Everybody’s Got a Secret, Sonny: The Year in Film Noir

Side Effects

When Steven Soderbergh released ‘Side Effects’ on February 8th, 2013, most of the critical and journalistic chatter surrounded his retirement from theatrical cinema more than the actual film that he went out with.  Publicly, ‘Side Effects’ confused people because no one really knew what the hell it was. The trailers showed some kind of drama with Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum, basically untested young stars of modest hits that had little to do with their names, some talk about prescription medication, and Jude Law hanging out being Jude Law. Not a major box office draw.

But the marketing for ‘Side Effects’ was a bit of sleight of hand, as the movie only starts revealing its true nature about half way through. Which is unfortunate, because it would not hurt one’s enjoyment of the film to know going in that it’s a lean, nasty, twisty film noir that would slap a smirk on the mouth of ol’ James Cain himself. It’s terrific, one of the best February releases that I’ve seen, and the first of the handful of great, (mostly) under-appreciated gems that make up 2013’s film noir revival. Continue reading

It’s always later than you think, Counselor


‘The Counselor’ is Ridley Scott’s best movie since 2003, when he last dove into film noir with ‘Matchstick Men.’ And while that film packed a gut punch unsuggested by its breezy marketing, it did not even approach the depths of noir that this new one hits.

Cormac McCarthy wrote ‘The Counselor,’ a screenplay which seems inspired by the philosophical thriller treatment that the Coen brothers gave his novel in their awesome ‘No Country For Old Men.’  It thrills less and talks more, but it shares an alternating pattern of horrific violence and metaphysical discussion. And it works. Continue reading