I love a good crime movie. Hell, I even enjoy a shitty crime movie if it has a good villain and some interesting sub-plots. The 90s spoiled us with a slew of outrageously good crime movies like Goodfellas and Heat. One after the other, classics like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects and Blow rolled into the theaters. I could go on, and in all likelihood I will at some point.
But the Noughties kicked right in with some top notch crime flicks, many of which are already classics, while others are cult phenomena.
With so many great choices, honing a list of great crime movies of the last ten years is maddeningly difficult with twenty-five slots, let alone ten. I cut my list down to sixteen, then thirteen, then twelve. Finally at eleven, I realized I couldn’t knock any remaining choice out of the list. Some fretting and furrowing of the brow ensued before I recalled that this is my blog and I can write whatever the sweet spicy hell I want, so my list congeals at eleven. That being said, you can see the movies I agonizingly relegated out of the top eleven in the Honorable Mention category at the end.
I feel compelled to clear something up at the outset: The Departed is not on either list. This is simply because I don’t feel that The Departed is a great crime movie by any stretch of the word “great.” Entertaining? Sure. Violent? Absolutely, but it’s a sloppy movie. The plot offers too much, characters deliver too little, and what’s offered as a resolution at the end is less satisfying than trying to read a Lady Gaga blog entry. While the movie is said to be based on the true-crime story of Boston’s Whitey Bulger, in fact it is a loose remake of the Japanese movie Infernal Affairs, superior in all regards to The Departed. If you want the Whitey Bulger story, read Black Mass—one of the best true crime books ever penned.
I thought it was an entertaining film, but no way does it rise to the level of any of the following:
Depressing and awesome. I wanted to include Mystic River, but I thought this was better across the board, though I’m still not sure about the ending. Still, towering acting performances and uncomfortably accurate portrayal of Beantown culture.
This futuristic French movie takes place in a world where, like Escape from New York, a giant section of Paris has been ceded to the criminals, where it is contained by the government.The two leads are a cop and a con, who somewhat predictably, are brought together to save the city. The hand-to-hand combat and acrobatics throughout the movie make Jackie Chan look like Dom Deluise.
The Town is simply an ass-kicking crime flick that manages to be awesome despite featuring Ben Affleck in the lead (he’s also the director). Jeremy Renner is fantastic as the film’s obligatory loose cannon (all good bank heist teams have one loose cannon–no more and no less), and the robbery scenes reveal a fascinating attention to detail that could have only come from the jailed bank robbers they interviewed when writing the screenplay.
Venezuelan kidnapping movie. Couple gets carjacked and held for ransom as the gang drags them through the streets of Caracas throughout the night. Scary, tense and full of plenty of crime, violence and surprises. What I remember most about this movie however, is watching it on a plane while some douchebag with a Yankees hat sitting next to me, totally creeped on the movie. Because it was subtitled, he could enjoy the movie by watching my laptop. I surreptitiously tried to angle my screen so he couldn’t see (I hate the Yankees), but he kept adjusting and watching out of the corners of his eyes. Finally, I realized I had no recourse. As we reached what appeared to be the climax, I turned the movie off and pulled out a magazine, opting to watch the ending in my hotel room later that night. Fuck that guy.
Ireland’s answer to a Guy Ritchie movie. Small time Irish criminals, great recurring jokes, interesting plot twists and plenty of old school shit-talking launch this onto the list. You get the sense that Colin Farrell’s character isn’t all that distant from the man himself, back in the day, and Cillian Murphy playing a skeevy lad is perhaps his most likeable character ever. Maybe his only likeable character. Also upholds the little-known Irish law that requires every Ireland-centric movie to include Colm Meany.
Easily the most disturbing movie in this history of cinema, this Korean revenge flick is not intended for anyone of delicate or even moderate sensibilities, but once this movie picks up steam and you figure out what’s happening, you’re hooked. Amazingly, when you get to the big reveal, there is still a crapload of hard-charging plot to navigate before the final scenes, which will leave you needing a shower and a long walk. But you’ll know deep inside that it was totally worth it.
This wasn’t released in the US, to my knowledge, but if you can score a copy of this on DVD, do so at once. Set in the 80s, the soundtrack rules, the dialogue is unparalleled and Tamer Hassan turns in a fantastic performance as the Playboy, the likable exiled drug kingpin whose empire slowly unravels through the one-two punch of (duh) his loose cannon friend and some horribly short-sighted business decisions. Killer action, great sub-plots and an expert blend of humor and violence.
The Coen Brothers do disturbing like few others. Javier Bardem’s character is one of the most horrifying of our time, simply because he feels so realistic. Except for the haircut. Which is funny.
I dig the Guy Ritchie movies mainly because unlike most directors, he’s actually quite good at managing an ensemble cast. Tarantino’s the only other one who can do it as well. Anyone can conceive a roster of quirky characters, but precious few can make them interesting and even fewer can weave plot lines in a way that create momentum and ultimately make sense. Brad Pitt again demonstrates that his greatest roles are always bit parts.
The coolest part of this movie is everything. They build up the tension surrounding Ben Kingsley’s character so effectively that the first time you see him, you’re already gulping with anxiety. Ray Winstone is typically excellent and the most unique bit about this movie is that the actual crime is such a small part of the movie; it’s the drama that unfolds between the characters that make this film really cook.
At first blush, there’s no way this should work. A movie that’s impossibly convoluted emerges as one of the most engaging crime films of all time, let alone the last ten years. Guy Pearce is ridiculously believable in a preposterous role and as the plot winds together, the performance of the entire cast make more and more sense. At the risk of spoiling it for anyone who has yet to see it (shame on you), I’m avoiding more detail. But wow.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead