Posts Tagged ‘don johnson’

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So, here’s a tip : if you’re browsing through the titles available for streaming on Netflix and looking for something good — and I mean really fucking good — to watch, you aren’t gonna do much better than Jim Mickle’s 2014 indie crime thriller Cold In July, which was just added a couple weeks back. I know that it’s a cardinal sin in the “review game” to give away your final opinion on a film right out of the gate because people then have no reason to read any further, but seriously — you’re better off watching this flick than absorbing my words of “wisdom” about it anyway, so if you cut out right here and now in order to check it out, I promise I won’t take it personally in the least.

Okay, anybody still left? The let’s talk a little bit about why this movie is so damn good, shall we?

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Crime and horror novelist Joe R. Lansdale specializes in tales as thick with tension as their Texas locales are with humidity, and Mickle and his screenwriting partner, Nick Damici, have cooked up a faithful-as-a-revival-tent-on-Sunday-morning adaptation here, taking us through more twists and turns than you’ll find in a coiled rattlesnake. What starts out as a “period piece”  home invasion movie set in 1987 when small-town Lone Star State frame shop owner Richard Dane (played by Michael C. Hall) and his wife, Ann (Vinessa Shaw) have their humble abode broken into by a masked intruder quickly morphs into a revenge flick when Richard shoots the burglar dead, only to have the lad’s just-released-from-prison father, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) start stalking framer-boy’s family and threatening to kidnap — or worse — his infant son “in exchange” for the life he took. Still, that ain’t shit compared to what’s to come, as a series of events so stomach-churning and horrific you could be forgiven for getting physically ill as they play out actually ends with Richard and Ben becoming uneasy allies once it becomes clear that whoever was shot dead breaking into the house that night was most assuredly not the junior member of the Russell clan at all — in fact, thanks to the legwork done by Ben’s war- buddy-turned-pig-farmer/part-time-private-dick, Jim Bob (Don Johnson), we come to learn that Ben’s boy Freddy is alive and well, but what he’s doing to occupy his time and earn a buck? Well, that’s enough to make the old man wish he’d never popped off the load that got him started in the first place — and since he brought this monster into the world, he’s making it his personal mission to take him out of it.

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If you’re getting the notion that Cold In July is a dark, brooding piece of southern-fried psychodrama, you’re absolutely right — but it’s much more than that, as well. There’s a hell of a heaping helping of “gallows humor” and well-rounded characterization of offer here, as well. Hall’s take on Richard as a fairly simple family man plunged into a mystery he never asked for but is determined to help solve is strong enough in and of itself, but it’s Shepard and Johnson who really steal the show here, with Shepard’s Ben going from cooler-than-cool figure of menace to tortured father with a conscience and Johnson’s Jim Bob walking a fine line that has flamboyant Texan-to-the-bone on the one side and sympathetic old friend on the other. Both roles are well within each of these gentlemen’s respective wheelhouses, to be sure, but seldom do you get to see even one actor knock a “role they were born to play” out of the park in a film, let alone two. It’s a real treat, to say the least, to watch this pair of pros both doing what they do best perhaps better than they’ve ever done it before.

Mickle is to be commended for doing much more than just coaxing terrific performances out of his grade-A cast, though — he imbues everything here with a palpable sense of Dixie-style dread that is absolutely steeped in the uniquely thick stew of its time and place and delivers one gut-punch after another that, somehow, you’re eager to get up from — even though you know you’re only gonna get a harder one when you do. That takes skill, my friends, and this is skilled southern noir in its most relentlessly brutal and undeniable form.

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All of which, I suppose, brings us right back to where we started — this is a flick you need to see ASAP, either via Netflix, as suggested at the outset, or by means of its IFC-released Blu-ray and/or DVD physical-storage iterations. It might be damn Cold In July, but Mickle’s film is hot enough to fry some of Jim Bob’s homemade bacon on until it sizzles.

 

"Machete" Movie Poster

In recent months, fans of exploitation cinema have been given one hell of a gift — no less than three new films that show that the ethos of the grindhouse is still alive and well, namely Black Dynamite, Piranha 3-D, and the subject of our little missive here today, Robert Rodriguez’s much-anticipated Machete.

HE’S BEEN SET UP! DOUBLE CROSSED! LEFT FOR DEAD! BUT THE BAD GUYS DON’T KNOW — THEY JUST FUCKED WITH THE WRONG MEXICAN!

