Tag Archives: clarence williams III

Simon West’s The General’s Daughter

The General’s Daughter is one of those films that’s well acted and staged enough from a technical standpoint that the excessive, overcooked script, self righteous snark and needlessly perverse plot could almost be forgiven. Almost. This is a lurid, sweaty southern gothic military murder mystery, and as amazing as that sounds, it’s actually quite an unpleasant piece to sit through. Based on a book by Nelson DeMille (crown prince of airport novel thrillers), and directed by Simon West (Con Air), it’s given the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the nuance of a rogue missile. At least the acting is decent, starting with jumped up John Travolta as a private investigator called to a military base after the daughter of a powerful General (James Cromwell) is found dead on the property in… a compromising way. The suspects are lined up neatly like ducklings and include the General’s faithful aide (Clarence Williams III), an arrogant high ranking officer (James Woods, practically assaulting the dialogue), another officer on base (Timothy Hutton) who went to Westpoint with her and naturally the General himself. Travolta is joined by another investigator (Madeleine Stowe) who he has a romantic history with, because of course he does. They’re threatened by unseen assailants here and there, and stalled by a local redneck Sheriff (the late Daniel Von Bargen) who has it in for him. The investigation gets so weird, convoluted and messed up that it’s a wonder the writers could even keep track of their own work when scotch taping the third act together. When the inevitable flashbacks show up to tell us just what happened to her, we wish we didn’t know. The poor girl, played by Leslie Stefanson, is humiliated, brutalized and murdered in a way that’s miles beyond bad taste, totally unnecessary to show in graphic detail other than for the film to reiterate what a miserable display of ‘too much’ it is in every category. The scene doesn’t even stand to serve her character arc either, as we’re informed she has a history in S&M type shit. The depravity is there simply to exist on its own and turns a relatively run of the mill thriller into something deranged. It’s a spectacle, you won’t be bored, it’s well mounted and acted by a solid cast, but is it a good film? Nowhere close.

-Nate Hill

John Frankenheimer’s Reindeer Games

I’ve always enjoyed John Frankenheimer’s Reindeer Games, despite its chilly critical reputation. It’s a sleazy, nihilistic piece of ultra violent, stylized Christmas noir populated by mean, nasty characters who navigate deliciously convoluted plot turns, double crosses and backwoods criminal enterprise. Ben Affleck plays a hapless ex con having the worst Christmas of his life when his attempts to pose as a murdered cellmate (James Frain) and meet up with the guy’s sexy pen pal (Charlize Theron is next level hot in this) don’t quite go as smoothly as envisioned. He unwittingly gets caught up in a botched casino robbery orchestrated by her volatile career criminal brother (Gary Sinise) and his crew of murderous miscreants. This sets in motion an impossibly elaborate parade of shifting loyalties, multiple seductions on Theron’s part, inventive ways to murder people, Santas with guns, shootouts, chases and car explosions. Much of it is admittedly ridiculous and overblown but it’s never not fun, plus the Grinchy, misanthropic attitude and maladjusted vibe is somehow so infectious. Sinise’s merry little gang are brought to life by recognizable character faces like Donal Logue, Clarence Williams III and Danny Trejo, all charismatic and evil to the bone like a bunch of warped Christmas elves. The late great Dennis Farina plays an obstinate casino owner who makes the heist difficult for everyone, and Isaac Hayes has a bizarre cameo as an inmate who thinks there’s monsters in the prison food and causes an almighty ruckus. Affleck is a mopey guttersnipe here, a ‘wrong place wrong time’ sap who learns to cultivate a badass edge and deal with the kind of psychos he’s up against. Sinise is reliably violent and dangerous, but Theron really steals the show as a crafty, manipulative femme fatale whose true nature is cleverly hidden under a smokescreen of faux intentions. This isn’t an especially classy thriller, doesn’t set any new standards or anything, but what it does do is provide a nut punch of lowbrow thrills, lurid melodrama and bloody action to meet your masochistic Yuletide needs. Great stuff.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Frogs For Snakes


They say actors will literally ‘kill for a role’, and in the long forgotten, bizarre NYC set indie flick Frogs For Snakes, that’s the very concept. A handful of Bronx lowlifes all directly involved with criminal kingpin Al Santana (Robbie Coltrane, before he went all Hagrid on us), discover he is putting on a play, and promptly begin to literally murder each other for parts. Now, such a premise should provide a downright brilliant film, but sadly that’s not the case with this dreary gutterball. The possibilities are just endless, and all these miscreants do is just languish in alleyways, decrepit apartments and dive bars, monologuing about.. nothing much at all. It hurts when you have a cast this good in such fuckery as well. Al’s ex wife (Barbara Hershey) works as a debt collector for him, while she pines for her thespian boyfriend (John Leguizamo) who spends the majority of his scenes reciting overblown monologues that have nothing to do with the story, or lack thereof. There’s all manner of creeps and hoodlums running about like New York sewer rats, played by an impressive lineup including Harry Hamlin, Lisa Marie, Ian Hart, Clarence Williams III, Nick Chinlund and briefly Ron Perlman, but none of them have much to do and seem to aimlessly shamble through their scenes as if they were never given much of a script. Being the weirdo that I am though, I did get a sick thrill out of hearing potty mouthed Debi Mazar explicitly describe giving a blowjob to Coltrane’s character, a mental image I won’t soon erase from my head. It’s a whole lot of nothing for the most part though, and kinda makes you wonder how the thing ever got green-lit, let alone attracted such talent. If the film itself were a play, it would be run out of town on opening night. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory With Nate: The Immortals

