Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

Stardust (2007) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains frightening fanstasy scenes & violence
Cast:
Claire Danes as Yvaine
Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia
Mark Strong as Prince Septimus
Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare of the Caspartine
Jason Flemyng as Prince Primus
Rupert Everett as Prince Secundus
Kate Magowan as Princess Una
Ricky Gervais as Ferdiland “Ferdy” the Fence
Sienna Miller as Victoria Forester
Peter O’Toole as the dying King of Stormhold
Director: Matthew Vaughn

To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. What Tristan finds, however, is not a chunk of space rock, but a woman (Claire Danes) named Yvaine. Yvaine is in great danger, for the king’s sons need her powers to secure the throne, and an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants to use her to achieve eternal youth and beauty.

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Stardust was the only Matthew Vaughn movie I hadn’t watched in it’s entirety yet, I’m pretty sure that I saw parts of this movie a while ago since moments of it look familiar. Going into it, I really didn’t know what to expect. A fantasy based movie is not something that I could see Vaughn of all directors do. However, this movie was quite surprising and much better than I thought it would be, I had a good time with it.

Stardust is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, throughout it’s a purely fantasy movie and really leans into that. Much of the movie is cheesy but in a good way, you can really have fun with the movie. You really can’t take this movie too seriously, and thankfully it doesn’t take itself seriously either. It has a bunch of fantasy adventure clichés and does very little to subvert them, so this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve never seen before. It’s also fairly predictable, you can generally see which direction the movie is moving towards. As a light, silly adventure fantasy movie however, I had a blast with it.

This movie has such a surprisingly large cast, young Henry Cavill and Ben Barnes appear in minor roles and even the legendary Peter O’Toole shows up for a brief appearance. On the whole the cast did very well. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox are the leads and they really worked. The interactions between the two characters were pretty typical of fantasy romances but Danes and Cox still had some good chemistry together. Michelle Pfeiffer is I guess the primary villain of the movie as one of a trio of witches looking to get Claire Danes. Pfeiffer really hams up her role at just the right level, and it really works for this movie. Mark Strong has played multiple villains and he also plays a villainous sort of character here, however there’s something about him here that’s just so entertaining to watch, he’s definitely having fun here. The MVP however was Robert De Niro who shows up in a supporting but memorable part here, definitely the standout from the whole cast. Other supporting players like Sienna Miller also play their roles well. Honestly the only one that didn’t really work was Ricky Gervais who appears briefly and even in that short time was really out of place.

This doesn’t actually feel like a Matthew Vaughn film and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He’s actually handled this movie very well. As I said with the writing and story, this movie really leans into the fantasy aspect and it’s done very well, the production design and costumes are on point. At times the visuals can look a little dated but you can look past it, because most of them are really nice to look at, even a decade later.

Matthew Vaughn’s take on a fantasy movie with Stardust was way better than I thought it would be. Even the cheese and the over the top elements were entertaining, it knew what it was, and the cast were really good here. There are for sure better fantasy movies and it’s by no means a classic, however I just really had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s worth a watch at least.

The Irishman (2019) Review

Time: 209 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
Al Pacino as James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa
Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino
Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino
Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio
Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran
Stephen Graham as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano
Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno
Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O’Brien
Director: Martin Scorsese

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hitman, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.

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The Irishman wasn’t just my most anticipated movie of 2019, it was also one of my most anticipated movies ever. The trio of actors of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all working together was already fantastic, but additionally it was for a gangster movie, and one directed by Martin Scorsese no less. I’ve been hearing about this film being in development for years, and that it had problems being made, mostly because no studio wanted to finance it. I didn’t know whether it would end up being made, neither did De Niro and Scorsese, who were really pushing for it. But after long last, it finally happened and I couldn’t wait to see it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through almost all of Scorsese’s filmography, watching those I haven’t seen beforehand, and re-watching those that I’ve already seen (barring a few) in anticipation. The Irishman is an incredible movie in every regard, incredibly ambitious, but Scorsese and co. really delivered on something special, one of the highlights of the decade for sure.

The Irishman is based on a biography called I Heard You Paint Houses (which as it turns out, was the title which opens up the film), so it’s at least mostly based on real facts and events. Much has already been said about the very long runtime of The Irishman. The longest that Scorsese’s feature films have run was around 3 hours for Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. The Irishman on the other hand is at 3 and a half hours long, and that certainly sounds intimidating. I wouldn’t say that it flies by and that you don’t feel the length at all. However, it does a lot to keep your attention. The movie actually managed to not be boring, it’s just that you feel overwhelmed by the length and the amount of things going on. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure that the movie definitely gets better and better the more you watch it. I will say that although the first half is pretty good, it’s the second half where it really picks up. At that point, there are a lot of moving pieces and rising tensions. In the first half or at least the first third, The Irishman seems like standard Scorsese gangster stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, as even standard Scorsese gangster territory is pretty great.

Plenty of people who hear the premise but haven’t been looking into it might just think that The Irishman is just another Scorsese mob movie. However it’s much more than that. Goodfellas and Casino are very fast paced, and focusses a lot on the excess and thrills. With The Irishman, gone is the thrill from the environment, the money and the violence. Even the violence (even though it’s not nearly as graphic as his other gangster movies) are without any possible enjoyment, portraying it as what it is, very ugly and unpleasant, and not stylised at all. This story is from the perspective of an aging and dying man, looking back at his life as how it was, with plenty of regrets. Not to mention that lead character Frank Sheeran already operated like a machine or soldier basically, taking no pleasure in the crimes that he had to carry out. So, this is definitely new territory for Martin Scorsese to play within. This is a movie that technology aside, Scorsese couldn’t make back in the 90s amidst his other gangster movies. It required an older man’s handle of the whole story, and he handled it all pretty much perfectly. And for those who still believe that Scorsese somehow endorses their flawed (to say the least) gangster protagonists and their lifestyles, I don’t even see how they’d be able to make that criticism for The Irishman. For a movie that can be sad and dark, it actually has quite a lot of effective humour throughout. The script by Steven Zaillian is really great, with some effective and memorable dialogue, with plenty of interesting things going on. The last hour takes quite a sombre turn, and the last half an hour in particular is particularly sad, as the consequences of everything that Frank has done finally catches up with him. The final shot of the movie in particular is effectively crushing.

