1. Tom Horn (1980)- The next to last film actor Steve McQueen would participate in (the still unseen "The Hunter" would be the last), this introspective western is simply stunning. As the legendary titular character Tom Horn who's hired to clean up a turf war in 1890's Montana and then betrayed by his employers and sentenced to murder, one can feel the mortality oozing off the screen from McQueen. Ok, perhaps that's an overstatement, but "Tom Horn" is still a moving example of the emotions we as an audience project onto the screen. Bloody in all the right places- look how he dispatches the bad guys!- and quiet in the final third as McQueen's gruff cowboy silently accepts his fate, "Tom Horn" is an under seen classic.
2. Headshot (2011)- There are two camps of Thailand cinema- the Apitchatpong Weerasethakul experimental group (which I'm not a fan of) and the more genre-driven like Pen-ek Ratanaruang. If you haven't seen his 2003 film "Last Life In the Universe", then I strongly encourage it. "Headshot" is a different animal altogether. Not only does it use a majestic, brooding style to perfection, but the film's use of squibs is completely incredible... and not overdone. An assassin (Nopachai Chaiyanam) is shot in the head and when he awakes, his vision is inverted. The film follows two time lines, as he moves forward with his life and how he got into the hit man lifestyle in the first place. While some of the plot curves are characteristically ordinary, "Headshot" is an enjoyable ride.
3. About Cherry (2012)- There's no doubt young star Ashley Hinshaw is beautiful, and that's about all "About Cherry" has going for it. Yes, the film is about her slow entrance into the world of the San Francisco pornography scene, but everything within the film screams mediocrity, from the handheld camera in all the right moments to the lackluster characterizations that exhibit no depth or complexity.
4. Forced Entry (1975)- One of the more sought after 'sleazoid express' movies of the 70's, Jim Sotos's video nasty does overcome its cheap production values even if its story of deranged mechanic rapist Carl (Ron Max) is strictly ordinary. His eventual focus falls on young Nancy.... Tanya Roberts in her first film role. Now, I have an indelible crush on 70's Tanya Roberts (hey, we're born on the same day) and the final third of the film details the break-in and mentally unstable power play between the two. Director Sotos stretches out Carl's attack on Nancy to almost unbearable proportions, positioning the camera just around corners and at the bottom of the staircase, allowing the dread to reach cacophonous heights before the violence occurs. "Forced Entry" is certainly a product of its time, but a good one. Unavailable on home video for years, but a search on the internet will yield some results if one so desires.
5. Pursuit (1975)- Directed by Michael Crichton, this made-for-tv movie stars Ben Gazzara as a cop hunting down a domestic terrorist (E.G. Marshall) before he launches a dirty bomb attack on Los Angeles. Crichton has serious, intelligent chops as a writer and director (see his "The Andomeda Strain" and "The Great Train Robbery" for further proof) and for two-thirds of the film, intelligence is the key as Gazzara tries to put the pieces together. But then it all gets kinda stupid and the television budget constraints shine through. A disappointment. If the film could have stuck to the cat and mouse chase between Gazzara and Marshall, we might have something here.
6. The Take (2009)- BBC television series starring Tom Hardy as a British thug overtaking a crime syndicate. Hardy has positioned himself as one of the more dynamic and exciting young talents today and director David Drury is tv journeyman, and "The Take" was released right before Hardy scored it big on these shores. First observation- Hardy does the scowling tough guy like no one else. Secondly, I got lung cancer just watching him pound away cigarettes in this series. But seriously, this is hardcore, big-boy television, featuring a brutal rape sequence, a shovel beating of his own father and a manic, drunken, hulking performance by Hardy.
7. Stand Up Guys (2013)- Oh how I wanted to like this, but came out shaking my head in disbelief at its erratic tone. At once a comedy, then a road movie and finally an all out action film, Pacino and Walken just look tired. Directed by Fisher Stevens, this is a film that feels like a warmed over script from 1996.
8. The Imposter (2012)- The best documentary of last year (with "Jiro reams of Sushi" a close second), alternatively puzzling, shocking and so full of "what the hell" moments that I easily see a fictional re-incarnation in the not too distant future.
9. The Split (1968)- Based on a Donald Westlake novel, this film exudes late 60's coolness, primed by Jim Brown's starring role as a released con attempting one big score... which involves robbing the Los Angeles coliseum during a Rams game! Packed with a stellar supporting cast (Ernest Borgnine, Donald Sutherland, Jack Klugman and Warren Oates), "The Split" needs a DVD release now.