10 Underappreciated Recent Thrillers Worth Your Time
The trouble with living in a world where everything is about now is that nothing gets a second chance. If one huge-scale action movie disappoints the audience, everyone shrugs and prepares for the next one the following week.
There is, as we all know, no “best” of anything and time is the only critic whose opinion matters. Some movies that disappoint on their initial viewing may, if given the chance, become future favourites, while movies that stunned in their day become clunkier as time goes by.
Who would’ve thought that a movie like Big Trouble In Little China, which didn’t even crack the US top ten on its original release, would enjoy an afterlife (and a mooted remake starring Dwayne Johnson) while Top Gun, the same year’s biggest hit, becomes campier with each viewing?
In the name of posterity, every movie needs to be given an even break. Well, maybe not The Hitcher remake. That was a soulless abomination whose name shall not be spoken above a whisper for the love of God. The offer is good only for movies not produced by Michael Bay.
Here are ten to consider.
10. Wild Card
Based on a novel by William Goldman, 1987’s Heat stars Burt Reynolds (then entering his post-Cannonball Run career slump) as an ex-mercenary who hires himself out as a bodyguard/chaperone in Las Vegas. Complications ensue when he encounters the son of a mobster and a businessman who wants to learn how to defend himself.
Reuniting Jason Statham with director Simon West (The Mechanic, Expendables 2), Wild Card gives the actor a change of pace and allows him to play a character instead of a growling thug who throws people through walls. This is a low key drama that’s closer to Hummingbird than Crank, but The Stath is so good in a rare (for him) non-growling role that you wish he’d do straight drama more often.
Better paced and more entertaining than the original (a troubled production where Reynolds fell out with the director), Wild Card won’t rock your world but it’s still a solid movie. Throw in a decent supporting cast that includes Stanley Tucci and Sophia Vergara, and you’ve got a movie that’s well worth a look.
Rogue is Greg McLean’s follow-up to Wolf Creek and if you’ve never heard of it, that’s because Dimension Films released the movie in 10 cinemas before consigning it to DVD.
It’s hard to fathom their lack of faith in the film because not only is there a solid cast of up and coming Australian actors, including Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell and Mia Wasikowska, but it’s also a decent creature feature in its own right. There’s the usual group of tourists stranded on an island with the tide rising and darkness creeping in, but the arrival of an enormous crocodile rules out swimming to safety.
Perhaps Dimension were mindful of The Asylum’s cheap creature features and figured people wouldn’t pay to see something they could watch on television for free, but whatever their reasoning, they passed up a good movie.
8. Assault On Wall Street
You can say this for Uwe Boll: he’s never shied away from controversy, and he’ll always speak his mind. Assault On Wall Street is his reaction to the global financial meltdown, and it’s about as subtle as you’d expect, a revenge fantasy along the lines of Boll’s earlier Rampage.
When Jim Baxford (Dominic Purcell) has everything taken away from him by the crash, he transforms into a well-armed vigilante and starts assaulting banks with all guns blazing. The movie even ends with a very Frank Castle-ish final speech: “I promise that I will keep killing. They should all know that I am out there, a soldier of the people….and if the government, the prosecutors and the judges fail in their duties, I will not fail in mine.”
He doesn’t say “They will call me….The Punisher!”, but that’s all that’s missing from this cartoonish tale, where good and evil are clearly delineated and the film’s direction is never in any doubt.
7. Knock Knock
Starring Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp, 1977’s Death Game is your typical home invasion thriller where two young girls seduce and torture a businessman while his wife and daughter are on a trip. Both actors felt the movie was a missed opportunity and touted the idea of a remake, hence their executive producer credits on Knock Knock.
Better shot, paced and directed, this version was directed by Eli Roth, who gets his first A-list leading man with Keanu Reeves. Cast against type as the helpless, hapless businessman, Keanu spends a portion of the film either tied up or otherwise immobilized, but a word of warning to anyone expecting him to break free and deliver some John Wick-style revenge: this is not that kind of movie.
The combination of Eli Roth and a dull 70s thriller most viewers will have never heard of probably sounds like a turn off, but this is Roth’s most atypical film to date as well as one of his most tightly controlled. It’s essentially the Roth film for anyone who hated Hostel and The Green Inferno, lighter on the gore and nudity (and stupidity) than you’d expect from this director.
6. The Belko Experiment
Anyone who accuses James Gunn of having “sold out” by hopping on the superhero bandwagon will have their faith restored by The Belko Experiment. Even though Gunn brought in Greg McLean to direct his script, he produced the movie and it’s got his fingerprints all over it, from the tongue-in-cheek soundtrack to the casting of his regulars (Michael Rooker, Greg Henry etc).
This is A Good Thing because even though Gunn didn’t direct, it’s easily in the same league Slither and Super. The plot involves 80 employees being locked in their corporate office building and urged to kill their colleagues by a voice on the company’s intercom, but you can put the likes of Saw 3D and 31 from your mind. The Belko Experiment is less grim and more energetic, and all of the humour is intentional.
Unlike, say, Frank Darabont’s The Mist, this is less a thoughtful study of hysteria and more of a good old-fashioned bloody romp, with exploding heads and faces being bashed in every few moments once it gets rolling. The finale isn’t all that surprising, but the build-up to it makes The Belko Experiment worthwhile.
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