For the acting, let’s start with the main trio of actors. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman and the titular Irishman. He’s on screen for almost all of the movie and follows him throughout his life. With that said, the movie doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of exploring of the character, and it’s on purpose. De Niro gives an incredibly subtle performance, he’s not as distinct as you’d think, and does at times almost seems like he is overshadowed by the cast surrounding him. However this seems to be the point, this is type of person that Sheeran was in real life. This is one of De Niro’s best performances, especially within the last hour, where he delivers some truly heartbreaking work. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, and this is the best performance I’ve seen from him since the late 90s. Yes it’s showy and loud, and very much like some of his over the top performances in the 90s like in Heat, however that seems to fit Jimmy Hoffa, and he seems to have effectively captured the personality and character of Hoffa. Pacino isn’t just shouting the whole time, he also gives quite an emotional centre to his performance as well, especially with his very close connections to Sheeran, and also Sheeran’s daughter Peggy. Joe Pesci had been in retirement for years, so it’s amazing seeing him back on screen again, and he’s still got it. His other collaborations with Martin Scorsese have been angry, violent and profane filled characters, especially with their gangster movies together. This time his character of Russell Bufalino is a mob boss, who was known in real life as ‘The Quiet Don’, and he’s a lot more subtle here. He’s very controlled, calm and gave the impression of a man who carefully selects every word before he speaks. He actually comes across as friendly, and his friendship with Sheeran feels very genuine. At the same time there’s still a coldness that can be seen within him, and you never forget how dangerous he is. A lot of people cite Goodfellas as his best performance, I’ve always considered his work in Casino to be better. However after seeing this movie, I do believe that his performance as Bufalino is the best work of his career, and if this is indeed the last film that he acts in, then this is the perfect point to end it on.

The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with the likes of Ray Ramano, Bobby Cannavali, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel showing up briefly and doing some good work in their scenes. Stephen Graham is also a notable player during the movie, as Tony Provenzano, a notable Teamster, whose conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa play a part in the story. Graham was a scene stealer, and more than holds his own against actors like Al Pacino. Much has been said about the lack of female characters, and that the most prominent female character doesn’t have a lot of lines. That character is that of one of Frank Sheeran’s daughters in Peggy, played by Lucy Gallina as the younger version and Anna Paquin as the adult version. It’s been flying around that Paquin basically only had one line in the movie, and talking about her that way is a disservice to the movie, and to the performances. I’ve heard plenty of people saying that she could’ve been removed from the movie and you wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t disagree more. She might not be consistently focussed on like Jimmy Hoffa was in the movie, but she’s nonetheless a constant and significant presence throughout the movie. You don’t get to really know what kind of person Peggy is, because Frank doesn’t know who she is, he wasn’t close with her. What he does remember however are her looks towards him, and those looks are very telling and memorable, as she very clearly knows what he does for a living. The performances by the two actors is incredibly subtle yet powerful, as they convey so much with just a single glance.

Martin Scorsese directs this film excellently as expected. Sure, at first it’s not as crazy as Goodfellas and Casino, but that’s not just because he’s getting old and can’t do that or anything of the sort. His direction feels deliberately restrained, which was absolutely perfect for this movie. As previously mentioned, it doesn’t have a focus on excess and the violence is not stylised at all. Some can talk about how the colour palette isn’t remarkable, I just personally mark up that up to being the fact that it’s an old man looking back at his life through that lens. The cinematography on the whole was great, and Scorsese’s camera movements are remarkable, definitely a master of his craft. Even though his direction is definitely restrained, that’s not to say that The Irishman is without some style. Additionally, when some characters are introduced, text flashes on screen with their name, and how they died and when. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is great as usual, and The Irishman ranks amongst her best work on a Scorsese film. Without an editor at her calibre, this movie would feel even longer than it is, but she keeps everything moving from scene to scene. The music is well picked and fits the scenes they are placed in, as per usual for Scorsese. However unlike Casino and Goodfellas (noticing a trend here?), they aren’t quite as memorable, and are much more quieter, appropriate for the movie. Much of the musical highlights of the movie comes from the score by Robbie Robertson, whose score is great throughout. The main theme especially is sinister, and fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. Fittingly, The Irishman utilises silence very well, allowing for the characters to reflect and contemplate.

Time to address the elephant in the room, the CGI used for the de-aging or youthificiation of the main cast. I should note that I saw this on a screen at home on Netflix, not in a large cinema, and from that situation I definitely noticed a lot less problems through that experience. With that said, I’d say that it’s the best use of de-aging I’ve seen in a movie. Even the best use of de-aging in movies I’ve seen like in Blade Runner 2049, they’ve used it in brief moments and not for the entire movie. The closest was with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, who was de-aged from start to finish. However The Irishman is a whole other level, with actors nearly in their 80s that need to look as young as their 30s or 40s at least. I know some people said that it would’ve been better to just cast younger actors for the parts, but considering that the entire film is about growing old, that wouldn’t have worked at all. The delay of making the movie if anything was a blessing, because by the time they made it, the de-aging technology had advanced much more than in the early 2010s. The CGI on Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked pretty much perfect and seamless. In fact there’s a moment where Pesci looks like he was ripped out of the 90s, it was incredibly uncanny. Out of the 3 main leads, it was De Niro that suffered the most, in that early on looked it wasn’t quite perfect. It wasn’t bad it just seemed a little off. With that said, it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother others, I wasn’t too distracted by it. Even if you are distracted by it, you settle into the movie relatively quickly. There is only one complaint I have about the de-aging, and it’s not about the visual effects, but more the movement of the actors. Obviously, they have to make it look like they’re younger men through the way they sit, walk, etc, and a lot of attention has definitely been put towards that, that’s great and all. Occasionally though, you’ll get a scene where you really see the actor’s age. The biggest example is a scene where Sheeran/De Niro beats up a guy in the first half an hour of the movie, the scene is captured mostly in a wide shot and his movements are clearly from a man in his mid 70s and it kind of took me out of the scene. So there are a few scenes where they probably could’ve handled it a little better, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.

