It was dirty cop Saturday. All but one of the movies I saw centered around that particular sub-genre of the crime film.
Directed by frequent John Woo collaborator David Wu, the World War II action film Cold Steel delivers plenty of stylized action and amazing gun play. After rescuing the Anglo (either American or British. It’s never clear) pilot John from an explosive plane crash, hunter Mu (Peter Ho) learns the proper ways to shoot. He soon gets to test these new skills. After a confrontation with rude Chinese soldiers in tea house, Mu is arrested. When Japanese snipers attack the military vehicle transporting Mu, he grabs a downed soldier’s gun and demonstrates an impressive display of his sharp shooting skills. Mu is quickly drafted in an elite sharpshooters squad, who routinely engage in dangerous missions. While interesting and entertaining, the overwrought, stereotypical Cold Steel offers a predictable and somewhat forgettable production.
Reportedly based on actual events, the Spanish Unit 7 recalls the best of The Shield and 1970s American crime thrillers. In 1987, Seville prepares for the 1992 World Expo with plans to flush the streets of drugs and prostitution. The four man Unit 7 leads the charge. Up-and-comer Angel (Mario Casa) joins the crew of veterans that includes the hyper-violent, religious zealot Rafeal (Antonio De La Torre), the bigoted Miguel (José Manuel Poga), and the hypocrite Matthew (Joaquín Núñez). The quarter clean up the downtown with a zealous brutality that garners them celebrity. Along the way they succumb to corruption and vice. During the five year span of the movie, the characters evolve with Angel changing from a naif to challenge for leadership of the group. Though stereotypes abound including the dirty cops with hearts of gold, the caring prostitute who distributes heroin, gun battles, and even a car chase, director Alberto Rodriguez crafts a quality addition to the sub-genre.
A taut thriller featuring exemplary performances from Barry Atsma and Susan Visser, Taped begins with the simple concept of marriage in trouble. Leaving their daughter at home in the Netherlands, Johan and Saar journey to Argentina in hopes of recapturing the lost magic from their romantic honeymoon. In the 21st century mode, the couple video record their discussions, fights, and confessions. While waiting for a bus, they accidentally record a police officer brutally assassinating a captured perp. The cop sees Johan and Saar and the chase is on.
While the Dutch film starts slowly, director Diederik van Rooijen ratchets up the exquisite tension leading to a surprising and clever solution. The emotionally charged Taped, already optioned for an American remake, delivers not just one of the best movies at the Festival, but perhaps the finest action movie of the year.
A mediocre carbon copy of a Donald Westlake caper novel, the Dutch Plan C provides lots of typical dirty cop moments intertwined with far too few humorous scenes. Detective Ronald Plasmeyer’s(the amiable Ruben Van Der Meer) gambling habit lands him in serious debt with Chinese gangsters. His first plan (A), poker, only aggravates the problem. For Plan B, Plasmeyer concocts a strategy to steal a poker tournament’s money. Problem is he is no better at hiring henchman than playing poker. That leaves Plan C. While not a terrible movie, everything in Plan C falls short, feeling like retreads of far superior, similar entertainments.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world, starts here in Austin on September 20. During the course of the eight day festival, I’m blogging about my cinema experiences.