The Big Heat (1953)

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The Big Heat Movie Review

The Big Heat is a 1953 noir film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Glenn Ford and Lee Marvin. It is a predictable, yet memorably dark movie.

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The main thing is to have the money.

I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor.

Believe me – rich is better.

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Obviously the big problem here is the script which is overly familiar and I’ve seen some of the scenes here multiple times before and after. The pot itself is fine, though definitely standard, but it is executed well and professionally written. However, the problem is the overall predictable nature to the movie. It is so predictable that almost its every plot point is expected. I saw the ending, I knew who was going to die and who is bad and the best example of this predictability lies in the scene where the protagonist’s wife dies. Yes, it is done and filmed well, but everybody would realize what is going to happen in barely a minute there.

I liked its characters. The Big Heat is famous for turning the femme fatale aspect on its head by making the man be fatal for all the women who meet him. That was definitely original and great. I really liked Bannion as he is a complex, memorable noir protagonist and him coping with his wife’s death was really well done. Debby is terrific and she stole the show here as the most interesting and even fascinating character. As for the villains, they are fine and dangerous, but I thought that the decision to reveal them so early was done for better and for worse.

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This isn’t an A-list cast of actors, but they still did such a good job. Gloria Grahame is very good, Lee Marvin is memorably villainous and Glenn Ford was mostly really good and competent in a somewhat difficult role. Of course Fritz Lang’s direction is terrific and it is so great seeing that the director of ‘Metropolis’ could tackle noir along with science fiction. He truly was a great director.

The Big Heat is fascinating for its mature tone and that is its greatest and most authentic accomplishment. It is certainly the most memorable aspect of the entire film. The scene where Vince tortures Debby and throws hot coffee on her face, thus permanently ruining the entire side of her face is certainly the most violent scene that I have ever witnessed in an older film. It is definitely the most memorable part of the film and although too violent, I actually liked it as it raised the stakes for sure.

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But having her get her revenge and doing the same to him later on was a great choice and a further proof of how strong and feminist the women in classic Hollywood movies were. These were great female characters who were strong and capable, but in a realistic manner. I loved Debby. But I also liked that it was an emotional film, subtly emotional in its protagonist’s problems. The ending is so sweet and I adored that speech about his wife that he gave to Debby, so beautiful. The film is also superbly edited as it is deft and doesn’t waste any scene, but also doesn’t rush the story. I just wished that it wasn’t that predictable as it would have been superb, but it is still very good this way and a proof of how talented Lang really was.

What hurt The Big Heat in the long run is the entire predictability of its plot with almost every plot point being expected, but this noir is still so well made, so well directed by Fritz Lang and so well acted that they managed to lift the material to much greater heights. I loved its emotional approach with a couple of beautiful and moving scenes, but the highlight are its memorable characters and most especially its incredibly dark approach with a couple of unforgettable brutal scenes that are not excessive, but help raise the stakes significantly.

My Rating – 4

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Out of the Past (1947)

Out of the Past Movie Review………………………………………………

Out of the Past Movie Review

Out of the Past is a 1947 noir film directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. It is said to be one of the greatest noir films of all time and I have to agree with that assessment.

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Nothing in the world is any good unless you can share it.

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Out of the Past Movie Review………………………………………………

Now the plot here is superb. The only problem with the plot and the entire movie is that it is overly convoluted in a typical noir fashion. I understood most of it, but some of the scenes in the second act of the film were too entangled and not properly explained. It also has a lot of twists and turns and a lot of characters, but it manages to be satisfying in most of those areas.

I loved each and every character here. The film features terrific character development and superlative acting leading to fully realized characters with the protagonist in particular being amazing. Kathie I found to be one of the most effective femme fatale noir personalities and she never disappointed. Whit wasn’t as good, but was well incorporated into the storyline.

Kirk Douglas is solid in his role which is his earliest role I’ve seen. Jane Greer also played it really well and she manages to exude that mystery and danger around her wonderfully. But Robert Mitchum shines above both of them and gives one of the definitive performances in a noir film. He is so suave here, so handsome and cool, yet so tragic and sad which is evident in his eyes. He is such a memorable presence and his character is very complex owing to such a great, subtle performance that is one of his greatest.

