- Lucky Number Slevin: Written by Jason Smilovic. Directed by Paul McGuigan.
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, and Stanley Tucci.
It’s a blurry line between confidence and arrogance. Slevin is arrogant about how confident it is. This movie is so full of itself it’s almost inside-out. But there’s plenty of charisma and cartoonish violence to fuel the tank. This movie burns hot and fast, so even though the twist is weak, the sparks are bright enough that it hardly matters. Morgan Freeman plays a mafia boss. Kingsley plays a Jewish mafia boss. Willis is a hitman. It all just fits.
- Leon: The Professional: Written and directed by Luc Besson.
Starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman.
It’s a tale as old as time: a cold, quiet hitman befriends a precocious little girl. The chemistry between Reno and Portman and the Oldman’s unrestrained performance as a pill-popping crooked cop is a thing of film legend. Replication of the mixture has been attempted at least once a year since Leon’s release, but never successfully. Leon is a hitman film standard, everyone should see it.
- Dead Man’s Shoes: Written by Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine, and Paul Fraser. Directed by Shane Meadows.
Starring: Paddy Considine and Toby Kebbell.
A good revenge movie leaves a taste in your mouth – good or bad, it lingers. Shoes unravels from two different places: what happened to Richard’s brother, and what Richard does about it, so that the final revenge and what’s being revenged are revealed simultaneously. Kind of smart. Considine plays Richard. He’s fucking scary, fearless, never falters. He just goes and picks off the offenders one by one. It’s brutal, it’s chilling, and yup, lingers. Ugh. Chills.
- I Saw the Devil: Written by Hoon-jung Park. Directed by Jee-woon Kim.
Starring Byung hun Lee, Gook-hwan Jeon, Min-sik Choi, and Ho-jin Jeon.
Well, yeah I had to get a Korean one or two in here. A serial killer takes out a police elite’s fam, so the cop tracks him down and beats the shit out of him. That’s the first twelve minutes. From there it’s this insanely ruthless clusterfuck of vengeances upon vengeances as neither “devil” can get enough. The ending is sick, there’s lots of fighting and stabbing. Go Korean film, go!
- Oldboy: Written by Garon Tsuchiya, Nobuaki Minegishi, Chan-wook Park, Chun-hyeong Lim, and Jo-yun Hwang. Directed by Chan-wook Park.
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, and Hye-Jeong Kang.
I had to. I know you saw it coming, but I had to. This movie is the best. It’s fucking weird, visceral, cerebral, scary… It’s one of the most romantic stories ever told on screen. I’m serious. I believe it’s consensus that Oldboy is the best revenge movie ever made (the first time, not that Spike Lee bullshit that came out a decade after this one), and I’ll fight for it until my dying day. It’s got a long, tracking hammer fight. It’s got a man-sized ant. Gut-punches galore. It’s companion pieces, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are most certainly worth a peep, too. Keep an eye on Chan-wook Park, he’s one of the smartest directors of our time. I’m all in for anything he does.