The Irishman is yet another fantastic film from Martin Scorsese, and is firmly one of his all time best achievements. It’s restrained, reflective, and devastating, featuring great performances, especially from the of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, giving some of the best performances of their careers. There is a lot to take in with this movie, and I definitely intend to revisit it within the next month or so. If you can watch it on the big screen, take that opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to see it in a cinema to love it however, I really loved it with my setup. However if you do it in this way, even if you take a break during viewing, I implore you to not watch this movie over a number of days or anything. It may a Netflix movie but it doesn’t mean that it’s a mini series, it’s meant to be seen as a movie. With that aside, The Irishman sits firmly as one of the all time best films of the year thus far.

Cape Fear (1991) Review

Time: 128 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Max Cady
Nick Nolte as Sam Bowden
Jessica Lange as Leigh Bowden
Juliette Lewis as Danielle Bowden
Joe Don Baker as Claude Kersek
Robert Mitchum as Lt. Elgart
Gregory Peck as Lee Heller
Director:

Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is a psychopath just released from prison for rape. He is out seeking revenge from his lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) who he believes deliberately held back important information about his case during the trial, which could have kept him out of jail. He sets off to terrorize Bowden, his wife (Jessica Lange) and even goes after their 15 year old daughter (Juliette Lewis).

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After his massive hit with Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese’s next film would be a remake of the 1961 thriller Cape Fear, which would be the most commercial movie from him at least at the time. While it’s indeed another thriller, he does a number of things to make it more entertaining, engaging, interesting, and ultimately better.

With Cape Fear, I think it’s worth not knowing too much before going in. It is a bit of a slow burn thriller, as antagonist Max Cady terrorizes the main family in different ways, but it’s consistently engaging all the way through. One thing that you should know is that Cape Fear isn’t a brutally realistic thriller. There are some aspects that are over the top, and Max Cady seeming supernatural in some of the things he does. While Scorsese’s movie is much more overtly intense than the original, make no mistake, this is still a genre movie, and Scorsese absolutely embraces that to great effect. At the same time, he does take the movie in other directions, especially with regard to the family dynamic, which made Cape Fear more than just another stalker thriller. The tension builds up over the course of the movie, and culminates in a very thrilling last act.

Robert Mitchum left quite the impression in the original movie as Max Cady, he basically made that movie worth remembering. However, Robert De Niro is also fantastic as Cady in the remake. He’s a little more over the top and larger than life, but nonetheless is still probably the scariest performance that he’s given. He’s quite overtly monstrous, yet adds enough humanity to the role. Some have said that De Niro can have performances that are similar to each other, but performances like The King of Comedy and this are examples of him absolutely transforming into completely different roles. That creepy southern accent of his also helped quite a lot. In the original Cape Fear, the family was rather typical and clean, whereas in the 1991 version, the lead family in here is shown to have a lot more going on with them. Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis are all great as that family. I’ve noticed that Nolte’s performance as Sam Bowden is rather overlooked, Gregory Peck as Bowden in the original movie was way too clean and honourable throughout. Nolte on top of portraying the character with great paranoia and stress effectively, is also shown to be rather flawed himself as a person before even coming across Max Cady again. The rest of the supporting cast work well too, with the likes of Illeana Douglas, Joe Don Baker, and a few cameos from actors of the original Cape Fear with Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck and Martin Balsam. Scorsese doesn’t let any of the characters here come across as a hero and make them all feel human, even Cady.

Martin Scorsese’s work is once again great, and his direction ultimately made the movie even better. It’s a very stylish thriller, there are some over the top elements like the zoom ins and certain editing techniques, but that’s deliberately inspired from suspenseful filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. In fact a lot of people have described Cape Fear as Scorsese doing De Palma. Much of the way the third act was directed was pretty great. The score is good too, Scorsese kept much of the score from the original movie and it works here.

Cape Fear isn’t among Martin Scorsese’s best movies, but that’s honestly not too much of a problem, it worked very well for what it was, and he made it even better than it could’ve been. Scorsese directs this excellently and elevated the material greatly, and the performances are really good, especially from De Niro and Nolte. So I definitely think it’s worth watching.

The King of Comedy (1982) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin
Jerry Lewis as Jerry Langford
Sandra Bernhard as Masha
Diahnne Abbott as Rita Keene
Director: Martin Scorsese

Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is a passionate yet unsuccessful comic who craves nothing more than to be in the spotlight and to achieve this, he stalks and kidnaps his idol (Jerry Lewis) to take the spotlight for himself.

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Despite it being very well praised by critics at the time, The King of Comedy generally seemed to receive a mixed reaction at the time, even bombing at the box office. It’s a really good movie, led by an uncomfortably great performance by Robert De Niro, and has gotten only more praise the older it gets.

