TCM Film Fest: Raw Deal

When we think of film noir as a concept, we often describe it as a B movie phenomenon, a look and feel associated with low budget crime dramas. But a lot of the big names we immediately think of as noir films are actually higher-budget A pictures with top stars and name directors – Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Sunset Blvd, etc. This year TCM (and Noir City Foundation programmer Eddie Muller) has done a great job of programming actual B-level films in the noir sidebar, intentionally choosing independently produced films that are clearly low budget programmers, which Raw Deal definitely is, despite being directed by Anthony Mann (before he got big) and starring recognizable but often B or second-lead actors like Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt.

Unusually, this film has a voiceover from a female perspective, with Claire Trevor narrating some, but not all, of the film. She play Pat, who is planning to break her man Joe (Dennis O’Keefe) out of prison, where he’s been taking the rap for his boss Rick (the inimitable Raymond Burr, consistently shot from the most imposing angle possible). Meanwhile, Joe’s lawyer’s assistant Ann (Marsha Hunt) is trying to convince Joe to hold out for a couple of years until he gets parole. Thinking he has Rick’s support, he opts to stick with the prison break plan. Unfortunately, Joe’s just a loose end to Rick, who expects and intends for the police to do his dirty work for him and eliminate Joe during his escape.

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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

Buried

2010 USA/Spain/Frane. Director: Rodrigo Cortés. Starring: Ryan Reynolds.

An extreme form of one-room film, with the whole thing set in a coffin buried somewhere underground. Ryan Reynolds carries the film admirably as an army contractor who gets taken hostage and buried alive with just a cell phone and a few other items, with the intention that he will get a sizeable ransom from the US government for his release. As we know, the US government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, leaving Reynolds hoping that the dispatched search and rescue team will find him before his air runs out. The film ratchets up tension admirably, keeping the audience engaged through 95 minutes of basically nothing happening except a man talking on a phone. There are nitpicks to be made, and I do wish there had been some better explanation for why he didn’t try to dig out through the obviously loose and relatively shallow dirt above him, but for the most part, it’s pretty effective as a tight-space thriller.
– JANDY

Netflix Instant (USA)

Gattaca

1997 USA. Director: Andrew Niccol. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman.

While Gattaca did not fly quite as far under the radar as The Man from Earth or Dark City, I cannot help but feel that it remains incredibly underseen and underappreciated. It is generally regarded as a strong film, to be sure, yet I would argue that it is among the greatest sci-fi films ever made. Nimbly toeing the line between the bleak and hectic Blade Runner and the philosophically draining The Man from Earth, Niccol’s universe not only feels realistic – it feels possible … if not probable. The physical presentation of the world is bleak, yes, but it is also vibrant and alive, crafting a future that is advanced, but not so advanced so as to be a distraction. This, of course, ignores the tremendous turns of Ethan Hawke and Jude Law, whose relationship is organic and beautiful. Uma Thurman is undoubtedly the weak link in the chain, but that may be as much a product of her underutilization, if not a side effect of the brilliance of most everything else.
– DOMENIC

Netflix Instant (CANADA)

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