Crime and detective films are always a lot of fun to watch. Whether you’re in it to figure out who did it, or are just along for the ride, these are films that are more than happy to provide you with a 90-minute, popcorn-fueled distraction, with a side of post-credits discussion to boot. There are a lot of films that fit this mold, but plenty sneak past us undetected, like a good crime. Here’s a list of some of our favorite crime and detective movies.
The Way of the Gun
The 2000 action crime drama, both written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, one of the people behind The Usual Suspects, and another underrated hit, Edge of Tomorrow, starrs Ryan Phillippe, and Benicio del Toro, and some of the most impressively realistic gun fights you’ll ever see on the silver screen.
Philippe and del Toro play Parker and Longbaugh, two common criminals who make a living doing all manner of small-time work, waiting for a chance to pull a big heist. While out doing a gig, they overhear an exchange going down. A million dollars is due to transfer to the surrogate mother of big-time money launderer Hale Chidduck’s child. The two cook up a plan to kidnap the surrogate, and things start to spiral.
The story itself isn’t top-notch, and that’s fine. The real reason you’d want to put this on is for the gunplay. With both characters displaying superb knowledge of gun handling, including stances, reloading techniques, and tactics. This gives you a much better idea as to how messy, brutal, and difficult gunfights actually are, with little of the shiny Hollywood varnish that makes them look clean, neat, and elegant.
Because of the limited appeal of the film, and the weak plot, it was a box office disappointment, pulling in 13M from an 8.5M budget. Still it was the kind of film McQuarrie wanted to make—unapologetic, and against everything Hollywood executives want to see in a film, or its leading characters. Box office flop or not, it’s a fun romp, and a middle finger to the usual action films we see on-screen.
Killing Them Softly
This 2012 crime flick sees Brad Pitt star in an under-the-radar role as underworld hit man Jackie Coogan. A high-stakes, closed-door, underground poker tournament run by Markie Trattman, is being targeted for a heist by Johnny Amato, who hires two low-level thugs to do the job. Their confidence is bolstered by the fact that Trattman has targeted staged a heist on his own tournament in the past, and will probably take the fall for the job. As things go with stories of this nature, the initially successful heist goes belly-up, and Coogan is sent in to take care of the loose ends.
Pitt’s character in particular, speaks up about things that we are thinking, but are afraid to bring up in polite society, performing deeds that we might have considered, but don’t really entertain. It’s very subtle, but quite effective.
It had a very limited release in the Ph, running quietly in select cinemas in the Metro. The budget of 15 Million Dollars pulled in a modest 37.9 Million, and though it didn’t exactly perform poorly, you’ll be lucky to run into anyone who happened to have seen the theatrical release.
Lucky Number Slevin
Rife with twists, reveals, and red herrings, Lucky Number Slevin is a rollercoaster of a ride that takes your attention and keeps it until the credits come up. The story opens with a series of hits, gambling debts, and mob retribution. We then get to Josh Hartnett’s Slevin Kelevra, in his friend Nick’s New York apartment. Nick has mysteriously vanished, and his apartment left unlocked. Mob henchmen then show up, mistake Slevin for his friend Nick, who appears to be in trouble with the Mob, and take him away. This is somewhat sorted out, and Slevin returns to Nick’s apartment, where he is promptly kidnapped again, this time, by a rival Mob boss’ men, who also mistake Slevin for Nick. It’s hard to say more without blowing the story wide open, but know there is also a great on-screen performance by Bruce Willis as the hitman Goodkat. It’s a great film, and one that rewards you for paying attention.
Raking in 56.3 million on a budget of 27 Million, this wasn’t a failure financially, but limited awareness of this film’s greatness definitely qualifies it for this list. Hartnett’s convincing portrayal of the confused, caught-in-the middle Slevin makes the movie all the more enjoyable, as do the turns that appear out of left field. A definite must-watch.
This 1960s film by Jean-Luc Goddard is a pivotal piece of French New-Wave cinema, and Goddard’s directorial debut. The Film’s protagonist, Michel, is a young criminal with an unhealthy fascination with Humphrey Bogart. A simple car theft gets out of hand when gets in trouble for shooting a police officer. He then turns to his american love interest, formulates a plan to escape, but runs into the long arm of the law, before one of the most iconic scenes in French New Wave Cinema.
Based on the real-life story of a French criminal in the ‘50s, the film’s editing was quite different from the ones people were accustomed to at the time. Its innovative use of jump-cuts, while noteworthy, was apparently not in the plan during the actual shoot, but had a huge impact on the film’s reception. The film has been praised as a “pop culture icon,” and “daring work of art,” and is on the list of films to see if you’re a fan of the genre.
Kiss kiss bang bang
The last entry on the list is from 2005, and features an on-screen team-up between Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. While fleeing from a botched robbery, RDJ stumbles into a film audition, impresses the scouts, and gets sent to LA where, he meets gay PI van Shrike, who has been paired up with Lockheart in order to give him the insight necessary for playing the detective role he is on the verge of getting cast for.
While helping van Shrike out on a case, they get involved in a murder. (Dark) comedy ensues, the characters get pulled deeper and deeper into the whole mess, and we’re left wondering how much more ridiculous their already messy situation can get. The highlight of the whole thing is the dynamic between the two lead actors, and how well they’re able to go back and forth, pushing the story forward.
After seeing a limited release in a few cinemas in the US, the film kept going, thanks to praise from viewers and critics alike. Though in the end, it ended up pulling in 15.8 million over a 15 million budget, it left us with a film that breaks the usual neo-noir mold, a fun, if dark, comedy with RDJ and Val Kilmer, and another film to add to your schedule.
Also published at Gadgets Magazine June 2018 issue
Words by Ren Alcantara
Art by Theresa Eloriaga