Can you resist that? Didn’t think so.

Th tough thing about reviewing Machete is hitting on all the things that this flick gets absolutely and unequivocally right — I’ve jogged my brain time and again looking for any flaws in this movie whatsoever, and I honestly can’t find any.

We’ve got veteran supporting player Danny Trejo finally getting his props in a title role, and it’s the part he was absolutely born to play : an ex-federale whose wife and kid were murdered by a ruthless drug lord before he himself was SET UP! DOUBLE CROSSED! LEFT FOR — oh, you get the point. Machete’s looking to make his way as an anonymous day laborer in south Texas after a rescue attempt he undertook while still with the Mexican police force went horribly wrong (the girl he goes in to free is in on the set-up and friends, you won’t believe where she hides her cell phone — I’ll say no more) and left him a childless widower.

Enter a political sleazebag named Booth (Jeff Fahey),a guy with a lot of money, a lot of connections, and a decidedly un-fatherly interest in his own daughter (Lindsay Lohan, who spends a good chunk of the movie buck nekkid — and yes, it’s a body double). He wants Machete to take out a rabid anti-immigrant, xenophobic state senator named John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro), a guy who’s running on a platform of building an electrified fence along the Texas-Mexico border.

It’s all a dastardly set-up, of course — Machete seems to have a way of walking into these things — and that’s when the shit hits the fan/ all hell breaks loose/ pick your favorite semi-vulgar cliche.

Machete’s gotta go underground, but he’s got help from “The Network,” the kind of organized support organization for illegal immigrants that right-wingers think actually exists but doesn’t, run by taco-stand operator-with-a-heart-of-gold Luz (Michelle Rodriguez).

He’s got some help from less likely quarters, as well : there’s his former-hitman-now-priest brother Padre (Cheech Marin — and yes, that’s the only name he’s ever given — and wait until you see how he meets his maker, but I’ve probably given too much away already) and by-the-book-ICE agent Sardana (Jessica Alba), who sees the light and joins the good guys (and falls in love with Machete to boot, naturally), for instance.

But will this ragtag band of undocumented workers, an ex-federale, and a law enforcement agent on the lam be able to take on powerful political insiders, TV-advertising assassin Osiris Amanpour (former FX whiz-turned-musclehead-actor Tom Savini), a Minutemen-style anti-immigrant vigilante army lead by the ruthless Lt. Von Jackson (Don Johnson — billled, for whatever reason, on the poster as being “introduced” in this film —  in a terrific scenery-chewing performance ), and the forces of Torrez (Steven Seagal — speaking of scenery-chewing), the  ruthless Mexican drug lord responsible for killing Machete’s family who’s somehow connected with these far-right, Tea Party-on- steroids type forces?

The answer, dear reader, is — of course. Along the way there’s severed heads and limbs aplenty, a guy who gets his intestines used as a grappling rope in a daring out-the-window-escape, plenty of naked boobs, lots of bad-ass low-rider vehicles, a ruthless killing of a pregnant woman, more backstabbing backroom deals than you can count, and blood n’ guts galore, but there’s never any doubt about who’s gonna come out on top of this fracas.

Rodriguez , co-director (and longtime editing partner) Ethan Maniquis, and co-writer (and brother) Alvaro Rodriguez really pull out all the stop on this one, people — if you loved the phony preview for this that ran before Planet Terror on the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse double bill a couple years back, rest assured every scene in there made it into the finished product, plus a whole hell of a lot more.

In essence, this is a blaxploitation flick with all the stops pulled out, only with Latinos instead of African Americans. It’s Mexploitation for an American audience, and if you don’t pump your fist in the air at the sight of Machete leading an army of low-riders into battle, or at killer lines like “Machete don’t text” and Jessica Alba screaming “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!,” then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Machete kicks ass and takes names and like the best exploitation flicks of the 70s it uses its sleazy veneer as cover to address contemporary issues much more openly and honestly than big-budget Hollywood studio fare would ever dare to. Like its titular hero, Machete is a film with brass balls that doesn’t fucking compromise.

Look, I’m not on crack — I won’t tell you that Machete is destined to be the best movie of the year. But it’s the best time you’ll have at the movies all year, and that’s a lead pipe cinch.  We’ll finish this up with some promo stills to whet your appetite to get out and see this immediately — or to see it again if you already have. Machete is the shit. Case closed.