The King of Comedy is quite an original and well written movie. Content wise this is definitely one of Scorsese’s cleaner movies, but this isn’t necessarily an easy watch by any means, in fact it’s very likely one of his more unnerving films. This movie can actually be quite uncomfortable to watch, especially as lead character Rupert Pupkin does more and more embarrassing things and crossing more lines. In fact I’d go so far as to say that I felt at least as uncomfortable watching Pupkin here as I did Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. This movie is a social commentary about celebrity-obsession, and unfortunately in that regard I don’t think The King of Comedy will ever stop being relevant. The movie is definitely satirical, such as playing off the whole trope of the main character living with his mother and pretending that he’s on a talk show as he speaks to cardboard cutouts of guests and Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). It’s not a laugh riot as the title suggests, but it has a few moments of dark comedic humour. On the whole though it is a dramatic thriller for the most part. This movie has been compared to another Scorsese movie, Taxi Driver, with both movies following unstable protagonists played by Robert De Niro. Indeed they are similar in that regard but they are definitely different from each other, both movies are generally about different things and you’re certainly not going to see Pupkin attempt to kill someone, but they are both disturbed people that we have to follow. The ending is also similar to Taxi Driver’s in that it’s ambiguous, and both protagonists are unreliable. However I feel like your interpretation of the ending here will really matter in regard to your takeaway from the overall film, whether to take it literally or not. I myself haven’t decided yet, but I’d personally say that the literal way is a lot more disturbing.

Robert De Niro is fantastic here as Rupert Pupkin, and honestly I’d say that it’s one of his best performances. We’ve seen De Niro play plenty of tough and dangerous people, but this is such a different role for him, a sad, weird, obsessed man, and very uncomfortable to watch, I can barely see the actor in the performance. While De Niro is really great and is undeniably the star of the show, Jerry Lewis should also get more praise for his performance for Jerry Langford, the talk show host that Pupkin is obsessed with. He is definitely playing against type as he’s not a source of comedy really, as Langford he’s a more tired version of his own self. Definitely not a very nice person to say the least, but at the same time you can kind of get why he’d act how he does given Pupkin’s antics and boundary crossing. The supporting cast is also good. There’s Sandra Bernhard as another unstable fan of Langford, and Diahnne Abbott as Pupkin’s love interest.

Saying that Martin Scorsese directed this well is redundant at this point. Now it’s not nearly as flashy or memorable as in movies say Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, but I guess it didn’t really need to be that for the movie that it is, and it’s still on point all the way through. However there are some memorable scenes and setups, especially one involving Rupert Pupkin towards the latter portion of the movie.

The King of Comedy is not one of my favourite movies from Martin Scorsese but it’s generally known as one of his more underrated movies, and for very good reason. The story about celebrities and obsession with fame is still relevant to today, and of course the acting was really good, especially with a magnificent performance from Robert De Niro. It’s an uncomfortable movie to watch, nonetheless still pretty good and worth watching, especially if you’re looking to explore Scorsese’s filmography.

Raging Bull (1980) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta
Joe Pesci as Joey LaMotta
Cathy Moriarty as Vickie LaMotta
Nicholas Colasanto as Tommy Como
Director: Martin Scorsese

When Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) steps into a boxing ring and obliterates his opponent, he’s a prizefighter. But when he treats his family and friends the same way, he’s a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment. Though LaMotta wants his family’s love, something always seems to come between them. Perhaps it’s his violent bouts of paranoia and jealousy. This kind of rage helped make him a champ, but in real life, the winds up in the ring alone.

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3 years after a movie known as one of his weakest with New York, New York, Martin Scorsese made one of the best films of his career. I had been meaning to give Raging Bull a rewatch for some time as it’s been years since I’ve seen it for the first time, and with my recent viewing of many of Scorsese’s films, there was no better time. Raging Bull nearly 40 years later remains an absolutely masterful, if hard to watch, film.

Raging Bull may be about a boxer but the boxing itself isn’t the focus of the movie. It’s about real life boxer Jake LaMotta and his self destructive life. Saying that Jake LaMotta isn’t a good person would be quite an understatement, it doesn’t try to give you a reason to sympathise with him. It really doesn’t hold back in showing the brutal truth. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, only check it out if you’re ready for it really.

Robert De Niro gives one of the greatest performances of his career as Jake LaMotta. He’s transformative both as the fit Jake LaMotta earlier in his career, as well as the older and retired Jake LaMotta with more weight. Again, LaMotta really doesn’t have any redeeming qualities at all, with his mistrust, rage, outbursts, and self loathing alienating everyone around him. Yet De Niro manages to make him an human angle that works and makes him feels like a complex person, and still rather compelling to watch. The supporting cast also do well, with Cathy Moriarty playing Jake’s eventual wife and Joe Pesci playing Jake’s brother. Pesci and De Niro particularly have great chemistry together, really feeling like brothers.

Martin Scorsese directed this film immaculately, at the time of filming he thought that this might be his last film, and you certainly feel it in his work here. Although the black and white certainly helps with the violence with the colour of blood during boxing scenes, it also does something with the tone that makes it work, not to mention differentiates it from other boxing movies. The fighting scenes aren’t necessarily the focus of the movie but they are filmed masterfully. Unlike other boxing movies made at the time like Rocky, Raging Bull actually places the camera inside the ring along with the fighters. The violence both inside and outside the ring are harsh and brutal, and you feel every blow. Raging Bull is also edited extremely well, this marks the first time since Who’s that Knocking at My Door that Martin Scorsese would work with legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and her work here is nothing short of fantastic. And with their work here you can see why Scorsese and Schoonmaker worked together on each of his movies from this point onwards.

Raging Bull is definitely a tough watch, but it’s a fantastic film on every level. Martin Scorsese is at the top of his game here, and the performances are great, especially from Robert De Niro, giving one of his all time best performances. It’s not a movie that you watch over and over again, but it is worth watching at least once.

New York, New York (1977) Review

Time: 165 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Liza Minnelli as Francine Evans
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Doyle
Creator: Martin Scorsese

The day WWII ends, Jimmy (Robert De Niro), a selfish and smooth-talking musician, meets Francine (Liza Minnelli), a lounge singer. From that moment on, their relationship grows into love as they struggle with their careers and aim for the top.

