Tag Archives: gary Cole

Jim Kouf’s Gang Related

Jim Belushi and Tupac Shakur are an odd pairing on paper to star in a cop flick together, but they’re extremely effective in Jim Kouf’s Gang Related, a twisty neo-noir with a great cast and a few tricks up its sleeve. They play two inner city detectives who are corrupt, but the script doesn’t treat them with the same jaded judgment and moustache twirling villainy that some dirty cops get in Hollywood, there’s a surprising empathy towards them especially in Tupac’s performance. After they accidentally murder an undercover DEA agent, they try to frame a nearby homeless man (Dennis Quaid), coach a few witnesses and make it seem like they were never involved. Things get spectacularly messy when they discover that Quaid’s disheveled hobo isn’t just a nobody and there are people in high places, not to mention both the DEA and gang factions coming after their morally duplicitous asses. It’s kind of like a reap what you sow tale, these two guys aren’t especially nasty characters, but they did commit a really shady act and now the proverbial karmic dildo has come back to royally fuck them. Belushi is the tougher, more unflappable veteran who is more willing to compromise his soul with the cover up, while Tupac is the younger, more impressionable cop and fears the road he’s being led down, and well he should. They both put in fantastic performances, while Quaid does well against type and the three of them are supported by Tiny Lister, David Paymer, Lela Rochon, Wendy Crewson, Gary Cole and James Earl Jones. A solid urban crime thriller, fairly overlooked as well.

-Nate Hill

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Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire

Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire is as solid as action pictures get, a three course thriller meal, and one of my favourite Clint Eastwood flicks. Starting to show his age here and adopting a brittle, calcified hardness, he plays disgraced secret service agent Frank Horrigan, a quiet, resolute man who is haunted by his failure to protect Kennedy from that infamous bullet. He’s on undercover sting operations with his rookie partner (Dylan McDermott) these days, and is battling some health issues that go hand in hand with getting up there in years. No better time for predatory, mercurial ex CIA assassin Mitch Leary (a terrifying John Malkovich) to taunt him out of retirement with threats against the new president, up for election. Leary is a cunning psychopath who won’t go down so easy, and Frank is just the determined wolfhound to take him down, as a dangerous, violently suspenseful game of cat and mouse plays out. There’s an obligatory female love interest too, but the film shirks the usual ditzy throwaway chick and goes for something classier in Rene Russo, a capable senior agent who initially roasts Frank for his age before eventually warming up. Russo is an unconventionally attractive, intuitively engaging actress whose subtly likeable nature sneaks up on you and the muted chemistry she has with Eastwood is terrific. The three excellent leads are surrounded by a nebulae of awesome supporting players including John Mahoney, the always solid Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson, a sleazy Tobin Bell and scene stealing character actor Steve Railsback in a brilliant cameo as Leary’s shady former Agency handler. Subtlety has never been Petersen’s forte, but his approach works here as he tells the story in big, bold strokes that highlight each set piece with sterling suspense. There’s also a brooding score by the master himself, Ennio Morricone, which takes the solemn, scary route instead of blaring up the Zimmer-esque fireworks. As great as the action is here (that plastic 3D printed gun though), my favourite scenes are the creepy late night phone calls that Malkovich makes to Eastwood, teasing him but also betraying notes of loneliness in his perverted psyche. This is a battle of wills before it even gets physical, and the two heavyweights spar off of each other with calculated portent and restrained, fascinated loathing. A thriller classic.

-Nate Hill

Netflix’s Small Crimes


Netflix’s Small Crimes is a bitter, barren, gnarled piece of work that leaves an uneasy vacuum in the air as it passes. If you haven’t heard of it yet, that’s because the platform does almost zero promotion when new content comes off the assembly line, quietly slipping it onto the site without so much as a tv spot. Some are forgettable, and some are gems that could have done with a bit of buildup. This one is like David Mamet, Cormac McCarthy and Elmore Leonard sipping whiskey sours one cold, empty night and brainstorming ideas. I love the time honoured themes presented here, but what I love and admire more is the filmmaker’s courage in completely subverting, perverting and putrefying the formula. There’s countless films about disgraced cops, criminals or what-have-you who return home to a small town with designs on putting the wrong things right and finding a modicum of redemption. Thing is, in 99.999% of these films, we end up with a happy ending where all the kinks are ironed out and bygones are left as such, a trend which really cripples the stakes and grinds our expectations down with a blunt, predictable Hollywood ending. Not this one. Nikolai Koster-Waldau, aka Jamie Lannister, is a wiry, cracked out ex con who used to be a cop, before he viciously, and I do mean viciously, sliced up the town DA at the behest of a crime kingpin. Moping back into the county following a six year stretch in the pen, it’s inevitable that his very presence will stir up a few noxious vibes. Sure enough, he runs into trouble from all angles, including the vengeful DA (“, looking like he shaves with a wheat thresher), a scummy corrupt detective (Gary Cole eats up the dialogue like candy), the mobsters he used to be employed by, and even his parents (Robert Forster & Jacki Weaver), who are clearly broken by the past. There’s a feeling of inescapable doom, an inevitable choking quicksand that Waldau wades deeper into,

