One of the benefits of the DVD format and a good home theatre (or even a mediocre home theater) is that it’s easy and cheap to build your own movie marathons. For less than the price of a movie ticket, you can rent a couple of titles and have a great evening, connecting films by actors, directors, themes, etc.
This is one of my favorite things to do and, while I typically marathon four or five films, I realize not many people have that kind of time to devote to movies. With that in mind, here’s the Friday Night Double Feature: two pictures connected in some way that would make an enjoyable mini-marathon.
This week's selections are linked through the genre of the crime drama. In the seedy underworld of characters like Porter, The Boss, and The Rabbi, nobody is what they seem. Trust no one, watch your back, and expect the unexpected.
Mel Gibson’s Payback was a different kind of character for the Lethal Weapon actor. Porter was the violent anti-hero of the Mad Max films, only with the charm and sophistication of Martin Riggs. The original cut was the story of a man who appeared to be mysteriously back from the dead to collect money that had been stolen from him. This new edit cuts back on any kind of supernatural theme (with only one mention of people thinking he was dead) and focuses instead on the grit of a crime drama. Porter wants his money back and will stop at nothing to get it. Along the way there are twists and turns and Porter gets revenge on the people who double-crossed him, leaving the door open for others to continue to try and double-cross him. In the grand cinematic scale of things, Payback doesn’t even begin to touch other crime films like Scarface, but makes for some light, fluffy (albeit violent) viewing – perfect for a double feature.
The themes of revenge, double-crosses, and mysterious protagonists carry over into Lucky Number Slevin which features a nicer hero than Payback, and a more star studded cast. Everyman Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is mistaken for someone else and winds up being drafted into a war between rival crime bosses who used to be partners. Again, double-crosses ensue as both sides attempt to get Slevin to do their dirty work and he has to pick his allegiances. Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley excel over Payback’s James Coburn and William Devane as crime bosses, making this movie the one to build to. Along the way Slevin encounters a nosy detective (Stanley Tucci) which bears similarity to Payback’s crooked cops. Slevin ups the ante from Payback by giving you less information about the characters you meet. You know everyone in Payback is a bad dude, but when your central character doesn't even belong in the world he's been dragged into, everything can wind up being a surprise. It’s also worth noting the two movies share the talented Lucy Liu, although her part in Payback is minimal, she makes up a large part of why Slevin is entertaining.
Other twisted crime dramas worth including: Scarface, Face/Off, The Usual Suspects, The Departed
Enjoy our Double Feature suggestions? and maybe we’ll use them in a future column.
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