Where the Sidewalk Ends Review

Next up on the review list is an old murder thriller. This time we really get to see what happens at the end of the road. It’s an engaging film that shows what happens when mistakes are made on every side and how this keeps on snowballing. I do like the idea of a hero trying to frame a villain. It’s something that doesn’t happen too often but is something to think about. Of course this is also morally dubious at best but ultimately the film has a satisfying conclusion.

The film starts off with introducing us to Mark Dixon who is really tough on crime. This is to the point of being excessive though as he tends to rough them up quite a bit during interrogation. He has now been demoted and warned to curb this behavior. Well, this will be difficult as he is wrapped up in another case when a rich man is stabbed to death at a local gaming arena led by some notorious gangsters. Of course the trick is that there is no real proof here and these guys have a habit of getting away. Mark ends up doing some interrogating anyway and ends up murdering Paine by accident as his punch hit the guy in a way where his metal plate shattered. Mark figures he’ll hide the body and then frame Scalise for it.

Unfortunately he ends up framing an innocent cab driver instead. Mark has grown close to the guy’s daughter Morgan and needs to settle this. Will he be able to get proof against Scalise or is this curtains for him? Additionally now that he has murdered someone, even if accidental, he is facing some issues as well. After all, fully attacking someone as part of an investigation was outside the mission parameters.

There’s a lot going on here to be sure. I was glad that the rich guy stepped in to protect Morgan when she was attacked but it is tragic since you know he never stood a chance. The guy was surrounded by gangsters after all and just wouldn’t have lasted either way. It’s hard to trust anyone at these high stakes gambling arenas, especially if it isn’t at a reputable venue. It makes for an intense opening scene as we know what happened and have to see how Mark will put the evidence together.

As a main character, Mark is solid. I do like his determination even if he lets it get the better of him sometimes. He doesn’t buy into the false stories as quickly as the other cops but ultimately there is a limit to what he can do as a cop. It’s not like he can just beat the truth out of everyone although he would certainly like that. His final attempt to frame Scalise was also a very bold approach as he was directly putting his life on the line. Not just anyone could pull that off.

Even Scalise comments on this and how Mark is crazy here. His obsession with taking down Scalise and defying his father’s legacy is certainly impressive. Unfortunately this isn’t a big James Bond action movie and so his big attack on the villain base doesn’t quite go as planned. It would have been intense to have seen him take them all down but realistically that would be nearly impossible without a gun or something like that.

As for Scalise, well he’s your classic noir villain. I’ll give him a little extra kudos for being intelligent though. He sees through Mark’s plans and also knows how to prevent evidence from getting out. He’s an old hand at this and isn’t your run of the mill gangster. While his personality may not be super memorable beyond the usual tough dialogue, this is enough where he holds his own as the main antagonist.

Finally we have Morgan and her father. I liked her Dad’s constant talking about how he helped Mark with a case back in the day. He just seems like a nice guy who is always cheerful and trying to look out for Morgan. Morgan makes some dicey calls with the people she hangs out with like Paine. Ultimately I don’t think she’ll be around those areas much going forward though and has developed quite a bit as a result of this experience. The severity of the case against her father gradually sinks in during the film and she doesn’t take this in stride but then the film shows the contrast of how she handles the news at the end of the film. She’s come a long way and won’t be blindsided anymore.

As a noir thriller kind of movie, this film always has some level of danger present. Whether it’s Mark trying to hide a body or quickly thinking up an alibi, you can tell that he’s never quite safe. It also works well in keeping your interest the whole time through. The movie’s fairly long but the pacing is on point so it never drags on. We see enough of Mark’s life to see what makes him tick and it helps build the world around the mystery. He’s certainly quick on his feet so it’s easy to see why he got such a high rank at the start even if he’s been on a bit of a decline since then with how he beats up the criminals.

Overall, This was a solid movie. It really builds a good atmosphere from the start and the adventure is interesting from start to finish. Mark makes for a good hero and Scalise ends up being a smarter villain than I expected. As a result you have some decent banter with them. The only time Mark goes too far is when he takes such a hard stance against his partner at one point. That was definitely the wrong move and showed him taking out his aggression on the wrong person. Even though the case may be solved, it is fair to say that this line of work may not be right for him. There really is nothing to prevent this kind of scenario from happening again because it’s fair to say that this case hasn’t really changed him. The ending is left up to interpretation on how it will go though so you can ultimately reach your own ending. If you’re looking forward to a good noir title then this is a good one to watch.

Overall 7/10

Blast of Silence Review

When you have a film about an assassin you can try to do it in a stylized way, make the assassin likable, or have him be a very quiet and mysterious figure. I’ve seen a few solid ones with such a premise but this one would not make the list. The lead is insane from the jump and unfortunately ruins the film at every step with his inner monologues. Usually the Noir style of talking to yourself is a lot of fun but put a bad main character into the center and it just doesn’t work this time.

The movie starts by introducing us to Frankie. He doesn’t like anyone and everything ticks him off. He never runs out of things to complain about and is always bragging as well. He seems to think that he’s an expert assassin but the film continues to prove him wrong. Well, Frankie’s got his latest hit ready but along the way he bumps into some old friends. Slowly this starts to distract him and he may have to make a choice between romance or getting the job done. If he doesn’t hurry, he’ll lose everything. Can Frankie turn things around or will he just continue to complain?

As you can probably guess, Frankie is 90% of my issues with the film. He just never stops whining, you haven’t seen a character this whiny in a long time. He’s in self denial the entire time about romance as well. For example in his inner monologues he’s taking shots at Lori and everyone for being normal but then it turns out that he really wants to be with Lori. It’s a pretty awful development there and the scene where he tries to overpower Lori destroys the film early on. He never comes back from that and it’s really fortunate that someone else was at home when he stops by later on.