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Out of the Past Movie Review………………………………………………

Whereas Out of the Past features a weaker second act, the first and third one are stellar. I loved how Kathie and Jeff met and those sequences were very romantic and so well shot, but the ending is even better. In fact, it features one of the most memorable ending scenes of the period. I loved how the story ended and although dark, it was essential for this kind of story and you have a great final moment where Jeff’s girlfriend asks about him and if he was going away with Kathie during his last moments. That was so heartbreaking to watch and the entire film is very poignant.

Out of the Past features great twists and excellent character motivations. It truly is a splendid script. But the dialogue is even better and as brisk and clever as you would expect from this type of film. The same goes for its technical aspects which are all terrific. The cinematography is so good and some of the shots are quite inspired, they really contribute to the overall atmosphere which is expectedly dark, moody and melancholic. The score is also great and some of the imagery is very memorable with those scenes in Mexico being the highlights.

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Out of the Past Movie Review………………………………………………

Everything is so well done here, including the film’s themes. It showcases how a woman can ruin a man and this is probably one of the most extreme examples of that, even for noir standards. But it also shows us loneliness in the main character who is one of the most moving and memorable protagonists of any 40s flick. The film grew on me as I at first didn’t love it that much, but after I have watched it entirely and after thinking about it a bit, I started to appreciate it and it truly is one of the best noir films out there.

Out of the Past is very difficult to understand and too convoluted in the second act, but the first act is so well done and the third act is tragic and simply unforgettable. It features one of the finest protagonists of its time period with Robert Mitchum being so memorable in this great role, but it also has superb cinematography, very good story and a very poignant tone to it leading to one of the finest noir films.

My Rating – 4.5

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Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Sweet Smell of Success Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

Sweet Smell of Success Movie Review

Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 noir film directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. It is a solid, yet very disappointing film.

It is about a powerful newspaper columnist who uses his connections to ruin his sister’s relationship with a man he deems unworthy of her. Yes, on paper, the film seems great. And the premise definitely is powerful and important in a timeless manner. However, the execution is far from great leading to a film that has a lot of lost potential.

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I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic

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Sweet Smell of Success Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

The problem here is that I just never really connected with either of the characters and I never found either of them particularly interesting and they should have been as the script demanded it. The character development is strong, but not immensely strong. But the acting is definitely excellent. Burt Lancaster is so good as is Susan Harrison, but it is Tony Curtis who shines in one of his career best performances.

In terms of storytelling and memorable scenes, only the third act is excellent and a true highlight as it is so dramatic and so emotional. But everything that came before it was frankly a bit dull and never that memorable. The film is well directed, certainly very well acted and it features some pretty good cinematography, but I had trouble recognizing it as a noir film. Yes, it obviously has some of those elements as the film is dark and deals with a serious subject matter and unlikable characters, but rarely does it really look it that way and it is more of a crime thriller than a full noir flick of its day.

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Sweet Smell of Success Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

And certainly that was a problem to me as Sweet Smell of Success felt modern in every way which I don’t like as I prefer old-fashioned noir of that era. So in the end, even though it is important, dramatic and well made, I didn’t connect with it, I rarely felt anything and I just found it to be one of the most overrated films of its genre.

Sweet Smell of Success has a very important story, good character development, it is well made and so well acted plus the third act is very dramatic and intense, but everything that came before it wasn’t as great, the film isn’t that great of a noir film as it was too modern in my opinion, way too underutilized, a bit cold and ultimately overrated.

My Rating – 3.5

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Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………

Key Largo Movie Review

Key Largo is a 1948 noir crime film directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. It is such a disappointing and uninspired movie.

A bunch of gangsters are holding some people hostage in a hotel while the storm is brewing outside. Yes, that’s it. That’s the plot of this movie. And needless to say, it is uninspired, unoriginal and lacking in identity. Not only did I find it typical, but also frankly boring as it was filled with not that great dialogue and clichéd characters.

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When your head says one thing and your whole life says another,

your head always loses

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Key Largo Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………

Yes, the characters here are so clichéd and so ordinary and none of them sticks out. Rocco is the most typical and annoying of the bunch and Frank is a solid, but forgettable protagonist. Gaye is the standout, but unfortunately Nora Temple got little to do here.

