Rockstar Recommends: A Film Noir Round Up Part Two – The Neo Noirs

Posted on May 23 2011, 4:04pm | Author: R* Q | Filed Under: Rockstar, Games

L.A. Noire is now on shelves across the world and hopefully many of you reading this are in the midst of getting deep into the dark and dangerous crime-riddled world of 1947 Los Angeles as recreated in the game.

In honor of the game’s release, and as promised in our previous Noir roundup of genre classics that are paid homage with the in-game “Hollywoodland” Achievement/Trophy, this week we present a special selection of a few of the ‘Neo-Noir’ films that we feel are particular standouts.
All are films created well after the original Film Noir heyday of the 1940’s and 50’s which still faithfully carry on the signature elements of the genre into more modern settings and scenarios. Some of these may be personal favorites of your own that you never knew derived from the DNA of Chandler, Hammett and Cain...

Blood Simple (1984, Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

Blood Simple” is the widely acclaimed debut of directors Joel & Ethan Coen – and the first of many Noir-inspired films they’d go on to create including most explicitly “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, as well as “Barton Fink”, and most popular of all the modern comedy-noir cult-classic “The Big Lebowski”. Starring Dan Hedaya (the Cheers sitcom actor, in a quite edgy departure at the time), the excellent American character actor M. Emmett Walsh, and Frances McDormand (who’d become one of the Coen’s go-to actress collaborators) - “Blood Simple” derives its title directly via a quote from the writing of Dashiell Hammett and is truly textbook Noir. While set in then-present-day 1984 rural Texas, it has all the quintessential trappings of the genre: betrayal, murder, double crossings, one dark plot twist after another, and an overall pervasive feeling of dread that weighs heavily throughout – not to mention a modern color take on Noir’s signature stark and shadowy cinematography (lensed by future director Barry Sonnenfeld).  Blood Simple's tale of a cuckolded bar owner who takes desperate measures to exact revenge sets into motion a treacherous turn of events in the great tradition of Film Noir storytelling established by stories like “The Big Sleep” and “Double Indemnity”.

Red Rock West (1992, Dir. John Dahl)

An early 90s gem, tautly directed by John Dahl – a director who’s shown Noir inspiration throughout his career in other films like “The Last Seduction” and “Kill Me Again”. Drifter Michael Williams meanders into a sleepy Wyoming town looking for work, and is mistaken by bar-owner Wayne for a hit man he’d hired to kill his wife, Suzanne. The desperate Michael doesn’t correct Wayne’s mistake, takes the money and goes to see the wife to warn her, which embroils him in a spiral of danger once the real hit man shows up. The casting couldn’t have been more perfect for the time, with actors tailor made for their parts: the brooding Nicholas Cage still relatively early on in his career, the late J.T. Walsh - best known for playing villains, such as in the underappreciated 90s thriller “Breakdown”, Lara Flynn Boyle who at the time was hot off her role in David Lynch’s popular, creepy, Noiresque TV series “Twin Peaks”, and of course the late, great Dennis Hopper as the real hired killer, oozing with bad-guy charm. Bearing some similarities to the aforementioned “Blood Simple”, being a Noir film set as a modern rural crime thriller, “Red Rock West” became a critical favorite in the early 90s borne out of the art house scene and today is considered one of the best in the genre.

Blade Runner (1982, Dir. Ridley Scott)

A cornerstone of science-fiction, regarded as a modern holy grail by enthusiasts – many aren’t aware that the storyline and devices of “Blade Runner” are really rooted firmly in the conventions of Film Noir.  Just as the year prior’s “Outland” transposed a classic western narrative (“High Noon” specifically) into a futuristic / outer space environment, “Blade Runner” imparted Noir storytelling into the 80s wave of science fiction mania (due in no small part to Ridley Scott’s previous blockbuster “Alien” and Harrison Ford’s star-making turn as Han Solo of the Star Wars films). Set in Los Angeles, oh about 8 years from now, “Blade Runner” tells of a harried private eye chasing criminals (and deadly replicants) throughout the city streets as he unravels a dangerous plot. If you’ve never seen it…

Blue Velvet (1986, Dir. David Lynch)

Two of filmmaker David Lynch’s chief influences throughout his career have been the dark uncertainty of Film Noir – and the inherent weirdness of Southern California. While “Blue Velvet” takes place in a vaguely northwestern town, the disturbing concept of depravity and death lurking below a sunny, cheerful façade is really the focal point of the picture. An unmistakably Noir story, with an innocent young man chasing a MacGuffin that leads him to a forlorn, sexually abused and emotionally distraught Isabella Rossellini – and Dennis Hopper in a role that is among his most famous, as the huffing sociopath Frank Booth. One of the few real auteurs with longevity in Hollywood history, we’d consider “Blue Velvet” to really be Lynch’s master work. 

The Usual Suspects (1995, Dir. Bryan Singer)

One of the best films of the 90s decade is a Noir detective thriller through and through – where you’re never sure who’s telling the truth and nothing is as it seems. Named after Claude Rains’ famous line towards the end of “Casablanca”, “The Usual Suspects” follows a pair of detectives (mob character actor Chazz Palmintieri and Spike Lee favorite Giancarlo Esposito) as they try and track down the mysterious criminal mastermind Keyser Sose, interrogating a lineup of crooks, pursuing dizzying leads, and ultimately discovering one of the greatest and most unpredictable conclusions in cinema.

