An excellent movie about the methodicalness and determination of the police in a small town in the Soviet Union in the 1980s in trying to track and catch a serial killer. Based on a true life case, this film shows the brutality of the USSR at the time and how, because of limited resources, detectives often found themselves undermanned and overworked. An excellent cast rounds out this fabulous film about hunting down a killer and how slow and frustrating a process it could be.

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A fabulous legal thriller that owes most of its points to the performance of Edward Norton, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role. A breakout role of Norton, the character he plays here is Aaron, a shy, stuttering young man who has many more layers than anyone gives him credit for. Aaron is accused of a heinous crime, which he is adamant he did not commit. Enter smug, self-obsessed attorney Martin Vail, who takes Aaron’s case because it’s assured a lot of publicity. Vale, in the beginning, couldn’t care less about Aaron, but as time passes and Aaron reveals more of himself to the lawyer, Martin warms to Aaron…some. But, just as he does…WHAM! A curve is thrown that keeps Vale and the audience guessing. But, this is not anywhere near as powerful as the final curve. As I said, this movie is really put over the top with Edward Norton’s portrayal of Aaron. The portrayal comes to fruition at the end. Call it the payoff. And, boy, it is a doozy!

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I’d heard all of the talk about how violent this film was, so I guess I was prepared because it didn’t seem that bad to me. What did stand out were the fabulous performances by the entire cast. The plot is simple…a man finds a briefcase filled with cash ($2 million) and takes it. He then is chased for the entire film by the man (Anton) who wants the cash back. Anton is a maniacal killer…he uses the most unlikely and unorthodox killing implements and does it all with a complete lack of all emotion. He is a killing machine. He wants his money back and he will kill anyone and everyone who gets in his way of that goal. And, somehow, I found him to be a sad character. No, like I said, he never shows ANY emotion, but I just felt a strange pity for him. Like John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, he is an unlikable character with an edge that you grow fold of. The difference here is Ethan was a loner and searcher with an edge and Anton is a loner and searching murderer with an edge.

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If you’ve seen Laura or any other of Gene Tierney’s films, you know she usually plays a good woman. Maybe not always a perfect lady but a law-abiding, seemingly moral character. In Leave Her to Heaven, any question of morality, honor, and integrity flies out of window. Tierney plays an evil woman. This is not giving anything away or being too harsh. Right from the beginning, we find out Tierney’s not quite right, though it’s not until later in the film that she reveals her true viciousness. And, viciousness might be putting it mildly. The story revolves around Tierney’s character’s relationship with Cornel Wilde. Some of the things her character does in this film…well, they are just unspeakable. And, Tierney pulls them all off with conviction and believability. This woman who can be so innocent and naïve in other films becomes this ruthless devil without skipping a beat. Watch this one because it’s a good film, but mostly because of the GREAT performance by a truly underrated actress.

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The film that forced married men to think twice before straying…as well as reviving Michael Douglas’ acting career…is a top-notch thriller. It got a lot of attention when it came out in 1987 because of its graphic violence and (especially) sexuality. Sometimes, when you strip the controversy from a film, what you’re left with is a movie that really was not worth all of the attention. I would say that is not true here…this is a great film that knows how to convey fear to the audience. Never would I say something is Hitchcockian (I believe that NOTHING will ever be worthy of that label since the Master of Suspense was, just that, a Master…the one and only), but I think that IF Hitchcock would have been working in 1987, he might have made a film in this same vein. The vein being a continual threat of menacing terror that keeps growing and growing until it just cannot do anything else other than explode! So, watch this one for the thrills…not for the attention it got when it came out. And, whatever you do, please do not call it Hitchcockian. If necessary…maybe pseudo-Hitchcockian, or semi-Hitchcockian? But, only if necessary!

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This film, kind of a horror-thriller, still makes me jump and wriggle in my seat, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Even though I know the outcome, it still works as an effective thriller that holds suspense throughout and features something many non-Hitchcock thrillers lack…a good plot filled with solid characters. The story is pretty simple…a released convict hunts down the witness whose testimony helped put him in jail. But, instead of killing or attacking the witness right away…once he finds him, this criminal chooses a slow torture process. He starts with stalking and then moves slowly on to more vicious and heinous things, making sure he never implicates himself at any time. Robert Mitchum plays the criminal, Max Cady, and this is a role he was born to play. I always have felt that Mitchum is a highly underrated actor and his subtly evil performance here seals, in my mind, that Mitchum never got his deserved due. Gregory Peck as the witness with the family he so desperately is trying to protect is not necessarily less impressive but this is a role Peck has played on a number of occasions…the trouble family man. He still is at the top of his game here, especially towards the end when Mitchum increases the stakes. But, this is all Mitchum’s movie…as the quintessential and un-stereotypical bad guy.

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Evil Robert Mitchum comes to a small, sleepy town posing as a preacher to try and win over the hearts and bank accounts of unsuspecting ladies, preferably the desperate ones. Enter Shelley Winters with no husband and two kids, making the perfect target. The best thing about this movie is Robert Mitchum. Normally a good actor who is able to play any kind of role (cowboy, cop, soldier, good guy, bad guy, etc.), this movie took the “bad guy” role to new heights. Here his devilish acts focus around children. Even with a subject matter that can be very touchy, Mitchum gives this role his all. The end result is one of the creepiest, meanest and most ruthless characters in American cinema.

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