6. Falling Down (1993)
“Falling Down” stars Michael Douglas as a recently laid off defense worker who is slowly starting to go over the edge. Robert Duvall, in another fine performance, plays a detective who is trying to stop him before tragedy strikes. Part social commentary, part satire, this is one of those movies that is impossible place in any one category.
With his flat top haircut, three-quarter sleeve shirt and pocket protector, Douglas plays the conservative defense worker to full effect. He walks around modern-day Los Angeles trying to arm himself and learning how to fire a gun, giving his view on what’s wrong with America and not quite understanding the modern times in which he lives.
In many ways, this movie seems more relevant today than it did back in the 90s, showing one man’s growing frustration with the system and having no real outlet for the anger he is feeling. The satire never feels out of place or at the expense of the message it is trying to get across. The Los Angeles setting adds a sense of confusion to Douglas’s character, as a person who didn’t see the changes taking place around him until it was too late.
7. The Paper (1994)
“The Paper”, directed by Ron Howard, is a movie about a day in the life of a New York tabloid newspaper. Michael Keaton stars as a workaholic editor who has to decide if he wants to stay with the tabloid or take an offer from a bigger newspaper, who has to deal with his wife who is in the late stages of her pregnancy, and who has to try and beat the other New York tabloids to run the big story.
This movie also boasts some fine supporting performances from Randy Quaid, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, and most notably, the scene-stealing Robert Duvall. Although not up to the caliber of “All the President’s Men” or “Network”, “The Paper” is filmed at such a kinetic pace and with a lighthearted approach that it never bogs down into the mundane or loses its emotional heart at the center.
Keaton has always been a manic performer, and is the perfect choice around which to center the movie given its fast pace. In many ways, though, the emotional heart of the movie belongs Duvall.
Playing an older version of what Keaton’s character might become if he doesn’t make some changes, Duvall takes a relatively small part and brings an emotional depth that most fast movies only gloss over. Few actors are able to consistently perform at the level Duvall does, which is why this the third movie on this list in which he has appeared.
8. Pump Up the Volume (1990)
Unlike many contemporary teenage movies, “Pump Up the Volume” is a thoughtful and well-written movie that delves into awkwardness and the frustrations of growing up. Starring Christian Slater as an introverted teenager trying to fit in at new school, he starts a pirate radio station with a ham radio that his parents gave him.
Before long, he develops a large following of like-minded teenagers who use his radio station as an outlet for their frustration with the school that is slowly filtering out the perceived bad element to pump up grade scores.
Bypassing the oversexed teenage characters normally associated with this type of movie, the script delves into the raw emotion of its teenage characters and the anger associated when grown-ups are not listening. Slater, in an early role, shows a lot of heart and deftly conveys the messages in which the script is trying to delve.
Not nearly as serious as “Over the Edge” but digging into some of the same teen angst, “Pump Up the Volume” leaves a smile on your face, while at the same time, leaving you with the feeling that you didn’t waste your time on another unrealistic oversexed teen movie. It is a movie that is shown from time to time, but is rarely put on the same level as :Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or even “The Breakfast Club”, which is a shame.
9. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995)
No other director and no other movie influenced the 90s more than Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”. Given its influence, it comes as no surprise that copycats were going to be made and that they were going to be mostly terrible. Now that it has been more than 20 years since it was released, it is a good time to look at some of them and see if they might deserve to be reevaluated.
One such movie may be “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead”, which stars Andy Garcia as a former mob associate who has to do one favor for the local boss before he allowed to leave, and as is custom with movies like this, things don’t go as planned.
Garcia does a fine job in the lead role, but as the case with a lot of movies like this, it’s the supporting characters that really seem to shine; in particular, Christopher Walken and Steve Buscemi. Walken, like Robert Duvall, has the ability to take a bad movie and elevate to something much better, even when they are not the lead.
Buscemi, who has made a career in supporting roles, does a lot with a little once more; he maybe has a half dozen lines, but his creep factor as a low key hitman is undeniable. No one should fool themselves into thinking this is anything but a “Pulp Fiction” rip-off, but with an often funny script and well-drawn supporting characters, it does make for a fun two hours.
10. Rush (1991)
“Rush” stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric as undercover narcotics officers in 1970’s Texas, who get in over their heads when they start using the drugs they are collecting for evidence.
Stark, realistic, and devoid of any humor, this is an unrelenting movie of two people who forget who they are until it is too late. With gritty cinematography and a script that shows the politics of the early war on drugs, “Rush” recreates the 70s in way that almost feels like it was made in that decade.
Leigh and Patric are two actors who have thrived on gritty roles throughout their careers, and it seems like those making the movie had them in mind all along.
The actors completely escape into their characters and are believable from beginning to end. Don’t go into this movie looking for a good-triumphs-evil happy ending, as it’s not what this movie is. Go into it looking for a couple of actors in their prime starring in an engrossing movie.