his seemingly noble intent on reconnecting with his wife and daughters gradually ground away to reveal the true nature of his path, and it ain’t pretty. Gary Cole has a way with words and mannerisms, and he runs away with his bent cop role, stealing scenes like nobody’s business. Forster has salt of the earth gravitas in spades, and nails a near career best scene with clear eyed conviction, nailing our attention to his presence. It’s not a perfect film though, there’s pacing issues, sometimes it gets a little vague or scattered and a romantic subplot involving a nurse (Molly Parker) seems glaringly out of place. Waldau anchors it though, a twitchy, unpredictable ne’er do well who seems cosmically incapable of getting his act together. The ending floored my expectations and remind that there is hope for fresh narratives and abstract thinking amongst writers. You’ll come out of this one bruised, but you’ll be glad you sat through the beating. 

-Nate Hill

Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan: A Review by Nate Hill 

Crime doesn’t pay, and money is the root of all evil. There are countless stories of people who forsake such principles and venture down a dark, destructive path, but none quite so biting and tragic as Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan. What haunts the viewer so much is not the fact that these characters suffer through horrific turmoil resulting from the promise of money, it’s that these are nice, good natured, everyday folks. These are the people next door, the blue collar, salt of the earth Americans, and it’s harrowing to see the downward spiral they fall headlong into. Bill Paxton is the mild mannered hardware store owner, Billy Bob Thornton his unemployed, dimwitted brother and Bridget Fonda his wife. Three regular people who could be any of us, until they find the money. Out in a snowy rural landscape, millions of dollars in cash is discovered by them, and that’s where the trouble begins. The three go to great lengths to keep their secret hidden from the local authorities, and eventually become paranoid, deceitful and hostile towards each other, leading to some truly heartbreaking outcomes. It’s not enjoyable watching these poor people go through this, because this isn’t some exploititive crime genre exercise. Although shades of noir are present, this film is set in the real world where human beings are neither good nor bad as a template, but have complex capacity for great evil or compassion. When something like the money gets in the way, though, that potential for malicious behaviour is dialed up considerably, and the resulting calamity looks something like what we see here. What’s scary about the whole thing is that it’s essentially their own fault; yes, the money turned up, and yes, its presence is what drives this wedge among them, but the money isn’t sentient, it doesn’t wish ill will, it’s simply *there*, leaving the characters to make decisions regarding it, decisions which in this case lead to their despairing downfall. What’s more, money is our own creation, not some outside influence eating away at them. This is surprising output for Raimi, who is the guy we know for rambunctious horror and genre pulp, but he shows a skilled and subtle hand with the down to earth material, letting his story be a window into a cold world of feverish greed, a world where plans are, in fact, anything but simple. 

One Hour Photo: A Review by Nate Hill 

One Hour Photo is as stark and unnerving as the clinical, creepy photo negatives being developed in the darkroom of your local London Drugs, or whatever the equivalent is stateside. Back in the days before the social media boom, every single photographic memento passed through those hallowed halls, and through the hands of the hard working folks at the photo counter. One such person is Seymour Parrish (Robin Williams), a sweet, good natured guy with a subtle and growing offset in his personality. He loves his job, and finds solace and ritual in handling the precious memoirs of the masses, even getting to know many of them in a friendly manner. He takes a particular shine to the Yorkin family (Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan), gradually becoming obsessed with the life they have that he observes through the constant stream of photos he develops. Friendly soon turns to freaky as he becomes a bit too fascinated in them, and he finally takes up the mantle of disturbed stalker, digging up dirty secrets they have that he has no right to know about, and even less to interfere with. It’s a nightmare for any unsuspecting family to got through, but the real horror story is Seymour’s damaged psyche, set off by this idyllic lifestyle he watches from haunted eyes. Williams has the hard task of making him sympathetic, which he does, but we are only willing to give pity at arms reach; this is a scary, twisted man we see, with demons bottled up so tight he isn’t even aware they exist anymore, until they come crawling forth for a psychologically naked and raw final sequence that will leave you reeling. An unpleasent film in almost every way, bathed in an eerie sickness that matches the sheet white fluorescent glow of the store that is Seymour’s world, externally and in his tragic, broken mind. Bring a steady set of nerves and a strong stomach. 

