Overlooked: Westerns, Action and Crime

Let’s face it, you can’t watch all the films you want in a year. Not even if you wanted to. There are those few films that come out in limited theaters, (and by limited theaters I mean nowhere near you) The movies that come out straight to DVD, the movies you saw a trailer for but never had the time to get back to them, and specially, the movies which you chose to watch over others and then forgot about.

Have you ever watched a film you loved, and thought it should’ve reached a wider audience? Well, this is a small portion of a huge list of those films. I’m not implying these films are under appreciated, or didn’t get good critic reviews. I’m saying that in my opinion they should’ve made more money due to certain qualities, and be even more appreciated. Let’s promote some films!

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Why It’s Good: Jodie Foster plays a widow which has just lost her husband to a brutal attack that she herself witnessed. Mentally and emotionally scarred, she gets a gun, and goes out for revenge on the gangsters who committed the crime. What ensues is basically a reverse role version of the famous movie Deathwish Starring Charles Bronson. Jodie Foster gave a great performance in the movie which got her a golden globe nomination, and this alone makes the film worth watching. Although the film has plot holes (just as Deathwish before it) it has a highly emotional feel. Jodie Fosters strong character definitely knows how to take matters into her own hands when the law fails.

Why it was missed: The film opened to mixed reviews, with some praising the high emotion the film runs with and Fosters performance, while others called it a rip-off of Deathwish and called out it’s plot holes. Despite it being a good film, the bad publicity and reviews took over the good, and now the film is everything but remembered. The only plus side to this, is that now you can find it on blu-ray nearly everywhere, for a mere five dollars.

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Why It’s good: Traitor is an action packed film about an american terrorist (played by Don Cheadle)  joins a Muslim terrorist group with a plan in motion to attack the United States. The film successfully shows how some people might be talked into joining the terrorist cause, the flaws, bends and misinterpretation of the Quran that the terrorist leaders worship, and the craziness/tension of wearing a suicide vest. Don Cheadle does a great job, as does Guy Pearce. They play off each other well, and the tension builds up well in the film. Although generic at some points, it definitely does a great job at keeping you guessing until it gives you what can only be described as an explosive finale. It definitely deserved more attention then it got.

Why it was missed: This film was mainly missed because of the leads not being able to sell it. Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle are both great actors, but not as well known as they should be. Guy Pearce’s breakthrough was Memento, but he doesn’t usually get major leading roles. Don Cheadle won his academy award for Hotel Rwanda some time before the film came out, but hadn’t been in a lot of super mainstream films after (the biggest might be the Ocean’s Eleven movies) and would go on to be a bit more noticed in Iron Man 2, but that came out two years later.  The movie made it’s budget of 31 mil back, but only barely.

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Why It’s good: The Homesman is a western about a desperately single woman (Swank) who takes on the task of bringing three women who are considered insane to an asylum for women. She takes on the journey by herself,  finding a man (Lee Jones) who she saves along the way. This movie only came out 2 years ago but I’m already upset it’s not being mentioned enough. It’s very slow moving to the point of being boring at first, but it’s the type that pays off in the end. Westerns are hard to come by, and westerns with a female lead are even harder. Hillary Swank does an incredible job in what I think is one of her best performances. Tommy Lee Jones also does a great job at being the only man of importance in the film. If this film was nominated for an Oscar it would’ve given the movie some much needed publicity. It’s tragic, moving and well written, and definitely worth a watch.

Why it was missed: Although it came out in festivals and was widely liked, the film took a while to come out to wide distribution. When it did, it was a very limited release and it was out for a very short time. The film didn’t really have any commercials or promotion outside a few websites and it was overshadowed by the bigger films which came out around the same date, and where widely distributed.

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Why It’s Good: Jack Reacher is about the titular character, a rough wandering ex-marine played by Tom Cruise, who is found after being mentioned to the police by a man who is found guilty of murder after a mass shooting. Jack Reacher is definitely a bad ass, and the conspiracy he finds himself with in this movie makes you think about all the mass shootings that have happened in increased numbers in the last few years. It definitely chills and the action and cinematography delivers.

Why it was missed: Largely due to the fact that it original release date was way too close to the tragic mass shooting in the school in CT. The first scene of the film had to be re-shot as its resemblance to the shooting was too big (The shooting in the film takes place in a school) and the release date had to be changed. Due to this, the film came out close to Christmas, with Django and other large films which were going for an Oscar at the time. It gained more recognition after it came out to home video, so this one might be off this list soon.

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Why It’s Good: This movie is about the titled town, which is almost ruled by a gang of outlaws who do whatever they want. Two gunslingers and best friends (Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris) are hired to protect the town and throw the men out of it. Things get complicated when a woman (Renee Zellwegger) comes in an sweeps one of them off their feet. While the plot is very settled down, the movie and it’s cast do a very good job at keeping you interested, and the action is good when it finishes building up. Mortensen and Harris play off each other so well, it’s hard to believe they’re not best friends in real life.

Why it was missed: Although it won best film at the Boston film festival, it didn’t get much recognition after that due to it’s small budget and limited release. It was also overshadowed over time by the more wide westerns that came before it and after it, some of which you’ll see later in this list.

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Why It’s Good: We Own The Night is a story about a Nightclub owner (Joaquin Phoenix) which without wanting to, gets thrown in the middle of a war between his brother and father, who are cops, and a Russian Mafia boss, which unbeknownst to him is selling his drugs in his nightclub. The film is well acted all around, with the great Robert Duvall in the role of the father and Mark Whalberg as the brother. Some of the scenes are highly intense and one scene which involves a car chase in the rain, is great to watch every time.

Why it was missed: The movie was mixed in with a bunch of other great movies which came out around the same time, and as happened to a lot of films in 2007, it was missed by a lot of people. Although it made it’s budget back and was widely liked (it even was nominated for the Palm d’Or at Cannes film festival that year), apparently it didn’t quite make a big enough impression to be nominated for academy awards.

 

  • 3:10 To Yuma

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Why it’s Good: Yuma is a town known for it’s jail, and it’s where outlaws wait out to be hung. A notorious outlaw (Russel Crowe) has been caught. He’s taking the 3:10 train to Yuma, the town where he’ll receive his death sentence. However, his gang, now being led by the second hand man (Ben Foster) is chasing after them, so they hire a local lowly farmer with military experience (Christian Bale) to help escort the outlaw to the train. What ensues is an action packed movie, full of twist and turns and three great actors which get really into their parts, as Ben Foster steals a lot of scenes. A really great western.

Why it was missed: This movie was amazing and it was rocking a great cast. However, it came out during a dead spot for western movies, which would become huge after only a few months when No Country for Old Men came out. Not only that, but other films appeared quickly to steal 3:10 to Yuma’s thunder when it came out, like the early Oscar contender Eastern Promises. The film almost flopped. When talking about great westerns in the last 20 years, this is one of the remakes that is worth putting up there with True Grit, but it doesn’t get mentioned much, because everyone watched True Grit, and No Country For Old Men. Not nearly enough people watched this.

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Why It’s Good: Viggo Mortensen plays a regular, every day small town dad, who is attacked in his coffee shop by two robbers. After killing both robbers while protecting himself and his employees, he becomes a local hero and appears on the news. This brings a lot of new costumers to his coffee shop, including a violent gangster (Ed Harris) who thinks he knows him. widely known as one of the first “normal” movies directed by David Cronenberg, it’s short, but the scenes are so intense you’ll find yourself gripping the arms of whatever chair you’re sitting on. Viggo and Ed Harris play opposite sides this time, and they play them equally well. Great film all around.

Why It was missed: As I said before, this was the first film which David Cronenberg directed that was considered normal. And it wasn’t normal, but to his fans, who were used to crazy, left field, and nightmare like body horror films, this was too normal. The people who were not fans didn’t turn up because they expected the same. However, the film got good reviews and even got a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nod. This one, however, is still widely not watched by even the fans that loved Cronenbergs next film, Eastern Promises, which also starred Viggo Mortensen in the lead role.

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Why It’s Good: Body of Lies starrs Russel Crowe as an intelligence gathering supervisor for the CIA. His man on the ground (Leonardo DiCaprio) is trying to find a terrorist cell hidden in Jordan, and is being watched almost at all times by the eye in the sky. This film certainly did a great job at showing the desperation of the U.S. to find intelligence at this time, and how out of their element they were back in 2007, specially due to the lack of technology the terrorist have. DiCaprio and Crowe both take you around Jordan on a wild goose chase full of twists and turns, so intense and fast that if you blink you might miss something important. They play great off each other and the rest of the cast is just as good.

Why it was missed: The critics gave this film mixed reviews. With the bad saying it could’ve had more of an impact, it felt inhuman, it lacked emotion, and it wasn’t strong, among other things. I can’t help but feel that the film showed too much flaws in the CIAs intelligence gathering at the time, and showed good Muslims (as we still hadn’t caught Bin Laden, or anybody important for that matter.) and that’s why it got a bad rep, specially from people who were feeling patriotic at the time. Of course, war films which are Anti-war or anti U.S. policy, or show the worst of war, tend not to get the best reviews domestically. (Fury, Good Kill, and Full Metal Jacket got mixed reviews around release.) Proof of this is how the film was saved by it’s wider release in the UK and France, and how well received it was there.

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Why It’s Good: The title of this film is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about the months leading up to the assassination of Jesse James by a man who worshiped him. This movie is not just good. It’s awesome. I always get angry when I meet a western fan, and they haven’t watched this film, and there are so many. Brad Pitt (Jesse James) and Casey Afflect (Robert Ford) both give great performances, the directing by Andrew Dominik who later directed Killing Them Softly is spot on, The cinematography was so good it got nominated for an Oscar, and the narration of the story is borderline poetic. Despite it spoiling itself with it’s title, the film still manages to be great. This film is definitely one of the most beautiful I’ve seen.

Why it was missed: This was another western which came out just one month before No Country for Old Men, and it only wasn’t hit as hard because it had a smaller budget. This film gained critical acclaim but lost a lot of viewers due to how slow paced and long it was (the movie is about 2 hours and 40 minutes, with only two short action scenes.) Despite it’s Cinematography nom and Casey Afflecks nomination for best supporting actor, the film hasn’t gotten much more recognition since then, and when I look at lists for best westerns, I tend not to find this one.

Thanks for Reading!

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Note: Sorry for the late post! I was working on a Shutter Island film study which talked about two wildly debatable interpretations of the film, but I got so into the writing, I couldn’t finish it in time. I’m going to have to make it a two part post and release them both next week, so make sure you watched the movie, as the post will be full of spoilers!

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4 thoughts on “Overlooked: Westerns, Action and Crime

    1. Thanks Jroc! Appaloosa is definitely worth a watch. Its more of a classic western so its more settled down, and more about the build-up. Mortensen and Harris have a very unique chemistry in it.

      Like

    1. Definitely great films. Thus list was actually meant to have The Drop and A Most Violent Year in it, but I ended up taking them out of the list to make individual posts on both. I did regret taking them out anyway as I might make a post on The Assassination. 😦 I did the Drop already and will be working on A Most Violent Year soon.

      Liked by 1 person

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