Yeah, Lauren Bacall has such a short role here that it really caught me by surprise as this is their famous movie, but in reality only Bogart is memorable in it. And Bogart is as great as ever as he is always a great actor and delivering a great performance even in his lesser movies. Edward G. Robinson is also expectedly good. However, Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn absolutely steals the show here which is very interesting as she’s got so little actual scenes. But her character is heartbreaking as this woman who is poorly treated by her husband and that scene in which she sings that is so incredibly powerful and that basically earned her an Oscar, an Oscar that is rightfully deserved as this supporting performance is the most memorable aspect of the whole movie.

Key Largo is admittedly well acted, well directed and mostly well edited. All of its technical aspects are good and some of the imagery here is quite striking owing to a very interesting setting. The hotel and the storm provided some great scenes visually and I really enjoyed that sweet ending. But the dialogue is so annoying that it made me bored. The movie is so dull to watch as it never has anything truly interesting or unique in it.

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Key Largo Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………

Key Largo also bothered me with its classification. Just because the movie is made in the forties doesn’t mean that it is a noir flick as it isn’t. Yes, it is partly noir, but it is above all a gangster flick and that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t like it as much because I dislike that genre. I admired its emotion and its technical aspects, but everything else is so subpar. And the movie unfortunately comes way behind the classic Bertie Higgins eponymous 1981 song that is inspired by this movie and which is one of my favorites. It was such a shame that the movie didn’t live up to it, at least for me it didn’t.

Key Largo is very well made, visually pleasing, sometimes emotional and it has such a great performance from Claire Trevor who deserved her Oscar here, but the movie is so dull, so uninspired and typical and filled with really forgettable characters that it disappointed me a lot.

My Rating – 3

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The Killing (1956)

The Killing Movie Review……………………………………..

The Killing Movie Review

The Killing is a 1956 noir film directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Sterling Hayden. It is a solid, but ultimately a weaker film for Kubrick.

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You’d be killing a horse – that’s not first degree murder.

In fact, it’s not murder at all.

In fact, I don’t know what it is

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The Killing Movie Review

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The plot here is nothing spectacular and it is the film’s biggest obstacle that it never managed to overcome. I just didn’t find it either riveting or particularly authentic. It is a basic heist, crime movie and that is also very annoying to me as it is called a noir film when in reality it is much more of a crime film. That was frustrating. Another annoying thing is its structure. The first half is somewhat slower and even a bit confusing as it is filled with too many characters, but the second is the opposite as it’s too rushed and even abrupt. But yes, that ending is worth watching alone as it is so powerful and instantly memorable.

The character development in this movie is solid, but frankly far from great. Johnny Clay is pretty forgettable for a supposedly main character and only Sherry is memorable and interesting here. Yes, she is a typical deceitful noir dame, but that worked here and she had some of the best sequences.

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The Killing Movie Review

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The acting is pretty good. None of these actors are greats, but they still did a pretty good job, all of them. Sterling Hayden is the highlight, but Marie Windsor is also quite solid. As for Kubrick’s direction, it is good, but far from great. Yes, The Killing is inarguably one of his weaker movies, at least for me it is. Of his 50s efforts, ‘Paths of Glory‘ is an infinitely better movie and I think that he unfortunately didn’t add anything new to this genre like he did to other genres in his greatest pictures.

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The Killing Movie Review

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The Killing looks really good as it has fine cinematography and some excellent shots. But as I said, it is never as atmospheric as the best noirs are and that was extremely annoying to me. It succeeds as a solid crime film and a heist one, but never as a thriller or full noir. The highlights are the airport end scene which is just awesome and those many scenes with Sherry who is very entertaining to follow.

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The Killing Movie Review

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The Killing is well paced and I have to say that it is pretty engaging to watch, especially for a crime film. Its running time is suitably short and it never drags, but admittedly is rushed in its second half. It is also quite unpredictable and even though I wasn’t such a big fan of its structure and of all its plot developments, I really liked how it all ended and how dark and mature the film is. You can evidently sense the danger in air and that was excellent. So the tone is great, but what about its realism? Well, it isn’t particularly realistic in some of its mob sequences as they are too mild given the subject matter. But having in mind its era, you have to watch it in context and that is why it wasn’t a problem for me. The score is okay and the dialogue is pretty good with some great lines early on. Overall, it isn’t great, but it is perfectly solid as an early Kubrick flick.