  

The Immortals is one of those brilliant little action crime flicks that seemed to slip through the cracks and disappear soon after it aired on TV. That wouldn’t be a problem if it was one of the many intolerable embarrassments that speckle Eric Robert’s career like goose shit on a manicured lawn. But it’s actually a really great time, with a bunch of actors who are super into what the script has them do, and geniunly fascinating story to tell us, which it does so at a breakneck pace. Roberts plays Jack, a silver tongued nightclub owner with ties to some dangerous underworld players. One night he calls a meeting with eight different petty thieves from all walks of life, announcing that he’s planning to orchestrate a heist against criminal kingpin Dominic (screen legend Tony Curtis in one of his final roles), and proceeds to send them off to perform risky jobs all over town, rapidly gaining Dominics attention and hostility. During an extended face off between his forces and Jack’s merry band of miscreants, they discover that Jack has a very specific and secretive reason for selecting them all for this venture, and nothing is what it seems. William Forsythe is a kicker as Tim, the loose cannon of the bunch, a rowdy psycho who smartens up during the finale, which gives him terrific dialogue to chow on. Chris Rock is the fast talking dude among them, Tia Carrere is sexy and stunt savvy as always, Clarence Williams III does his bug eyed weirdo shtick to the hilt, and Joe Pantoliano never misses a beat either. Roberts is the ringmaster of this chaotic little circus though, failing up that southern prince charm and flashing the mile wide million dollar grin whenever he gets the chance. There’s a lived in, easy breezy feel to this, like these characters are really getting to know each other, bonds are formed and tested amidst a haughty atmosphere and a lethal situation. Twists, turns and somersaults punctuate the narrative, and they’re super fun to try and sniff out as you watch the fireworks blow up the screen. A B movie, yes, but an extremely well made one that gives it it’s all and comes out a grinning winner.

Ridley Scott’s American Gangster: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Ridley Scott’s vast, intricate crime epic American Gangster is one of the director’s finest achievement in film to this day. It’s sprawling in nature, expansive in scope but never chaotic or muddled. It always maintains a laser focus on its characters and story, thumping along at a rhythmic pace which swells and falls to the time of one of the most iconic stories in true crime. It’s Scott’s Heat, a titanic tale of cop vs. criminal in which neither are the villain or hero, but simply men adhering to rigid, ruthless principles moulded by the environments they have grown up in. Both men have an intense set of morals completely different from the other, yet equally as captivating. Russell Crowe is a troubled bruiser as Detective Richie Roberts, a cop so determined to convince himself of his own upstanding nature that he won’t take any illicit payoff in any amount or context. In contrast, every other aspect of his life is a shambling mess. Denzel Washington is quiet fury as Frank Lucas, an enterprising gangster and drug smuggler who rides the tidal wave of capitalism like there’s no tomorrow, flooding the streets of Harlem with pure heroin directly from the southeast Asian source, and rising swiftly to the peak of underworld infamy. The two are on an inevitable collision course, two juggernauts with different empires backing them who will stop at nothing. Lucas believes himself to be untouchable, shirking the flashy, preening nature of his peers and remaining out of the limelight, until cunning Roberts catches onto him. The rough and tumble world of New York in the 60’s and 70’s is lovingly brought to life by Scott, his cast and crew who go to impressive lengths in order to bring us that grit, realism and specific anthropological aura of another time, another setting. Speaking of cast, this has to be one of the most rip roaring collection of actors ever assembled, even to rival that of Heat itself. In Richie’s corner there is senior Detective Lou Toback (a sly Ted Levine, perpetuating the vague Michael Mann vibe even further), a scummy colleague (Yul Vasquez), and an off the books team of gangbusters including John Ortiz, John Hawkes and a mumbling RZA. He also clashes with his bitter ex wife (Carla Gugino) in an ugly custody battle for their young son. Over on Frank’s side of the hill are his huge extended family including Common, TI, Chiwetel Ejfor and Ruby Dee in one of the film’s finest performances as his strong willed, passionate mother, one of the only people who could talk sense into him and keep the animal inside at bay. Lymari Nadal is great as his bombshell Puerto Rican wife as well. His rivals include superfly-esque Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and a brief, hostile turn from Idris Elba. He also deals with the Italian mafia, personified by a hammy Armand Assante, an earnest Jon Polito and a slimy Ritchie Coster. One of the best performances of the film comes from Josh Brolin as positively evil corrupt narcotics detective Trupo, threatening everything that moves with his grease slick hair, porno moustache and silky, dangerous tone. As if that army of talent wasn’t enough, there’s also work from Kevin Corrigan, Joe Morton, Clarence Williams III in a powerful turn as an ageing Bumpy Johnson, and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Norman Reedus as well. What. A. Cast. The whole thing rests on Crowe and Washington, though, and both are like Olympian titans of crime and conflict, sweeping up everyone around them in a whirlwind of explosive violence, shifting alliances and the booming arrival of capitalism giving the American people in every walk of life a defibrillator jolt of economic change, laying the foundation for the world we live in today, one brick, one bullet, one business deal at a time. Scott achieves legendary heights with this one, a crime film for the ages that one can always revisit to see not how one hero cop took down a villainous drug lord, but how the forces which inexorably bind humans to various fates in accordance with their decisions swept up two extraordinary yet mortal men into historic infamy. In a word: Epic.