. It’s certainly not all bad, but it doesn’t feel up to the Walter Hill par. The sequences of violence, however, do feel appropriately grounded for such a tight, intimate film.

This is an important landmark in the history of buddy-cop movies, and it holds up pretty well today (except for the bigoted remarks, of course). Sure, it would be topped by Lethal Weapon (1987), but it still has a sleazy, dirt-under-the-fingernails charm all to its own. Also, David Patrick Kelly, perhaps better known as “Sully from Commando (1985)” makes an appearance as criminal Luther.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

The Highwaymen (2019) Review

Director: John Lee Hancock

Genre(s): Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 132 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) famously showed the Barrow Gang’s 1930s crime spree from the criminals’ points-of-view, while 2019’s The Highwaymen flips the script and reenacts it from the perspectives of the lawmen who hunted them down. It’s the Great Depression-era United States, and gangsters Bonnie Parker (Emily Brobst) and Clyde Barrow (Edward Bossert) are rampaging through the Central-Southern part of the country, with former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) hot on their tracks. It’s a respectable change of pace.

No, this movie isn’t nearly as good as 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, but that doesn’t make it unnecessary. The two leads – Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson – have good chemistry and keep the leisurely-paced flick chugging along. The rural United States in the time of the Great Depression is brought to life surprisingly well, showing the breeding ground for criminals in desire of a better life. However, this film certainly does not glamorize the two crooks that the main characters are tracking down.

As I mentioned above, the pace of this picture can be, uh, leisurely. This is fine at first, but the feature does a questionable job of kicking it into high-gear when the climax approaches. Some moments of action feel sort of cheaply-made. The movie also underutilizes Kathy Bates’ character, “Ma” Ferguson, the Governor 0f Texas, who has to have Bonnie and Clyde killed or captured before they can make her look like too much of a fool.

Bonnie and Clyde are ruthless murderers here, largely kept offscreen like the beasts of a monster movie. Fortunately for the audience, the two lawmen on their trail are rendered colorfully here to make up for the lack of screentime that the two gangsters get. Overall, this film is a decent-enough diversion, but it needed a bit more pep in its step at times.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre(s): Biography, Comedy, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 180 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

This depiction of the life and times of American financial criminal Jordan Belfort (Leonard DiCaprio) is a work of pure, unrestrained id. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, gleefully obnoxious and hedonistic-to-the-power-of-x stock-broker Belfort claws his way up to the top. At three hours, it’s a long one for sure, but director Martin Scorsese ensures that this comedic biopic is never remotely boring.

The Wolf of Wall Street feels like a circus or a party (not the kind I would want to go to, though), with its orgies, oversized yachts, mountains of cocaine, and literal hundreds of “f-words.” It’s all excess, all the time. The movie is so full of amplified depraved behavior that it starts to feel like a twisted sort of experimental film after a while. Despite (perhaps because of) the incessant debauchery, this is one hilarious flick, with a style that goes for maximum impact.

As funny as all of this is, one flaw with the picture is that it doesn’t really show the consequences of the main character’s crimes on the people he swindled. It barely feels like a crime film at all for that reason. Yes, there is an FBI agent, Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), on Jordan Belfort’s case, but this feature comes dangerously close to glorifying the law-breaking of the work-hard-play-harder man in the center of the narrative.

For a three-hour movie about wealthy thugs doing wealthy thug activities, The Wolf of Wall Street‘s story, acting, and script hold up well. The whole thing’s outrageous, but it’s handled by a master filmmaker (Scorsese) who prevents it from becoming pure schlock. This one’s not for the prudish, but, if you want to take a peak into the lives of the Rich and Sociopathic, this picture comes highly recommended.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

Public Enemies (2009) Review

Director: Michael Mann

Genre(s): Action, Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 140 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Public Enemies is a solid gangster flick that has the misfortune of living in the shadow of the similar Dillinger (1973), which was written and directed by John Milius. The plot of the 2009 picture in question covers the 1930s bank-robbing spree of super-criminal John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). There’s plenty to like about this movie, but just about everything about it was topped back in the 1970s.

The ferocious gunfights that director Michael Mann is known for are very much present here. It probably has as many firearms-per-frame as 1973’s Dillinger and the shootouts are probably more realistic-feeling. The expected highlight in the action department is the firefight at a lodge known as Little Bohemia, but the other sequences of violence work exceptionally well, too.

Perhaps the biggest fault of Public Enemies is how colorless many of the supporting characters are rendered. Sure, the big players in the story get their time to shine, but most of the side members of the John Dillinger gang, for example, don’t stand out at all, which is a stark contrast to how these folks were handled in the aforementioned Dillinger. “Baby Face” Nelson (Stephen Graham) manages to steal the scenes he appears in, though.

Public Enemies is a much more somber and subdued film than 1973’s Dillinger, trying to play things closer to historical fact (although there are still several deviations from what happened in real life). It’s fairly ambitious, but it lacks the flair, pizazz, and print-the-legend audacity that the Dillinger story from John Milius had. I figure that both motion pictures are worth checking out, so make it a Dillinger double feature if you can.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

U.S. Marshals (1998) Review

Director: Stuart Baird

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 131 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

The 1993 action-thriller The Fugitive seems like an unlikely movie to get a sequel, but get one it did. A man named Sheridan (Wesley Snipes), who’s been accused of murdering two government agents, has escaped from police custody, and – you guessed it – U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) is on the case. It certainly isn’t as masterful as The Fugitive, but it’s a better-than-serviceable film that keeps my attention.

