Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese's gangster classic.

Martin Scorsese’s ‘GoodFellas’ on HBO Max

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” GoodFellas (1990), Martin Scorsese’s violent, dynamic, exhilarating adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fiction book Wiseguy, about real-life wiseguy-turned-witness against the mob Henry Hill, exploded across screens in 1990 and was embraced as the first great American gangster movie since Coppola’s The Godfather […]

‘The Limey’ – Terence Stamp’s revenge on Amazon Prime

The Limey (1999), Steven Soderbergh’s immediate follow-up to his sexy and stylish Out of Sight, is an equally stylish but far more austere crime drama, cool and removed and filled with regret where Out of Sight was warm and romantic and sexy. Terence Stamp is Wilson, an aging cockney criminal fresh out of prison who […]

Orson Welles is Harry Lime on Carol Reed's classic

Continental noir: ‘The Third Man’ on Criterion Channel

Carol Reed’s continental film noir The Third Man (1949), written by Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotten as a cynical American pulp novelist playing detective in the rubble-strewn underworld of post-war Vienna and Orson Welles as a charming but ruthless black marketeer, is one of the true classics. The film is directed by Reed but […]

Ethan Hawke in ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ on HBO Max

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) is a surprisingly taut, tight, effective remake of John Carpenter’s genuine debut feature (I count Dark Star as a practice run). Ethan Hawke stars as a former undercover cop who hit the bottle and retreated to desk work after one case went horribly wrong. Now a gun-shy station commander overseeing […]

Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton star in Sam Raimi's thriller

‘A Simple Plan’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

A Simple Plan (1998) – An endless white landscape of rolling hills and snow-blanketed forests. A lonely acoustic score (by Danny Elfman) plays in the background. A vision of rural simplicity portrayed in hushed tones. The stillness is about to shatter. Brothers Hank (Bill Paxton), an accountant at a small town feed store, and Jacob […]

Heath Ledger is The Joker in the Christopher Nolan Batman sequel starring Christian Bale

‘The Dark Knight’ vs. The Joker on Netflix

Superhero films became increasingly sophisticated and decidedly darker as they become (for better or worse) a full-fledged genre in the 2000s. With Batman Begins, writer/director Christopher Nolan (drawing inspiration from the revisionist Batman comic books by Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb) rebooted the Batman mythos for the big screen, bringing the often lighthearted hero back […]

Pam Grier, Robert Forster and Samuel L. Jackson star in Quentin Tarantino's adaptation of Elmore Leonard

Pam Grier is ‘Jackie Brown’ on Paramount+

Jackie Brown (1997) – “Amateurs borrow, professionals steal,” goes the maxim, and Quentin Tarantino steals like a pro. Where directors of the previous generation peppered their films with classic cinematic quotes, Tarantino plunders the films of his formative years for ideas—mostly B-movies and exploitation films about cars and capers and criminals—and riffs on them with […]

Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic star in the Cinemax series 'Banshee'

The Pure Pulp Pleasure of ‘Banshee’ on HBO Max

I like to think of Cinemax as the grindhouse version of HBO: not as exclusive, not as ambitious, not as high-toned (late night Cinemax wasn’t called “Skinemax” for nothing). And it’s the same when it comes to original programming, the cable TV mark of distinction. Where HBO boasts such impressive productions as The Wire and […]

Keanu Reeves is retired assassin John Wick roused back for a mission of vengeance in the 2014 action hit directed by Chad Stahelski

Keanu Reeves is ‘John Wick’ on Peacock

John Wick (2014) is the kind of action movie that Hollywood rarely makes anymore: simple, streamlined, with action scenes that rely on physical rather than computer generated elements. Keanu Reeves plays the titular character, a former assassin for the Russian mob (led by Michael Nyqvist) who is roused from retirement when a group of thugs […]

Jason Statham in 'The Bank Job,' directed by Roger Donaldson

‘The Bank Job’ on Netflix

The Bank Job (2008) may sound like a generic crime vehicle from the title and the casting of genre action star Jason Statham, a stalwart tough guy with stocky presence and limited range, but don’t let that stop you from digging into this British film. Based on (or more accurately inspired by) the real life […]