6. Martin McDonagh
In 2008, McDonagh made his feature length debut with In Bruges, which was hilarious and poignant in equal measure. Four years later came Seven Psychopaths, a cineliterate and referential crime comedy that had some laughs but lacked the heart of his first film.
Since then he has returned to playwriting, opening Hangmen in London’s Royal Court Theatre. Thankfully, McDonagh’s next film – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – is coming out later this year. It boasts an interesting cast that includes Peter Dinklage, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand.
McDormand’s casting is particularly interesting, for the film – which concerns an incompetent murder investigation in small town America – appears to be influenced by the darkly humourous parochialism of Fargo. This is all very promising, but please, don’t leave it so long next time.
7. Dan Gilroy
An experienced writer, Dan Gilroy made his first film Nightcrawler in 2014, which combines a Schraderesque character study with an intense, unpredictable narrative that satirizes the tabloid gutter press.
Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal create a very compelling psychopath in Lou Bloom, a creepily brazen manipulator who finds he has a talent for obtaining deliciously gory footage for amoral trash news channels. Gyllenhaal commands the long monologues of Gilroy’s script, stealing every scene he’s in, especially when he proves his manipulation can work, albeit very unattractively, in courtship.
Gilroy’s next project is Inner City, a crime drama starring Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell that’s due to start filming in March. Considering he’s co-written Kong: Skull Island among other things, the three to four year gap is just about acceptable, but it’s pushing it.
8. Tony Kaye
Since his explosive debut feature American History X in 1998, Tony Kaye has made Detachment, which received mixed reviews, Black Water Transit, which continues to be unfinished, and Lobby Lobster, whatever the hell that is. He has also directed some documentaries over the past 19 years, including the substantial abortion documentary Lake of Fire, but again, this list counts only feature films.
American History X is a very popular film, the 31st best of all time in fact according to the users of IMDb. The performances are strong, especially Edward Norton’s firebrand turn as Derek Vinyard, and the narrative depicts the scourge of neo-Nazism in a thoroughly uncompromising manner.
Kaye, whose background is in ad direction, also served as DOP, giving the film slick, dramatic camera work, especially in the black and white sequences. However, the slow motion stylization is melodramatic at times, particularly during the climax, and the narrative arc is somewhat predictable and heavy handed. Despite this, American History X is an incendiary morality tale that leaves a large impression on almost everyone that watches it – so why wasn’t it a springboard to even bigger and better things for Tony Kaye?
Well, the reason is that the post-production of American History X sparked a deeply bitter feud between Kaye and New Line Cinema. They had a serious disagreement over the final cut that caused Kaye such frustration he spent $100,000 of his own cash on 35 full page ads in the Hollywood trade press, which criticised Edward Norton and New Line Cinema boss Michael De Luca. Naturally, this succeeded in only alienating the debut director.
His difficult, strange behaviour has shown little sign of changing in the ensuing years. In 2001, he offended Marlon Brando when he turned up on set dressed as Osama bin Laden just weeks after 9/11. During the production of Black Water Transit, Kaye again fell out with the producers, who deemed the film ‘unreleasable’.
Detachment managed to reach theatres, but Bryan Cranston tactfully described Kaye as a ‘very complicated, interesting fellow’, adding that ‘I don’t believe that I’ll be working with him again.’ Alas, it seems that Tony Kaye is just too difficult to work with.
9. Patty Jenkins
In 2003, Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, a biopic of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. It is a mature film that presents a multi-faceted portrait of a desperately damaged woman whose life was a litany of abuse and misery.
While there may be some empathy in Jenkins’s treatment of the story, she certainly does not seek to apologize for her crimes, which ranged from self-defense to murder of the most cold-blooded variety.
Unfortunately, Jenkins has worked on seven episodes of television and one TV movie in the 12 years since her impressive debut. However, her latest project is Wonder Woman, which is likely to bring big box office returns. This may give her the opportunity to work on more character driven dramas.
10. Jonathan Glazer
Jonathan Glazer is another music and advert director whose feature film credits remain regrettably limited. Sexy Beast, his 2000 debut, has been recognised as one of the best British films in recent memory. It took the hackneyed ‘one last job’ premise and absolutely revitalized it with stunningly creative visuals, an intensely unhinged performance by Ben Kingsley and a sympathetic lead performance by Ray Winstone, who is surrounded by danger in the taut, gripping story.
For his next two projects, Glazer exchanged the potent energy of Sexy Beast with a rather more sedate, ‘high-brow’ style with Birth (2004), which was met with negative, rather bemused reviews, and Under The Skin (2014), a brooding sci-fi critical hit with Scarlett Johansson.
Some may think his latest cult offering is a step in the right direction, but Glazer needs to reteam with Sexy Beast writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who have also worked on the similarly visceral, dialogue driven crime films Gangster No. 1 and 44 Inch Chest.
Author Bio: Jack Hawkins is a film and history writer from the United Kingdom. He likes cinematic realism, New Hollywood and boring, black and white documentaries about wars. Follow him on Twitter: @hawkensian.