by Cale Johnson
With so many entertainment options all around us these days, it can become an overwhelming task sorting through the never-ending flow of content constantly being thrown your way. High movie prices limiting your theater-going experiences or the lack of a widespread theater release for a film can contribute to several quality movies, which may not have received much initial fanfare, slip through your fingers. Here are a few of my favorite films from the past ten years which you might have missed. Don’t pass them up a second time.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
One of my favorite movies from the last ten years that nobody saw, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a clever, funny, and smart pulp detective mystery/dark comedy about a murder in the Hollywood hills. On the cusp of his career resurgence due to Ironman, Robert Downey Jr. stars as Harry Lockhart a fast talking petty thief masquerading as an actor. Paired with him is Val Kilmer as a tough homosexual private detective, known by his friends as ‘Gay’ Perry, who is charged with the task of training Harry how to be a detective for an upcoming film role. After witnessing a murder together during a routine stakeout, the bodies begin to pile up around them as they delve deeper into the case to find who is responsible and clear their names. This film made me an instant RDJ fan, who thoroughly enjoys himself onscreen as he spouts off hilarious offbeat narration directly to the audience throughout the film. Check this one out. You’ll wonder how you let it escape you for so long.
Movie Melting Pot: Lethal Weapon meets The Big Lebowski
Visually intriguing and brutally shocking, Running Scared hits the accelerator in the opening scene and doesn’t let off until the final credits begin to roll. Mid-level mob hand Joey (Paul Walker) is thrown into a frantic night of hunting for a lost ‘hot’ pistol he was ordered to dispose of for his mob boss, taken by a neighborhood boy named Olaf. Presented as a twisted modern day version of Alice in Wonderland set in the urban decay and filth of society, the film chronicles the Olaf’s perilous journey past increasingly depraved characters and blood soaked events while Joey races to find the weapon which could bring an entire criminal organization down before the mob or police can. This film just keeps going further and further down the rabbit hole until you can’t believe what you’re seeing on the screen. Buckle up for the ride.
Movie Melting Pot: Alice in Wonderland meets A Clockwork Orange
In the role that eventually earned him the title of James Bond, Daniel Craig stars as Mr. X, a successful London cocaine dealer on the verge of retirement. He just has one final job before he can walk away: find a buyer for 1 million hits of ecstasy which have been stolen from a ruthless group of Serbian drug lords. With hit men threatening his head if he sells, and a London crime boss if he doesn’t, Craig must stay one step ahead as he navigates through the English criminal underground plotting to make this final deal so he can finally step away from the drug trade and start a new life. A very slick, funny, and engaging film, L4yer Cake is another stylized English gangster flick you should give a look.
Movie Melting Pot: Snatch meets Casino Royale
Green Street Hooligans
A relatively unknown gem from England, Green Street delves into the violent world of football firms (soccer for us ‘Yanks’), local gangs and feverishly dedicated fans bound and defined by the respect they garner for protecting their turf from rival firms. Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) stars as an American student recently kicked out of Harvard for a crime he didn’t commit. Escaping to London to figure out his life, he quickly finds an unlikely companion in his sister’s brother-in-law, played by Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) who happens to be the unpredictable and charismatic leader of the local firm Green Street Elite. He begins to bond and become accepted by the firm, learning along the way how to stand up for himself, stand his ground, and fight when called for. Best movie about sticking it to the system, sticking by your crew, standing up for yourself, and kicking some serious ass since Fight Club.
Movie Melting Pot: Fight Club meets The Warriors
In probably a career – best performance, Kevin Costner plays Mr. Brooks, a well respected businessman, loving husband, father, and self-tortured serial killer struggling with his addiction to the thrill of murder. William Hurt gives a chilling turn as the embodiment of Mr. Brooks’ darker side, Marshall, constantly pleading, manipulating, and scheming of ways to persuade Mr. Brooks to give in to his murderous desires once more like a gleeful demon resting comfortably on his shoulder. With no other angelic voice of reason to offer countering guidance to his tormented soul, Mr. Brooks’ eventually relents to his primal urges, causing his carefully constructed life to slowly become unraveled as the hard-nosed detective charged with catching him, played by Demi Moore, closes in. Even Dane Cook, who plays a voyeuristic photographer with a morbid curiosity and secrets of his own, can’t keep this thriller from striking all the right chords. Solid flick which will keep you guessing at every shocking twist and turn until the final moments.
Movie Melting Pot: Silence of the Lambs meets Showtime’s Dexter
Other Suggestions: Into the Wild, Lucky # Slevin, In Bruges, and Rescue Dawn