This little article I have written just because as I watch some of these movies, I am reminded of how great they are and how I don’t feel like popular opinion shares the same idea so I just want to give my two cents on why I think these movies are so great. Obviously, this also means that if you haven’t seen these movies then you certainly should find a way to watch them or to watch them again with another perspective. And so, without further adieu..
5. Heat (1995) – “You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we’ve been face to face, if I’m there and I gotta put you away, I won’t like it. But I tell you, if it’s between you and some poor bastard whose wife you’re gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.”.
This movie. This movie right here is one that I feel has never gotten the credit it deserves. I mean, I hear it talked about highly once in a while by a fellow Heat fan like myself, but not in mass regard and I just don’t know why. This movie has it all. I would place this movie up against any all crime dramas, mobster movies, cat and mouse movies, any type of movie to be honest. I mean I think this is one of the greatest movies of all time as well that doesn’t get put in that high of a regard ever. The movie is about a criminal named Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), who along with his crew played by Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, and in the last heist Dennis Haysbert, knock off high-end scores for a living. In contrast, you have police detective Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and his Robbery Homicide crew of Wes Studi, Mykelti Williamson, and Ted Levine. In the middle, you have McCauley’s fence played by Jon Voight, Ashley Judd playing Val Kilmer’s wife, a young Natalie Portman as Pacino’s step-daughter and appearances in various roles by Xander Berkely, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc and even Jeremy Piven. I mention all these actors because this cast for this movie is insane in terms of pure talent. After a job goes bad and the heist crew has to kill guards to get away because one of their new hires gets trigger-happy, Pacino’s crew is on the case to find these guys. Meanwhile, a mob group, who owned the property that De Niro’s crew stole, wants to kill the group to send a message. As we traverse through the story, we find out that the line between Lt. Hanna and criminal Neil McCauley is a blurred one to be sure. The best scene in the movie, and a golden moment of cinema, is at a point where the two sit down for a coffee together to basically say they each know what the other is up to and for Lt. Hanna to let him know that he will be at his next score and is gonna take him down. In this sit down, we learn that each has a recurring dream, one of them being about having enough time, the other about all the bad they have seen in the job that they do. The movie climaxes with one of the most intense shoot-outs in cinema history with it even being, arguably, the inspiration for the L.A. shootout of 1997 between bank robbers and police. The final scene of the movie is the showdown between De Niro and Pacino where we find out which professional wins in the end.. if any..
4. Red Dawn (1984) – “All that hate’s gonna burn you up kid.”
America versus the Commies.. Believed by many to be an ultra right-wing movie meant for the cold-war era that it was made in that took advantage of the paranoia of the red scare. Anti-communist, pro-gun, pro-war, survivalist propaganda. Now I have seen this movie more times than I care to admit. I watched it over and over as a little kid, wearing out one or two copies of the VHS tape that I had it on. I have the VHS we recorded it off of TV on, the VHS I eventually bought in stores, the DVD when it finally came out, the Collector’s Edition DVD that eventually came out and finally the Blu-ray that is current today. Now even at a young age I never thought this was a pro-war movie and it seemed like people only looked on the surface of this movie for its content. This movie is actually in no way pro-war but really shows you how war takes its toll on people in various ways and the costs that come along with war. Let’s start with who my favorite character, Robert, which was because I thought he was cool because he wore a black mask over the lower part of his face and always had an RPG and was the ruthless one. The Russians killed his dad and the rest of the kids’ parents so I thought he had every right to be as vengeful as he was. In fact, I can still say that he has every right to be as ruthless as he was but also I see the reality of a comment the Air Force pilot Lt. Colonel Tanner says to him when he sees him making tally marks on his gun for every one of the enemy he has killed and he tells Robert “All that hate is gonna burn you up kid.” At which point Robert says back “It keeps me warm…” This pretty much is saying that all Robert lives for now is getting revenge and killing as many of the Russians/Cubans as he can before he dies. In fact, I felt like when Robert comes to his end he knowingly does it when the group is attacked by Mi-24 Hind helicopters and he attempts to hold them off while the others get away. As he damages one with a rocket and sees the others coming rather than attempting to hide he just puts on his mask to cover his mouth and nose like he usually does in battles and fires his AK-47 at the helicopters as they approach, knowing he has met his end. I think he does this because he is tired and just ready to be done with it all and fully consumed by the hate. I also think their are deeper moments to show that war is not glorious when various events occur within the group and it shows a moment of weakness where Jed, the leader, who always shows a tough exterior to the group, breaks down and cries when he is alone and looking at a picture of him and his little brother Matt. I could probably write a whole article on this movie alone and all the themes about it but I will leave it to this and just say while it has an awesome, bombastic soundtrack with slower more melancholic songs as well the movie is much deeper than the surface shows that of just a pro-war movie.
