10 Great 2000s American Movie Classics You Probably Haven’t Seen

6. Hunted (2003)

The Hunted (2003)

Hunted brings together two of the most distinctive and influential actors of our time, Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro. The idea alone of teaming these two performers is drool-worthy enough for film buffs, but adding the fact that the film was directed by William Friedkin, and it’s safe to say it was destined for greatness. Exciting, speedily paced, and as tense as can be, Jones is at his most intense as former combat instructor L.T. Bonham, hot on the heels of renegade U.S. army sergeant Aaron Hallam (Del Toro), who is on the run after killing two deer hunters in Oregon. As Hallam goes further off the edge of sanity, the chase becomes more urgent, with Bonham always trying to get one step ahead of the wanted man.

Directed with style by Friedkin, who adopts a similarly shaky approach to the film as he did with The French Connection, he keeps the plot moving and the performances tight as the action comes thick and fast. There is a realness here that makes the film much better than your average thriller, because you genuinely believe what you are seeing and accept 100 percent that Jones and Del Toro could actually perform the often very violent tasks they act out. On that note, the two stars are phenomenally good and make the whole thing more authentic. A box office flop at the time, some 21 years later one can see that The Hunted is one of the finest and most electrifying chase thrillers of the 21st century.


7. Factotum (2005)

Of all the films based on the works of Charles Bukowski, America’s greatest sleaze poet, the best of them all might just be Bent Hammer’s excellent adaptation of Factotum (2005). In this gritty, highly watchable, and rather dark drama, Matt Dillon plays Bukowski’s alter ego, Henry Chinaski, a heavy drinking down-and-outer who drifts from woman to woman, from job to job, never really committing himself to anything other than his thirst for alcohol.

Though Dillon might not have been the first actor you’d think of when imagining the perfect man to play Hank on screen, he is perfect. He adopts the slouch, the physicality, the slow drawl, the manners, the “don’t give a damn” attitude. While Mickey Rourke arguably made Bukowski too arrogant in 1987’s Barfly, Dillon gets the balance just right. Eerily so, he becomes Hank.

Factotum feels 100 percent Bukowski-esque, soaked in booze and sex as it is, and more than any other film brings to cinematic life the paradoxical dark joy of reading classic Bukowski. Seek it out and you will be rewarded.


8. Under Suspicion (2000)

Before he bowed out, gracefully I might add, gene Hackman appeared in some of the sharpest and most enjoyable movies of his whole career. Something of an underrated gem in my opinion, Under Suspicion, a 2000 remake of the 1981 French movie Garde a vue (itself from John Wainwright’s novel Brainwash), doesn’t always get the credit its due. Directed by Stephen Hopkins, and produced by the film’s two main stars, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, this imaginatively edited, brilliantly scripted drama-thriller manages to grab a hold of you from the first few seconds and not let go for the next 100 or so minutes.

The plot concerns Henry Hearst (Hackman), a well known tax attorney on his way to a San Juan charity event where he is about to give a speech. A day earlier he found the dead body of a 12 year old girl in a woodland when out running, but as his story conflicted with other reports, Captain Benezet (Freeman) has decided to call him in for questioning. Humiliated, Hearst puts up with the hard questioning at the police station, as more details about his life and the murders are revealed.

Things get clearer and the case begins to slowly unravel, most of it happening in the station – though Hearst is briefly allowed to go to the charity event to give his speech before returning for questioning. We learn of his love of photography, his penchant for prostitutes, his fascination with “young” girls and his somewhat troubled marriage to the glamorous Chantal (Monica Bellucci). As the plot thickens though, only at the very end do we realise that not all is as it seems, and that Hearst may be more trustworthy (and, in some respects, betrayed) than we first thought.

Scripted like a play, this up close and personal character study has you on the edge of your seat. The script is sharp and focused, while Hopkins’ direction keeps things tense. Had he adopted a flatter style, the running time may have dragged, but with clever editing and angle choices, it stays imaginatively gripping.

As good as the writing and direction are though, it is the performances which make this film. Freeman is just brilliant as the no-nonsense ageing cop, whose own persona life, as is revealed, is hardly perfect either. But Hackman’s work is on another level, a total character study that he pulls off in every aspect.

A flop at the time of release, and also victim to a critical mauling, Under Suspicion is a unique viewing experience well worth your time.


9. When a Man Falls in the Forest (2007)

Many know Sharon Stone for her larger than life sex bomb performances in such films as Basic Instinct and Sliver, or her Oscar nominated turn in Casino. That said, she has excelled in all manner of genres and role types. One of the most unfairly buried Sharon Stone films – and featuring a stellar Stone performance – from the 21st century is When A Man Falls in the Forest, a quietly moving, darkly funny, and hugely involving drama about four people sleepwalking through life in their own various ways.

So low key and controlled it takes some tuning into, Stone is excellent as Karen, an unhappily married woman in a loveless marriage to Gary (Timothy Hutton), who resorts to some very unusual behaviour for her thrills. While I believe some reviewers have missed the point about this drama – in a nutshell a story about people wasting their lives and precious time – had it been a French production actually in French it would have been seen as a brave, introspective, even existentialist little gem. It’s perhaps among the ten most impressive Stone performances, simply because she disappears into the part and we struggle to find anything of the Stone of all those familiar movies.

Utterly essential for real fans of Sharon Stone, it’s also a thought provoking, moving and affecting drama in its own right.


10. City of Ghosts (2002)

2002 saw the release of City of Ghosts, actor Matt Dillon’s first directorial picture, in which he also starred. There is a certain perverse appeal about watching a movie where you know that any of the main characters could be murdered any minute, that anything could happen and turn up around the corner.

Further satisfying is when the film in question is set in a place that is not so much exotic, but dangerous, even lawless. The heat is high, the sweat pours, suspicious eyes look deviously from every corner, and if you put something on the table of the seedy bar you happen to be in, and look away for a matter of seconds, it will most likely be gone when you turn back. The kind of movie set in a place where you could be shot dead and not exactly know why. City of Ghosts is such a film.

Like Oliver Stone’s Salvador, with which it shares a mood and feel, at times at least, it’s a film where our central figure, played by Dillon himself, has found himself to be a stranger in a strange land. He’s a man who dove into the deep end hoping to answer a mystery, but after a short period realises there are countless more mysteries to be found, and that he just might be out of his depth.

The man, whose journey has become a kind of fatal quest, goes out looking for the one great paternal figure in his life, the only father he has ever known. It is here that his search becomes an existential trip into the unknown. He could walk away at any minute, but he chooses to stay to see the enigmas reveal themselves That’s where City of Ghosts begins, in a sense. Within minutes of his arrival in the strange land in question, we get just as pulled in as Dillon’s character does.

City of Ghosts is very much Matt Dillon’s movie. Not only did he co-write it with Barry Gifford, he also directed and bravely took on the lead role, heading out to Cambodia on the most wild and often frightening journey. It was very much an adventure for Dillon and everyone who agreed to help him bring this most intense and intriguing of tales to life. Sadly the film was not a success, and Dillon hasn’t directed a feature since. Thankfully widely available on DVD, City of Ghosts is essential viewing, very much a unique film with its own style and atmosphere. The cast are great too, from James Caan’s mysterious turn to Gerard Depardieu’s outrageous performance as the owner of the local bar.