Sunday, January 29, 2017

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 9

The penultimate day. Four films on Saturday

CHARLEY VARRICK (1973): We start with Walter Matthau as the titular character, originally intended for Clint Eastwood (and there's a little inside joke in the movie about that.) He's a small time crook. A former stunt pilot and semi-current cropduster, he's "The Last of the Independents" (which was the working title of the movie) until big pesticide companies forced him out. So he robs small banks for a few thousand at a time to get by. And he's got a small gang of professionals working with him. But not everything goes right on the job that opens the film. First, his wife gets shot and doesn't survive. Which gives us a chance to see how even when he's heartbroken Charley never stops being smart. Rather than shed a tear he just thinks a moment, and burns her body with the getaway car (burning the car was always part of the plan.) And when he and his surviving partner make it home to his trailer, they realize they made a pretty big score. For some reason, the small bank is Tres Cruces had over $750,000 in it. But Charley's smart. He figures out pretty quick why they had so much money--it was a drop off of mob money before they launder it overseas. So they've got a big problem, and it's not that the cops are after them. Charley is smart, but I won't say if he's smart enough to escape both the law and the cosa nostra. Interestingly, Clint Eastwood turned the role down because he said the character had no redeeming features. Perhaps it's just Matthau's friendly face, but I think he brings something redeeming to the role.

THE BRINK'S JOB (1978): Perhaps the only guy who can be as lovable a crook as Walter Matthau is Peter Falk. And he plays Tony Pino, a small-time crook in Boston who, with the help of a few fellow small-time crooks (including Peter Boyle, Warren Oates, and Paul Sorvino) pulls of the "Crime of the Century." Based on real events, after hilariously screwing up a caper in a gumball factory--a sequence that establishes these guys as certifiable morons--they take a look at the Brink's warehouse and armored trucks. And the brilliant thing he notices is that their security is actually kinda shitty. They've been coasting on their reputation. They're security is lax because it's never tested because nobody would be idiotic enough to try to rob Brink's. But Tony's gang is just idiotic enough. Wonderfully silly, hilarious, near slapstick film noir in the vein of BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET.

Oh, one thing of note, both of the first two movies included scenes of the main characters (Matthau and Falk) drinking milk. Once you start noticing stuff like that, you just can't stop.

SEXY BEAST (2000): Now we jump ahead a couple of decades, I assume because there was just nothing worth playing from the 80s and 90s. But you can't argue that SEXY BEAST doesn't belong. Ray Winstone is Gal, an old English mobster who is happily retired in Spain. And then he gets a call from Don Logan, an insistent and menacing Ben Kingsley. He's got a job for him, and he can't say no. Oh, he spends over half the movie saying no, but Don Logan just won't let him. Seems like  their old friend the even-more-menacing Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) knows of a vault with state of the art security and a whole load of valuables that are just begging to be liberated. Plus he's kind of got a personal beef with the bank manager, a cocky son-of-a-bitch he met at an orgy. Logan might just be convincing enough to pull Gal out of retirement. Great menacing performances, bloody violence, and a vicious caper. 

I'm going to pause for a moment and note that while earlier in the week we were safely ensconced in a world where the bad guys never got away with it in the end, we're now well into the era where sometimes they do. That's part of what makes surveying a genre over the decades so interesting.

THE AURA (EL AURA) (2005): And finally, we ended the night with this Argentinian piece of brilliance. Ricardo Darin plays a taxidermist with wild ideas for heists he never puts into action. He also has a photographic memory, and is prone to seizures. And, although he enjoys taxidermy, he hates blood. Which makes a hunting trip with his friend a really odd choice. And things turn pretty bad when he accidentally shoots Dietrich, their guide. Nobody else knows, they just think Dietrich has gone away. And our taxidermist hero does a little poking around and discovers that Dietrich was planning the perfect crime--robbing the armored truck carrying the profits from a local casino. And he meets Dietrich's partners in crime. And being a quick-witted bullshitter, he puts himself into the caper as Dietrich's confidant, leading the perfect crime he's always wanted to pull. Too bad he doesn't know what the heck he's doing. And he's followed everywhere by Dietrich's dog, who has the most accusatory face I've ever seen on a dog. Director Fabi├ín Bielinsky tragically passed away of a heart attack after making just NINE QUEENS and this movie. I'll have to go find and watch that one, and then I can fully, properly mourn the loss of such potential.

Total Running Time: 438 minutes
My Total Minutes: 415,547
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