March 31, 2005

"LA Noir" Series at the Brattle

I have already seen series entries The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Chinatown, so my first screening was Criss Cross (March 29), about 'the sucker of all time' Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster). Steve has never gotten over his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo). He allows himself to be drawn into an armored-car heist scheme by Anna and her shady husband Slim (Dan Duryea). Is Anna playing Steve for Slim, is Anna playing Slim for Steve, or is fate playing a hand? Either way, Steve is a real dope and the voice-over narration is laughably bad.l-a-noir

Point Blank (March 30): I was expecting a gritty, hard-boiled revenge thriller. What I got instead was an extremely low-key revenge thriller, filtered through the then-trendy French psychedelic surrealism of the Summer of Love. Lee Marvin doesn't embarrass himself, but he sure looks out of place in his dark suits and cold fish demeanor amongst all the druggies of L.A. circa 1967.

Collateral (March 31): guest review by EKD • Nat and I rounded out his week o' noir at the Brattle with Collateral, Michael Mann's shiny, satisfying thriller of a hapless cabbie and sociopathic hitman rolling through a misty Los Angeles night. Mann's films are always delicious to look at, and here he makes digital video an art form instead of the usual pixellated lo-fi cop-out. Jamie Foxx is well-cast as the dreamy, timid Max; can't say the same for Mark Ruffalo, who looks like a kid in a Donnie Brasco Halloween costume, ugh. Tom Cruise is a bit of a cipher here: his usual clipped, focused, tightly-wound thing comes across more dangerous and menacing because his character is such a heartless psycho, who seductively charms and ruthlessly manipulates everyone around him by turns. On paper, this seems like a clone of his Vampire Lestat, but that character had an interior vulnerability, a needy streak -- here, Vincent is a soulless shark, unrepentant to the end. Of course, he does get a few chances to do the Patented Tom Cruise Run. The last 20 minutes start to drag like a bad TV movie, and there are a few moments of stale 80's machismo, but overall it's a thoughtfully gripping example of the genre. (A-)