So Frankie’s an irredeemable villain and as the focus of the film that’s not really a good thing. He’s also just not very good at his job. He’s an assassin so you’d think he would have been around the block a few times but he doesn’t realize that it’s a bad idea to call up the villains to collect the money? After he was openly threatened for trying to quit the job early, he should have just gotten out of there. At the very least, don’t throw away the gun. I have big doubts on his gun skills but at least he might have been able to make a match out of it. Instead he was just out skilled and outgunned right from the start.

If anything it’s only impressive that he has some friends with how cold he acts throughout the film. Everyone will try to talk to him and he just won’t respond or just gives 1 word responses once in a while. The others were trying to be super friendly but you wouldn’t have blamed them if they just left. Lori does her best to be nice which doesn’t ultimately work out for her very well. I am glad she stayed strong in telling Frankie to leave and not allowing him to stay. She also does well in managing this dangerous situation by keeping him at a distance whenever he calls without setting this madman off. With a guy like this you can’t really take any risks.

The only other big character here is Ralph who has a lot of connections. Frankie doesn’t like him but he has to deal with the guy since Ralph knows how to get the guns. Ralph is the kind of guy who will make a deal and then turn on it later on. I don’t really know why he would risk his life trying to double cross Frankie though unless he seriously did not respect the lead’s abilities. It just didn’t seem like a smart play without having more leverage on him. Ralph would have been quite all right if not for pulling that stunt. His arm strength was impressive though. He could choke with Frankie with one hand and it seems like he would have done a lot better if not for a surprise attack.

Ralph isn’t nearly as bad as Frankie but I didn’t like him either. His scenes really drag out with how slowly he talks the whole time. The scenes of him feeding the animals also has you tense the whole time because you’re worried that something will happen although fortunately it does not. Ralph’s a total slob if we’re being honest here to the point where you’re shocked that someone hasn’t taken him out yet. He’s brave enough to be going around blackmailing people but you feel like if he pulled that on any other assassin he would have been taken down in a heartbeat.

The film at least handles the Noir elements well. The city looks suitably shady at all times even when it’s day time out. The only scene without any tension is the dance scene when Frankie has to attend a party and that mostly felt like filler anyway. It’s supposed to feel out of place since Frankie usually wouldn’t allow himself to be caught there. It only ended up happening this time since he liked Lori but couldn’t admit it to himself.

The writing isn’t bad. The dialogue is super weak but that’s more due to the main character than blasting the film’s writing as a whole. The rest of the characters have good dialogue after all. I like the style of Noir dialogue usually, it’s just that Frankie was way too exaggerated the whole time. If he was more serious and mysterious like he thought he was then that would have helped matters. Instead the guy just seems petty and amateurish the whole time. He’s always yelling “danger signals” at himself but they come too late like when Ralph spotted him first. Frankie blames himself for that mistake and acts like it’s rare, but it doesn’t seem to be with how things always go sideways for him here.

Overall, The movie has a conclusive ending but never really recovers into being a solid movie. Frankie just held the film back massively and the whole scene with Lori should have been cut out. You just can’t have a main character be this bad and still work as the lead. It’s just not happening and I wouldn’t even want him as the main villain especially as he isn’t even that effective in his profession. (The man doesn’t even carry a gun so he has to count on contacts to supply him one in time. What if they weren’t able to get the gun in time? He’d be doomed) The main rule of thumb is for a film about a villain to work, the villain’s scenes need to be bearable. Establish him as a villain and keep it moving but don’t go too far and the endless inner monologue doesn’t work in this case. If you’re looking for a good Noir film to check out, there are many, many better options out there.

Overall 3/10

Night Moves Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

Oh boy, this is one of those films that starts out on a rather dicey note and then just gets worse and worse as it goes on. The movie is really going for pure shock value half the time and with nobody to root for you are in for a very grueling 99 minutes. I also wonder why they couldn’t just stretch this movie by one minute to be a perfect 100. If you’re that close…why not do it right? Not like it would have helped the movie or anything but you might as well.

So the movie is about a private investigator named Harry. He specializes in divorce cases and a lot of little cases like that which his wife Ellen mocks him about. Still, he enjoys the work but one day he finds out she is cheating with a guy named Marty. Does this matter to the plot? No….but did it shock you?? From there Harry heads back to his main case where Arlene asks him to find her daughter who has gone missing. Harry looks around and finds her fairly quick but it will be difficult to bring her back. She certainly doesn’t want to go home.

Right away we learn that Delly is quite the free spirit who goes around having affairs with everyone despite only being 16. Unfortunately, she has really gone off the wall crazy and everyone around her is the same way. She’s currently staying with her stepfather Tom and Paula. The less said about this part of the plot the better but needless to say, nobody here is a good person. They’re all engaged in very serious crimes and have no sense of moral decency anymore.

This is the kind of movie that is very jaded and believes that everyone is a villain or will turn to the dark side if given the chance. Harry isn’t exactly exempt from that as he makes his share of mistakes as well. He’s not a very nice guy which does make him a strong investigator as the guy won’t be pushed around. That said, it’s very difficult to have a candid conversation with him as a result and everyone takes shots at how hard he is trying to be an iconic investigator or like one out of the movies. In terms of investigating he does a good job though so I don’t think you can slam him too hard on that.

His personality and decision making? Sure that’s fair game. When he finds out that Ellen is cheating I don’t see why he was so desperate to get her back the whole time. Note that he catches her twice and he cheats on her with someone else later on. Perhaps he figures if they’re both cheating on each other then it doesn’t really matter. That just feels really twisted though. Ellen’s no better as her excuses don’t hold any weight. Being lonely is never an excuse to be cheating at all. Marty doesn’t have any personality except to be threatened by Harry every time.

As for Delly, well there’s not much to say about her. She is as immoral as can be and never makes the right life choices. Ultimately this doesn’t end well and I can’t even say that she has a happy ending. This was a really rough film for her. Her stepfather Tom is horrendous and you feel like he got off extremely easy here. With everyone dying left and right you’d have thought that he would be one of the prime targets to be bumped off. Where’s the justice in this film?

