After taking an enjoyable hiatus in Italy, I am back to work with a few new article ideas about Rome and Venice in the movies. But before getting into that, this article is a continuation of our movie review thread on the always popular Crime genre. Having previously posted the Best Crime-comedies and Best Crime Movies based on True Stories, this new article features the most delightfully sleazy crime and mystery movies, and will complete the Crime Movie Trilogy. If you enjoy movies that mix a little sex and skin with lawlessness, this is a list for you. I understand why many people didn't like this type of movie, but I do. Use your own judgment. Two films on the list are quite violent and are duly noted in the review section. For the most part, the violence factor is restrained with off camera killings and low body counts.
The best erotic crime thrillers were made in the 80’s and 90’s, and are rare birds in today’s Hollywood. What happened? Do all actresses nowadays have no nudity clauses in their contracts, or are the directors paranoid of being verbally lynched by the PC police? I will leave that puzzle to marinate, and get on with the article.
Ready for a sweet combination of sex and violence? Try one of these 13 films. Listed by order of release date.
1. Coffy 1973 crime thriller
The movie is a revenge story, with a not so typical hero: a black woman. Pam Grier plays the lead role, and makes this movie worth watching despite the low budget production. Her character, as in all her movies, has wit and style and strength as she kicks ass all over town. Pam made a batch of these stylish female action flicks in the 70’s. Foxy Brown and Big Bird Cage are a couple of her other hit films. If you do not have one of these in your DVD collection, what are you waiting for?
2. Looker 1981 mystery suspense thriller
Albert Finney and James Coburn co-star in this snapshot of the 70’s & 80’s era, with an interesting combination of sexy girls, evil TV empires, conspiracy, and secret weapons. The flick has a smart script that clips along briskly and keeps it very entertaining. I loved the action scenes with the Looker Pistol shoot-outs. Where can I get a Looker gun? If you are a connoisseur of 1980's cool, obscure flicks, this one is a must-see.
3. Body Double 1984 mystery thriller
This movie gives us a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the movie business, from the cheap seats. And better than any other film, Body Double shows you that Hollywood is indeed one of the craziest places in the world. The protagonist, Jake Scully, gets involved in a wild mix of Vampire B-movies, porn flicks, and murder most foul. Brian De Palma has a sure hand with this genre, and hit his zenith with this film. It has a look and feel all its own, and features a career best performance by Melanie Griffith as notorious bad girl, Holly Body. Ignore the negative reviews, and give this one a spin in the DVD player. The cool soundtrack is an extra bonus.
4. 52 Pick-Up 1986 crime thriller
Director John Frankenheimer cranked out nearly forty feature films in his long career, and this flick is my favorite of his work. The mood of the movie is old school Film-Noir with blackmail, murder, sex, and drugs. Roy Scheider leads a solid ensemble cast of B actors, including a few real porn stars, who effectively portray the rough side of life in 1980s Los Angeles. The men are wicked and the ladies are hot in this flick: Kelly Preston (John Travolta’s future bride) plays stripper, Cini, and we see almost always nude Vanity before she became religious. So be careful of the PC police when buying this DVD. It may soon be banned.
5. Bad Influence 1990 crime thriller
This forgotten movie is about a bromance that goes downhill; very fast. So if you are befuddled by the old question: Is it better to be lonely than to have bad friends? Then you need to see this flick. James Spader is excellent (as always) as a mild mannered professional whose life is turned upside-down by Rob Lowe playing a cunning and evil liar. Lisa Zane is the sexy femme fatale who spices up this dangerous brew.
6. Hot Spot 1990 mystery suspense
This film starring Don Johnson (Miami Vice TV hero) is surprisingly well done. The atmosphere, casting, setting, and plot fit together like a clever puzzle. For those who enjoy some sleaze in their crime movies, this film is sexy without being crude. Don Johnson delivers his career best performance as he tries to keep one step ahead of sly Texas sheriff (Barry Corbin). Virginia Madsen steams up the film with her portrayal of a gold-digger vixen, and Jennifer Connelly is perfect as the innocent girl-next-door with a dark past. A much underrated movie from the nineties, and trash cinema at its finest.
