November Blind Spot Review: Chinatown (1974)

chinatown poster

“You’ve got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gittes. I like that.”
– Noah Cross


SYNOPSIS: A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder. – via IMDB

GRADE 8Another one off the list! I thoroughly enjoy neo-noir films, and I am always pleased when I get to watch one. Chinatown is considered a classic and a work of art, and I am inclined to see why it is a classic. The script is solid, and accompanied by a great score that complements the film every step of the way. The movie is also carried by two great leads, and Nicholson and Dunaway give fantastic performances. I do think that the movie was exceptionally long. Sometimes you noticed this, other times not so much. It took me awhile to get into it, but when I was hooked, I was taken in all the way. The story is simple, but never plain and boring, but never so complex that is loses the viewer along the way. Chinatown is also shot really well. I was not a fan of one particular scene where Jake laid into Evelyn pretty solid. Everything was going fine and next thing he was smacking the heck out of her, and I felt it was jarring. I suppose it is still loyal to the times and all, but that type of stuff grates on me. And it was brutal, especially when you hear what she reveals after. Brutality for brutality man. I don’t really know what else to say about the movie – I enjoyed the concept and the execution, the atmosphere and vibe, and I liked the fact that the ending made me think, too.

Review: The Departed (2006)

The Departed Movie Poster

“We have a question: Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop? It’s an honest question.”
– Oliver Queenan

Francis “Frank” Costello (Jack Nicholson) runs the Irish organised crime in South Boston. He is smart and values education, and clever at picking out loyal gang members. At a very young age he picks Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) and cultivates him to be one of his finest assets. Sullivan trains and enters into the Massachusetts State Police, and now acts as a perfectly placed mole within the police force. However, luck would have it that Sullivan gets moved into the Special Investigations Unit, which deals directly with hunting for Frank Costello and taking him down. It seems Costello’s efforts with Sullivan will pay off. Meanwhile, William “Billy” Costigan works his way through the police academy, but is approached by Captain Oliver Charles Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) to infiltrate Costello’s gang, going undercover. They cannot hide that he was at the academy, but they can have him arrested and incarcerated to have a believable background. Costigan has family ties back to organised crime that is most helpful to get him in with the right people.

the departed matt damon as sullivan
“When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals.” – Frank Costello

Costigan flushes his life away and goes to prison. Coming out, he meets up with his cousin Sean (Kevin Corrigan) and starts running drugs. Slowly but surely, he starts getting in with the right people. Costigan gets an introduction with Arnold “Frenchie” French (Ray Winstone) and later meets with Costello himself, who after a painful interrogation decides that he could use a guy like that. Both Sullivan and Costigan are on their way to infiltrating properly, and Sullivan starts seeing psychiatrist Dr Madolyn Madden (Vera Farmiga), though their relationship it not peachy. Costigan is actually seeing Madolyn for his state mandated psychology sessions for probation. He is attracted to her, and when things get rough between her and Sullivan, she starts something up with Costigan. Costigan is proving himself to be a real asset to Costello, and climbs the ranks rather quickly.

the departed billy costigan
“Is there something that you just wanna go ahead and ask me?” – Billy Costigan

It soon becomes evident to the Special Investigations Unit that they have a mole, and Costello and Sullivan suspect that there is a rat within Costello’s ranks. Sullivan is tasked by Queenan to find the mole, who happens to be himself. Costigan and Sullivan are now desperately hunting each other, both terrified of what would happen if they were discovered. Costigan had already tried to get out of the life though Queenan begged him to stay on just a little bit longer. Costigan fears for his life, and is horrified by the terrible things that he sees daily. Sullivan’s perfect little life starts unravelling when it becomes evident that he had better come up with the mole’s identity, but he cannot very well give up himself.

the departed chatting with costello
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” – Frank Costello

Will Costigan find out who the mole within the State Police is? Will Sullivan discover the identity of Costigan, Costello’s rat? Will Queenan stick to his word and get Costigan out before it is too late? What will Dignam do with the way the investigation is being run, and the fact that he does not like Sullivan? How safe is Costello really? Is he as untouchable as it is all made out?

The Departed scores a solid 9/10 for me. I absolutely love this film and it really never gets old for me. It has a damn fine cast with a pretty slick plot that is laid out incredibly well. There are no arb jumps and things that leave you lost and confused. The acting is top notch and the tension keeps you hooked from the get go, with never a dull moment working its way into the precious minutes of your life that are being dedicated to this film. It is long but never, ever drags out. Jack Nicholson is impressive as Irish gangster Frank Costello, and his relationship with Matt Damon’s Sullivan was worth checking out, too. Sullivan was slick and smooth and completely believable in his role of mole within the police force. DiCaprio was a wonder (as always) to experience as Billy Costigan, and gave the character so much colour and flair. He went from angry and badass to terrified yet loyal to the job. Wahlberg’s character was such a douche, and he gave him so much life! I really thought the characters were constructed well. There is so much to say about this movie, so much that worked about it. One of the best movies I have seen in ages, something I continually go back to and love. I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack for The Departed. Probably my favourite use of Gimme Shelter in a movie. The movie is fast paced and thrilling, and has you at the edge of your seat for the duration of it. It is one of my favourite movies, and Martin Scorsese did another phenomenal job with his people on this one. What a thrilling flick! For a far more in depth review of what I thought about this, you can go check it out here.

Review: The Shining (1980)

The SHining Poster

“Some places are like people: some shine and some don’t.”
– Dick Hollorann

Ah, an oldie but a goodie. I got this for Christmas as a gift from my colleague. She was so worried that I would have it (being a favourite of mine and all of that), that she went as far as to fish around at what titles I already have in my collection. Anyhow, I geared up for this over the holiday, and again, adored it.

I read The Shining, too, and I own it. The book is fantastic (as only Stephen King can effortlessly produce), and the movie is brilliant, too, although the movie is not quite nearly the same as the book, which is okay. And it is okay because Stanley Kubrick took the skeleton of the film and made it his own, and he did it well.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the winter caretaker at the desolate Overlook Hotel, and takes his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) to stay with him. He views the job as a great opportunity to continue working on his novel, as the job is rather simple, but he is warned that the isolation often gets to people, and that there was a rather gruesome incident years ago with one of the other winter caretakers, Delbert Grady (Philip Stone). The story is that the isolation got to Delbert, and he hacked up and slaughtered his wife, two daughters and then offed himself.

the shining girls murdered

Wendy and Danny are not overly keen on moving into a hotel for the long winter, but Jack is struggling, and they support him. They are awed at the sheer size of the hotel, and the family is sure that they will be fine. Danny uses his “gift”, called “The Shining” by the chef, Dick Hollorann (Scatman Crothers), and sees the bloody past of the hotel resurfacing. Jack, meanwhile, slips into an insanity caused by cabin fever, and eventually loses the plot altogether when he is convinced by a waiter that his family needs “correcting”. Danny’s gift is more important now than ever as he tries desperately to reach out to the only other person he knows to possess the same abilities as he does: Dick Hollorann.

The Shining scores 8/10 as it is one of those proper classics. This film was incredibly well executed, and the actors were great for their roles. Jack Nicholson, as always, nailed the part of a demented soul, and Wendy, for all her sniveling,  got the part of terrified wife down damn well. I think that this is most definitely a must-see movie for anyone, whether you are into the genre or not.