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I remember seeing this movie among Martin Scorsese’s filmography as a musical, and I was kind of curious as to what that was like. Going in however I basically had no idea what to expect, except that Robert De Niro was in it and at some point the song New York, New York would feature. Let’s just say that the movie didn’t work out so great.

New York, New York is really long at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long and that’s unnecessarily long. I get that Scorsese movies are often lengthy, but this was overkill. There are parts that had my attention but then it drags in others. There was a lot of improvisation with the dialogue, especially in the scenes between the two leads. While at times it was good, in others it became incredibly messy and unfocussed. There is an overt issue with the movie, in that I get the impression that parts of New York, New York is a deconstruction of these types of movies. While it’s at least good to know that this is deliberate, it just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie, especially how much of it seems like a full on tribute to these types of movies. Credit where credit is due, the ending is actually pretty effective and worked very well for the movie. Side note but it is weird how much La La Land seemed to have taken from this movie.

Between the two leads, Liza Minnelli stands out the most and she was really good here, especially in the scenes where she sings and performs. This movie actually introduced me to Minnelli as I hadn’t seen her in anything before, and that’s actually one of the biggest positives I got from watching New York, New York. Now for Robert De Niro and his character… I should just preface this saying that he successfully and completely embodies the character as it was written. The problem is that it just so happens to be one of the most unlikable lead characters I’ve seen in a while. I get that it was on purpose but they succeeded a little too well. From the very beginning you get that vibe from him, and unfortunately he doesn’t improve over the course of the movie. I’m not kidding when I say that his character of Jimmy is more hateable than De Niro’s other characters from Scorsese movies, Travis Bickle, Jake LaMotta, Rupert Pupkin, Max Cady, etc. It’s worse when he’s paired with Minnelli’s character. Again, thankfully much of the way that it’s handled does seem very deliberate, so the toxic relationship between the two isn’t incredibly misguided or anything, it’s on purpose. I guess you’ve seen plenty of relationships where the couple are polar opposites of each other, yet they somehow work as a couple and you can buy that. But here you just have no idea why she would be attracted to him, in their first scenes she’s just as annoyed at him as we are and over time they somehow end up being together. In the scenes they share together when they’re not performing, you just want her to get away from him. I’ve talked a lot about this character in this review but he’s very much a major annoyance. Still, I guess that’s partially a testament to De Niro’s performance here, he’s fantastically convincing in the role, in fact he was probably too good. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast but they play their parts okay enough.

You can see Martin Scorsese’s direction in the sense of how well it’s all handled and looks, however it does seem like much of his style is heavily inspired by other similar films in the genre. There’s actually not much to say about his direction here, it’s as good as musical from the 70s should be. As you can expect, when the music sections are very good, unfortunately they’re not as prominent as you’d think or hope for. However there is a pretty prominent music section towards the last act with Liza Minnelli, so it’s worth sticking around for that. When the movie embraces the musical aspects of the movie, it actually really shines.

New York, New York is very clearly not one of Scorsese’s best. Although I do admire what he was going for, overall I’m just going to remember it as an ambitious experiment that just didn’t work out that well. Despite some good acting, direction and music, the deconstructional take on musicals just didn’t work tonally, it’s way too long, and one of the lead characters ruins much of the movie. It’s not a must see, along with Who’s that Knocking at My Door and Boxcar Bertha, I file this under ‘watch only if you’re a Martin Scorsese completionist’. You really aren’t missing much if you don’t see this.

Taxi Driver (1976) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle
Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensma
Cybill Shepherd as Betsy
Harvey Keitel as Charles “Sport” Rain/”Matthew”
Albert Brooks as Tom
Leonard Harris as Charles Palantine
Peter Boyle as “Wizard”
Director: Martin Scorsese

Taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. In nearly every phase of his life, he remains a complete outsider, failing to make emotional contact with anyone. He’s a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy (Cybil Shepherd), a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris (Jodie Foster), a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Sport (Harvey Keitel).

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Martin Scorsese at this point in his career had shown himself to be quite a good director, after his first two movies with him starting off, he then progressed a lot more to deliver some very good films with Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here. After those movies however came Martin Scorsese’s first masterpiece with Taxi Driver. Over 4 decades later it’s still an absolute classic and absolutely holds up.

Paul Schrader’s script for Taxi Driver is fantastic, with some great dialogue and overall is just really well constructed. The movie is just under a couple hours long, I guess it slowed down in parts, but I was invested throughout the entire runtime. The thing that really drives the movie is the main character, and his journey and descent; it’s much more of a character driven sort of movie than a plot focussed one. The lead character of Travis Bickle is one of the most fascinating protagonists I’ve seen in a movie. One of the things that make him so compelling especially with discussions of the movie is that everyone has their own thoughts about him. Some see him as a flawed anti-hero that is trying his best to do the right thing, others see him as an unstable psychopath and a time bomb waiting to go off. Taxi Driver puts you really inside his head and it really is seen through his perspective, and it made me uncomfortable being stuck there, so I think it did it’s job. The movie is definitely not necessarily endorsing his actions, even if there’s not active character saying that they are wrong. It’s a cautionary tale about violence, and thematically it really was ahead of its time, it’s still quite relevant today even. The most recent viewing was the 3rd time I saw it, and there are plenty of details that I picked up on repeat viewings. This film can be seen in many different ways, especially the final scenes. The ending definitely leaves room for many different interpretations, as this is definitely a movie with an unreliable narrator.

Robert De Niro is at his best here, embodying the character of Travis Bickle completely. He does well at being very deranged and unstable in an effectively subtle way. The narration throughout the movie could’ve just been exposition and an easy way for audiences to hear his thoughts, but it really works here as it’s like we’re trapped in his head with him, as this dialogue is what he’s writing in his diary. No matter what Bickle does, you can’t stop watching him. Personally I think it’s best for you to go into the movie and decide for yourself what you think of him. A fantastic performance and character. The supporting cast don’t get a ton of screentime, but they nonetheless do add quite a lot to the movie. Jodie Foster here is in one of her early roles as the underage prostitute that Travis eventually comes across, and she is really good. Other actors like Cybil Shepherd, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel also do great in their parts. Even Martin Scorsese is effectively unsettling (intentionally) in a one scene role, as a very disturbed passenger that Travis Bickle encounters during his job.

