Public Enemies and the top 5 guy movies of all time
I just saw Public Enemies, the upcoming Johnny Depp-as-John Dillinger gangster flick, and boy oh boy did it get me thinking about ‘guy movies’. With its suite of expertly choreographed bank jobs and jailbreaks, smoothly criminal wardrobe and salty tough guy dialogue, it’s exactly the sort of muscular entertainment best enjoyed in the company of men.
And even though Depp-as-Dillinger does find time to romance a Depression-era beauty played by French Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), she’s on hand mostly to get him philosophising about armed hold-up.
‘’I can hit any bank I want, any time. They got to be at every bank, all the time,’’ he tells her, dropping the first genuinely quotable line of dramatic Hollywood dialogue in many years.
The airy sound design and crisp high-def digital photography, which shows up everything from the pores on Depp’s nose to the serial number on his Tommy gun, give proceedings the rat-a-tat immediacy of nineteen-thirty-now.
Public Enemies is the sort of all-cylinders ride that will get buffs talking about the all-time ‘guy movie’ greats: the best-loved cop, robber, sci-fi, western, car and sports flicks on the block.
The problem is that it’s a crowded field at the top of the tree, with too many genuine classics muscling each other for a spot on the list.
You need a sports flick, you need a cop movie, Eastwood’s got to be on there… along with something by Scorsese. Refining a traditional ‘Top 5’ list? Good luck, there’s just not enough room at the inn.
Having said that, let’s play the ‘Top 5’ game anyway. Blokes love a challenge. Scroll down and you’ll find six inarguable bloke masterpieces and an argument for their hall of fame slot.
Notice we’re already one over? Which would you leave off ‘the list’? What’s been left off? It’s going to get a whole lot messier when impassioned cases for Die Hard or The Great Escape or Dirty Harry start showing up…
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
Keywords: six-shooters, buried gold, cowboys, betrayal, squinting.
You get Clint Eastwood and the meatiest of all westerns in one hit. Hell, no-one even speaks for the first 10 minutes. You can’t get more ‘guy’ than that. It’s crueller than The Magnificent Seven, more sunburnt than the wintery Unforgiven, and still engages by 21st century standards, which you can’t truthfully say about vintage masterpieces like Rio Bravo or My Darling Clementine. And let’s not forget the legendary theme tune - more ‘guyness’ than a Chisel LP.
Keywords: boxing, outsiders, against-the-odds, feel-good, montage.
Sylvester Stallone swings for a place on the list with a fight flick described by a list of adjectives that could apply to plenty of guys themselves – cheap, crude and simple. There’s not much to it (according to legend, Stallone wrote the first draft of the script in a couple of weeks), but who can’t identify with Rocky’s uphill struggle from the sidelines to the main event? Honourable mention goes to part IV of the Balboa saga, the one where he fought a Cold War grudge match with a Russian ‘roid rager played by video shelf veteran Dolph Lundgren.
Keywords: cops, crooks, automatic weapons, loyalty, code, barbecues, ballgames.
Ace visualist Michael Mann, who also directed Public Enemies, really planted the flag with this sprawling Los Angeles cops ‘n’ robber yarn. If the first on-screen pairing of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (as rival cop and robber, of course) or the film’s gorgeously steely look don’t earmark it as a classic, the central bank heist that’s still the best shoot-out on film certainly does. Hit the showers Heat, ya did good.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Keywords: killer robots, Uzi 9mm, chases (involving trucks, motorcycles, helicopters, and imaginative combinations thereof) and, of course, hasta la vista, baby.
The best straight-up action movie anywhere, hands down. The genius of James Cameron’s Terminator films is their shoehorning of unkillable humanoid robots into contemporary action sequences – deftly justifying the sort of comic book mayhem that producer Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard) and the 007 flicks had been creeping up on for years. The then-revolutionary special effects of the creepy T1000 might have stolen the spotlight on the film’s release, but almost 20 years on it’s the tension and release of Cameron’s still-unbeaten action sequences that dazzles. Schwarzenegger’s in there too and you just can’t have a credible top 5 without him.
Keywords: gangster, high-life, bling, wish fulfilment, pasta sauce, cocaine, “funny? I’m a funny guy?”
Goodfellas has got too many great lines, is too richly textured and moves with too much narrative momentum to leave off the list. It was robbed at the Oscars as well, so it’s the least we can do. Director Martin Scorsese has done a lot for the guy movie over the years and could argue for a place at the table on the back of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or (if you’re feeling awfully generous) even The Departed.
Mad Max 2 a.k.a. The Road Warrior (1981)
Keywords: Speed, rollbar, gridiron pads, Ford Falcon XB GT coupe with a V8 engine
Any film that throws a stubbled Mel Gibson, the back highways of Australia and loads of V8 death machines into a post-nuclear pot and serves up the results at break-neck speed is worth consideration. When the film is Mad Max 2 it’s best to hastily unhook the velvet rope and usher it straight through. Far from the token ‘car movie’ on the list, this landmark Aussie effort – almost 30 years old – is still a supreme showcase of sound and picture editing, car chase choreography and unflinchingly black humour.
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