Monday, 14 June 2010

Underrated by @maverick99sback


It will never cease to amaze me, how many films can slip under the radar. Sure, they may gain a cult following, but by then, financially, the damage may be done. Careers may be lost, too. Star in two films, that no one watches for twenty years… where do you end up?


Last week Gray asked me to write about something I thought was over appreciated. This week, I thought I’d play a switcheroo. It’s time for the underdog. Something that’s underrated. Or something that everyone missed. Maybe a film, worthy of more praise. Go see. You never know, you may like it.



To Live And Die In L.A.

What. A. Title. My Dad owned this on VHS, and a couple of things struck me. One, the cover. It was one of those that the more you looked at it, the more it showed you. I knew that cover, dot to dot. It was one of my Dads favorite films. An 18, so out of bounds.

Contrary to the odd occasion, I never really watched them behind his back. It would defeat the object. I always wanted to talk about film. So who would I talk about it, with?


I remember watching it, though. The opening credits are so vibrant with colour. Totally mis matched to the Cop thriller I was expecting. The music, so 80’s, just creating a vibe. Not many films achieve that within five minutes. It was unlike anything I’d seen before.

I knew William L. Peterson was in it. Vaguely recognized the guy from Platoon – who I always thought was the bad guy, until I saw it. Something about that iconic image, of hands outstretched. Plus I’m sure his role here cemented that.)

Dad went on and on about Manhunter, another that is criminally underrated. That too starred Peterson, and as a kid, I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in more films. CSI later gave him ten years of success, and awards, but after the one-two of L.A, and Manhunter, is that really how he thought life would play out? Don’t even talk to me about Young Guns II.

The problem with Cult films, and sleeper hits, is success later, can be too late. My issue with Shawshank predominantly is that it did reap those awards. Tim Robbins carved out a career of his choice, and Freeman literally ended up as god. I can’t help but resent a film for that.

The flip side to that coin, is that I don’t want L.A to have that success. It’s too late now, anyway. But, I positively hate the idea of others “getting” it. Taking it as their own. I still can’t get my head around Dark Knight for the same reason. When it topped a Billion, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I can’t help but wonder, how much better it would have been under the radar. Telling everyone Nolan had remade Heat with Batman and Joker, in the Al and DeNiro roles. Alas, no. The world and its wife took that film from me. And no matter what, it’s sequel too. The reason I love Nolan so much is he then follows it up with Inception. There are no guarantees people will get that. And yep, you guessed it, I hope they don’t.

L.A features a car chase, so ballistic, and head mental, it regularly gets voted best chase ever. It’s Friedkin, and he’d already given the world French Connection – so he knew what he was doing.

Hmmm… French Connection. Maybe that’s the reason people didn’t take to L.A? On paper, they could be sequels, but they couldn’t be more different. Throw The Exorcist in the middle, and that was 3/3 for Friedkin.

Maybe audiences were turned off by the gay overtones, glimpsed in the trailer? Friedkin had caused a shit storm five years previously, by making Cruising, with Al Pacino. His portrayal of gay S&M bars caused riots. That too is a brilliant film, though. So dark, and ambiguous. People don’t really like seedy, do they?



Friedkin doesn’t pull any punches. In L.A, people get shot gunned in the face. The film moves on. In Cruising, Al Pacino spends so long undercover, chasing a serial killer that he may become one. The end implies he could be the killer himself, and he totally gets taken in by the scene. Audiences weren’t ready for that.

So that went under the radar too. It’s a shame, as it’s one of Pacinos best performances. Not that it did his career any harm, to be fair. I guess the good guys can win, after all.

Put Shawshank down for six hours. See these three. Now.