5. Go (1999)
Speaking of directors with unpredictable careers, Doug Liman fits here as well. He started with “Swingers”, so who knew he’ll end up directing things like “Edge of Tomorrow”, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” or will go to space with Tom Cruise. No matter what he does, his films are often entertaining. At least, most of the time. “Go” is one of his best.
When Tarantino hit it big with “Pulp Fiction”, there were lots of Tarantino-ish films coming out in the 90s. Offbeat humor, off-topic dialogues, eccentric characters, changing point of view, non-linear story, and so on. The critics usually loved to bash these movies as “just another copy” and moved on but when you look at some of them in perspective, most of those were actually fun. In the case of “Go”, they surprisingly loved it. Many critics praised its sharp dialogue, its cinematography, and the cast (especially Sarah Polley and William Fichtner).
It didn’t do that well at the box office but it’s now the time to give this film the recognition it deserves and admit that it’s not “Lesser Pulp Fiction” or whatever because there’s no comparison needed. It’s an original, witty, consistently engaging film that stands well on its own. The plot is so rich that one could’ve made three different films out of it but Liman balances all the stories really well that it never gets messy.
4. Cash on Demand (1961)
As a manager, Harry Fordyce runs his bank efficiently, but without heart. He is a cold man who distances himself from his employees. Two days before Christmas, a bogus insurance investigator Gore Hepburn arrives unexpectedly to check the bank’s security measures. He in fact, brazenly conducts a con trick on a bank, making Fordyce believe that his family has been kidnapped. Now, this is a brilliant film with a seemingly straightforward, simple plot that works because of complex characters and excellent direction. Almost the entire film sets in a bank to optimize its budget the film used a limited number of sets but you don’t keep forgetting that it’s set on a snowy day.
Peter Cushing plays against type as a lonely bank manager and gives one of his best performances. André Morell’s performance is also equally great and the two actors have a great rapport throughout the movie. The film turns into a fascinating cat-and-mouse game with twists and turns. You keep wondering what will happen to these two characters in the end. Truly a gem of a film that has been forgotten through time, unfortunately.
3. Wind River (2017)
For regular film-watchers, this is not something underrated but it deserved more popularity among general audiences. “Wind River” is an old-school entertainment that somehow manages to explore complex themes like loss, grief, the systematic disenfranchisement of Native Americans, respect, and many other themes in a compelling way that won’t bore the audience. They don’t feel like you’re being lectured into something. Taylor Sheridan-scripted films like “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” had been cinephile favorites. Then seemingly he found bigger audiences on television with his show “Yellowstone” and its spin-offs, as well as the recent “Tulsa King”. However, one wish the big audiences of these shows would also seen this movie, his directorial debut at the theatres.
It did fine at the box office but could’ve done better, probably if it was promoted as an awards film and released in festivals it might have had a bigger buzz. Who knows if it was a good idea to release this in summer also. Despite featuring brilliant performances by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, the film went mostly unnoticed by awards bodies as well. This is a smartly written, thought-provoking film that surely would satisfy most crime drama and mystery fans.
2. Transsiberian (2008)
Brad Anderson is always solid but rarely gets any recognition and this one was sadly, a box office flop. Even his arguably most famous film “The Machinist” is more remembered for Christian Bale’s weight loss these days which film-related social media pages never get enough of sharing it. Anderson started with two (also underrated) romantic comedies but then he switched to making mostly horror and thriller films. “Transsiberian” is a wonderful mix of crime, mystery, action, thriller, and psychological drama set in a wintry landscape, which after a slow start turns into a wild exploitation roller coaster ride.
This movie was partly inspired by Anderson’s youth when he rode the Transsiberian Express and even though Lithuania stood in for Siberia, the movie somehow strangely feels authentic. What works in the film is that Anderson just keeps delivering the twists non-stop and the plot revelations are intriguing. We never get bored and the characters remain interesting throughout the entire film. There are also clear influences of the “danger on a train” classics of the past times which works for its favour. All in all, it’s just an entertaining ride and sure to please anyone who’s looking for a snowy atmosphere.
1. Affliction (1997)
It’s hard to believe “First Reformed” was Paul Schrader’s first Oscar nomination. He was not nominated for writing “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” or directing “Mishima”. The only time he came close to it was “Affliction” which won several critics awards and in the end, was nominated for two Oscars: Best Actor (Nick Nolte, should’ve won) and Best Supporting Actor (James Coburn, won) but Schrader’s excellent script and direction didn’t get any nomination. That’s a shame because it’s one of his best films.
Based on a novel by Russell Banks, the film is described as being about “male violence” by Schrader himself, “The kind that is born in the blood and bred in the bond and passed down from the father to son and about a man who’s trying to escape the shadow of that violence”. That man is a small-town cop, played brilliantly by Nick Nolte who’s somewhat obsessed with a hunting accident that he thinks was a murder.
As you can expect from Schrader, the characters are all well-realized and complex which turns the film into a very compelling character study on violence, rage, redemption, abuse, and family curse. There are also wonderful supporting turns from Sissy Spacek, Willem Dafoe, and Mary Beth Hurt. Now that he introduced himself to newer generations of film fans with “First Reformed”, hope there’ll be more and more people to check out this brilliant film.