I’ll repeat the question here: What is my favorite crime movie of the past thirty years?
By my count, fellow panelists, that means any movie made since 1979. Unfortunately this leaves out a big pile of my favorite movies, including The Third Man (1949) with an earnest Joseph Cotten and a mysterious Orson Welles. Poor Holly Martins searches through post-war Vienna for his friend’s murderer and discovers that gunslingers are hopelessly outclassed when pitted against black marketeers and the British military. And don’t get me started on the love story.
What about M (1931)? It’s the movie that launched Peter Lorre’s career and also doomed him to playing oily, creepy villains. The views of 1931 Berlin are wonderful, the acting eerie, and it’s a great use of sound. You know who the serial killer is, the suspense lies in watching him get caught by other criminals.
By now it’s obvious that not only am I cheating by mentioning earlier films, I’m going to keep on cheating by having multiple favorites.
So, for modern crime movies, my first favorite is Gloomy Sunday (1999). It’s set in Budapest in the 1930s (hey, there were no rules about when the movies were set, just when they were filmed). It starts with a death in the 1960s, then travels back in time to show a pre-war Budapest where a lovely waitress named Ilona is courted by a compassionate innkeeper, a passionate musician, and a German invader. Lives are saved. Lives are taken. By the end of the film, I was rooting for the murderer.
Gloomy Sunday has a gorgeous sound track. The movie is named after a song called “Gloomy Sunday” that supposedly was so sad that it triggered suicides every time it was played. The cinematography is splendid. The characters are complex and so, well, 1930s European.
My second favorite crime film is Brick (2005). A high school student investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, a quest that takes him into a dangerous high school criminal ring. It’s not just the complex plot and the great acting that made me pick this film. It’s the use of language.
Any time you get a movie that successfully tries to re-invent English, I’m there. How can you not love a modern movie where teenagers spout lines like: “But I bet you got every rat in town together and said 'show your hands' if any of them've actually seen the Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets” or “You've helped this office out before” with the response being “No, I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.” Love it, love it, love it.