Forgotten Films of the Last Decade:
By Bert Ehrmann
February 4, 2011
I've always been amazed at the way pop culture consumes itself. That what's captured the interest of the public on minute can be all but forgotten the next. But what amazes me even more are the things, specifically films, that I thought would have captured that interest but, for whatever reason, didn't. What I've done is to list a selection of films throughout the 2000s that I thought should have made more of a cultural impact than they did. This first column focuses on films from the year 2000.
At best, the films on this list are "cult" movies to some and at worst they're openly derided by others. While few of the movies on this list are perfect, I liked each and every one of them.
The Way of the Gun
When I first saw The Way of the Gun I was all but convinced that it was going to start a new wave of neo-noir crime thrillers. How many crime movies have there been where the criminal has a heart of gold, or they're only doing the crime out of some altruistic need, or because they're some cartoonish villain only there to be the yin to some equally cartoony hero's yang?
The Way of the Gun approached things in a different manner. The crooks of the film, played by Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe, kidnap a pregnant surrogate mother in order to ransom her off to a mob-connected couple who are paying the woman for her baby. The crooks are violent, lack any decency and will do whatever is needed in order to get their money. Just like I'd always assumed real criminals to be like.
And though the subject matter is challenging, The Way of the Gun did have a few things going for it. The movie was written by Christopher McQuarrie who also wrote the hit The Usual Suspects (1995) which also starred Del Toro. In fact, in many ways The Way of the Gun was a natural follow-up to The Usual Suspects since on the surface they dealt with the same themes and concepts.
What hurt The Way of the Gun at the box office was that the film was marketed as a weird pseudo comedy and not the hard-boiled drama it was. Add to that the fact that the movie never received a wide release and it adds up to a film never really being given a chance to find an audience that died in theaters long before most could discover the film.
From the very first profanity laced scene to the end shootout where it's revealed that even the guys trying to save the pregnant woman are just as bad as the two crooks, The Way of the Gun is one well-made satisfying flick.
I had heard about the film Battle Royale years before I was able to see it. That film was released overseas in 2000 but until recently wasn't readily available here. Though the gore and violence of Battle Royale makes something like The Way of the Gun look tame by comparison, the way that violence is handled is so over the top that at times it's is thrilling, scary and even, dare I say, funny.
In Battle Royale, it's the near-future and a battered Japanese government has taken to placing a class of high school kids on an remote island and setting them to battle against one and other to the death. The government figures that by showing the populous what it's capable of doing it will keep the rest in line.
The movie follows the teens as some of them take easily to the killing (after each death an on screen graphics notifies the viewer that there are (say) "42 to go") while other teens try to find a way off the island.
I never really felt that a movie like Battle Royale would ever find a audience with most Americans. The idea of kids massacring kids is pretty repellent. That was until the book series The Hunger Games became a hit. And while The Hunger Games is different that Battle Royale, it still features teens killing one and other in a game of state sponsored sport.
What do I know about what Americans want? Not much apparently. Expect a The Hunger Games movie series sometime in 2012.