Classic Review – Antoine Fuqua’s “Training Day” (2001)

To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.

– Det. Alonzo Harris


No fun when the rabbit has the gun, is it?

– Jake Hoyt

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Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” is Neo-Noir Black Comedy at its Finest

Fans of the crime comedy genre can rejoice, because we’ve been gifted a new masterpiece.  Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is a fun throwback that sports a fantastic mixture of neo-noir and black comedy.  Like the best examples of the genre, the story unfolds through a central mystery while multiple intriguing characters get roped into the proceedings.  Black’s sensibilities take full advantage of the chemistry between stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and as a result the film compares favorably to similar movies like The Big Lebowski and Snatch.  Though it may fly under the radar during its theatrical release, it will likely find a cult following once people recognize its high quality and peculiar tone.

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“Green Room” Pits an Unlucky Punk Band against Cold, Calculating Neo-Nazis in a Claustrophobic, Smart Slasher

Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room takes advantage of two primal human fears to fill its audience with a profound sense of unease:  the fear of confinement, and the fear of being outnumbered in a fight.  The film establishes an omnipresent feeling of dread by casting the members of a punk rock band into the deep end of a hinterland Neo-Nazi club.  Though the set itself is fine, one of the members witnesses something he shouldn’t, and the film becomes a hyper-realistic slasher thriller set in this single, remote location.  Though the story essentially recreates the “Ten Little Indians” trope, there is a subtlety and direction to the plot and a dimensionality to the characters that raises Green Room above the common slasher.

Continue reading ““Green Room” Pits an Unlucky Punk Band against Cold, Calculating Neo-Nazis in a Claustrophobic, Smart Slasher”

Classic Review Friday – Tony Scott’s “Man on Fire” (2004)

A slick, stylized violence permeates Tony Scott’s Man on Fire, which is as much a story about rebirth as it is about revenge. The critics balked at the vigilantism of Denzel Washington’s John Creasy as he tears through a Mexican kidnapping cartel responsible for the death of a young girl, but this film is much more about a man’s abortive redemption than pleasure-seeking violence. Far from glorifying Creasy’s rampage, Scott imbues the narrative with a decidedly blunt and tragic trajectory. Man on Fire is less about retribution, and more about a damaged man falling apart one last time in service of his highest value.

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“Sicario” is a Tense and Grim Look at the Futility of the Drug War

Last week on Plot and Theme we had an entire week devoted to the feature films of Denis Villeneuve, and now we get a nice cherry on top: Sicario. Villeneuve’s seventh feature film stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio del Toro, and tells the story of a FBI SWAT agent Kate Macer (Blunt) who is whisked away on a special task force dedicated to hunting down the head of a Mexican drug cartel. The film is comfortable exploring gray areas and dwelling in the nooks and crannies of the legal justice system, but ultimately cannot find any effective answers.

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Denis Villeneuve Week – Day 5: “Prisoners” (USA, 2013)

Denis Villeneuve week nears its end with his only true American film, and the largest budget he’s had to work with to date: the kidnapping mystery/thriller Prisoners. Of all of Villeneuve’s films, this may be the most uneasy, the most challenging to watch, and the one film that is truly unafraid of exploring the depths that humanity can reach at the intersection of desperation and good intention. Its subject matter is particularly challenging for parents, as it primarily deals with the disappearance of a pair of young girls.

Continue reading “Denis Villeneuve Week – Day 5: “Prisoners” (USA, 2013)”

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