The Killing is a pretty solid early Kubrick picture with excellent cinematography, very good performances, solid characters and such a superb, memorable airport end scene, but the entire movie is admittedly a disappointing effort from Kubrick with not that authentic plot and not enough noir thrills to take it to the next level. It is solid, but far from great.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Letter (1940)

The Letter Movie Review

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The Letter Movie Review

The Letter is a 1940 noir film directed by William Wyler and starring Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and James Stephenson. It is such a good and intriguing, but ultimately not as great movie.

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With all my heart, I still love the man I killed

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A woman has killed a man and she must prove that it was in self-defense. The plot itself is the major problem I’ve had with this noir flick. On the one hand, it has some pretty intriguing moments from time to time, but on the other, it is relatively predictable and the twist itself isn’t the most exciting or satisfying one. That is the problem here – The Letter is never as exciting as are the classic noir features. It is a respectable picture, but never great which is unfortunate.

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The Letter Movie Review

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Leslie Crosbie is an interesting, albeit problematic character. I found her dilemmas to be greatly and dramatically conveyed, but her personality is a baffling one as I never really got this woman. Is she a bad or just troubled person? The movie never answered me that and I really thought Leslie to be this confusing creation, almost a non-entity. Robert is such a likable man and he is so good and caring as her husband. Mrs. Hammond is so intriguing, but more on that later. And Howard is so good and probably the best character here.

The acting is probably the strongest asset The Letter possesses. Yes, this most certainly isn’t my favorite performance from Davis as she overacted a bit in some scenes, but she is still very good and at times even fantastic, especially in those more emotional, more demanding scenes. But I have to say that Hertbert Marshall and James Stephenson do not get nearly enough credit as they should for they are overshadowed by Davis. But to me, both gave really good, underrated performances. Also, Gale Sondergaard is delightfully creepy and quite unforgettable as Mrs. Hammond.

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The Letter Movie Review

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Speaking of Mrs. Hammond, she is such an interesting appearance here. Her character is so mysterious and remains like that throughout the movie, but she is also such a strong and very memorable presence. The entire Asian part of the story is a really intriguing one as rarely have I seen that angle in the movies of the time. Everything about it is delightfully creepy and mysterious, especially her character and those outside scenes with the moon are some of the highlights, so well executed with some fantastic cinematography and score. However, this aspect is still a flaw to me as it was too mysterious and sometimes not explained properly. I never really got why Mrs. Hammond was after Leslie and that opening, while undeniably powerful and unforgettable, is still incredibly confusing to me.

The Letter is such a powerful film in terms of its technicalities. The score in particular is not only incredibly strong and memorable, but also wonderfully atmospheric. It is one of the best scored noir films. The directing from William Wyler is expectedly great, the pacing is just fantastic and the movie is very entertaining and never rushed for its short running time. I also really respected its originality and its mysterious quality. The cinematography is gorgeous as those sequences outdoors are so phenomenally shot and just beautiful to behold. The attention to detail is also splendid as everything is paid attention to and each and every thing makes an effect on the story from the letter to the knife. And the movie is quite emotional at times too.

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The Letter Movie Review

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The Letter is the first movie to infamously go 0 for 7 at the Academy Awards. But it definitely deserved those nominations with the acting nods being satisfying and the nod for score being especially deserved. Best Picture, Director and Editing are also pretty much deserved. As for me, this isn’t one of the strongest noir flicks I’ve seen, but it is still a pretty good one. Yes, some of its story elements are problematic, but at least it is an authentic and very entertaining movie that overall did not disappoint me.

The Letter is such a good, if not great noir flick. The story is so authentic and intriguing, albeit too confusing and unexplained at times. The characters are phenomenal, albeit the protagonist is problematic. The cinematography is just gorgeous, the score is absolutely fantastic, the acting is really strong and its pacing is great as well. It is in the end a flawed, but respectable film that benefits from such a strong mysterious quality to it.