Paula feels bad for herself a lot as the world around her goes to oblivion but you feel like she needs to get out of this environment first thing. She’s just sticking around to see the violence and crimes being committed but only assists in this instead of doing anything about it. She’s as guilty as the rest of the characters. It’s clear that Arlene isn’t innocent either. She beats some of the other characters almost by default but I still would consider her to be a bad character. She’s just interested in herself and getting rich.

The atmosphere is suitably depressing and without a whole lot of color during the movie. It really has that classic 70s feel to it where everything is really grimy. You can make a good thriller or noir film our of that but you can’t rely on overt shock value. There are so many aspects of this film that really don’t need to be here. You can absolutely nail this plot without the extra aspects. Take away Delly’s character traits as constantly stripping, being desperate for men, etc. Remove all implications of her and Tom, lets remove the cheating subplot with Harry, lets remove his affair as well.

I suppose by this time you’ve got a completely different movie but it shows just how much of this film really needed to change. It’s just not a fun watch and you can’t be a good film without being enjoyable in some sense. Whether it’s having a good soundtrack, an engaging plot, or good characters; every movie needs to have something. If you have nothing then you’re really in a very tough spot that is hard to get out of.

Overall , Night Moves is a film I highly recommend avoiding at all costs. It’s just a terrible movie on all accounts. Any semblance of interest you may have had in the film is completely destroyed once Harry gets to the Florida Keyes and finds out just how depraved the whole situation is. This is a movie of shock value where terrible things keep on happening to everyone. There is really no way to save the film at that point so I would even say this should not get a remake. At that point you’re better off just making a whole new experience so lets just put this film back on the shelf and pretend it never existed.

Overall 1/10

Nightmare Alley Review

Nightmare Alley is a film where you are going to need to suspend a lot of disbelief since the main guy’s ability is that he can effectively mind control you by talking. I’ve always been a big hypnosis skeptic and this would fall into that ballpark. There’s one scene in particular where he talks a sheriff into backing off and I was shaking my head. Still, it’s an interesting film that does manage to stick the landing.

The movie starts off with Stan being the new guy at the circus but really wanting to be more of a main star. His target is Zeena who used to have a really famous act with Pete. They would answer questions from the audience and always managed to read out the question and give the right answer while one of them was blind folded. It seemed an awful lot like magic but it comes down to word codes. Thing is, Zeena won’t give the code to anyone so Stan may have to use some of his persuasion skills. Will his ambitions to be the main star work out or is he really just setting the entire circus on a one way trip to oblivion?

Now, I will say that I am a little skeptical of the word codes as well. That by itself would not be nearly enough to figure out these exact questions and answers. Perhaps if the film showed that they were using some kind of special frequency radio or camera I could buy into it, but just by enunciating words and phrases Stan was able to figure it all out? I dunno, that seems like a really big stretch to me. At least they weren’t trying to play it off as magic though so that works. Stan just has really good intuition when he foils several traps that are laid against him.

The first half of the movie is really about Stan at the circus. It’s a little slow at times as you’re just waiting for him to leave but it does show right away how slick the guy can be. He acts nice enough to everyone else but he’s really just trying to steal their acts. He certainly makes a lot of passes at Zeena even though she is with Pete and doesn’t waste a second once Pete is out of the picture. The guy doesn’t have a lot of morals and gets together with quite a few characters before the film is over.

He is the antagonist here so you expect that he will keep on going down the dark path. It’s always risky to have a villainous main character. It works sometimes but more often than not it backfires. Well, at least this is one time I can point to it working pretty well. The guy is charismatic even if the film exaggerates that point and you’re interested to see how far he can go in his schemes. His personality is part of what makes the ending so satisfying as well. Stan is absolutely the kind of guy who can lead the film pretty well.

As for Zeena, well I’m definitely not a fan of hers. She really wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention with how she fells for Stan’s schemes so easily. Pete wasn’t exactly the best guy as he was constantly drunk and out of it but Zeena really should have taken that opportunity to dash out of the circus rather than going along with Stan’s schemes. Then you have Molly who also falls into the trap pretty quickly. She really wanted to believe in the best of Stan but I would say by this point it was clear that he wasn’t going to be a loyal guy. She nearly walks out on him a few times but always ends up being convinced to stay. It would have been good if she could have followed her gut.

The second half of the film is really about Stan taking his act global. He figured that he can market himself as someone who can actually talk to the dead and uses this to great effect as he gets a lot of money from everyone. This forces him to keep on escalating his act further and further to the point where he has to materialize someone for the rich Grindle. If he pulls this off then he will have really conquered the planet.

This act introduced quite a few new characters which was cool. Grindle felt like a sucker through and through though. The guy allows himself to be tricked so easily considering how he completely didn’t believe in magic and talks so tough at the start. By the end he’s crying and just not thinking critically anymore. It was a shame but in this film almost nobody could resist Stan’s various deceptions.

Finally there was Lilith, a psychologist who seems to live on the up and up but quickly grows tempted by Stan’s plans. She is a very complex character and easily the best one in the film. She is also quite intelligent since her business is about reading people’s emotions and helping them through it. As a result there is a bit of a cat and mouse battle between the two as they analyze each other. By the end of the film it goes to such a psychological ending that you can debate how the climax actually played out. (I’d say the sirens were real but they weren’t called in. Keeping it vague so as to avoid spoilers) No matter how you interpret the ending though, I’d say that Lilith looked very good here. She has a satisfying end to the character arc and helps end the film on a high note.

Now I wouldn’t say the film’s ending is happy. By the time it ends quite a lot has happened and it’s not like there are many heroes left to root for. Still, it’s meant to at least give you a little hope that this time Stan will go onto the path of light. I’ll also give the film credit for showing great restraint by not actually showing his new occupation on screen. That would have easily gotten rather gritty and would have completely crippled the film’s score. As it stands, you can understand exactly what is going on and the film keeps a bit of a dark atmosphere while not crossing the line here.