3. Young Guns (1988) – “But there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip”.
This movie shows us Emilio Estevez as William H. Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid, and how he played a role in the Lincoln County War of 1878. It was a list of who’s who of the young 80s actors of the time, from Emilio Estevez, his brother Charlie Sheen, Keifer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, and veteran actors Terrance Stamp and Jack Palance. I always liked the movie for its music, performances from all the characters, and the themes of the movie. It was only many years later that I learned that this was an actual event that occurred, the Lincoln County War, and many of the characters were real people or based on real people. The movie is essentially about revenge and what has to be done when the law fails due to corruption at the local and state level. As Billy is taken in by local cattleman John Tunstall, an Englishman, it is not long after that Mr. Tunstall is murdered by a posse who is made up of a group of men who work for the rival Murphy and Dolan cattle company who are also backed by the governor of New Mexico and local law enforcement. After being deputized to bring in the men who killed Mr. Tunstall, the Regulators soon find themselves wanted by the law as well after killing several of the men in cold blood rather than arresting them, mostly due to Billy being out for revenge rather than seeing them go to jail. As the group are officially outlaws, they are wanted by the law as well as those outside the law and are slowly hunted down. It all ends in a massive shootout between the Regulators and the local law, local thugs, and even the national guard army. Three of the Regulators survive in Doc Scurlock, Jose Chavez Y Chavez, and Billy the Kid, who killed Murphy as Billy was escaping from the gunfight. I think the part about the movie I like so much is aspect of “Pals”, which is touched on in several conversations in the movie and what it means to stick with your pals when that is really all you have and so your friends are essentially your family.
2. Midnight Run (1988) – “Get yourself a new watch.”
In a movie that is probably the least watched of the five, among the people who may actually read this article, it is what seems at first to be a typical “two guys forced to travel across the country together” kind of movie. Charles Grodin plays an accountant who was laundering money for the mob in Chicago and is arrested and let out on bail. Robert De Niro is a bounty hunter in Los Angeles who is tasked by the bail bondsman, played by Joe Pantoliano, to find Jonathan Mardukis (Grodin) and bring him back before the loan defaults and Joe loses his business and before Mardukis is picked up by the FBI or killed by the Mob who is trying to find him as well. Yes, the cliche of them hating each other and eventually liking each other does happen but the way in which it happens is what separates it apart from other movies. Grodin’s excellent portrayal of his character with the right amount of quirkiness but you also find out just how intelligent he is as the movie plays out helps to add much depth to his character. De Niro’s character of Jack Walsh is also very good in that even though he is cranky and tough much of the movie he also is very resourceful and has that hint of comedy in some of his actions that just very much like De Niro does in many of his movies today. The relationship the two men have is one of necessity for Jack and circumstance for Mardukis but they do eventually find a mutual respect for one another. One of the best scenes to me that adds that extra something is when they are on a train in a storage car and having a conversation about Jack’s watch and how it relates to his life and his past life he had with his family and as a cop before he was set up and run out of Chicago by the very same mobsters that are trying to kill Jonathan. It is believable in how they end their time together in that its not that they became best friends all of a sudden in the end but that after everything they have gone through they can at least say that perhaps they could be friends, “In the next life.” as they put it.
- Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) -“I know now why you cry, but it’s something I can never do”.
Alright folks, this is it. I have been passionately discussing the merits of this movie for years to anyone that will listen or happen to be in the room when I go on a sudden rant should something happen to spark a relation to said event and the movie. Let me tell ya a story.. So I was in class teaching about translation in cells in AP Biology class and we came across the role of the terminator sequence and I said “terminator” in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice and for some reason proceeded to go into a lecture on how great of a movie Terminator 2 is and how its underrated and overlooked as an all-time great movie and how sad the ending is and how myself, someone who never cries about anything, found myself getting watery-eyed at the ending every time and how moving it is because John never had a real father figure and the terminator was the best thing he ever had to one. (also side story! I once won a trivia game in front of many by spelling Arnold’s last name off the top of my head and I did it!)
Besides the ending, the rest of the movie just has moments when the violence and desperation from running away from dangers is ceased , that when stacked up add to giving the movie extra depth and make it more than just a great action flick. Scenes such as John and the T-800 talking and John trying to get him to become more human and another which is only in deleted scenes or extended editions in which John shuts him down to flip a switch that will make him more capable of learning to be more “human” but Sarah almost destroys the chip with a hammer makes to add more depth to the movie.
In this Terminator movie, we follow John Connor, having been born since the original Terminator film, and his attempts to elude the new T-1000 terminator that has been sent back to kill him so that he doesn’t become the leader of the uprising that he is meant to do in the future. This time, a terminator in the likes of the original T-800 from the first film, is also sent back but reprogrammed to save and protect John from the Skynet terminator. As they journey together and evade the authorities and the T-1000, John finds a friend in the Arnold terminator and, ultimately, what will turn out to be the closest thing to a father figure he will ever have. They break John’s mother, Sarah Connor, out of a mental facility as she was held their due to her beliefs in the apocalyptic future that she knows is suppose to be the future. This all leads to a mission to destroy the company’s research facility where they have the arm and CPU unit from the first terminator wreckage from the original movie, believing this will prevent Judgement Day. The movie climaxes with a final battle between the two terminators and Sarah Connor to protect John. The ending scene, which I mentioned at the start, and then monologue by Sarah Connor is one of great sadness but also hope that mankind can do better and avoid our eventual destruction. All I can say is that this movie is a true 5/5 stars and one of the best movies of all time.
Well there you have it folks, five movies that I think are underrated and deserve another look and greater appreciation.