My Rating – 4

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Alphaville (1965)

Alphaville

Alphaville Movie Review

Alphaville is a 1965 science fiction noir film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina. It is an interesting, but still very flawed movie.

I had so many problems with this movie. This is one of the examples where everything seems great and I should be loving it, but I still end up annoyed by it and finding it overrated. The story itself is definitely good and has its moments, but is executed rather poorly. It is clever, but then again too Orwellian and nothing new. And at times I found it to be pretty pretentious.

The characters are also problematic. Lemmy Caution is a clichéd and rather boring protagonist and others are all serving the plot device instead of being well fleshed out, except Natacha von Braun who is the finest character here.

The acting is good. Anna Karina did a really nice job and delivered her more emotional scenes quite well. And Eddie Constantine is also very good. All of the actors admittedly did a good job. The directing is also pretty good, but I have to say that I am not a fan of Jean-Luc Godard as this as well as ‘Breathless‘ I both did not particularly like. His filmmaking style is annoying to me and very pretentious. And always slight in substance, but great in style.

Yes, Alphaville is a technically polished movie and is worth seeing mostly for its technical prowess and great visuals. The imagery is fine and the film is well shot. The score, while repetitive, is still very atmospheric and memorable. It enhances the dark mood of the film wonderfully. And emotional intensity is present mostly in the ending whereas in the previous scenes, the film is overly cold and emotionless. That is the point, I know, but they should have made me care for the characters which they did not.

The dialogue is mostly good, but should have been better. And I really disliked the use of that distorted voice, that was so annoying. The movie has a good atmosphere and is dark and mature, but is also very slow and boring and always so pretentious. The pacing is very slow and the tone is too dramatic with the science fiction elements being rather underused and the romance only being used near the end. And the plot, no matter how important, is still typical and I’ve seen it countless times before. In the end, Alphaville is a deeply flawed, incredibly disappointing movie and Godard is definitely not my cup of tea. It isn’t bad, but isn’t that good either and is certainly not great. This is the type of movie that I should definitely rewatch, but for now it gets just a passing grade.

Alphaville is interesting and at times intriguing and it certainly has a good atmosphere, but it is too slow, too annoying and pretentious with a good premise fairly underused. It is such a disappointing and flawed movie that is poorly realized and boring to watch. This is certainly a style over substance.

My Rating – 3

 

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Touch of Evil (1958)

Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil Review

Touch of Evil is a 1958 noir film directed by Orson Welles and starring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. It is one of the director’s best works and it is to me a pretty good movie, although very flawed in some areas.

It is about a Mexican man and his American wife who are caught in a variety of criminal and corrupt actions on the U.S.-Mexico border. Now first of all, I genuinely enjoyed this plot. It is entertaining and at tomes quite thrilling and very atmospheric. It is also a very well crafted and edited movie. What I liked the most about it is its incorporation of some clever themes. It wonderfully explores the misuse of power and the corruption in the police force. It also handles the subject of xenophobia towards Mexicans pretty well.

But on the other hand, that story is still way too simplistic and in its first half pretty ordinary. There are also some rather annoying and even racist moments. And the whole movie has some sort of negative energy filled with all-out craziness that I did not enjoy. But the biggest problem for this movie was Orson Welles himself. I have to admit that I am in the minority and that I am not a fan of his and usually his movies as well. And although I liked this one, I still would have preferred it to have been directed by a different director because I personally dislike his directorial style which is most evident in Touch of Evil itself. It is filled with weird camera angles with some even being very frustrating. I like a professional, still cinematography and I dislike this wild one at display here. Also the music. It is so uneven in tone and so out there, filled with a plethora of different styles that do not mash well together. I strongly disliked the direction here and it ruined the movie to some degree for me.

The characters are mostly good. Vargas is a typical good-natured protagonist but his troubles are relevant and well explored. Susan is also quite good and the relationship between the two is sweet. But Quinlan is of course the highlight with such a menacing presence, realistic behavior and some very powerful sequences. As for Mexican characters, they are all very typical and not at all memorable or likable.