Really the weakest part of the film is the romance(s). We know Stan’s a phony from the start but you wish the other characters could see that. Instead they all get tricked one by one with all of his affairs. The guy keeps getting win after win but if the heroines had let things play out a bit longer then they could have seen through him. I’m not even sure what genre I would call the film but it has enough romance where that is definitely a focus here. I would cut that out and get him on his journey to being a master manipulator a bit earlier. That would also reduce the length of the first half which isn’t quite as interesting anyway. That way you jump right to his battles with Lilith.

Overall, The film may feel unbelievable at quite a few points with how the characters bend to Stan’s will but it’s still an engaging film. As with many titles in its time, the writing is good and the pacing is on point. You should have a good time watching the movie on the whole even if you are rooting for Stan to lose the whole time. I’d like to have seen various characters resist his pseudo hypnosis more but the ending is really good with how the situation suddenly shifts. It’s a good reminder to always keep your guard up. Just because you think you’re the smartest person in the room, doesn’t mean that this is actually the case.

Overall 6/10

The Spirit Review

The Spirit is definitely a very unique movie that’s for sure. It really does walk a fine line between being a total comedy with how over the top everything is and a serious action film. In the end the film actually does blend this combo over very well for nearly all of its screen time but ends up faltering near the end. I knew things were about to get dicey when the cat showed up….

The movie starts with the Spirit being called in since there was a sighting of his arch nemesis, the Octopus. The Octopus manages to murder someone real quick and steal a suitcase first but Sand escapes with the other Suitcase. Octopus crushes the Spirit and now the hero must figure out a way to catch the guy. What is the Octopus doing and how can he be stopped? The Octopus hinted that he knows something about the Spirit’s immortality and Spirit’s old flame Sand is involves so he really has to see this through to the end.

Spirit is definitely a movie that is bonkers and isn’t afraid to really get out there. The first moment I knew something was up was when the Spirit and Octopus have their confrontation mere minutes after the film began. Usually the hero can’t meet the villain that quickly. Then as their fight escalates you can tell that neither one is a normal human because they are taking some really crazy attacks. They seem to murder each other several times during the fight.

Well, Spirit and Octopus both appear to be immortal. Not in an eternal life kind of way but in a “We can’t be killed way”. That actually ties into Octopus’ plans which is to use a serum which will actually give him eternal life. Sand has the vase though so she’s in danger now. It’s quite a lot of plot here and that’s not even accounting for Spirit’s origin story. It’s a fun dynamic though as apparently the hero and villain will often spend a whole night beating each other up only to walk away when it’s all over.

It’s not like they’re pals or anything but they do seem to joke around a bit. They both know that they can’t destroy the other so I can see how the futile nature of their fights would become humorous to them. Octopus definitely seems to have better fighting abilities than the Spirit though. I’d argue he had the edge for the majority of their fight with ease.

Where the Spirit really shines is with the color palette. The movie uses a lot of very interesting visual styles and I would consider it a total hit. This was extremely unique and actually worked out. It’s not one of those gimmicks that you’ll shake your head at but one you will give the thumbs up right away. Not only does it make the Spirit look mysterious but it gives the whole film a pretty epic air. When characters talk to each other the backgrounds will often disappear.

You have characters fading into the light or into the darkness. Even Sand showing up from the water is a very ominous scene. The most every day normal scenes will look different like this and it really does work quite well. It captures that Noir feeling as well. Mix in the Spirit’s numerous monologues and you’ve really got something going here. It helps with the film’s dramatic atmosphere.

As mentioned though, it gets so dramatic that I have to see a lot of these moments as comedic ones. Spirit loves talking about the city and his past. While that is a staple of the Noir genre, you just can’t help but feel like the movie is parodying it. Something about the way the Spirit is having his conversations just gives you that feeling. Then of course for the comedic moments you have most of the Octopus scenes. He’s dressed up as a different culture each tie he appears and the guy is always messing around. He never seems to take anything seriously and murders his henchmen on the regular.

This is definitely some dark humor but the henchmen aren’t smart enough to do anything except what they’re told. So for example one of them even murders himself because the villain told him to do so. It’s certainly tragic to be one of those henchmen that’s for sure. Another gets blended which was a really intense scene to be sure. So the film has its dark moments thrown in as well, mainly as dark humor.

Now, where does the film go wrong? Well, as you can guess with the cat, we get some animal violence as the Octopus shows off his latest conquest to the Spirit. He can melt anything by using the special blood/serum that he wanted although it would simply power the Spirit up so that guy needs to try and grab it. He should have used it on the henchmen instead of on the cat though. That would have been a lot better.

So the film instantly lost a pair of stars for that. Meanwhile the film is trying to make the Spirit a parody of James Bond to an extent. I definitely don’t remember this trait in the comics but he seems to fall in love with every girl out there. Spirit seems to believe that every lady in the city is fair game so he openly has affairs with all of them. Fortunately for him every girl loves him as well so it’s quite easy to make this happen. We do have two main heroines here who both like him as well and he’s not shy about still making moves in front of him.

So the Spirit isn’t exactly the most heroic guy. Even ignoring that, he doesn’t have the best relationship with the cops. He’s always on edge and even threatens to punch out the chief without any good reason. The cops have a point that the Spirit is really running a one man show and the cops who accompany him all get murdered so naturally there would be some bad blood here. It’s hard to get a read on the Spirit. He’s a fun guy to be sure but I definitely wouldn’t call him very heroic. He seems extremely unhinged.

The Octopus is certainly a fun character. He is definitely a villain as seen with the cat but at least the guy has concrete goals. I’m not sure if having eternal life is the automatic win card that he thinks it is, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to live longer since he is already fairly tough to beat. He reminds me a bit of the Joker with how crazy he is the whole time.