7. Miami Blues 1990 crime romance
This is a solid 90’s flick most people have not seen. This unusual movie is a quirky piece of work with a memorable performance by Alec Baldwin. He is a natural at playing a violent, petty criminal. Junior (Baldwin) is creepy, unnerving, and a criminal to the bottom of his pitch-black heart. Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Susie) is naïve, gullible and trusting. Her child-like, deadpan delivery in a soft Southern accent is priceless, and adds a welcome comic touch to an otherwise dark and very sad tale about two lost souls. You'll rarely see screen chemistry as good as between Baldwin and JJL.
8. True Romance 1993 crime thriller
Here we have yet another variation on the young-lovers-on-a-crime-spree theme. Fair warning to those good folks with a low tolerance for violence and profanity: This crime flick is Coarse and Crude (capital C’s). I have a thicker skin, so I made it to the credits. Here are some of the best scenes not to miss: 1. Dennis Hopper’s offensive history lesson of Sicily to a Sicilian hit man (Christopher Walken); 2. Gary Oldman’s imitation of a ghetto pimp; 3. Patty Arquette in a push-up bra; 4. Saul Rubineck hamming it up to the moon as a big shot Hollywood director/drug lord.
9. The Getaway 1994 crime thriller
Doc McCoy (Alec Baldwin) is a master Cracksman and Carol (Kim Bassinger) is his wingman, driver, and wife. Doc and Carol McCoy are bad people, but fun to watch. Kim is in her prime here and never looked better which is saying a lot. This outstanding re-make of the 1972 film has a strong supporting cast of talented B actors, all playing sleazy characters. They are so bad they make the McCoy couple look like angels. This is a fast moving, exciting film with a jail break, a big heist, pretty girls, double-crossing crooks, a wild car chase, and guns, guns, guns.... what else do you want?
10. Bound 1996 crime thriller
Violet (Jennifer Tilly) is a charming pussycat, with the heart of a man-eating tiger; and Corky (Gina Gershon) is a bull dyke. Together the gals hatch a daring plan to rob the mob of millions of dollars. The movie keeps you on edge all the way. The direction and writing is first class, and gives nothing away. Ignore the negative reviews that claim this is an extended lesbian orgy flick. It’s not that racy. The relationship between the two women is essential to the plot. There are very few films in which extreme tension is maintained so well for so long. The final scene was perfect, and I didn't see it coming, which always makes me smile.
11. Thursday 1998 crime thriller
This is a dark, sinister new wave crime movie about a tough gangster trying to escape his bloody past. The acting is first rate with Thomas Jane and Paulina Porizkova delivering career best roles, and a cool cameo performance by Mickey Rourke. Don't feel guilty for enjoying this twisted, violent flick. Just be glad you don't have an ugly past chasing you. This is a hard to find flick that was hammered by the TV critics.
12. Wild Things 1998 mystery thriller
Two detectives investigating a teacher-student sex crime (not another one!) find out there's more than meets the eye. This is an entertaining, trashy film-noir with sexy trollops, plot twists, and a few steamy scenes. There’s an undeniably pervy vibe to the whole thing. The B-list cast does not disappoint with actresses Denise Richards and Neve Campbell delivering career best work. This film was not a hit when it was released, but has lately been more popular.
13. Mulholland Drive 2001 mystery suspense
Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts co-star in a dream-driven mystery story of love, betrayal, tragedy and murder most foul. This movie is pure cinematic brilliance: totally mesmerizing, surreal, bizarre and highly watchable every minute of screen time. I envy people who have not seen this film. Fair warning – the movie is famous for being totally indifferent to explaining itself to the audience. If you get confused watching this movie, you are not alone. Should you be a casual, first-time viewer, or confused repeat viewer, I suggest reading my brief article, The Skeleton Key to Unlock Mulholland Drive. No spoilers.
Honorable mentions – Blue Velvet, Two Days in the Valley, Single White Female, Dressed to Kill, Swimming Pool, Last Seduction, The American, Grifters, Where the Truth Lies, Femme Fatale, Rush, Sin City.