The acting is superb here with Orson Welles being terrific. Yes, while I dislike his directing, I really like his acting on the other hand. And here is no exception. He gave life to the most important and best realized character here with a powerhouse performance to boot. Janet Leigh is also pretty good and I don’t know why she never had a particularly big career when she was a pretty good actress. But Charlton Heston is the weak link. And along with the directing, his performance is the biggest flaw in Touch of Evil. He’s just so-so, mostly whispering and at times when great acting is needed, he is rather mediocre and very problematic. My polarizing relationship with this actor continues as I think he is great in some movies but in others is pretty weak and this is unfortunately one of his weakest performances.

It is technically an ok film. The imagery is really evocative and the atmosphere is quite chilling with some rather tense scenes. The score and directing I disliked as mentioned before, but the acting is mostly good and the script is very sophisticated with some clever themes nicely realized. And the dialogue is very good and the overall movie is very realistic and admittedly quite memorable. It is not one of the best movies of 1958 and is a bit overrated, but this is still quite a good movie with many choices that bothered me, but with some that I found intriguing as well.

Touch of Evil has such a sophisticated script with nicely explored themes of corruption and xenophobia, it is also very well acted and quite atmospheric with a great villain and some intense moments, but it is also filled with some poor choices such as uneven score and annoying cinematography plus Charlton Heston gives one of his worst performances here. It is a very good film, but still far from great.

My Rating – 4

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Laura (1944)

Laura

Laura Review

Laura is a 1944 noir film directed by Otto Preminger and starring Dana Andrews and Vincent Price. It is one of the most well regarded noir films for good reasons.

It follows Mark, a detective investigating the murder of a beautiful and highly successful woman. It then of course turns out to be a complicated murder mystery with a lot of twists and turns. It is an incredibly well crafted movie with a nice beginning, thrilling ending and the middle parts which are the best, full of carefully established shots and details. I found the mystery intriguing, but it works as noir wonderfully thanks to a lot of atmospheric thrills with great cinematography. And it has a smart and meticulous approach to it with very well developed characters, superb use of flashbacks and well realized relationships between the characters.

Mark is a great central character with excellent screen presence and a realistic depiction. Laura is also excellent, Ann is memorable and Bessie is a typical, but sympathetic maid character. Shelby has his moments, but it is Waldo who is the best with very well depicted calculated manner and his character is explored best with his well explained reasoning and relationship with other characters.

The acting is one of the finest aspects in Laura. Dana Andrews is really good with great charisma, voice and even humor. He brought a lot to the table and his character I liked a lot. Vincent Price is also very good as is Gene Tierney. But Clifton Webb is superb and although I am not familiar with his other work, he proved his greatness here, delivering a powerhouse performance. The acting is terrific across the board.

Now, there are a few small problems I’ve had with the movie. First off, the story may seem ordinary, but just at first. Secondly, Dorothy Adams gives such a weak performance in the role of Bessie with an over-reliant emphasis on over-acting. I know that the role is written in such a way, but it was still highly unnecessary.  And the third problem I have with Laura is its mystery and twists. I literally predicted 90 per cent of the plot twists and turns along with the murderer. It was kind of obvious to me who the murderer is and what would happen, but that maybe more because of me having seen a lot of movies than for the predictability of the plot. But those are all minor flaws in this otherwise superb movie.

It is an incredibly well directed film. Otto Preminger did a superb job. But it is above all such a deftly edited and paced movie with never a rushed or prolonged scene. Everything in this movie is so beautifully calculated and executed. The photography is very good and I liked the humor that is present at times and is so good. It was refreshing but sophisticated and at times quite funny. And the whole film is incredibly sophisticated with such an astonishing dialogue, clever and witty. The character motivations and relationships are well handled and the acting is magnificent. It is a technically superb movie, there is no doubt about it. And I liked the romantic aspects as well. And although somewhat predictable, Laura is still a very well crafted mystery with great technical aspects and both a brain and a heart.

It came out in 1944 and although nowhere near the quality of ‘Double Indemnity‘, it is still one of the very best films of that year. And I also think it is one of the best noir films. It is not one of the very best, but still one of the better ones I’ve watched.

Laura is such a great noir film with a well crafted plot, sophisticated dialogue, superb acting across the board and well depicted relationships and motifs of the characters. It may be predictable at times, but it is still an incredibly well directed and shot movie with a lot to offer and it is one of the finest noirs out there.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects Movie Review

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 famous crime thriller directed by Bryan Singer and starring Kevin Spacey. It is one of the most popular thriller films with one of the most memorable twist endings and villains in film history. And besides all those distinctions, it really is a great film.

