A Week In Film #306: Autumnal

Wolfen title screen
Michael Wadleigh (who did the Woodstock documentary) directs his first and only narrative feature, based on the Whitley Streiber novel, and it’s a corker. Set in the near-bankrupt New York of the 70s/80s, it’s about vicious murders in which the victims are horribly mutilated. Albert Finney stars as an iconoclastic cop, and Diane Venora is the criminal psychologist assisting him in his hunt for the killers.

Great performances from Edward James Olmos as an American Indian militant, Tom Noonan as a zoologist, Gregory Hines as the coroner, and Dick O’Neill as the angry police boss, plus innovative special effects, and with a spectacularly shot south Bronx – all decaying and derelict and burnt out lots, a defining moment in the borough’s history captured on film perhaps definitively – and Battery Park too, all make for an undervalued genre thriller.

Lawless (1999) title screen
Tidy little New Zealand TV movie with Kevin Smith playing an undercover cop who is hounded out of his job by untrustworthy elements, and ends up setting up his own detective agency. By no means groundbreaking, but a fine set up for a series, especially given how likeable Smith makes the rather dickish John Lawless. Angela Marie Dotchin is excellent as the under appreciated police desk jockey who hungers for something more challenging and ends up taking the plunge with Lawless. Directed by Chris Martin-Jones, written by Gavin Strawhan.

Lawless: Beyond Justice title screen
Lawless: Beyond Justice
Kevin Smith and Angela Marie Dotchin return for another adventure as a pair of ex-cops trying to make ends meet at their shoestring detective agency – but things start to look up when the wife of a man who dies after a rooftop fall comes to them for help. Geoffrey Cawthorn directs from a script developed by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Long.

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