His right hand woman Floss also does a good job of keeping him on track. If he starts to go off the deep end then she reminds him of what was going on. To an extent she doesn’t always seem to be thrilled to have him as leader though so he should probably watch his back. That said, I guess by the end she still seems loyal enough.

As for Sand, I wasn’t a fan. In the flashbacks she already seemed quite obsessed with jewels and this didn’t change when she got older. In a way she’s like Catwoman only much more violent as she actively murders a lot of people in order to get what she wants. I was surprised at just how brutal she can be. I figured the movie was going to play her out as more of a misunderstood character but it actually went all the way as a villain.

We’ve also got Ellen who liked the Spirit but still gets jealous when he has other affairs. That’s why I don’t see the relationship ever working out. Either she is okay with being cheated on the whole time or she is going to need to find someone else. The Spirit doesn’t seem like the loyal sort after all.

In fact, there’s a pretty intense scene where the villains use that against him. He can’t resist any girl and one of the villains is a lady so you can picture how that goes. He just goes down like such a chump that you can’t help but laugh. This is the hero who is supposed to protect us? Okay….yeah that’s not going to end very well. The Spirit definitely has his priorities…too bad they aren’t the right ones.

Overall, The Spirit is a very different kind of action film. It’s really all over the place and in a lot of ways this works out. It’s really unpredictable and I loved what they did with the visual directing. The whole thing has a comic book/noir approach that nobody else has really used before. It’s a shame that the Spirit himself wasn’t a little better at being a hero but his inner monologues are a blast. If you can get around the cat melting scene then this is definitely a film you’ll have a lot of fun with. I’d definitely be up for a sequel coming out at some point since there’s a lot of potential here. That said, I think it would be difficult to capture the same energy twice so maybe it’s best to not even try.

Overall 5/10

The Blue Gardenia Review

Time for a classic noir thriller. One of the key things to remember if you ever find yourself in a Noir type situation is that you shouldn’t drink. Getting drunk is absolutely without a doubt one of the biggest mistakes you could make here. It puts you in a bad spot right out of the gate and there is really no escape. The whole movie would play out a lot differently without that.

The movie starts with Norah getting ready to celebrate her birthday on her own. Her fiancée is still away at war so at least she can have a good time on her own. Unfortunately she gets a letter that he has decided to marry someone else instead. Broken and confused, Norah decides to go out with a local flirt and gets herself as drunk as possible. This leads to him driving her to his place and taking advantage of the situation. She fights back and when she wakes up he is dead.

Norah heads home hoping to put this behind her but it’s all over the news now. The cops badly want to find whoever murdered the criminal. They are slowly getting closer and Norah’s only hope may be reporter Casey. He claims that he will help protect her from the police and get her a reduced sentence but can she really trust a member of the media? Norah will have to decide quickly before time is up.

Getting drunk really does put you in a bind. It’s also why you don’t want to make any snap decisions when you’ve just had a bad day. Norah went on this date in large part just to try and get over her fiancé. Still not good to go with such a shady customer though. Now since Norah lost her memories of what happened after drinking she doesn’t know if she truly murdered him or not. It certainly appears to have played out that way but she can’t be sure.

On this note though, it is absolutely correct that she fought back. At one point when asking her roommates hypothetical questions about the situation one of them says you can’t just take down every guy who gets handsy. That seemed to be underestimating the situation quite a lot. Even if she ended up murdering him with the final strike, that was definitely in self defense so it’s not like she tried to destroy him. It was her or him at that point and she had to fight to survive.

Of course most of the film is really about Norah fighting her inner doubts. If she could at least remember what happened then she would feel a lot better about the whole thing. As it is, she is just very confused. I wouldn’t say she was a great main heroine but she’s okay. She doesn’t do the rest job of hiding what happened but granted, being in such a situation is pretty stressful so you can expect some slip ups.

As for the reporter Casey, he was a pretty fun character. He had some good banter with the local police as the chief called in during his attempts to find the identity of the murderer. It is quite brazen of him to be saying such things like trusting him over the cops in a public forum like that. He also underestimates how many people are keeping up with the case which ends up catching up to him. He was a charismatic guy though, same as the police chief. I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of those guys.

The roommates don’t leave nearly as much of an impression though. I was expecting the big book fan to do a lot by the end but in a way her character never went anywhere. She’s knowledgeable about things as the smart member of the group but she never gets to use her intelligence for anything. The other one at least helps Norah out by the end and gives a good amount of moral support.

Compared to most Noir films there isn’t a whole lot to talk about though since the story is so direct. There’s really only one plot twist here and there’s virtually no foreshadowing for it so it just sort of happens without a lot of time to piece it together on your own. The movie has quality writing and an engaging story which is really what you want to see early on. It helps keep the rest of the film interesting and the pacing tight.

I’d put it under the average Noir film though as it is just lacking that depth some of the others have. There isn’t much to theorize or discuss which is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that this one won’t have the same staying power. I think I would have maybe added one more character, perhaps someone trying to throw some blackmail into the mix which would ultimately be a red herring. Just some kind of crazy twist, perhaps involving her Fiancé. Imagine he shows up and never told anyone that he didn’t even leave for war at all. Turns out the whole story was fake. At this point we’re discussing pure hypotheticals though.

Overall, The Blue Gardenia is a good movie. It has strong writing and an engaging plot. At the same time, there aren’t a whole lot of stand out characters here. I would have liked one of Norah’s friends to defend her here by reminding her it was in self defense or something like that. The guy who got murdered was also extra sleazy, would have been nice if he wasn’t quite so morally bankrupt. The movie has a satisfying ending so you’ll enjoy the ride. I’d certainly recommend it if you like Noir titles or just want something suspenseful.