It’s no surprise that Martin Scorsese’s direction is fantastic, his work here on this movie is timeless. It’s got such a great look throughout but it really shines during the night time moments, I really can’t get over the use of colour. Scorsese perfectly captures New York City, really giving it a dirty feel throughout the movie. Throughout the movie you really get this feeling of disconnection and loneliness, just like how Travis Bickle is feeling throughout. Overall this movie has been really well put together. The score by Bernard Hermann (which is also worth noting is his final score) is great, ranging from calm and jazzy to intense and screeching, and had a bit of a sleezy tone that fits perfectly with the film.

Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie and still holds up extremely well today. Martin Scorsese’s direction is pretty much perfect, Paul Schrader’s screenplay is very well written and constructed, and Robert De Niro is absolutely outstanding here. There’s honestly not much more that I can say that hasn’t been said already, hence why this review isn’t longer or more in depth. Much of the gratness must be experienced for yourself. Absolute essential viewing.

Mean Streets (1973) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as John “Johnny Boy” Civello
Harvey Keitel as Charlie Cappa
David Proval as Tony DeVienazo
Amy Robinson as Teresa Ronchelli
Richard Romanus as Michael Longo
Cesare Danova as Giovanni Cappa
Director: Martin Scorsese

A look at a group of small-time hoods and hustlers trying to make a living on the streets of New York. The story centers around Charlie (Harvey Keitel), a loan collector for a mobster named Giovanni (Cesare Danova). He can be pretty tough when he needs to but gets into trouble for cutting his friend Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) – also his girlfriend’s cousin – a bit too much slack. His girlfriend (Amy Robinson) is also a problem as she is epileptic and Giovanni, who genuinally cars about Charlie, wants him to dump her. As pressures mount, Charlie faces some difficult decisions with none of the possible outcomes to his liking.

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Although he’d film Who’s that Knocking at my Door and Boxcar Bertha beforehand, Mean Streets is the movie that got Martin Scorsese really noticed, and for very good reason. The raw yet energetic filmmaking is very impressive even today, and Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro more than shine in their roles here.

Mean Streets is Martin Scorsese’s first crime movie, and it’s not a bad first film for him to make in the genre. It feels like a very personal movie for Scorsese, the characters and the world feel real and the dialogue certainly sounded authentic. I personally wasn’t hugely invested in the characters, but I was more than willing to watch where they went next. The plot is a little loose and doesn’t have much of a focus or driving force (similar to Who’s that Knocking at My Door), but it works as that. The tension escalates slowly, culminating in a very memorable ending.

Often when it comes to people talking about Mean Streets, Harvey Keitel is overlooked by Robert De Niro but they’re equally as good. Keitel is really good as the main character Charlie, he’s pretty much in every single scene of the movie and the plot basically surrounds him and all the people he interacts with. Robert De Niro is the highlight performer however as Johnny Boy and steals every scene he’s in. He’s really volatile and filled with this chaotic unbound energy that can’t be tamed, one of the most standout performances of his career for that very reason alone. Charlie and Johnny Boy really feel like friends, while you can also feel the stress and frustration that the former feels as he keeps trying to keep the latter out of trouble (often to no avail). This was the first collaboration that De Niro had with Scorsese and it certainly wasn’t the last. The rest of the cast also work well for what they need to be but those previous two are the standouts.

Martin Scorsese’s direction even from his debut was shown to be good and he furthered that with Boxcar Bertha but he really has progressed with Mean Streets. Compared to a lot of his movies later on where the camera movement is largely smooth, some of the filming here was rough and handheld, but that actually worked for this movie. The budget was only $500,000 but he seemed to make great use of that because it’s a really good looking movie. The use of colour was also effective, especially with the prominent use of red in some scenes. The music was once again well picked, which is to be expected by Scorsese. There are just so many cinematic moments that stand out in this movie, from the opening scene of Be My Baby by The Ronettes, to Johnny Boy’s entrance into a club set to Jumping Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones, to a fight in a pool hall and so on.

Mean Streets is rough around the edges, but it’s raw, full of energy, and a showcase for what Scorsese can do behind the camera. Additionally, the acting is great, with Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro really shining in their roles. Definitely essential viewing especially if you’re looking to watch a lot of his movies. Sure, it’s not one of his best movies, or even one of his best crime movies, but it is for sure one of his most important films.

Joker (2019) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck/Joker
Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin
Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond
Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck
Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne
Director: Todd Phillips

Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. Arthur wears two masks — the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him. Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.

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Joker was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. The idea of a solo Joker movie but also one completely disconnected from the established DCEU seemed questionable at best. Also I wasn’t quite sure about director Todd Phillips helming it, I liked the few movies I’ve seen from him but I did have my doubts. However the inclusion of Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role completely sold me on the movie, and seeing trailer after trailer and hearing about their take on the iconic character, I was excited to say the least, I haven’t seen a comic book movie taken in a direction like this. Joker is already proving to be a very divisive movie, but I’m glad that I’m firmly on the side that loved it.

