Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction

Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction isn’t your typical vampire film, which fits his groove because I’ve always considered his work to be full of genre films that secretly dream of arthouse ambition and can’t really be caged into a one sentence log-line or classification. This has the look and feel of something akin to Jim Jarmusch’s work, a laidback, atmospheric New York City story shot in beautiful black and white tones by cinematographer Ken Kelsch, visual poetry that looks magnificent on the Arrow Blu Ray transfer which can be viewed streaming on Shudder. The film stars Lili Taylor as a philosophy major learning all about the monstrosities that humans are capable of, when she runs into a monster herself in the form of deadly vampire Casanova (the great Annabella Sciorra), who drags her into a dark alleyway one night and bites her in the neck. From there she must come to terms with the changes happening in her body and soul, the need to feed on other humans and what it means to transition from one being into a different creature of the night. The film shirks usual vampire lore and motifs for something denser, more philosophical and intellectually prickly in terms of theme, which sometimes went a bit above my head but it’s obvious that Ferrara is fascinated by the ideas of guilt, penance and absolution rooted in catholic faith, and it’s fascinating to see him explore these things through the stark prism of a vampire story. He always surrounds himself with fascinating and wonderful actors too, like Taylor has spent her career doing curious work that’s hard to pin her down by in any one arena, much like Abel himself, and she’s terrific here, with an arc of existential curiosity that is slowly metamorphosing into deep fear of the inner machinations of nature and the soul. The cast here is terrific, with Sciorra doing a dark, vicious turn and other excellent work from Paul Calderon, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Kathryn Erbe and a spectral Christopher Walken as another vampire she runs into by chance, who briefly and cryptically mentors her on the ways of the night. It won’t be for everyone because it contains none of the sweeping grandeur and baroque romanticism that many are used to and expect from their vampire films, but the thick, cerebrally frictional themes, moody visual palette full of shadows, smoke and concrete and the offbeat, dangerous style were very impressive to me. Streaming now on Shudder.

-Nate Hill

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys is his Bad Boys II before college or like a drug problem, still a raging good time and a great action film but not quite the certifiably deranged mega production that he whipped out of his pants with that sequel. Nevertheless, it’s the warm up round, the pre-drink session and I love it to bits as well. I’ve read reviews comparing it to or accusing it of directly aping Beverly Hills Cop, and while it’s easy to see the thematic connection, I disagree and feel like it’s a separate aesthetic entirely. 90’s Miami, the simultaneous fast talking tornados that are Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, large scale action mayhem, constant improvised bickering, Joe Pantoliano perpetually on the verge of several strokes, it’s a vibe all its own and although this one is considerably more dialled back than II, it’s no less of a blast. Smith’s hotshot rich boy Mike LOWRY and Lawrence’s persnickety family man Marcus Burnett are live wire vice cops investigating a violent, elaborate drug smuggling ring lead by Tchecky Karyo’s Fouchet, a psychopath written as one note but the Turkish badass breathes life into him anyways. Tea Leoni is Julie, material witness to one of his murders and therefore tagging along with Marcus and Mike throughout the films chases, shootouts, verbal confrontations and what have you. Bottom line: In these roles, Smith and Lawrence are either your thing or they’re not, no middle ground. They’re loud, crass, politically incorrect goofballs who can’t sit still to save their lives and I love spending every minute with them. Also an acquired taste (and quite a cause of controversy in film discussions across the land) is Bay’s slick, noisy aesthetic, which may sometimes land with a hollow thud, but there is just no denying in one’s rational mind that the guy can’t stage absolute motherfuckers in the way of action set pieces, his films have a diamond crisp quality to the visuals, and his explosions are always shock and awe glory. The final car chase here across a giant airport tarmac is something else, feels real and dangerous, the eventual crash n’ burn a terrific payoff. The supporting ranks here are populated by the likes of Theresa Randle, Marc Macauley, Michael Imperioli, Marg Helgenberger, Kevin Corrigan, Anna Levine, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Karen Alexander, Shaun Toub and briefly Kim Coates, hilariously credited as ‘White Carjacker.’ If you like your action movies funny, and your comedies full of action, this is the ticket. But you also have to be tuned in to Smith and Lawrence’s particular brand of lunacy, which understandably isn’t for everyone. Bring on the third film as soon as possible.

-Nate Hill