7. Copycat (1995)
Sometimes a more popular, more acclaimed film gets released at the same season with another similar themed film and the people just ignore the other one. “Stir of Echoes”, for example, a great supernatural thriller starring Kevin Bacon didn’t get enough of attention because everybody was busy with talking about “The Sixth Sense”. “Copycat” had the same fate as it got released in the same year with “Se7en”, a much more acclaimed and beloved, stronger thriller.
Through the years, “Copycat” has found itself some audience but not enough. Shame because it’s a satisfyingly tense film. Having barely escaped death at the hands of a psycho, criminal psychologist Helen Hudson (always amazing Sigourney Weaver) has become an agoraphobic wreck, afraid to leave her apartment. But a serial killer – who just “copycats” the other killers from the past – starts to terrorize the city and a homicide detective (one and only Holly Hunter) thinks only Hudson can help them.
6. The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
Maybe we should put “Homicide” (1991) here, arguably David Mamet’s best directorial work but “The Spanish Prisoner” is probably even more underrated than that one. Mamet’s strength had always been in mostly his dialogues and scripts in general rather than directorial skills. “The Spanish Prisoner” is not among the exceptions but its complex, intelligently written script is more than enough to make it an impressive work of art.
You can say it’s bit of an homage to the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Joe Ross (Campbell Scott, well-cast) has designed a process that will make his company millions but one day he meets a wealthy stranger Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin in one of his non-comedic roles) and things will just start to go to unexpected places. If you enjoy smartly written con films, and some surprising twists in your thriller, then “The Spanish Prisoner” is a must-see.
5. The Comfort of Strangers (1990)
“My father was a very big man. And all his life he wore a black mustache. When it was no longer black, he used a small brush, such as ladies use for their eyes. Mascara.” When you’ll see the film these lines delivered by Chris Walken will always stay with you.
In this atmospheric, “Don’t Look Now”-inspired Venice setting haunting thriller, Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett are an English couple on holiday. One night, they meet with a charismatic American stranger (Walken) and soon later, his wife (Helen Mirren).
First they seem nice at first but soon things get dark. So dark that Chris Walken, who has played many creeps and villains, has stated that it was the only character he felt genuinely uncomfortable while playing and was glad when the filming was finally over.
The theme of sexual obsession and gender disorders is something Paul Schrader explored in his films before and here he does it again with his unique vision even if he didn’t write as it’s based on a novel by Ian McEwan. Angelo Badalementi’s score is also among highlights.
4. Suicide Kings (1997)
If we’re talking about Christopher Walken, it’d be a crime to ignore “Suicide Kings”. After the success of “Pulp Fiction” (which also features Walken!), independent cinema and major studios started to produce a lot of Tarantino style crime comedies. “Thursday”, “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” etc. the list is long.
“Suicide Kings” is one of the best ones of that category. Former gangster Charlie Barrett (Walken) meets with group of youngsters in a bistro. Charmed by these young men, he takes a ride with them but they suddenly knock him out. When Charlie wakes up, he finds out that one of his fingers is missing (his reaction to it is Oscar-worthy). But what do these young men want?
It’s a film with thrills, some dramatic depth, and a lot of black humour. Sounds like a good combination, isn’t it? And now add Christopher Walken’s brilliant performance here as well. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes he’s charming, sometimes he’s scary but whatever he does, he does it in a fascinating way. Denis Leary has a very fun supporting character as well but he knows how to get serious also, especially in the film’s most memorable “toaster” scene.
3. Extreme Measures (1996)
Hugh Grant and Gene Hackman makes a surprisingly great duo in this thriller about a doctor who realizes that some records and even the bodies of some patients mysteriously disappear. Medical thrillers are so rare these days. Just recently we got a terrible new remake of “Flatliners” which did nothing to add something to the original.
“Extreme Measures” is an underrated gem from the 90s, would likely to impress those who enjoyed films like “Coma” (1978) and loves when their films ask questions about ethical dilemma and gives each sides of certain argument to explain their points.
The film didn’t do well at the box office, probably for two reasons. First of all, the promotion was terrible. They basically spoiled the ending in the trailer. Secondly, the mainstream audience loved Hugh Grant for his “Four Weddings” role and wanted to see him in romantic comedies more (yeah they actually did prefer “Nine Months” over “An Awfully Big Adventure” or “Restoration”), even if not, at least he had to play some shy, gentle guy to please them (“Sense and Sensibility”).
So they didn’t bother to watch him here in a thriller where he doesn’t go full action hero (though given his role in “The Man From UNCLE”, he seems to have it in himself as well), but rather plays his character as an ordinary man who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. Shame because it’s a very solid, entertaining ride.
2. Breakdown (1997)
Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan are married couple moving from Massachusets to San Diego but suddenly their car breaks down on a vacant road… and then she disappears. Kurt Russell had always been a reliable movie star, he always had that compelling screen presence and no wonder John Carpenter often casted him in his movies. He knows how to be a part of the suspense and what to do to make his audience relate to him.
Breakdown is not as paranoid as “The Thing” as it takes a slightly different turn from the middle of the film but it never stops being entertaining. It’s unpredictable, full of some expected twists and some action sequences, and as already mentioned, very fine acting.
Even though the plot may remind you of the Dutch film “The Vanishing” (which also has a Hollywood remake with Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock but less gritty, less violent kind with a different ending), they’re not similar much as the film is not interested to go deep down the psychology or disturb its audience much. It’s main goal is to entertain and it does its job perfectly.
1. The Last Seduction (1994)
Did you ever think of who was the cruelest female character you had seen in a movie? Or the best femme fatale character? If you had seen “The Last Seduction”, then Linda Fiorentino must be in your Top 3. Fiorentino gives a sharp performance in this amoral mix of black comedy, thriller and neo-noir, portraying a ruthless lead character which is just fascinating to watch.
John Dahl has made some great neo-noirs (Red Rock West is particularly notable one) but “The Last Seduction” may very well be his best work, mostly because of what a great central character it has.
The script is also very witty and cleverly written and the result is deliciously entertaining thriller. It’s impossible to not miss Fiorentino’s screen presence in movies, who’s seemingly retired from acting. Linda got a BAFTA nomination and won NYFCC award for her performance here but was denied an Academy Award nomination because it came out on TV before a theatrical release.