This one is a tad different from the original Samuel Gerard movie in that it’s not clear if the fugitive being pursued is innocent or not. Okay, it’s not exactly a wildly unpredictable ride, but it has enough ambiguous situations to keep one’s interest. The whole cast does a good job, but, as you’d expect, Tommy Lee Jones is the standout here as a gruff, yet protective, lawman.

U.S. Marshals tries to outdo the action in the first film with mixed results. Sure, the action set-pieces are probably bigger in scale than most of the ones in The Fugitive, but this one lacks some of the human drama of the 1993 flick. The most memorable sequence in the 1998 picture has got to be the part where circumstances allow Wesley Snipes’ character to escape from the law in the first place (I’m not going to spoil the details of it). There are a few other good action bits here, but they probably won’t stick in your head like some of the ones from The Fugitive.

Yeah, U.S. Marshals might contain a slightly slow section or two (making it less relentless than the 1993 production that it’s a sequel to), but it will still satisfy many viewers who were left wanting more (in a good sort of way) by The Fugitive. Earth-shattering it is not, but there’s enough mayhem here to keep an action buff amused for two hours. It’s not exactly a necessary sequel, but, despite lacking the Harrison Ford factor, it’s one worth watching for fans of the original.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

The Fugitive (1993) Review

Director: Andrew Davis

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 130 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

We all have some movies that take us to our “Happy Place.” For me, one of those elite-class films is 1993’s The Fugitive. Just in case you don’t know, the plot’s about a Chicago doctor named Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) who’s falsely accused of murdering his wife, Helen (Sela Ward), and has to escape from police custody to find the true killer. All along the way, he’ll be pursued by Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), a relentless U.S. Marshal.

One of the best things about this classic is the cat-and-mouse game played by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones’ characters. They’re both professionals and they, like the movie itself, never miss a beat. Ford’s an easy guy to root for and Jones, despite being an antagonist, is not demonized. Action and suspense scenes come and go, but it’s the characters that make the deepest impression.

Speaking of action sequences, there are a few stunners here that I won’t spoil. The big set-pieces are pulse-pounding, and the film captures a great sense of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure. The pacing is exquisite, moving from one fight, evasion, escape, standoff, chase, or close-call to the next, with just enough dialogue to make sure the thing is comprehensible.

The Fugitive is a classy, airtight action-thriller that makes great use of its Chicago-area locations. It manages to feel somewhat plausible on one hand, but, on the other, it doesn’t feel tied down by concerns for excessive realism. The tone’s just right, being serious enough to draw the audience in without being oppressive. I would consider it essential viewing.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

Richard Jewell (2019) Review

Director: Clint Eastwood

Genre(s): Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 131 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Richard Jewell is made in the terse, economical style that one would expect from a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Its challenging story (based on true events) is about American security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), who discovers a bomb at a crowded concert at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. However, in this film, it’s really the stuff that takes place after the Olympics that really matter.

The committed performances by the cast definitely sell the picture. Originally, the title character was going to be played by Jonah Hill (who also helped produce the work), but the less-famous Paul Walter Hauser got the role in the end. I think casting a less familiar face for the lead makes the flick a more immersive experience. The resulting movie is taut and efficient, being very effective on the level of making the audience wonder what’s going to happen next.

Despite its engaging nature, the film attracted quite a bit of controversy for its depiction of reporter Kathy Scruggs (played by Olivia Wilde), who is portrayed as a sleazy, narcissistic sort who trades sex for news scoops. Scruggs, who died in 2001, was not around to defend herself, and many felt she was being railroaded the same way that the media and the government railroaded Jewell. It’s hard not to hold this against the finished product, but I don’t think it’s quite enough for me to give it a negative review.

Richard Jewell offers a few problems for viewers just trying to enjoy the picture, yet it’s far more entertaining than not. It offers up some complicated moral dilemmas and some good suspense. It goes to show that a feature doesn’t need a big gunfight at the end to be satisfying. There are parts of the flick that are on-the-nose, but it’s a solid, little drama that its target audience will definitely get a kick out of.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

The Story of Temple Drake (1933) Review

Director: Stephen Roberts

Genre(s): Crime, Drama

Runtime: 70 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The 1933 drama The Story of Temple Drake is a picture from the Pre-Code era of Hollywood (before the enforcement of the Production Code) that feels ahead-of-its-time. After a drunken car crash, town flirt Temple Drake (Miriam Hopkins) and Toddy Gowan (William Collier Jr.), the latest man chasing her, find themselves trapped at a remote Southern plantation mansion controlled by vile gangster Trigger (Jack La Rue). Based on the 1931 William Faulkner novel Sanctuary, this one proved to be quite controversial back in the day.

This film is really in its element when at the plantation used as a bootlegger hideout by Jack La Rue’s character (his performance is hypnotic here). These scenes have a semi-surreal and dreamlike quality to them that was largely absent from mainstream American movies at the time of its release. Some of the actors give performances that can only be described as “zombified,” only heightening the otherworldliness. The cinematography’s also pretty incredible.

On the down side, the last act of the flick is largely concerned with courtroom scenes that lack the sinister nature of previous sequences. This part of the movie is appropriately suspenseful, but it just doesn’t have the thick atmosphere of the mobster hideout stuff. The slower pace of these scenes don’t do the overall film any favors.

The role of the gangster Trigger was originally offered to George Raft, but he turned down the gig, fearing an association with this feature would ruin his career. The Story of Temple Drake has a satisfactory opening act, a really, really strong middle act, and a final act that…works well, but can’t top what came before it. It’s a moody, menacing movie…one that fans of the classics will probably want to check out.

My rating is 7 outta 10.