The Purge Anarchy: America remains a prosperous and healthy nation thanks to the continuation of The Purge – a 12-hour window where, once a year, all crime is legal. Instead of a single home invasion this is spread over a metropolitan ‘downtown’ area over several families & plots, which come together in order to form a ‘multi-racial, rich-and-poor misfit bunch fighting against the odds’ scenario – luckily for the gang there’s a gruff anti-hero among them. This leaves the film creeping into more generic survival thriller territory; however what’s lost in immediate plot is compensated for with a more interesting take on the purge itself, seeing the bigger picture with military contractors, organised protection, organised crime, class wars, and flat-out buying poor people to butcher all coming into play here. Retaining its real-world and ‘realistic’ roots really help generate and maintain a sustained sense of threat, and the world is unquestionably dystopian and off-kilter enough to feel creepy throughout – other than the central characters everyone else feels like a dark caricature. Ultimately, The Purge movies work best if you buy into the conceit; for me the concept is brilliant and Anarchy is more ambitious and interesting than the previous purge, but in doing so becomes a little bit more familiar.
Se7en (aka Seven, 7, Sept, Siete, Sieben, セブン, 七, 일곱 …) during a veteran detective’s final week a gruesome serial killer surfaces, whose work is based around the seven deadly sins. Despite being released in the mid-90s and framed as ‘modern’ this has a sense of timelessness; it’s puply and Noir to the core – especially Freeman’s character, who’s straight out of the 40s. This is just part of Fincher’s portrait of an extremely nihilistic vision of ‘downtown’ America – a nameless, timeless city characterised by sirens, rain, fear, vice and filthy, dilapidated buildings mirroring their residents. It’s a dingy look, but one that has subsequently influenced a lot of movies and TV (The US Killing as a prime example). Whilst the story takes a while to properly get going once it gains momentum it’s an unstoppable force -right through to the very last scene. It’s also remarkable that 20 years on it’s still effective, and shocking – which is a testament to Fincher’s directorial skill. Despite all of the larger than life blood and guts, Se7en is all about the minor details; everything helps to flesh out the characters and explain their behaviours – allowing you to pick out more details every time you watch it, which is what makes it a classic.
Blow Out: a sound effects artist records a car accident, but finds himself in danger as he tries to blow the top on a cover-up. This film is nothing short of a directorial masterclass: the visuals are filthy rich, with dozens of brilliantly filmed & striking scenes. De Palma is truly a master of ‘the shot’ as he effortlessly throws in a barrage of intricate, flashy, techniques: 360 spinning, dolly shots, split-screens, dual-focus, playing with depth of field & perspective… he has technical flare and style to burn here. Travolta matches this with an intense portrayal of an investigative man-on-the-edge. The music and sound effects are great, until the end when a cheesy score dominates the picture. The plot is good, and backstory perfectly stitched through the movie, My favourite aspect is the horror movie tropes being poked fun at through the sub-plot, particularly at the start: the opening film-in-a-film scene, and his previous movies named ‘Bloodbath’, ‘Bloodbath 2’, ‘Bad day at Blood Beach’, ‘Bordello of Blood’… Blow Out is a rare example of directorial technique, story, action, and acting being massaged together perfectly to create something powerful, dramatic and iconic – it’s enviable how good this movie is. I can’t wait to re-visit this already.