I’ll be sure not to reveal too much about Joker, but people going in should know what kind of movie they’re in for. It is a slow burn character study following the deterioration of a mentally ill man, who eventually becomes the Joker, that’s the best way I can put it. For 3 quarters of the movie we don’t even see Arthur in the final Joker makeup, so don’t expect a Joker movie with a lot of action, mayhem or anything. You could almost call the movie Arthur: Portrait of a Killer Clown or something. Personally I loved the movie for what it is. You can probably tell that it’s a dark movie but it’s not just because it’s violent, it’s fittingly uncomfortable and grim for the most part. It is quite possibly the bleakest and most ‘disturbing’ comic book movie, and again it’s not necessarily because of the violence. The third act is where the movie particularly ramps up with Arthur as the Joker, and was personally the highlight of the movie. Now much has been said that we are following a villain, and especially one as infamous as The Joker. I’ll give my perspective on how it handles those aspects, but just know that I’m not covering the age old question of “Does movies or video games lead to violence?”, because if you’ve read much of my reviews you can probably figure out my perspective regarding that. The movie doesn’t point out that the character is doing bad things because the actions are obviously bad. Him murdering people shouldn’t require a giant sign to flash saying “this is bad, don’t do this”. Not to mention that this is Joker we are talking about, one of the most clear cut villains in fiction you can think of. Now in saying that, this is the first time in a movie where you have to actually look at Joker as a human being and more than just a comic book villain (or even an Agent of Chaos), and I guess that both frightens and concerns people. The movie isn’t necessarily asking you to sympathise or feel sorry for Arthur Fleck (the lead character who would eventually become the Joker) every step of the story. I guess I’d say that I was sympathetic towards Arthur for the first 10 minutes with everything that is happening to him. Otherwise for most of the rest of the movie, I just felt sympathy for the acts made upon him, but not necessarily to Arthur himself. While you might understand why he does the things he does with his circumstances, you aren’t necessarily in a position where you think “this is perfectly justified and I support everything he’s doing”.

There are a few criticisms I’ve heard. One is how clearly it’s inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, but is a little too derivative of it and is ultimately just a riff on them with the character of Joker. While I guess there are plenty of aspects that are taken from those two movies (even though I get the feeling that Phillips and co. were very self aware about this while making it), I think Joker does enough to separate itself from them to be its own movie, for the most part at least. I do like how they keep Joker as a standalone movie. Without spoiling things, I guess storywise you could follow it up with a sequel, but it seems very much like it was intended to be a one off movie and not one intended to start off a cinematic universe. One thing is for sure though, you definitely won’t see him face off against Robert Pattinson’s Batman or anything, so put that out of your mind if you even thinking about it. I liked what the movie was about thematically and was trying to talk about. It’s about class warfare, abuse, media, the way mentally ill people are treated (or not treated), mental healthcare, capitalism and more, it’s at least making an attempt to talk about them. Despite what you might’ve heard, this movie is NOT about incels or incel culture at all. People have talked about all the dangerous and problematic parts to the movie, but honestly the only real problematic and downright irresponsible part of the movie was the questionable use of a Gary Glitter song in one scene. Now in terms of some slight issues I had, there aren’t many but considering I was just addressing some criticisms I guess I should mention some of my own. There is a particular twist that happens during the movie, I saw it coming but that’s not necessarily the problem. It’s more that the reveal spent so much time flat out explaining the twist to the audience when we’d be able to figure it out without the obvious explanation. I guess there are some moments that are a little rough around the edges for what they were aiming for. Some of the attempts at making commentary on some of the aforementioned themes I guess were a little heavy handed and too “on the nose” at times, but I could get past it, I just sort of put that up to the story being told from the Joker’s perspective. It’s really not a subtle movie at all and you pick up on that really quickly. Joker also could’ve gone a little deeper into some concepts, I almost feel like the movie could’ve been a little longer to flesh certain parts out more. I was fully invested in the movie at least on a first watch, but for the most part the plot goes in the general direction that you’d expect it to, with not a lot of surprises. Also while I largely like the ending, I felt that it would’ve been a little more effective if it ended 30 seconds to a minute earlier on a particular visual beat, but I’m just nit-picking at this point.

The rest of the movie is well made but it’s really Joaquin Phoenix that makes this movie. His work here as Arthur Fleck/Joker is extraordinary. This could very well be a career best performance from him, and considering his past work that’s really saying a lot (it’s at least on the level as his work on The Master). He’s pretty much in every single scene of the movie and relies so much on him delivering, and he absolutely does. One aspect that was particularly interesting about this take was his laugh. As we all know, in most forms of media, Joker typically laughs because he finds something funny, usually something morbid that he’s just done. In this movie however, it’s actually a result of a real life condition where Arthur laughs and can’t stop laughing even when he wants to, and for the most part it seems utterly painful for him. It’s an original idea for the Joker to have for his laugh, and I’m surprised they didn’t have that as an interpretation for him in a comic book (correct me if I’m wrong and one comic already did that, I’m not a massive comic book expert). As previously mentioned, the movie forces you to at least look at him as a human being and somewhat empathise with him, and this was a risky movie. However Phoenix managed to deliver such a complex performance where you could actually look at him as more than just a monster (even if he is that). At the same time, you can recognise that Fleck is absolutely disturbed and demented, and has his fair share of genuinely scary moments. Arthur’s transformation into the Joker also was fascinating, as he gets pushed (and pushes himself) further down into that direction. As he embraces the Joker persona more and more, you see him more confident and full of life, especially compared to earlier on in the movie. And on a side note, I’m not even going to compare him to Heath Ledger’s Joker or any of the other Jokers for that matter, there’s really no point. They’re completely different Jokers, and Phoenix does more than enough to make this incarnation of the character to stand on his own.

The rest of the supporting cast really don’t have much to do compared to Joaquin but they do the best they can possibly do. Whether that be Robert De Niro as a talk show host that Arthur idolises, Zazie Beetz as a neighbour that Arthur is interested in, Frances Conroy as Arthur’s mother, or Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne, they all fit into the story well. Even some of the brief one scene appearances like Brian Tyree Henry played their small parts well. Now I want to briefly touch upon the Wayne aspects of the story, in a non spoiler way of course. It can be said that it’s possible for this movie to just have Joker, Gotham and Arkham Asylum being the only DC references that are in the movie, and they didn’t need to include Thomas or Bruce Wayne. Personally I thought it fitted in the story alright, and there is a certain aspect with Bruce’s existence in this movie that does make the movie even better towards the end. Though I can’t exactly explain it without going into heavy detail, hopefully you’ll be able to figure it out.

