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Movie Marathon Idea: American Crime Wave

July 5, 2010

Yet another new column I’m hoping to expand upon in several installments.  If you need a movie marathon night in your near future – I’ve got some ideas.  I’ll present three great movies that fit a unique theme for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks to my not-so-incredible 4th of July experience where my neighbors burnt a hole in my patio umbrella and littered my yard with debris, here’s a late 4th of July salute to the Great American Criminal…

1.) L.A. Confidential (1997)

Nothing says “Way to Go, America!” like Curtis Hanson’s epic tale of police corruption, murder and tabloid sensationalism  in 1950s Los Angeles.  Russell Crowe’s portrayal of the complex and morally ambiguous Bud White is the second best performance of his career (after The Insider), and Guy Pearce’s obnoxiously goody-two-shoes Ed Exley is his polar opposite.   Confidential is gripping and moody from its opening scene and contains brilliant supporting performances by Kim Basinger as the shady escort Lynn and Kevin Spacey as the slimy Detective Jack Vincennes.

2.) Casino (1995)

Based on the real-life memoirs of mob insider Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Scorsese’s 1995 masterpiece illustrates the rise and fall of mob control of Las Vegas, seen through the eyes of one man’s precarious career.  Robert DeNiro plays Sam “Ace” Rothstein (based on Rosenthal), an expert sports handicapper who turns his knack for numbers into a successful business running the Tangiers casino behind the scenes.  Along the way, he must deal with his liability of a best friend, Nicky (Joe Pesci) and his coke-snorting, devious wife  Ginger (played with abandon and glee by Sharon Stone).

3.) Unforgiven (1992)

It may seem out-of-place in the company of the previous two titles, but Clint Eastwood’s Western anti-hero Bill Munny is similar in many ways to Sam Rothstein and Bud White.  He’s a ruthless killer confronted with the disintegration of the rules and comfort of the lawlessness of the Old West, in the form of  Little Bill Dagget (Gene Hackman), a sheriff who is even more confused about morality and common decency than Bill.  Eastwood’s direction and the script by David Webb Peoples never recycle Western genre stereotypes, and the tale of one man’s struggle to bring down a despot is complex, heart-wrenching and satisfying right to the very end.

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