Movie Review: Kiss of Death (1995)

The 90s were a fascinating time for crime movies/thrillers. Something about any movies in those genres made ’em infinitely watchable, even if they were fairly subpar as movies. So let’s see how this one fares.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Kiss of Death”.

Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) is a convict trying to better himself after taking the fall for a crime he was kinda part of. And after a few years in prison he agrees to go undercover for the police in order to take down the psychopath gangster (Nicolas Cage) who led the job. The narrative in this is kinda hard to talk about. Not because it’s particularly complex (it’s not), not because it’s nuanced (it really ain’t), but because it’s so bog standard that it’s hard to muster any major explanation or analysis. It’s a fairly standard crime-drama narrative that doesn’t do anything exceptionally bad or great. Its biggest flaw is that the narrative never has any real momentum after the inciting incident, it’s scene to scene, no engaging escalation or natural flow. But aside from that weird snafu, there’s nothing here that sticks out much in either direction. The story is neither good nor bad, it just… is.

The characters in this are… that’s it, they just are. They’re not egregiously hollow, but they’re also not really engaging. They’re… fine. What I can full on praise here though is the cast. David Caruso may not change facial expression much, but he can deliver his lines quite well, and while not exactly super engaging as a leading man, I think he works pretty well here. Samuel L. Jackson’s here too, playing a very angry cop that Caruso works with, and he’s really good (which no one’s surprised by). Then there’s the living legend Nicolas Cage as “Little” Junior Brown, the main antagonist of the movie. A crazed, violent, unpredictable gangster. The character himself is fairly whatever, but is elevated by the performance of Cage, who gives 140%. He goes big, and he isn’t afraid if it looks a little silly, and it makes the character super entertaining to watch, becoming the highlight of the movie. Supporting cast is pretty good too, containing people like Stanley Tucci, Michael Rapaport, Ving Rhames, Helen Hunt, Kathryn Erbe, Philip Baker Hall, and more, all delivering solid work.

The score for the movie was composed by Trevor Jones, and it was alright. I really like the main theme, which is a track that blends traditional orchestration with guitar in  way that isn’t super original, but sounds really nice nonetheless. The rest of the movie has a fairly bland orchestral score that works just fine for the movie. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they work fine too.

Loosely based on a movie of the same name from 1947, “Kiss of Death” was directed by one Barbet Schroeder, and I think he did an alright (that seems to be the word of the day, huh?) job with it. There’s nothing really wrong with the direction, but there’s also never really anything too great either, no unique flair. Just perfectly passable direction.

This movie’s gotten some mixed to positive reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 68% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

So yeah, “Kiss of Death” is just fine, a perfectly passable thriller to put on in the background on a rainy afternoon. The story is fine, the characters are fine, the performances are really good, the music’s pretty good, and direction is fine. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Kiss of Death” is a 6.11/10. So I’d say it could be worth a rental.

My review of “Kiss of Death” is now completed.

Come for the Nicolas Cage, stay for the… Nicolas Cage.

Series Review: The Sinner – Season 1 (2017)

Murder. A horrible crime. Something that can be caused by many different reasons. If you ask me, it’s never okay… but it’s still important to look at all the details of the case.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Sinner”.

Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) seems like your typical woman. She has a house, a husband (Christopher Abbott), a child, and a nice job. But one day while she’s enjoying a day at the beach with her family, she suddenly lashes out and stabs a guy to death. Her case is then given to Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) who has to find out why Cora suddenly committed this horrible act. And the further Ambrose delves into this case, the more questions arise. So now we have our murder mystery. And already I like the different approach. It’s not a whodunnit like most other shows… but a whydunnit instead (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but you get the idea). It’s a really dark show filled with a lot of twists that kept me invested in everything that was going on. The plot here is quite unpredictable, because when you think you know where it’s going, it pulls the rug out from under you, giving the viewer a bit of an “Oh shit” feeling. The plot here is engaging, unpredictable, disturbing, and just overall great.

The characters here are all layered, flawed, and interesting. Jessica Biel plays Cora, the woman at the center of this story. While I won’t go too in-depth about her (since a lot of her character stuff is best left experienced), I will say that she’s a really compelling character who gets some really dark and interesting character development. And Biel is great in the role. Then we have Bill Pullman as Harry Ambrose, the Detective looking into Cora’s case. He is a highly determined policeman that is doing everything to find out what made Cora do this. He doesn’t look at the broad strokes as much as he aims to find out the details of the situation. He does also have some of his own drama to deal with that adds to his character. And Pullman is great in the role. Then we have Christopher Abbott as Cora’s husband Mason. A loving husband and hard worker, Mason’s world gets completely fucked after Cora commits the horrible crime. And seeing his journey after the event is insanely compelling. And Abbott is fantastic in the role. Then we get supporting performances from people like Dohn Norwood, Jacob Pitts, Abby Miller, Danielle Burgess, Enid Graham, Nadia Alexander, Merediths Holzman, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the season was composed by Ronit Kirchman who I think did really good job. The score is heavily electronic and has a unique and eerie sound that helps add a sense of unease to the show. While I wouldn’t exactly find myself listening to the music from this show for fun, it’s definitely quality stuff that works very well within the show.

Based on a novel by Petra Hammesfahr, this show was created by Derek Simonds, with writing by Simonds and some other people, and direction by various people. And the work all these cool people put in is incredibly good, giving us some of the best craft in any recent show. The sense of dread and suspense throughout is thick enough to cut with a knife, and it helps create an engaging atmosphere that helps grip the viewer. And the cinematography by Radium Cheung and Jody Lee Lipes is pretty damn good.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

Season 1 of “The Sinner” is a compelling and disturbing ride that I highly recommend. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and really good directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Sinner” is a 9,81/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Sinner” season 1 is now completed.

Bill Pullman is such a likable actor.