Overall 6/10

He Ran All The Way Review

He Ran All The Way here takes a unique perspective with the main character where right off the gate you’re shown that he’s not a good person. It’s clear that he’s the antagonist yet this is so rare that you may put that to one side for a little while. As the film goes on he continues to get more and more unhinged though until you know there’s really no hope for this guy turning over a new leaf.

The movie starts with Nick yelling after oversleeping again and in general being a slob. He’s been dreading this day for a while as he and his partners are going to rob someone again for big bucks. Things go sideways though and he ends up leaving his partner for dead and murdering a police officer. Now the whole city is after him. He convinces a girl named Peg to invite him to her home and then takes her family (Parents, plus little brother) hostage. He doesn’t want anyone to leave until he’s convinced that the coast is clear. Can the family manage to get out of this one?

It’s pretty clear in the movie that Nick is absolutely insane. He’s paranoid that everyone is out to get him and is always flying off the handle. Now if you get past the yelling from the opening scene you might be able to trick yourself into thinking that he’s a decent guy who got mixed up with a bad crowd for a while. This doesn’t track with how he starts acting towards Peg in the pool though.

The guy uses her while she’s necessary and then throws her away which is something that will keep on happening during the film. Nick likes to paint himself as a victim despite holding these people hostage in their own home. There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance going on the whole time but what it equals out to is that Nick was always the villain here. He just doesn’t admit to it the whole time even while committing crimes the entire film and making things difficult on everybody.

There’s just nothing to like about Nick or even any way to sympathize with him. Nick’s just rotten to the core. Then you have the heroine Peg who is really bad. My main issue with her is how much she puts up with when Nick’s around even before he takes out the gun. She overlooks his constant insults, blames herself when he’s the one treating her roughly, etc. Peg just doesn’t act logical at all throughout the film. You don’t see how she could possibly fall for him under these circumstances. It just makes her look desperate and not very smart either. She just keeps on going back to him over and over again. It takes him threating to murder her around 5-6 times before she finally gets the message.

Meanwhile the whole situation is pretty tough on her parents and brother as well. There’s just not a whole lot they can do in this situation since they have to worry about the kids. The father does try to make a move at different points but Tommy messes up one attempt (Which is why the kids get annoying in these things) and the other one is foiled before he can get too far. It’s hard to backseat drive on this one because whenever there are hostages you have to be really careful.

If it was just him I’m sure that the father would have taken out his gun but as it stands, it’s not like he could really risk doing that here. Worst case, they’d all get shot if this turns into a shootout. I doubt that Nick is a great shot to be honest but at close range like this there’s not a whole lot you can do to dodge.

So most of the tension here is just with the characters having to tolerate Nick and just try to get through the day. Each of the characters have different views on how the matter should be handled as well. Tommy’s too young to understand much, the mother wants to tell the cops, and the father wants to play it safe and just wait until Nick leaves. All of the strategies have their ups and downs of course but without hindsight it’s hard to know which to pick. Personally I’m on the side of making a move. Whether you die or not at least it’ll be over pretty quickly.

This film would probably work a lot better without the romance angle because that’s really the weakest part of the film. It’s still mind boggling the whole time and brings both characters down. At least Nick could try playing the sympathy card if he was nicer. Change up the story so he still ended up shooting the cop who was on his tail and takes the family hostage but isn’t pushing them around, threatening, and yelling the whole time. If he was portrayed as someone who was just scared and not sure what to do next, it would have done a lot to help his character. Yes, he would still be the villain here but he wouldn’t be quite as crazy and bad as he is here. The Nick we see here is probably worse than the partner.

Overall, He Ran All The Way definitely has Nick running every mental gymnastic possible in order to try and pin it all on the other characters. The guy keeps on panicking and making things worse for himself. Ultimately everything that happens in the film is directly his fault. The guy should have stayed on the straight and narrow instead of going down such a dark path. If you want to check out a suspense film where everyone is stuck with him then this may be worth checking out since it’s such a specific premise. At the same time I just wouldn’t call it a good movie. The ending is rather solid but the romance has to be one of the weakest I’ve seen in a while.

Overall 4/10

Scarlet Street Review

Every now and then you come across a main character who gets suckered so badly that you have a hard time rooting for him. This is the case here. Look, when you decide to start desperately going after someone and allowing yourself to be used, then you’ve already dug a rather big hole. Sunset Street has some fun elements but the lead is just brutal.

The movie starts with Chris getting fired. He had a good run but it just wasn’t in the company’s best interests to keep him. His wife Adele is less than thrilled as she is always reminding Chris about how much better her first husband was. Why did they ever even get married? No clue but I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris was desperate and approached Adele. Either way Chris wants to be a master painter but unfortunately he’s a bit of a perfectionist and never actually takes them down to be appraised. As such, he lives a rather poor life.

One day he manages to save a girl named Kitty who was being mugged on the street. He falls for her at first sight and tries to convince her to be together with him. She has no interest in the prospect but her abusive boyfriend Johnny thinks this is a great idea. Due to some misunderstandings they think Chris is rich so Johnny wants Kitty to get friendly with him while stealing the guy’s paintings and constantly asking for money. Will Chris realize the truth or will he just keep handing her all of his funds?

Chris really shows no sense of self preservation here. It’s great that he stepped in to save Kitty. It’s just every scene after that where he seems suspect. He sees that Johnny is rather suspect but never really questions why the guy is always alone with Kitty when he’s supposed to be together with the friend. (That’s the cover story that Kitty feeds him) Chris is actively cheating on his wife and while their relationship may not be great, it’s still way below the belt to start cheating for any kind of reason. I’m not cutting Chris any kind of slack for that.

Chris really sets himself up for disappointment every step of the way. Kitty also couldn’t make it any more obvious that she didn’t like him with her body language and everything but Chris is so desperate that he ignores the signs. By the time we get to the climax there’s just no way to like the guy.

