Thursday, September 11, 2008

Crime Wave

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

3rd one in the set. I hope to soon watch one from Netflix.

Notable Talent: The great Sterling Hayden plays one of the lead roles, and although it took me half the movie to figure it out, a young Charles Bronson plays one of the bad guys. Also, the director apparently did the Vincent Price House of Wax, which I was thinking I had seen but then I realized I was thinking of The Pit and the Pendulum, which was directed by Roger Corman. And in case I'm being confusing here: Crime Wave was not directed by Roger Corman, it was directed by the guy who did House of Wax which I haven't seen.

Detective Story: Sterling Hayden is a homicide detective in this one, but it's not a mystery, it's a hardboiled crime story. And although Hayden gets top billing, I'd say he shares equal screen time with one or two of the other characters. So, sorta.

Twisty, Turny Plot: Not labyrinthine, and not a mystery, but you're not always sure where it's going. There's also a fake-out at the end that's a little predictable, but also incredibly satisfying.

Moral Ambiguity: I would say so, yes. The story is about a former criminal, now going straight, who is visited by some old associates after a robbery goes bad. He doesn't want anything to do with helping them, but they insinuate themselves into his life and threaten to kill his wife unless he helps. Meanwhile, Sterling Hayden, who had busted the guy years ago, suspects the guy of helping the thugs out and begins harassing him, unconvinced that the guy has gone straight. So we have a former criminal who's sympathetic but has to help the bad guys, and a cop who's kind of an asshole but is also doing what he thinks is right. So, good stuff, although I was also surprised that this one had a happy ending, with both characters redeeming themselves.

Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: If I had to guess, I would guess that this was a low budget movie. Still, it looks pretty good, and the camera work was pretty stylish. It's not as overtly artsy in the lighting and whatnot, but finds the right gritty feel for the material.

Overall Quality: I wasn't surprised to see that James Ellroy recorded an audio commentary for the DVD, because this seems like it would be a big influence. It has the same gritty, tough guy sorta vibe to it, with several significant characters circling around each other in different subplots until they all collide at the end. This is a taut, entertaining crime movie with pretty good dialogue and some memorable tough guy performances. I enjoyed it a lot.

This one was a lot like the kind of crime novels I like to read, and had the kind of story that I'm predisposed to like. Still, I thought Act of Violence was a little more nuanced, with more fleshed out characters and some sweet cinematography, so that one stays in the stop spot.

1. Act of Violence
2. Crime Wave
3. Mystery Sreet

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