It follows the interrogation of a cripple con man who is the only survivor of a ship massacre. And the less I say, the better as the movie should not be spoiled to anyone. It is such a riveting and above all intriguing and incredibly well crafted story that unfolds in the most atypical fashion possible. And that is its strongest achievement. It is one of those rare films that uses a different structure of a plot and a very different execution. It tells a story in a very different and unusual way. But unlike the films such as ‘Memento‘, it succeeds in that approach entirely and is used as a genuine plot device rather than a gimmick. The story here is incredibly well imagined and so memorable and smart.

Now, for its twist ending. It is for me the biggest weakness and the biggest strength the film has. First off, it entirely relies upon it. And secondly, I am one of the people who actually got it from early on. I genuinely predicted the outcome from the movie’s early stages and because that twist is the movie’s highlight and most important thing story wise, that is why it kind of disappointed me as I was not genuinely surprised. And that is the only flaw I have with this film along with its unimpressive and somewhat dragged first act.

But what a twist ending it is! Without spoiling anything, there is more to it as well and it should prove genuinely shocking and unexpected to most people. It also seems like a real plot progression or should I say conclusion unlike most twist endings that are just used for the shock value. The movie unfolds and ends in a most impressive and most satisfying way that I couldn’t imagine any other ending. The finale alone is so incredibly powerful and instantly recognizable.

Now, the characters. Dean Keaton has a great story act. Agent Kujan is a very grounded character and a great counteract to Kint. But apart from them, the other characters are not as memorable or as interesting which was a small problem to me. But The Usual Suspects still has one of the best and most awesome villains ever portrayed in a film. He is genuinely frightening, poses real threat and is phenomenally depicted. But it is the other characters’ stories about him and their reactions to his presence that lend to the movie’s dramatic and even horrific feel with some genuinely unnerving moments. The villain is definitely the biggest reason why this movie works so well.

The acting is absolutely superb. Kevin Spacey is of course just amazing and he has such a strong screen presence and gives such a powerful and impressive performance in a very difficult role. Chazz Palminteri is also terrific and Gabriel Byrne did a good job as well. None of the actors here disappoints. The direction from Bryan Singer is excellent and this is his first phenomenal movie and the one that showed off his talents the most. The cinematography is wonderful but it is the deft editing that is its strongest technicality. The score is also really good and tense at times as is the whole movie. The Usual Suspects is not only clever and incredibly sophisticated and well crafted on each and every level, but it is also so realistic and oh so intense and powerful. It is also immensely authentic and memorable, it’s filled with evident originality and excellent dialogue. It is also a perfect mix of thriller and crime with a distinct noir feel to it which is a nice touch.

The film received two Academy Awards, one for Original Screenplay and one for Best Actor for Spacey. Both are so deserved that I couldn’t see any other film taking those awards. But it’s a shame that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture and that is just an endless testament to the Academy’s obvious clueless abilities in determining the best film of the year. It is not only one of the best films of the nineties but also one of the finest thrillers ever made.

With deft editing, incredibly sophisticated and engaging script, wonderful performances all around and filled with many intense and so memorable moments, The Usual Suspects truly is one of the best thrillers of all time and although I predicted the outcome from early on and that lessened the impact of the twist ending for me, it is still an incredible twist and the movie has one of the most powerful villains of all time. It is instantly recognizable with an authentic plot structure that is used as a genuine plot tool rather than a gimmick, but it is above all a riveting and sometimes even frightening thriller that deserves its iconic status without a doubt.

+ Deft editing and excellent direction and acting.
+ Sophisticated and riveting script.
+ One of the best villains of all time.
+ It has many intense and even scary moments.
+ One of the best endings of all time with a powerful twist.
 
– I predicted the twist and it relies too much on it.
– The beginning is less impressive.
For:
– Pure thriller fans.
– Kevin Spacey fans who gives one of his best performances.
– Crime fans.
Not for:
– Those who don’t follow the movies carefully as it demands your utmost dedication.

My Rating – 4.5

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