‘The Bourne Supremacy’
For our money, “Ultimatum,” the third in the super-badass Matt Damon franchise, is the series’ peak — everything the first two films had been working towards crammed into what was essentially a single wonderfully exhausting chase. But it only got there because of its second outing. The directors switched from whipsmart Doug Liman to you-are-there herky-jerk bruiser Paul Greengrass, whose history in documentary and doc-like movies (like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “United 93”) helped create a new kind of action cinema. The stand-outs here are a fist-fight in a room so dark that it becomes a propulsive blur, a dizzying stakeout at Berlin's Alexanderplatz station and a car chase so hectic it feels like you’re in it. It’s such an intoxicating mix of great stuff that no wonder Damon and Greengrass couldn’t stay away from it for too long. Here’s to “Untitled Matt/Damon Bourne Sequel” in 2016!
‘The Wild Bunch’
Sam Peckinpah’s innovatively bloody 1969 Western — bookended by two separate Caligulian orgies of Heinz 57-splashing glory — makes a good case for rewinding, catching all the splatter that either happens in the blink of an eye or in loving slo-mo. (As Howard Hawks famously complained, “I can kill 10 guys in the time it takes him to kill one.”) But its reputation comes not from its “Faces of Death” gore. It’s the slow, sad study of old-timers on the way out of a world that has moved on without them. Bandits William Holden, Ernest Borgnine et al. can no longer hack it at a trade that no longer exists, and the only way to go out with honor is to do it themselves.
‘Man from Reno’
There are gobs of twists on the classic noir, and Dave Boyle’s playful indie version is one of the craftiest. Its hero is an actual mystery novelist, Aki (Ayako Fujitani), who can’t believe it when she gets involved in convoluted business involving a mysterious traveler (Kazuki Kitamura), who may be involved in a murder case being investigated by a small town sheriff (Pepe Serna). Boyle doesn’t play it like a straight noir, and the freedom to do his own thing results in one of the most shocking and gutting late-film death scenes in memory — though we’d never spoil it.
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