L.A. Confidential (1997, Dir. Curtis Hanson)

Last, but not least, comes a movie that may not necessarily be ‘neo-noir’ in that it is set in the original Film Noir period of the 40s and 50s, but is certainly one of the all-time greats and definitely one to watch (or read the original novel) as a celluloid companion to the L.A. Noire experience. Adapted from the third book in modern crime fiction master James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet series, “L.A. Confidential” stands alongside Polanski’s 1974 “Chinatown” as the two best modern productions of a period Noir. With a beautifully photographed lush Los Angeles, a tense detective story, excellent production design and a standout cast that includes Guy Pierce (who also starred in the 2000 Noir mystery “Memento”), Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake lookalike, Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey (“The Usual Suspects”) and Russell Crowe. You can also look for a few historical figures from Los Angeles of the day that both appear in this film and in L.A. Noire, including Johnny Stompanato and LAPD forensics expert Ray Pinker.

Rockstar Recommends: A Film Noir Round Up – Part One

  • SAC-99on September 27 2011, 1:42amReplyFlag
    ace list, rockstar.... been really into noir and neo-noir lately. have you all always had impeccable tastes? this is why i've loved you for all these years. there is a certain class to your games, even if you are doing the most unrighteous, uncivil things. respect.
    • Puerco_Bellicon June 1 2011, 7:09pmReplyFlag
      Not certain if it's considered canonically correct film-noire, but "Shutter Island" is another gem. Just my two-cents.
      • R* Aon June 1 2011, 12:35pmReplyFlag
        @thelastdisciple @sizzorman Honorable mentions for sure - the ones we highlighted are just our personal faves - good calls though
        • sizzormanon May 30 2011, 6:32pmReplyFlag
          What about the 1995 classic Seven?
          • thelastdiscipleon May 30 2011, 1:01amReplyFlag
            No love for Sin City? quite shocking, i find it's one of the best... absolutely drips of Noir film and story style and stands alongside Blade Runner.

            No one's a more hard boiled cop than John Hartigan.

            "Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything" - Marv.

            • R* Yon May 27 2011, 9:43amReplyFlag
              @shaunbyoung @sloother @calmestghostcom & others, cheers all, and if you have any other recommendations be sure to let us know
              • shaunbyoungon May 26 2011, 10:11pmReplyFlag
                Definitely gotta give the ones I haven't seen a shot. Blade Runner is a must, in general.
                • VBProjecton May 26 2011, 12:56pmReplyFlag
                  At least movies don't have stupid exclusivity so everyone can enjoy them.
                  • ILikeVideo-Gameson May 25 2011, 7:10pmReplyFlag
                    I read somewhere on wiki I think that Rockstar is credited as executive producers on the football factory which was surprising. Anyway gta 5 in 2012, that seems to be the general consensus. I'm a bit more sceptical.
                    • calmestghostcomon May 25 2011, 6:52pmReplyFlag
                      It's not exactly new news, but I just remembered another link between Mann films and Rockstar games.

                      Brian Cox; who played Hannibal Lector in Manhunter (the real first Lector movie, the best) was the voice of "The Director" in Manhunt so now looking back I asked Rockstar if they'd seen Manhunter, of course they have.

                      That's what I love about Rockstar, they take inspiration from some of the greatest films ever and greatly expand upon those emotions in a much wider immersible scale.

                      I hope there are some great things brewing behind the scenes, I'm sure will see GTA V in October 2012 and that'll will be a blast, but those in between games tend to capture something more.

                      Thanks, Bryan
                      • slootheron May 25 2011, 6:39pmReplyFlag
                        I watched The Following recently and that is now of my favorite movies. The shame is, if everyone that viewed the trailer on YouTube gave Christopher Nolan a dollar, he would've made more money than his filmed did.
                        • ILikeVideo-Gameson May 25 2011, 12:08pmReplyFlag
                          @calmestghostcom - I agree.
                          • calmestghostcomon May 25 2011, 11:13amReplyFlag
                            @ILikeVideo-Games - Hmm, - looks like it might be rumor only that Scorsese is attached, but it looks like it could be a damn fine film no matter what.

                            Thanks, Bryan
                            • R* Yon May 25 2011, 10:49amReplyFlag
                              @calmestghostcom @JacksonBollock @IWIHooligan & others, thanks guys, good to see all of you sharing your favorites
                              • ILikeVideo-Gameson May 25 2011, 9:25amReplyFlag
                                According to Wiki, "Scorsese is attached to direct the upcoming project The Irishman, that will star Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino".

                                I never knew about this!
                                • calmestghostcomon May 25 2011, 9:06amReplyFlag
                                  @ILikeVideo-Games - Definitely Carlito's Way.

                                  I'm looking forward to Sinatra (2013)

                                  I'm hoping Bobby's in it, him and Scorsese haven't done a film together for way too long.

                                  Thanks, Bryan
                                  • JacksonBollockon May 25 2011, 8:50amReplyFlag
                                    GOODFELLAS is a masterpiece!

                                    CARLITO'S WAY is a damn good film yes!

                                    MIAMI VICE the movie was a complete load of s**t! Total yawn fest!

                                    • ILikeVideo-Gameson May 25 2011, 4:37amReplyFlag
                                      @calmestghostcom - ha, looks like we have similar taste in movies. Goodfellas, Casino, Shutter Island etc. You ever heard of Carlito's Way. It's pretty good.
                                      • IWIHooliganon May 25 2011, 3:01amReplyFlag
                                        Fantastic post! Great list of movies there! Blade Runner is very much a masterpiece if Noir story telling. Based on the book Do androids dream of Electric Sheep. The book is even better than the movie btw! I love these kind of newswire topics though. Good stuff Rockstar!! The only game I can compare to L.A Noire is actually the Blade Runner PC game. So I'm glad you guys mentioned this!! **eric cartman voice** "sweeeeeeeeeeeet"
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