Body of Lies (2008)


A CIA agent on the ground in Jordan hunts down a powerful terrorist leader while being caught between the unclear intentions of his American supervisors and Jordan Intelligence. (IMDb)
An eye-rolling America-centric terrorist thriller at first blush thanks to Hoffman’s disturbing opening monologue, but in actuality, it’s more mature, with decently nuanced political drama that’s expertly intertwined with espionage action. The contrast of Crowe’s detached CIA boss (his suburban activities during tense phone calls are a great touch) with DiCaprio’s emotional on-the-ground agent makes for an excellent central character dynamic (see the memorable final exchange). Very well acted.
8/10 (Great)


Broken City (2013)


In a city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart seeks redemption and revenge after being double-crossed and then framed by its most powerful figure: Mayor Nicholas Hostetler. (IMDb)
Two things stood out to me after the completion of this film, and they were both bad: One was a camera that wouldn’t stop moving around during a simple scene of dialogue; the other was an atrocious slow-motion look-back/wave to end the film. Besides a decent investigative first act, everything else was just average and forgettable-disappointing considering the delicious corruption drama at hand. Extended tangents certainly didn’t help (see Natalie’s film and after-party; the televised debate).
6/10 (Mediocre)


L.A. Confidential (1997)


As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen – one strait-laced, one brutal, and one sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice. (IMDb)
A classy 1950s-set crime drama with a focus on the cops instead of the criminals-or are they the same thing? Corruption abounds in this intricately written neo-noir that showcases the shady schemes found on both sides of the law. The three-pronged set of policemen protagonists and their distinct character arcs give the narrative a uniquely varied and diverse perspective, although the emotional impact that can be garnered from a single character focus is lacking, despite the hints at backstories.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

American Gangster (2007)

In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East. (IMDb)
Starts off feeling a little messy and uninspired as it introduces the main players, but it quickly evolves into a wonderfully gritty and captivating crime drama with top notch cinematography and a richly textured plot. Washington is great as the charismatic and violent Lucas, and Crowe is as equally competent as the determined Richie, and along with a strong supporting cast, they enact an intriguing cops vs. gangsters script that shows the interesting overlaps of their respective moral spectra.
8/10 (Great)