Not all crime movies enjoy a passionate fan base. There are numerous of crime films that are either neglected or criminally underappreciated. Some of them are still unsung masterpieces deserving more love and attention. Here is a list of 10 hidden gems of the crime genre.
10. The Border (1982)
Directed by Tony Richardson, “The Border” is an underrated crime movie about police corruption, human trafficking and illegal immigration. The film also deals with controversial themes such as drug smuggling, prostitution and poverty.
The film follows the story of a border patrol officer Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) who moves to a desert duplex in El Paso, Texas, along with his materialistic wife Marcy (Valerie Perrine). On the other side of the duplex lives Cat (Harvey Keitel) who is married to Savannah (Shannon Wilcox).
Cat is a corrupted border patrol agent who runs a human smuggling operation. At first Charlie turns down Cat’s offer to take part in these illegal activities, but his wife makes him finally accept his offer. When Charlie meets a young Mexican mother, Maria (Elpidia Carrillo), everything goes out of hand. Charlie is determined not only to help Maria find her missing baby, but also to put an end to Cat’s illegal operation.
It is quite obvious that “The Border” stands out as a realistic depiction of a dark and corrupted world. This is a tense crime movie quite similar to Sam Peckinpah’s cult classic “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”.
On the other hand, Jack Nicholson shines as Charlie Smith, whereas Harvey Keitel is also great. In addition, Warren Oates delivers a sensational performance in a guest role.
All in all, “The Border” is a suspenseful crime movie with powerful performances and great editing. It will definately be a pleasant surprise for those who enjoy cult cinema.
9. Les Valseuses (1974)
“Les Valseuses” (aka “Going Places”) is one of the most controversial films of the French cinema. It is not only an unsettling crime movie with disturbing scenes that are designated to shock, but also a black comedy about social hypocrisy and conservatism. This is undoubtedly a social critique towards the bourgeois lifestyle, morality and social injustice. However, this cynic comedy deals with controversial themes such as anarchism and misogyny.
The film follows the adventures of two driftless young men, Jean-Claude (Gérard Depardieu) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere), as they wander around France molesting women and committing numerous petty crimes. When the get into trouble after stealing a car, they kidnap a young apathetic hairdresser, Marie-Ange (Miou-Miou), who eventually joins their gang. Their aimless life changes when they meet a passionate middle aged woman Jeanne Pirolle (Jeanne Moreau), who has just been released from prison.
It goes without saying that Bertrand Blier has managed to create one of the most shocking pictures of French cinema. “Les Valseuses” stands out as a subtle commentary of social conformity, religion and capitalism.
On the other hand, the magnificent performance by Gérard Depardieu, the great film score by Stéphame Grappelli and the exceptional direction create a tense atmosphere.
“Les Valseuses” is not only a unique crime movie with powerful performances, but also a triumph of the French cinema of 1970s. A brutally disturbing film that will stay with you for a long time.
8. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1975)
Based on Heinrich Böll’s novel, “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, or: How violence develops and where it can lead” (extended title) is an existential crime movie about a tragic character. This emotionally demanding film stands out not only as a reflection of the political struggle in 1970s in West Germany, but also as a realistic portrait of media abuse.
Directed by Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta, the film tells the story of Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler), an innocent woman that is falsely accused of being a terrorist. Her life is ruined when she falls in love with Ludwig, a young man who turns out to be a fugitive bank robber involved in terrorist activities. Katharina is not only arrested as a potential associate, but also falsely accused of being a terrorist herself by a ruthless tabloid reporter called Tötges. She has to fight against the trashy tabloid that are fabricating fake stories, but also to prove her innocence.
Following the consequences of the World War II, the film explores the cold and claustrophobic world of the divided Germany. It is a Kafkaesque thriller that questions the morality of journalism ethics as well as the value of human rights.
To sum up, “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum” is a compelling story with great cinematography, great performances and philosophical subtexture.
7. The Hit (1984)
“The Hit” is a Stephen Fears’ crime movie starring Terence Stamp, Tim Roth and John Hurt. This hidden jewel is not only one of the most underrated flicks of the British cult cinema, but also one of the best road movies of all time. It is an existential drama with sensational performances and a great soundtrack composed by Eric Clapton and Roger Waters.
To be more specific, the film follows the story of the gangster Willie Parker (Terence Stamp) who has testified in court against some of his criminal accomplices in exchange for personal immunity. Ten years later, Willie Parker lives under protection in a small house in the countryside of south Spain.
When the gang leader is released from prison, he hires two hitmen, Braddick (John Hurt) and his young partner Myron (Tim Roth), to kidnap and bring Parker to France where he will be executed. Braddick is a professional hitman who doesn’t like small talk whereas Myron is a short-tempered young man. The three of them embark on a bloody road adventure, where they have to deal with unforeseen threats.
However, “The Hit” is also an existential road movie that deals with philosophical themes such as nihilism, absurdism and despair. This is a story of a tragic character who has accepted the fact that he will be executed, as well as a spiritual journey through the dark side of the human soul.
Overall, Stephen Fears has managed to create one of the best road movies of all time. A criminally underappreciated crime film that is now ripe for rediscovery.
6. The Anderson Tapes (1971)
“The Anderson Tapes” is probably one of the most underrated movies of Sidney Lumet’s filmography. It not only features a spellbinding performance by the legendary Sean Connery, but is also the cinematic debut of another great star Christopher Walken. This neo-noir was based on the novel of the same by the American novelist Lawrence Sanders.
Set in a world of pervasive surveillance this tense thriller follows the story of Duke Anderson, a professional thief who has just been released after serving ten years in prison. When he visits his old girlfriend Ingrid (Dyan Cannon), who lives in an upscale apartment block in New York, he decides to rob all six apartments in the building. So, he assembles a crew of some other great con artists with the financial help of a mafia boss. Duke has to not only find the perfect way to rob the entire building, but also deal with the federal agents, private detectives and the police.
Although it is a suspenseful heist-movie, the film also deals with controversial themes such as mass surveillance and violation of privacy. It not only depicts that government surveillance could be a major threat to human rights, but also the negative effects of advanced technology. Thus, this overlooked gem bears a strong resemblance to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation”.
Taking everything into account, “The Anderson Tapes” is a neglected gem of Lumet’s filmography that deserves more love and attention.