A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa. (IMDb)
Patient direction, slick dialogue, solid turns, and impeccable production design and cinematography bring forth an engaging if unspectacular first half glimpse into mob life, marred only by de-aged De Niro’s unnerving eyes. The second half really shines though, as friendships/tensions and trust/suspicion grow, the flashbacks catch up to the driving narrative in devastating fashion (see the hotel breakfast convo), and what’s sowed is reaped (see the phone call to Jo; the meaningful final shot).
After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant. (IMDb)
Showing only the before and after of the heist job is a unique conceit that could easily flop without a strong script; fortunately, Tarantino fully delivers with car trunk loads of sizzling mono/dialogues (the strong cast never wavers in numerous lengthy scenes) and a compelling back-and-forth-in-time narrative that perfectly develops the characters (see the Mr. Orange twist; wanted an official Mr. Pink intro though). Deliberate, artistic camerawork (see the final close-up) brings it all home.
A small-time hood aspires to work his way up the ranks of a local mob. (IMDb)
Aesthetically, the rawness (complimented by a rocking soundtrack) is refreshing and captivating (aside from the jarringly rough-around-the-edges sound editing), as dynamic, intimate, and largely handheld camerawork follows our characters around and lends the whole thing an air of stark realism. It doesn’t work as well with the script; occasional moments of brilliance (see Johnny Boy’s initial string of excuses) are overshadowed by an amateurish story filled with inconsequential scenes.
The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City police officers slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption. (IMDb)
Well-acted, and that includes action-star Stallone in a softer, more subtle role than I’ve ever seen him in. A simple crime plot is still engaging, and allows the characters to shine (De Niro’s IA agent still feels mostly inconsequential, but Liotta’s complex and volatile Figgis is a perfect complement to the more straight-forward duo of Freddy and Ray), but ultimately feels undercooked, with the issues underlying the initial point of conflict left untouched and the conclusion a little too neat.