This is by far and away the best work that director Todd Phillips has done, his direction of Joker is shockingly exceptional, and it’s not even that I think he’s a bad director or anything. Gotham is portrayed as a dirty 70s and 80s New York City. It really does capture the vibes that Scorsese gave in aforementioned movies like Taxi Driver, but I don’t think Phillips is just imitating or ripping off that style, just clearly heavily inspired by it. It’s a gorgeous looking movie, the cinematography is stunning. There isn’t really a whole lot of violence, and when it comes to comic book movies, there have been some more violent films out there (Watchmen, Deadpool 1 and 2, Logan, etc). However it was nonetheless effective and disturbing, and it’s more to do with how realistic it looks and sounds, it’s graphic but it happens very fast. But if you’re just talking about levels of violence, I’ve definitely seen plenty of movies with way higher levels of extreme violence than Joker. The score by Hildur Guðnadóttir was great, tense and eerie, fitting perfectly with the rest of the film. For sure one of the best scores of the year. Most of the other song choices were also good, although I’m still thinking about that one Gary Glitter song… needless to say this probably is the only criticism of the movie that I won’t defend against whatsoever.

Joker isn’t going to work for everyone, and the reactions online already indicates that it’s probably going to remain the most divisive movie of the entire year. I’m not sure that a lot of people are prepared for the type of movie it is. It’s not a movie I’m going to rewatch constantly but as it is, I think it’s great. Honestly I’m surprised at how well Todd Phillips (mostly) put together this movie. But it’s of course Joaquin Phoenix who really makes this movie, and it’s worth watching to see his extraordinary performance, even if you don’t like the rest of the movie. The idea of DC Black with all these other separate stories disconnected from the DCEU certainly have a lot of potential if we can see comic book movies taken in a different direction that we haven’t seen before. As for whether Joker should have a sequel, I personally don’t think it really needs to, it’s fine with how it is. But if Todd Phillips has some great ideas for a follow up and Joaquin is (unexpectedly) up for another movie in the iconic role, then I’d be on board with it.

Jackie Brown (1997) Review

Time: 154 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Pam Grier as Jackie Brown
Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie
Robert Forster as Max Cherry
Bridget Fonda as Melanie Ralston
Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolette
Robert De Niro as Louis Gara
Director: Quentin Tarantino

When flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is busted smuggling money for her arms dealer boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) want her help to bring down Robbie. Facing jail time for her silence or death for her cooperation, Brown decides instead to double-cross both parties and make off with the smuggled money. Meanwhile, she enlists the help of bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a man who loves her.

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Jackie Brown is typically known by most as one of the weaker Quentin Tarantino movies. It’s such an odd movie for him to make, but after the unbelievable success of Pulp Fiction, he wanted to try something very different. When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t know what to think, it was fine and I didn’t dislike it by any means, it’s just that compared to his other movies, it just wasn’t on that same level. I wanted to watch it again to be sure of how I felt about it, and thankfully I liked it a lot more than I did before.

Jackie Brown is the only script by Tarantino that’s not completely original, as he’s adapting an Elmore Leonard’s book titled Rum Punch. I’ve never read the book myself or looked up the similarities and differences between the two, but Quentin no doubt made the movie its own thing. Jackie Brown is a much more lowkey and subtle movie compared to his others. While his movies are generally better experienced when you are actually fully focussed on it, you actually really need to pay attention to everything that’s going on with this movie, it’s very much story driven. It’s surprisingly a noir movie, with the characters, the slow pacing, and the way a lot of the plot points are set up. The dialogue is pure Tarantino, making most of the main characters as 3 dimensional as possible. As far as writing for characters go, this is one of his best. There are a lot of details and subtleties that make the movie one that you have to be fully paying attention to. The movie is 2 hours and a half long and it can drag a little bit towards the middle, but not enough to make the experience tedious (unless you’re expecting a much more flashy and fast paced movie).

There’s a pretty talented cast in Jackie Brown, and they all do a good job with it. Pam Grier is in the lead role of the titular character and she was really great at really brining this character to life, seemed to be a perfect casting choice considering how Jackie Brown is definitely paying homage to a lot of Blaxploitation movies. Robert Forster was one of the standouts, with him and Grier sharing some great chemistry, among the highlights of the film. This is probably one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most overlooked roles as an arms dealer, looking at the dialogue it really seemed like a role that Tarantino specifically wrote for Jackson (in fact at certain points I think he went overboard). While you get the feeling that Tarantino didn’t really take advantage of Robert de Niro as much as he could’ve, he acts here like he hasn’t before, it’s such a lowkey and different performance from him. Other supporting players like Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda also work well in their roles.

Quentin Tarantino’s direction is also quite lowkey, yet from his style and cinematography you can still tell that it’s his movie, it’s just not as flashy as you’d expect it to be. Some people might accuse him of often having ‘style over substance’ (a very flawed criticism in general I find), but I’m not quite sure how you’d be able to say that about Jackie Brown. Unlike most of his movies, there really isn’t much violence, and when it is present it’s about as graphic as those typically seen in a PG-13/M rated movie. The music is also great, Tarantino typically finds a solid line-up of songs for the movie, Jackie Brown’s is among his best soundtracks for his films, and that’s saying a lot.

Jackie Brown may not rank among Quentin Tarantino’s all time best movies, but is still very solid. The performances from the large cast are good, and Tarantino’s direction and more story-driven script make it all work. Even if you generally don’t like Tarantino’s movies, I’d recommend checking it out, for some it’s even considered to be his best film.