Scarlet Street certainly ends in a rather intense way though as every characters gets their just desserts. Nobody really has a happy ending here and none of them had been trying to earn one anyway. At the end of the day Johnny was an unrepentant criminal, Kitty was a very willing accomplice, and Chris was morally bankrupt. The three of them had more in common than you’d think.

As for Kitty, I didn’t like her either. She may try telling Johnny that this is a bad idea a whole lot but I never award you points for complaining. At the end of the day she ultimately still went through with this plan to swindle Chris. Additionally, she is constantly defending Johnny and his crazy behavior even when her friend warns her that the whole thing is toxic. Kitty doesn’t have particularly good judgment here and she couldn’t have handled her final scenes any worse.

Johnny? Well, the guy talks like he’s a master planner but he makes every kind of mistake in the book. He was really in a good spot to live rather well by shaving off some money at each end. Instead he gets more and more greedy to the point where it would be impossible to hide his presence. The plan is to sell Chris’ works for big bucks. Okay then, do that plan and just take 10% at the end or even 30%. He wants to take the full 100% but how can you do that without Chris noticing? He constantly visits Kitty in her private apartment even though he knows that Chris has the keys. Think Johnny, Think!

Adele’s certainly not a pleasant character but honestly she would be the best one from these 4 at least. She is constantly complaining and that actually works in Chris’ favor near the end. Nothing is ever good enough for her but she is really a supporting character so you shouldn’t expect to see her for very long.

The writing in the film is fairly solid otherwise. The main character may be pretty annoying but you’ve got an interesting premise here. With some smarter villains then Chris would have really been doomed from day 1. The ending comes out of nowhere a bit with how one of the characters cracks. Things certainly escalated but when you’re dealing with someone crazy desperate to have you at the point of losing all their money, then a certain element of danger goes in with that. Johnny and Kitty were playing a dangerous game from the start.

Scarlet Street does a good job of switching up the genres though. There’s also a decent amount of comedy here with all the hijinks of the public trying to find out who the real painter is. They’re given the run around of course but are quite determined in their search. It’s always fun to have them talking about the high concepts of art. It’s certainly not a subject I get all that invested in as my taste in art tends to differ from high society quite a bit. Needless to say, they were not prepared to see through any kind of tricks.

Overall, Scarlet Street isn’t quite up to snuff compared to most noir films. Ultimately I’m used to rather strong main characters in these titles or some kind of big mystery. Technically this one doesn’t have a lot of that and it may even be harder to call this a Noir title than most but it still does feel like one at least with the atmosphere at times. Certainly more low key though as there aren’t any fights or deaths for a while. Chris is just one of the worst main characters I’ve seen in a while. It’s always crucial to remember that if you cheat you’re probably going to end up dying in these things. The best thing to do is walk the straight and narrow path but these main characters have a hard time doing that.

Overall 4/10

Bullitt Review

Bullitt is definitely a true noir film to its core but with a more modern aesthetic than the older ones. It’s a pretty good title with a lot going on at all times. It’s a bit on the longer side to be sure so that lets the movie really have a lot of characters the whole time. As I’ll mention below Frank doesn’t have to be a one man army this time as he actually has some good help.

The film starts on a really high energy note during the credits. We see the burglars taking a lot of guys out with hit and run tactics or just classic gunfire. It’s a pretty interesting start since we don’t yet know what’s going on but what better way to start a film like this right? The answers are all given slowly during the movie.

Frank is the main character here. He’s a detective who has been assigned to protect Ross, a mobster who is going to be a crucial witness against a big criminal organization. Frank is fairly confident that they can handle this so he and his two partners take shifts on who will protect the guy. Unfortunately his partner is not that smart and lets Ross get near the door. Not a great idea when you’re watching over someone and things are already getting suspicious…..Naturally both the partner and Ross get shot.

Well, now everybody’s in a whole lot of trouble. Chalmers, one of the higher ups is blaming Frank for this. Frank meanwhile thinks something is really fishy about the whole set up so he hides Ross’s body so nobody will know that he actually died from his injuries. In theory this will lead the hitmen out into the open. Of course this will put Frank at odds with both the cops as well as the villains.

It’s a classic revenge story here as Frank has gone off the reservation in order to get back at the guys who did this. Frank makes for a pretty good lead. He’s certainly not afraid to talk tough to anyone else, including his superiors. Even the plan to get the body tucked away was a risky one that not just any character would pull off. I wouldn’t say Frank is a spectacular character or anything but he does handle the situation well.

Then you have Chalmers who is one of the other main characters. He’s the guy who really wanted Ross for the court case and is the one who made the deal with the guy in the first place. Naturally he’s on Frank’s tail the whole film because he needs the body. The reason Frank doesn’t want to play ball is because this guy seems rather suspicious. His name was used for the burglers to break in and bump Ross off plus the guy seems really desperate to get Ross.

It doesn’t help that Chalmers is also a jerk the whole time such as a scene when he tries to effectively get one of the doctors fired by complaining about him for no other reason than he wanted the guy to give him a different answer. These elements add up to make him someone you don’t really want to partner with. He does make for a fun character because of how exaggerated he is the whole time though.

You’ve also got Frank’s direct boss who was very good. The guy was put in a rather tough spot with all the pressure coming down on him but he still held strong. The captain does have to make certain decisions as part of his job that don’t always align with Frank’s plans but he never turns tail and runs or anything like that. Frank also has another good partner who had a good interrogation at the cafe where he actually outdid Frank as the main guy was a little too much in a hurry. It was nice to see that Frank had some capable allies here.

There is a bit of an extended car chase we get midway through the film but it wasn’t as exciting as some of other classic chases you get in these films. I think part of the issue was the cars they were using couldn’t get up to great speeds so it’s a little less frantic. It’s probably the only scene that I would say dragged a bit here. Always fun to have an action scene though so that was neat.

