Thursday, March 26, 2009

He'll go for any ol' bag.

A few thoughts on Smart Money, starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney in the only movie they were ever in together.

Robinson has the bigger role, as Cagney's is a smaller, supporting character. I'm not entirely sure that the summaries about their characters' relationship are correct. Unless I missed something, they're never actually referred to as brothers. Robinson plays Nick Venizelos, and Cagney plays Jack, and I can't remember if he shared the same last name. Nick refers to Jack as a "friend" more than once, yet there are other times when he jokes about his brother owning the Mint, and I'm not certain if he was talking about Jack. In any case, it's evident that whatever relationship they have, it's a very close one. Almost to the point of...well, subtext. ...It was actually kind of cute. *cough*

It's a gambling story and if you don't understand playing dice or poker or whatever else involves cards and chance, it might seem tedious at times. Also, hello racism! Seriously, it was just completely unecessary. Well, yeah, duh. Unless you count rubbing a black man's head for good luck (like, three times! cut it out already, it didn't work the first time!) necessary to the plot, "suntan" and "boy" notwithstanding. It's those kinds of things that make watching movies from this period -- in this case, this movie came out in 1931 -- really uncomfortable.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Times Square.

Only eleven American dollars.

I watched Kansas City Confidential, a movie that I thought I hadn't rented before but one that happened to be in my Netflix queue and one that I'd happened to bump up. Turned out that I had seen it before, but a rewatch couldn't hurt, because I was fuzzy on the details of this one. And even though it was 2:30 in the morning, it kept me awake and glued to the set. At one point I said aloud, "Damn, this is one hot movie."

It starts out pretty much the same way Reservoir Dogs does: a Boss gets a team of criminals together to pull off a bank heist. They don't know each other's names, and in this case they're all wearing masks, too, so they can't ID each other if anybody gets caught. After the job's done, the Boss keeps the stolen money until things cool down, then sends for everyone to pick up their share.

But enough about the plot. I want to talk about the poor schlep who gets caught in the crossfire and is blamed for the heist. He used to be a criminal but he's just a working stiff now, but because of his record he's detained and guilty until proven innocent, as the cops try to literally beat a confession out of him. Once he does get released, oh, this man is gonna get himself some revenge. So he sets out to track down the people responsible for ruining his life.

The actor's name is John Payne. And from the moment the cops sat him down in the interrogation room, I thought, who is this guy? Because he reminded me, almost to the point of distraction, of Kevin Spacey. He was a really good actor as well, so natural in his intonations and reactions, like I think Kevin Spacey is. His eyes, the way his mouth is set, down to the cleft in his chin.

To prove it, here are a few screencaps! The closest resemblance is Kevin in L.A. Confidential. ...Which also has "confidential" in the title. ...Which takes place in 1952, the year Kansas City Confidential came out. All coincidences, I'm sure.

First, Kevin:
 

Now, John Payne:
 
 

Do you see it? Tell me I'm not the only one who sees it.

And just for kicks, have a really smarmy but smoldering Lee Van Cleef: