THE MICHAEL MANN FILES: CRIME STORY (1986-1988)

In 1986, Michael Mann was having a hell of a year. The second season of Miami Vice had proven to be immensely popular, he stewarded Band of the Hand into the theaters as an executive producer, did the same for Manhunter as writer and director, and, finally, brought Crime Story to the airwaves, making him for one brief moment of time, the king of television.

Had Crime Story been half as successful as Miami Vice, there is little doubt that Michael Mann’s name and the show itself would have eclipsed Miami Vice in terms of the conversation as to what it contributed to pop culture. Where Miami Vice‘s influence was immediate and changed the entire look of America for a hot minute, Crime Story would have undoubtedly been on multiple critics’ lists regarding the greatest network television shows of all time for its sophisticated storytelling, stellar period soundtrack, and its impeccably gorgeous production design. Alas, what can only be deduced as network interference spoiled the soup and caused Crime Story to remain only as the foundation of a brilliant show that went horribly wrong, the seeds of which nonetheless scattered far and wide and brought forth amazing fruit.

Inspired by Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s astonishing Berlin Alexanderplatz, itself a multi-part German television series shown theatrically in New York City in 1980, Crime Story was to be a less episodic television series than Miami Vice and, instead, one that told, in serialized format, one continuous narrative of the obsessive cat-and-mouse game between Chicago Detective Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) and arch-criminal Ray Luca (Anthony Denison) that would span five seasons and cover the years 1963 through 1980. What Mann ended up with was more like Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day, the Fassbinder series that was initially scheduled to run in eight episodes but was canceled after only five, ending the series on, for Fassbinder, an uncharacteristically happy note JUST before it got to take its planned darker turn. Crime Story’s aborted ending after just two seasons doesn’t do that, exactly; but, if you cock your head and squint just right, the end of the show does makes a certain amount of sense and create a small amount of satisfaction if looked through the prism of the universe of Michael Mann.

But before we get to the ending, we have to talk about the beginning and, man, what a glorious inception Crime Story had. Jumping off with an explosive, two-hour feature pilot, directed by Abel Ferrara, Crime Story chronicles the rise of Ray Luca, small-time Chicago criminal. Moving up through the ranks with the help of boss Phil Bartoli (Jon Polito), numbers runner Max Goldman (Andrew Dice Clay), cat burglar Frank Holman (Ted Levine), dim witted henchman Pauli Taglia (John Santucci), and crime lord Manny Weisbord (Joseph Wiseman), Luca is chased from one end of Chicago to Las Vegas and, ultimately, the end of the earth by Lieutenant Michael Torello and his gang of coppers; Nate Grossman (Steve Ryan), Danny Krychek (Bill Smitrovich), Walter Clemons (Paul Butler), and young blood Joey Indelli (Bill Campbell). Working both sides of the fence at different points in the show is Stephen Lang’s David Abrams, mob boss son on a crusade against injustice and crime.

Crime Story was created by Chuck Adamson and Gustave Reininger and, indeed, is based off of true crime events that were massaged and fictionalized. A soft bridge between the cinematic, operatic opulence of The Godfather and the gritty, granular details of Goodfellas and Casino, Crime Story’s biggest progeny is likely The Sopranos which had the benefit of coming after Scorsese’s at-bat and was able to launch off the familiar popularity of Goodfellas in the same way that Happy Days was able to cloak itself in American Graffiti clothes. But, in 1986, Crime Story was well ahead of the curve by attempting what Mann described as a 20 hour movie that snaked its way through the annals American history via the exploits of its two leads.

So, yes, that is, indeed, the outline of the plot of Casino you’re seeing (except with Andrew Dice Clay in the Robert De Niro part) deep into season one yet nine years before the Scorsese film hit the theaters. In fact, you’re likely to see a plot element or casting decision or three that will likely remind you of things you’ve seen before and, yes, you’re probably right in deducing that they’re familiar. For Crime Story was the Velvet Underground of television shows; nobody watched it but those that did created their own piece of organized crime entertainment that became wildly popular. This is likely due that the raw material assembled for Crime Story, interviews Reininger conducted with actual mob figures, made up so much of the material that was used in the mob genre in the wake of Goodfellas and Wise Guy, the 1986 Nicholas Pileggi book from which Goodfellas was adapted.

Unfortunately, after the show made a ballsy and epic shift from Chicago to Las Vegas halfway through its first season, something seemed to go terribly wrong in the second season. The show’s pace seemed to quicken and format seemed to become more conventional. What was a single-threaded chase for Ray Luca became stagnated in the Las Vegas desert while the antagonist and his exploits were pushed to the background and rinky-dink, Mickey Mouse investigations found their way onto Torello’s desk. This mimicked the way Miami Vice did business but Crime Story could ill-afford to monkey with its special formula and when chasing Ray Luca becomes secondary for a saggy spell, the show becomes far less compelling and at its worst, it feels like a routine cop show in a fun period getup. Perhaps this was a way to help bring new viewers on board at random which would be next to impossible as the show was envisioned. Hell, in the 44 episodes that make up Crime Story, there are at least three clip shows designed to square-up the audience that HAD been paying attention. And, given the way networks and television shows work, I can’t say that I entirely blame NBC. But it was a devil’s gambit; a bid for an audience that didn’t show up which ended up costing the show its greater reputation.

The other issue with making Crime Story less of a two-hander about Torello v. Luca and more one about Torello and His Flying Sack of Maniacs is that the latter approach is rote and most definitely NOT Michael Mann territory. For whatever lofty heights the first season reached, Crime Story winds up being the lesser between itself and Miami Vice mostly because either one of two things have to occur in Mann’s work; either you have the cop chasing the criminal who is just the mirror image of himself -or- the cop and the criminal are almost so intertwined that they’re basically the same person. This may seem like a distinction without much of a difference but this is also how Miami Vice could stay true to itself in almost every episode and not get out of the scope of Mann’s overall thesis. Without Ray Luca’s constant yang to Torello’s Yin, Crime Story becomes inert and uninspired although I will admit that “Blast From the Past,” the second season episode in which Torello hunts for the kidnappers of his ex-wife’s current husband, remains one of my favorite episodes of the entire show due to its uncommon emotional depth.

There does seem to be a point in which all of the historical tchotchke that riddles the central story of Crime Story eventually became too heavy for Mann and the networks which is why the last three episodes of the second season seem to jettison their historical skin and literally look like a three part Miami Vice arc in which Crockett and Tubbs find themselves in a high level of jeopardy in an unfriendly and unstable South American country. But say whatever you will about those episodes in which the show begins to (almost jarringly) expand into territory Mann would later touch with his stewardship of 1990’s Drug Wars: The Camarena Story, itself a prototype for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, it regains the core vision of the series where obsessed men strip themselves down to their most base and animalistic to hunt and destroy each other which, honestly, is what really drives Michael Mann’s best work. In fact, if you took away all of the period detail in Crime Story, you’d basically have the soul of his next feature, the 1989 made-for-television film, L.A. Takedown, which would find more important life six years later when Mann remade it as Heat. This is also why Crime Story’s second season’s cliffhanger ending, seen as tragically disappointing because of the show’s cancellation, is one that could also be easily seen as the most logical ending of all of Mann’s works. For if Torello’s season one threat to Luca of “I’m going to take you down right” is to be taken literally, there is really no other way for things to end outside them killing each other. So its probably best for everyone involved that they all perish when that plane hits the water lest Dennis Farina survive end up like poor Al Pacino or James Caan at the endings of Heat and Thief, respectively; a broken soul left to wander the earth alone, pouring over his miserable past with nothing especially to look forward to.

It’s something of a disappointment that Crime Story never became what it was inspired to be. Dennis Farina gives a tremendous, physical performance which looks like he hurt a few stuntmen and day players and it is a complete joy to watch him throw people through candy glass and slam their heads a little too forcefully into the props even when the show goes off the rails. Anthony Denison should have been a bigger star away from television and got done completely dirty when the second season ate his character away into being just a tiny bit more than supporting cast member. Andrew Dice Clay is surprisingly at ease and amazing which makes me wish that the show would have helped him pursue bigger and better acting roles which was a better vocation for him than what he became. And, man, Joseph Wiseman really gets to sink his teeth into a role that apparently contractually allowed him to eat every shred of scenery he wanted to when he was on screen. In the annals of Wiseman’s villainy, I’m generally more gripped and terrified when he’s lecturing someone in Crime Story than when he’s talking world domination with James Bond as the titular character in Dr. No.

And it’s probably not for nothing that contributing to the show’s inability to rise above a mere cult curiosity is the way it’s been treated since its broadcast. Due to Universal’s balking at picking up the show due to its tremendous price tag when they were already paying over $1 million per episode of Miami Vice, Crime Story was taken in by the television department over at New World Pictures, one-time Roger Corman outfit that had decided to go straight in the mid-80’s. To say that Universal was a better custodian of its intellectual property than New World is a vast underselling of the situation because Miami Vice has done nothing but lived on in syndicated reruns with little or no problem in terms of physical media or otherwise in allowing the consumers to watch the full, unedited show with as brilliant a picture as humanly possible. Not so with Crime Story. First released onto VHS in the subpar SLP mode (always a then-sign of trash quality), the show never fared any better when it made the jump to DVD. Now collected into one nine-disc DVD set by Image Entertainment, Crime Story is a disgraceful presentation of compressed, dark, and muddy images with sloppy and obvious soundalike cues sprinkled about where musical clearances were not obtained. To add insult to injury, the second season is presented without preservation to the original broadcast order necessitating one to consult IMDB to ensure they’re on the right track. This is a show that simply screams to be restored and if it were given better treatment, the show’s obvious shortcomings in the second season wouldn’t land as particularly hard as they do. For no matter how stupid Miami Vice got in its fourth season, Mill Creek made Crockett and Tubbs pursuing a tank of bull semen look absolutely and achingly beautiful. And if you think you’re going to get around these things by watching whatever app reflects as having this as a streaming option, you won’t as they’re using the same transfers.

Crime Story remains one hell of a show, regardless of its ignoble end. One could watch nothing more than the first season and think that Michael Mann had delivered one of the greatest things in all of network television. Alas, the second season came with a price tag that brought it down to earth. As the 1980’s were coming to a close Mann was finding the world of television to be just as frustrating as what he had experienced with The Keep and Manhunter. But he still had a couple of other small-screen projects standing between him and his big-screen reboot and they’d be ones in which he’d further shape his thematic ideas of good guys and bad guys living amid cultural, urban, and emotional wastelands.

(C) Copyright 2021, Patrick Crain

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Jon Polito Performances

Many people saw Jon Polito as the effervescent, rambunctious mafioso character actor, a playful scene stealer never short on buzzing bumblebee characteristics and zesty Italian American energy, and indeed some of his greatest roles showcased that. But given the right script he was also capable of a disarming centre of gravity, a melancholic, thoughtful presence in certain key projects that to me was just as compelling as his loopy side. He has passed on now but here are my top ten performances from this incredible actor:

10. Officer Sherman in Stuart Little

A classic NYC beat cop, Sherman warns the Little family about an incident involving their… littlest member with deadpan comic relief, and Polito shows off his skill for situational comedy nicely. I have fond memories of this film from my childhood and him being a brief part of it was always cool to see.

9. Agent Chester Hymes in Big Nothing

This indie cult comedy sees two hapless conmen (Ross from Friends and Shaun from Shaun Of The Dead) try and pull off a bunch of dummy level schemes and constantly get thwarted by Ross’s cop wife (Natascha McElhone). Jon plays an eccentric, Colombo type FBI forensics guru who appears to be thick as hell at first but proves to be anything but. With hysterical coke bottle glasses and a spluttering line delivery he makes the character stand out.

8. Ashcan in Homeward Bound II: Lost In San Francisco

Ashcan is the belligerent villain of this urban set sequel, an obnoxious boxer dog who makes life difficult for the heroes with his sidekick Pete (Adam Goldberg). Jon’s trademark gravelly voice lent itself to lots of cool voiceover work in his career, this being one of the most memorable.

7. Rossi in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster

A brief but affecting cameo, Italian crime boss Rossi reflects to Denzel Washington’s Frank Lucas in regards to the changing of the times, the way the mafia operates and essentially laments that things ain’t what they used to be. It’s an important scene because as he speaks we can see the wheels turning in Frank’s mind and this interaction could have largely spurred the now legendary actions of Lucas and his organization. Who better than Polito to carry such a pivotal scene.

6. Montesquino in Masters Of Horror: Haeckel’s Tale

This wonderful horror anthology series saw many of the biggest names in the genre get to play in the sandbox for various mini movies. This one sees Jon play a demented necromancer who brings back people from the dead, at a high cost. Adorned in a top hat and more hair than we ever saw him have in his career, he gets to ham it up and lay on the creep factor big time in one of his showiest genre turns.

5. DaFino in The Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski

Another quick cameo, he’s been in nearly half the Coen’s filmography and always amps up the scene. Da Fino is a ‘private snoop’ in his own words, a ‘brother shamus’ to which Jeff Bridges’ The Dude aloofly replies ‘Your mean like an Irish monk?’ It’s a priceless little exchange of dialogue between the two actors that allows Jon to impart some important exposition in the highly convoluted plot and have some cheeky fun while he’s at it.

4. Steve Crosetti in Homicide: Life On The Street

One of the most well rounded characters he got to play, Steve is a Baltimore cop trying to keep the pieces of his life together in between tough job stress and the serious injuring of a friend and fellow detective (Lee Tergesen). He’s got a daughter he fights to see and the twilight of his arc sees him leave to Atlantic City where he apparently commits suicide. It’s a tragic turn of events that ends on a bittersweet note in the follow up film where we see him return in an epilogue that can only be described as heaven for cops. It’s so touching to see him sitting by his wounded friend’s side in the hospital, putting the man’s Walkman on for him with his favourite music even though the fellow is unconscious and listening in himself so that he might share a moment with someone he cares about a lot. Polito plays this character beautifully and I wish he got to play more like him in his career.

3. Johnny Caspar in The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing

A feisty Italian crime boss constantly at odds with his two Irish rivals (Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne), Johnny has a short fuse, volatile nature and has simply had enough bullshit or, as he idiosyncratically puts it, “I’m sick of the high hat!!!!” The amount of energy and frenzy Jon could whip up in his work was really something else, and this is a prime example.

2. Gideon in Alex Proyas’s The Crow

Motor City’s meanest pawnbroker, Gideon is a sleazy, amoral, nasty piece of work who serves as conduit between ill gotten goods and dirty money to a pack of savage local thugs. Fast talking, profane, volatile and ultimately a straight up fucking coward, he gets all the films’s funniest lines and Jon delivers them with effortless, scummy magnetism and milks the character for all its worth. “You’re lookin for a coroner, shit for brains!!”

1. Eddie Scarpino Giannini in Millennium

Eddie is a low level mobster who thinks he’s about to kick the bucket when he finds himself in the middle of the woods on the wrong end of an assassin’s gun. Then something very special happens to him. This is not only the finest work he’s done as an actor for me but the best guest arc on the fantastic Millennium. Eddie transforms from a selfish, murderous criminal into a fiercely protective guardian angel with something and someone to live for. It’s a beautiful performance that might have been nominated if it wasn’t just one episode. Plus we get to see him act alongside Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black as the two share a quiet moment at Christmastime.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Russell Mulcahy’s Tale Of The Mummy

Russell Mulcahy’s Talos: Tale Of The Mummy is a fascinating failure of huge proportions, a well casted, unbelievable muck-up that has to be seen to be believed. When your low rent Mummy flick comes out at pretty much the same time as Stephen Sommer’s classic The Mummy, you know you have no shot at getting it out there past a few cable runs, especially when the film has been plagued by one nightmare of an editing fiasco from day one, not to mention low budget and more pacing issues than spastics in a sack race. There’s two apparent versions of it, a 115 minute international cut that was edited down to 88 minutes because of some humour that was in bad taste and aforementioned pacing problems. I saw the shorter version, and I can’t imagine the flow of the film being any worse than what I bore witness too, so maybe they should have just gone with the original cut, but who can really say. The film is essentially just two very cluttered, chaotic prologues jam packed with cameos and creaky special effects, and then one long boring extended horror sequence set in London, so you never get the feeling that they knew what they were doing before the editing process even commenced.

The opening sees archeologist Christopher Lee unearthing some ancient tomb in Egypt with his assistant (Jon Polito), both getting very quickly dispatched by some evil via a flurry of visual effects that are either really cool or really bad, jury is still out on that one for me, they’re just weird more than anything. Skip ahead some years and yet another team falls victim to this Talos Mummy thing, led by Louise Lombard, Brit tough guy Sean Pertwee and Gerard Butler of all people, in what is probably his first movie gig ever. Flash forward to London some months later, we see the Mummy thing roaming around killing people at will, and also seemingly at random. Two detectives played by Jason Scott Lee (looking very out of place in England) and Jack ‘Commodore Norrington’ Davenport investigate and the story just loses itself to nonsensical doldrums and lame ‘scares’ for the rest of the duration. Shelley Duvall bizarrely shows up as a journalist, as well as Honor Blackman and the Sean Pertwee character, now a raving madman who no one will believe when he says the Mummy is out to get them. I’m still aghast at the sheer number and variety of notable actors Mulcahy got to appear in this thing, most of them fleeting or short lived but still making hilarious impressions in a story they had to know was just plain silly. There’s a few things that work; the FX in the Christopher Lee sequence are a neat, schlocky blend of CGI and practical and work on their own scrappy terms. There’s a very brief flashback sequence to Ancient Egypt that shows how Talos became an evil creature that’s visceral and well designed, but doesn’t last long enough to boost the overall quality. Everything in London with the two cops is just laaammee though, and drags it all down the sewer. Talos there resembles a filthy shower curtain that went through a paper shredder and subsequently got carried away by a strong gust of wind, neither remotely scary nor stylish, just your average half assed B flick monster. Worth a watch simply for the odd spectacle of it all, and for research purposes.

-Nate Hill

Fluke

On paper, or at least on poster, Fluke looks like a benign kid’s flick in the tradition of Beethoven or Babe, as a big fluffy Red Labrador gazes down adorably from the blockbuster shelf. Well, I rented this way back when I must have been like ten, and I can tell you it ain’t no children’s movie. There’s a sadness and deep thoughtfulness to the story that will sail over youngster’s heads, leaving them with just the scenes of talking dogs to keep them occupied. Based on a poignant novel by James Herbert, this is one of the oddest and most depressing family films out there, but it’s also unique and brave enough to go where it does, reaching beyond the sappy to try and become something more complex. Matthew Modine plays a successful businessman who is killed in a foolish car accident one night, leaving behind his wife (Nancy Travis) and son (Max Pomeranc). The film gets spiritual as we seen him reincarnated as that very same mutt from the DVD cover, a curious creature called Fluke. Born into frustrating circumstances, he finds himself pulled into one situation after the other, including bonding with an old woman who passes away, living in a junkyard for some time and making friends with a troupe of homeless urban canines, including tough St. Bernard Rumbo (Samuel L. Jackson), mongrel Sylvester (Ron Perlman) and wiseguy pup Boss (the late Jon Polito). Eventually though, he remembers he was once a man, and sets off to find the family he left behind, feeling alienated in his animal form. It’s a terribly sad film, one that’ll gouge your heart right out, if you can take that sort of thing. It’s also daring and complicated when it wants to be. Fluke feels all the more isolated when he does find his family, as his wife has become close with his old business buddy (Eric Stoltz), and he has nothing but his bark to communicate, a crushing interaction to see. This is one of a kind, and in no way should be in the kid’s section of any video store or iTunes manifest, it’s just too out there and thematically challenging, but that’s in a way where it’s strength as a story lies. Should be viewed as an existential, spiritually inclined drama about what it means to really live, in whatever form you’ve been given, and how someone can ruminate on the choices they’ve made through new eyes.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory with Nate: The Box

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The Box is a moody little crime drama thriller starring James Russo, whose appropriately brooding persona lends itself to grim neo noir films such as these. He’s an actor who has almost entirely worked in B movies for a long time, and while you have to watch out for most as they are usually geniune piles of dog shit, this one is a jewel amongst the rubbish. Russo plays Frank Miles here, an ex con trying to go straight, sticking with the dead end job his P.O. has given him to stay out of trouble. Soon he meets beautiful waitress Dora (Theresa Russell) who falls in love with. The two of them try to start a new life together, but as we all know sometimes it’s very hard to run from your past, and soon enough trouble comes looking for them. Frank tries to get some money owing to him from his sleazebag of an ex-associate Michael Dickerson (a detestable Jon Polito) and things go wrong. Violence ensues, and Frank finds himself in the possession of a mysterious box which he can’t open and hasn’t a clue about. Dora has a scumbag boyfriend in club owner Jake Ragna (a terrifying Steve Railsbac) who I’d dangerous, volatile and obsessive about her. Soon, an evil corrupt Police Detective named Stafford (Michael Rooker) makes their lives hell as he searches for the box. Frank and Dora take refuge at the home of Stan (Brad Dourif, excellent), Frank’s former cell mate,  friend who is now a weed dealer. Even this may not be enough to keep them safe, as the long arm of the crooked law probes, and Stafford gets closer and closer. It’s a depressing situation forged by bad decision and the perhaps inescapable knack for trouble that some people tend to have, whether it’s coincidence or a measurable character flaw is eternally up for debate. The pair try so hard to fix their lives and still seem to be headed for a tragic dead end. Russo has sadness in his eyes in every role, as well as a boiling anger to match it, he fills out his protagonist very well. Rooker and Railsback make scary work of the two villains, especially Rooker who uses the kind of blatant brutality and abuse of power that are essential ingrediants in very dangerous men. Dourif is Dourif, which is never not mesmerizing, and Russell does the wounded angel thing down to the bone. A sad story, with a dream cast (for me, at least), a downbeat reflection on lives gone down the wrong path, a diamond in the rough noir thriller of the best kind.

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.