7. Man Bites Dog (Remy Belvaux; Andre Bonzel; Benoit Poelvoorde, 1992)
Found Footage wasn’t much of a genre until the impact caused back in 1999 by The Blair Witch Project (though certainly preceded by Cannibal Holocaust). However Belgian crime thriller Man Bites Dog was filmed in a complete mockumentary style back in 1992.
Trying to act as the personal diary for serial killer Ben, we follow him and his exploits. A twisted, witty sense of humor with some pretentious poetry totally disjoints the traditional narrative and visual impression of a crime film. The film is shot in stark black and white which also adds to the noirish atmosphere overall.
Make no mistakes when watching this one, this film can be very disturbing and violent, as well as it is hilarious. It is a satirical view on media’s obsession with violence and killers. Featuring bleak humor and satire, blended with almost surrealistic imagery, this is a film you won’t want to miss!
6. Performance (Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, 1970)
Cammell and Roeg’s british counterculture crime drama is easily one of the most bizarre and weird films committed to the screen, period. Starring Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones fame as a reclusive, hippie rock star and James Fox as Chas, a vicious, cold gangster, the duo work astoundingly. After Chas kills his former mate Joey Maddocks (Anthony Valentine) who is also an associate partner within his boss criminal organization, he is forced to change his identity in order to escape the country.
Taking refugee on a colorfully basement, things start getting weirder and weirder once he meets Turner (Jagger). Here a complex case of identity and sexuality collide and at certain points it feels like someone slipped an acid tab on your drink without you noticing it at any point.
Filled with some musical acts, experimental filming techniques and sounds, and psychedelic imagery, Performance is indeed that… a one of a kind performance, truly bizarre and offbeat. A very unconventional and artsy psychological crime.
5. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013)
Refn mostly portrays criminals in his work, but his past efforts (featuring Ryan Gosling in similar, brutal characters modeled after Delon’s Jef Costello) are exercises in both narrative and style, all within the criminal setting. Soaked in neon-drenched cinematography, slow pacing and graphic depictions of violence, Only God Forgives takes us to Bangkok and we can feel as if we are there breathing the same gritty air the characters.
Add on top to this surrealistic dreamlike scenes that symbolize much more than they appear, and you’ve got not-your-so-average thriller. Gosling plays Julian, who’s brother Billy after raping and murdering a young prostitute, gets killed by her own father. But underneath it all lies Lt. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) and his crusade to bring down Julian’s criminal organization.
While many modern action films attempt this arthouse feel to them, few have achieved it so masterfully. Very interesting imagery and tale of revenge, with a whole new twist to it.
4. Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)
Possibly the most known of the artsy crime film genre, this neo-noir follows Walker (Lee Marvin) that after a setup on an Alcatraz job decides to look up for his former partner Mal Reese (John Vernon) in search for his 93,000 dollars for the job.
This leads him to confronting “The Organization”, a powerful collective of criminals that even includes member of the CIA. The films fractured narrative offers a dream logic plot, recurring to a theme of time and mortality. Intelligent use of settings and locations provide the film a colorful vision, fusing melodrama and film noir conventions.
The film confused many, with its highly stylized European influences and avant techniques, but with the time has proven to be one of the best modern film noirs to come out. John Boorman’s film is vastly impressive and thrilling, providing another side of American film making towards the end of the 60’s. A formal blend of expressionism, noir and psychedelia.
3. Cutter’s Way (Ivan Passer, 1981)
This forgotten gem and well underrated film from Czech director Ivan Passer is simply a perfect crime film. The way it builds in complete atmosphere towards the action, the convincing acting (specially by John Heard as Alex Cutter, a handicapped war vet, steals the show) and its emotional look at nihilistic lives and American desolation, has made it one of the meaner melodramas out there. Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) witness a man dumping a corpse in a dumpster.
When he becomes the prime suspect this leads to him and Alex in search of the real killer, who seems to be J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliott) an important local figure. Blackmail, arson and betrayal all lead up to the grand finale which leaves a feeling of emptiness long after you watch it.
2. L’argent (Robert Bresson, 1983)
Some films attempt to portray or explain why a criminal is a what he is. Why he opts for a life of crime and immoral behavior. Few like is it the case of L’argent, which first appeared in 1983. This French film, followed Bresson’s minimalist style first introduced in Pickpocket, but here was mastered to perfection. The camera follows in a voyeuristic way Yvon and his descent into a criminal life.
This film is a Marxist outlook on society and capitalism without a doubt, choosing a political interpretation on why the individual decides to go for the “easy way”. After a wrong accusation lands him on prison, Yvon turns into helping a doomed robbery, which lands him again in prison. We see his evolution from average working class member to delinquent.
An emotional striking, sad melodrama. It is as human as nothing else, cynically existential, bordering almost on the brink of pure misanthropy and nihilism. As the film advances you feel like if you were watching a horror film more than anything at all. It’s hard to like a film so cold, but is it in the correct hands of Robert Bresson that this piece seduces its viewer into one of the most noirish, non film noir films committed to celluloid. A beautiful, sad film.
1. Suzhou River (Lou Ye, 2000)
An epic, romantic love story from China. Part tragic love story, part thriller in a Hitchcockian fashion, this film heavily explores the life or isolated persons in China, as well as both urban and moral decay. Choices and consequences are explored in typical noir fashion, with devastating results.
This film not only combines a gritty urban side of China, but also adds the melancholy of film noir with a stylish, artistic narrative, that never reveals the narrator’s face. These first person points of view are so well done its never distracting from what is going on actually. Romantically intense, unlike any film you’ve seen before, Suzhou River is a crime film without the intention of being one, revealing human traits and a complex, darker side of love relationships.
Author Bio: Born in 1994, Danny Rodriguez has been devoted to art (specially cinema) since he was 6 or 7 years old. As you can see his focus is film noir and crime films, other genres he watches typically are horror, surrealist and cyberpunk films.