STREAM WARRIORS is a weekly feature on Daily Grindhouse where a different contributor recommends a few things to check out on streaming services and around the net to watch. The platforms being used are U.S. versions (unless otherwise noted), content availability does change between countries. This week, Jedidiah Ayres weighs in with some suggestions.
I’m here to recommend crime movies. Here’s some flash, some trash and some ash in a few overlooked, forgotten, or new recommendations currently available to stream:
THE BANKER (1989)
A killer is preying on high priced prostitutes in Los Angeles leaving crime scenes decorated with bloody symbols painted on the walls and it’s up to a cop (Robert Forster) and a reporter (Shanna Reed) who used to be married to put aside their bad blood and team up to take him down. This hornt-up take from William Webb on The Most Dangerous Game premise of a manhunter and manhunter-hunters getting primal in the concrete jungle is some seriously trashy late-’80s straight-to-video gold.
Adding an AMERICAN PSYCHO angle, the killer, (Duncan Regehr, Dracula from THE MONSTER SQUAD) is the titular type of white collar trash with the yuppie-scummiest name ever—Spaulding Osbourne (two first names or two last names, take your pick)—and some great white hunter delusions (it gets deliciously ridiculous in the final showdown).
I like to think of this one as the MANHUNTER entry in William Webb’s trashy-versions of Michael Mann movies. If you enjoy this one, I’d suggest following it up with THE HIT LIST (available on Prime), the bizarro version of COLLATERAL; and let’s call SUNSET STRIP Webb’s take on MIAMI VICE (that’s being generous, but let’s be generous—it’s available to rent).
Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video
FLESH AND BONE (1993)
If you’re getting tired of being stuck inside, you can take a deep breath of the fresh air on display in writer/director Steve Kloves’ decidedly unsuccessful follow-up to his hit directorial debut, THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. FLESH AND BONE is a big country/small town Texas noir with a hell of a cast that came and went without making any noise in 1993, but take a look at it now and I think you’ll see some terrific work being done by Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, James Caan, and Gwyneth Paltrow in a very early role. Arlis (Quaid) owns a shitload of vending machines that he spends his life driving the long, lonely stretches of highway along a route to restock them.
I loved every detail of his life from the type of machines he has to the low-rent places he keeps them and the washed up company he keeps in rundown motels. The day that Arlis meets Kay (Ryan) a woman who makes her living jumping out of giant cakes at bachelor parties and decides to do her a favor his whole tightly-wound existence and carefully maintained routine begins to wobble and when his long-gone, mean as hell father (Caan) shows up with a gunshot wound that needs seeing to his life goes the rest of the way to shit.
The film starts off with an awful crime then takes its time, but never drags, giving us melodrama levels of shit to process and creates an atmosphere of deep sadness and dread out of wide open spaces. Feels like a Jim Thompson story of small time hustlers, dead-end dreamers, bad blood relations and creeping evil that can’t be shook once it’s got your scent.
Streaming On: Tubi
THE GHOST WHO WALKS (2019)
THE GHOST WHO WALKS belongs to one of my favorite sub-genres of crime films: a man just released from prison. Cody Stokes’ movie opens with Garland Scott as Nolan being removed from his cell and processed out amid jeers and threats from other inmates calling him ‘snitch.’ It’s a strength of the film that we never find out exactly what Nolan told the cops about his former associates, only that it was enough to secure his release and more than enough to mean his death if he’s ever caught. Nolan quickly slips his protective police custody and spends the rest of the film trying to reconnect with his young daughter and his ex (Alexia Rasmussen) who’s now married to the man upon whom he informed (Gil Darnell).
While trying to put an escape plan together he spends a couple of days bouncing around the city looking for friendly faces and shelter, but finding only burnt bridges and traps, before his pal Stitches (Frank Mosley), a gutter denizen currently scamming Christmas shoppers of spare change with a bell and a rotting Santa Claus suit, gives him a ride in his bust-ass sleigh and a spot to crash at. Nolan and Stitches tour the seedy areas of town growing more desperate as the net closes in around them and the likelihood of a Christmas miracle seems increasingly unlikely.
This feature debut from writer/director Stokes gets a lot of atmospheric mileage out of its rust-belt location dressed up in depressing Christmas lights and tinsel decorations and Scott’s performance has enough weight to infuse the feature length chase with some emotional stakes.
Streaming On: Netflix
HENRY 2: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1996)
(aka HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, PART 2: MASK OF SANITY)
Of all the uncalled for, unnecessary and immediately problematic sequel ideas in history, this has got to be one of the most notable. John McNaughton’s HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER was a grimy, dirty, joyless film that managed to do that thing where the monster was humanized to such a disturbing degree that it ought to have caused some serious introspection in the audience. It worked equally well as crime, as horror, or as bleak drama and the thought of turning it into a franchise is about as wrongheaded as I can imagine. I mean, what exactly would you be trying to capitalize on? The first one worked so well in part because it was so hard to nail down. It wasn’t playing by the typical slasher/thriller playbook by smothering the ‘thrill’ element in real human sadness and pathetic realism.
A sequel typically means going bigger; going deeper into that thing that people responded to in the first one or deconstructing and dismantling everything that came before, but as the first one almost did that with the slasher genre to begin with and there’s no topping its atmosphere what do you even want to do? Imagine my surprise when I actually really dug it I just can’t imagine a less likely successful film.
It goes for the same brillo-padded, blue-collar atmosphere and downbeat day-to-day misery and mostly nails all that stuff the way big budget movies usually fail to and end up coming off as rich folks in poverty drag. Henry (Neil Giuntoli replacing Michael Rooker) isn’t glamorized for smarts or ballsiness and comes off as pathetic as he did the first time around, a drifter arriving in a new run-down town, taking on a new factory job, making a new drinking buddy and then introducing him to his hobby of sport killing.
But his moments of real tenderness and care for select other people throws us off balance and there is actual warmth in the film to respond to. Henry’s corruption of that warmth is very effective tragedy, but the movie also goes bigger the way franchise sequels are expected to in gore and splashy murder stuff, though it saves that incremental ratcheting up for the end.
I have no idea how Chuck Parello made such a terrible idea work so well. It doesn’t (and doesn’t deserve to) share the reputation of the original, but damned if it doesn’t make a compelling case for its own existence. Might as well have been called HENRY: HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT SHIT 2.
Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video
THE TRUST (2016)
Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood play a couple of Las Vegas cops who decide to capitalize on their position to rip off a drug dealer. Chief among the pleasures of this feature debut from brothers Alex and Benjamin Brewer are their sense of scale and control of tone that balances humor, suspense and dark drama in a mix that keeps you guessing and unsure of where we’re headed.
Cage’s volatile presence is utilized to great affect and Wood never lets us quite pin him down either. They’re not particularly evil police, neither are they desperate or disillusioned former idealists, instead they’re bored professionals who happen to be cops casual enough about their corruptibility to play like people rather than stock characters and thus keep us off balance unsure of what kind of film we’re watching. Is THE TRUST a buddy comedy or a thriller? Yes.
It works on all the levels it plays at, but it’s the film’s final moments that really drive home what a well-crafted experience it is. Looking forward to more from the Brothers Brewer for sure. Here’s hoping they keep crime in mind.
Streaming On: Netflix
Tags: Alex Brewer, Alexia Rasmussen, Amazon Prime, Benjamin Brewer, Brewer Brothers, Christmas, Chuck Parello, Cody Stokes, Dennis Quaid, Duncan Regehr, elijah wood, Flesh and Bone (1993), Frank Mosley, Garland Scott, Gil Darnell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer 2, James Caan, jerry lewis, John McNaughton, Meg Ryan, Michael Mann, Neil Giuntoli, Netflix, Nicolas Cage, robert forster, Shanna Reed, Steve Kloves, streaming, Sunset Strip, The Banker (1989), The Ghost Who Walks (2019), The Hit List, The Trust (2016), Tubi, William Webb