As this is more a film about cat and mouse games, there aren’t a ton of action scenes. You affectively get 3, the opening shootout, the car chase, and then the climax. Each action scene is pretty solid though so it works out. The story is engaging too so you never really miss the action. After all in a mystery like this you’re most interested in figuring out who the villain really is.

The climax was a lot of fun though. We don’t get a whole lot of action scenes at the airport so it made for a good backdrop. The film even uses the overall layout of the airport to its advantage as it plays a role in dealing with the villain. All of the plots meet up in this section as the climax should.

The only plot here that felt like it didn’t really belong was some mild tension with Frank’s girlfriend Cathy. The case was dragging so she believes it’s taken a big toll on Frank and on them too. Now that’s not necessarily incorrect but considering the high stakes going on right now and multiple people dead as it is, it’s not like Frank can back out now. She also only appeared for maybe 2-3 scenes top in the whole film so it was easy to forget that she was even around.

Overall, Bullitt is a pretty good movie. It’s got a solid plot/premise and good execution all around. The soundtrack has some pretty good tunes thrown into the mix as well like the opening credits theme. If you’re looking for a pretty solid thriller to check out then this will definitely work out pretty well. It’s a strongly written film that doesn’t really have any weaknesses.

Overall 7/10

The Big Heat Review

The Big Heat is definitely a true noir thriller through and through. There are a lot of mysteries for the main character to sift through and pretty much everyone is lying so it’s always hard to get to the heart of the matter. The film does a good job of keeping you engaged the whole way through. There are certainly a lot of tragic elements in the movie as well. Through it all, the lead is determined to keep on moving forward.

Dave is Sergeant who works in the homicide business. He’s always done a good job of solving each case and certainly isn’t the kind of guy who backs down. Well, this time he’s gotten himself involved in a very big case. A fellow cop committed suicide and while it initially appears to be a shut case, a lady named Lucy approaches Dave and gives him info to suggest that this wasn’t the case. He was having an affair with her at the time and had just planned to divorce Mrs. Duncan.

Mrs. Duncan doesn’t want to talk about this and then the top brass at the police tell Dave to stop bothering her. Some thugs even call his home and threaten Dave’s wife Katie. Well, now Dave knows that there is something to this case and he doesn’t intend to leave until he’s solved it all. This will be his most difficult case yet though as he will have to do it without the help of the police. Can he take on the powerful underworld?

There are quite a few characters running around here. First up we have the main villain Mike Lagana. He runs the underworld and seems to run the police as well. Naturally this is why Dave suspects him of having a hand on this. Supposedly no criminal acts without this guy giving his okay first. If they try to make a move solo then they may not end up being in a position to act any further. Mike makes for an intense villain to be sure. He’s the kind of guy who prefers to let his underlings do the dirty work though.

Mike tries to stay clean as a whistle but of course giving the orders doesn’t make you any less of a villain than the ones doing the deed. Then you have his right hand man Stone who is the most twisted of the villains. He’s into torture and such so you’re always ready for Dave to eventually take him down. There’s nothing redeeming about this villain.

Another big villain here is Mrs. Duncan. After all, she’s one of the mastermind’s here. As a side note, I also liked how this film had more than just the usual 2 factions. For example, she is working with Mike but not for him. In fact, she has contingency plans of her own. Mrs. Duncan is a great strategist and always makes sure to hold a great hand. It’s part of what makes the end of her plot really interesting.

The film takes a few different turns than I had expected and I thought it was played out excellently. A lot of times you expect Dave to basically be doing all of the work on his own without help but in this one that’s not quite the case. He has some allies and then you’ve also just got separate characters who have their own plans and agendas.

Back to the heroes, Dave’s wife Katie was a great character. She was certainly on top of things and was just good natured in general. She was someone he could always count on and she had a good sense of humor as well. Then you have Dave’s army friends who show up more in the second half. These guys are all ready to stand with him to the end which is a really good display of loyalty. Without them it would have been a lot more difficult for Dave to move around.

Then you have Debby who is Stone’s girlfriend so she is around for a lot of the villain scenes. It’s clear that she has more of a heart than the others but of course it’s not easy to just leave a villain setup. Once you’re in you are effectively stuck and have to remain that way. She does end up contributing a whole lot though. Debby goes through a lot during the movie but ultimately stays strong during the various trials.

As for Dave, he’s certainly a solid character. He takes his job very seriously and does whatever he can to crack the case. He’s not able to just look the other way which is difficult in this line of work since the town is basically owned by the villains. At one point the main villain is even playing a game of cards with some elected officials and a cop as they all sit down and have a good game while someone is being injured in the background. Dave can be short with just about everyone but he has good reason to be in a foul mood for most of the film.

Dave really can’t catch a break and as the main character you already know that the people he meets will always be in danger. He also succeeds as a main character with the great dialogue he gets. Dave always has a solid one liner ready for the various characters and doesn’t hold back with the insults. He just calls it like he sees it and doesn’t care who is listening.

The script is definitely top notch and holds up extremely well. The writing is on point as it balances the various plots. Again, I like how it threw a lot of curveballs into the climax of the film with each character getting to contribute. It made the film ultimately feel even more like a grand adventure.

If there’s anything weak about the film, it’s that it can go a bit far with being rather dark. In a noir film characters die all of the time which is normal but this one delves much more into the torture kind of deaths. The opening victim dies in a rather brutal way and we see how Stone treats various characters close up. The attack on Debby was also pretty brutal. I prefer when the villains just murder the heroes quick and easy as opposed to going the extra mile. At least with the first death it isn’t shown but a quick explosion would have definitely been preferable.

Overall, The Big Heat is a really good thriller film. It’s easy to get invested into the story and also hard to predict exactly how it will go. Even the fact that we know who the crime lord is makes things pretty interesting since that doesn’t necessarily mean he has his hand in this affair. Also, you have to decide whether you believe Dave or not when he talks about all of the characters being bought out by the guy. If you like a good mystery or thriller then this is definitely a good title to check out.

Overall 7/10