Sam Raimi’s The Gift: A Review by Nate Hill 

Anyone who loves a good slice of southern gothic murder mystery should check out Sam Raimi’s The Gift, one of several films in the eclectic scoundrel’s ouvre which made a departure from his usual brand of chaotic horror. Cate Blanchett stars as Annabelle, a single mother with a very perceptive telepathic ability, which in rural USA is greeted without any skepticism by the locals. She is renowned for her gift, and often approached by people in need. The story sees her trying to locate young Jessica (Katie Holmes), who has gone missing, and discovering some nasty secrets about the people around her in the process, people she thought she knew better. Jessica’s fiance (Greg Kinnear) is desperate but clearly knows something he’s not saying. Also involved is battered housewife Valerie (Hilary Swank), her terrifying abusive boyfriend Donnie (Keanu Reeves), a local mechanic (Giovanni Ribisi) who befriends Annabelle,  and others. It’s an ugly tale contrasted by Blanchett’s striking beauty, which the cameras capture in all the right instances. She could be rearranging a bookshelf and still be compelling and elegant, and always is in whichever role she takes on. Reeves is a scary tornado of pent up rage and sickness, cast way against type and loving every rage fuelled second. As if the main cast wasn’t packed enough with talent, we also get stellar work from Gary Cole, Michael Jeter, Kim Dickens, Rosemary Harris, a random cameo from Danny Elfman and a sly turn from J.K. Simmons as the county sheriff. What a cast, eh? Raimi puts them to good use, and each one gets their moment to shine. I’ve never seen a film by the director I haven’t loved; the guy just makes super fun, accessible genre treats that are irresistibly likable. Pair that with the evocative southern tone and Blanchett’s winning presence and you’ve got one hell of a little package. Very overlooked stuff. 

The Last Rites Of Joe May: A Review by Nate Hill

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The Last Rites of Joe May is Dennis Farina’s bittersweet swan song, his final exodus from a long, epic and beloved career, showcasing the actor in the role he was always meant to play, and a lead role no less. He did a few other films after this one and a priceless cameo on Family Guy, but this is the spiritual final entry, and when you look at the story of the film, it’s both eerie and fateful that the man would go on to pass away just a few years later. He plays Joe May here, a Chicago wiseguy and short money hustler who has been in the hospital with pneumonia for almost a year. Upon returning to his borough, he finds his apartment rented out to a woman (Jamie Anne Allman) and her daughter (Meredith Droeger), all his belongings sold, and his presence pretty much forgotten, with some even under the belief that he has died. The woman takes pity on him and let’s him stay in his apartment with them if he helps her out, and he goes back to the same hustling, or at least tries too. All his ventures have gone dry, his former boss (a splendid Gary Cole) giving the cold shoulder. Joe starts to realize that one must face the eventual consequences of a life lived in selfishness and foolhardy actions, as he finds himself alone in the world and shunned even by his own son. He gets a shot at redemption upon having the little girl in his life, and being there to help out her mother who has one lowlife monster of a boyfriend that just happens to be a cop. Farina is sensational in every scene, and it’s a shame the guy didn’t ever get more lead roles. He makes Joe a grim yet sympathetic being who serves as a sorrowful reminder of how we all will arrive at the end of our road someday, and how important it is to line said road with good deeds, kindness, respect and worthwhile ventures, even if they only show up in the last few miles of it. This is a Tribeca festival film so it’s tough to find, but anyone with a love for Farina or simple, well told and emotional stories should definitely check it out. The beautiful piano score adds to the loneliness of Joe and his state of mind, as does Farina’s performance which a a gift to filmgoers and contains see of the hardest work and piercing truth I’ve ever seen from the guy. RIP.