Posts Tagged ‘crime drama’

Michael Mann’s complex, sprawling ‘Heat’ is one of the definitive crime dramas of the 1990s

December 1, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 1, 2015

Heat, the gritty, glamorous Los Angeles crime drama written and directed by Michael Mann, may be The Godfather of the 1990s.

I make that claim not because the 1995 movie runs nearly three hours, or because it stars Al Pacino, who played Michael Corleone in the Godfather series, or because it co-stars Robert De Niro, who played a younger version of Michael’s father, Vito Corleone (the part played by Marlon Brando in the original), in The Godfather: Part II, although I would maintain all of those facts certainly bolster my case. Instead, I write that because Heat, like Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather movies, is as focused on its characters’ family intrigues as it is on the criminal (and, in this film, police) activities conducted by many of those characters.

Take Vincent Hanna, the hotshot Los Angeles police detective portrayed by Pacino. He’s been married to his third wife, Justine (Diane Venora), for a number of years, but he remains stubbornly unwilling or unable to talk with her about the depraved crimes and criminals whom he investigates on a daily basis. Hanna’s stepdaughter, Lauren (Natalie Portman), is an adolescent on the verge of a nervous breakdown; in one of Heat’s earliest scenes, her inability to find a hair tie in the preferred color triggers a meltdown.

Neil McCauley, the master thief whom De Niro plays, has no family of his own (other than his crew, that is). One of McCauley’s accomplices, Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) should be rolling in money thanks to the tightly knit gang’s exploits, but he’s gambled most of it away. Now his wife, Charlene (Ashley Judd), wants Chris to find a way to stop hemorrhaging cash and to turn legitimate without stinting on their lavish lifestyle. One of the movie’s key plot points involves both McCauley and Hanna uncovering the Shiherlis’s vulnerabilities and attempting to exploit them.

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Soderbergh’s eccentric ‘The Limey’ explores fatherhood from the perspective of a bereaved veteran criminal

August 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 22, 2015

The Limey, the 1999 crime drama directed by the prolific Steven Soderbergh, is a quirky movie about a British criminal who visits Los Angeles to investigate the death of his daughter.

Terence Stamp stars as Wilson, who flies to the States fresh off a nine-year prison stint for armed robbery. He initially enlists the aid of fellow ex-con Eduardo (Luis Guzmán), who met Jenny Wilson (Melissa George) in an acting class. Later, Wilson ingratiates himself with Elaine (Lesley Ann Warren), the acting coach who became Jenny’s surrogate mother, due in no small part to her own mother having died when Jenny was a child.

This story could have played out as a straightforward revenge tale, and Wilson certainly isn’t above getting his hands dirty as he pushes for answers about just how and why Jenny died. But Soderbergh and the British screenwriter Lem Dobbs (the screenwriter of the well-regarded science fiction mind-bender Dark City) have a different agenda in mind. What initially seems to be a simple film narrative actually turns out to be a flashback: The entire story is framed as Wilson’s reminiscing as he flies back to England.

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