Today’s recommended Writer: John Ridley Pt 1 of 2

John Ridley is one of the most versatile of writers, starting out doing writing for such shows as MARTIN and FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR he would follow that up with some of the most accomplished novels, screenplays, and films of the waning days of the 20th and new days of the 21st century.

For me his loose HARD LUCK pulp trilogy of STRAY DOGS, LOVE IS A RACKET and EVERYBODY SMOKES IN HELL are the books that made me a John Ridley fan. They are a series of exhilarating mystery novels, that share only a thematic sensibility but a successful one, of a hard luck or down on their luck protagonist, trying to navigate a world completely out of his control.

Stray Dogs

Love Is a Racket

Everybody Smokes in Hell

These would spawn two equally excellent films, Namely U-TURN based on STRAY DOGS and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Sean Penn and Jennifer Lopez, and COLD AROUND THE HEART written and directed by Ridley and starring David Caruso, Kelly Lynch and Stacey Dash, both excellent, intimate, dark noirs/neo-noirs in the vein of films such as BLOOD SIMPLE and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.

Unfortunately both films were released in 1997, the year of Blockbusters such as TITANIC, GOOD WILL HUNTING, FIFTH ELEMENT, MEN IN BLACK, as well as the year of the crime film/neo noir JACKIE BROWN, LA CONFIDENTIAL, LOST HIGHWAY, THE GAME. It was just a case of bad timing, and these great movies getting squeezed out at the box office.

Unfortunately I think what the financial under-performance of the films, specifically COLD AROUND THE HEART robbed us of most, was more work from John Ridley as director. I think in any less big-budget heavy year, his COLD AROUND THE HEART would have done for him what ONE FALSE MOVE did for the career of Carl Franklin, or the aforementioned BLOOD SIMPLE did for the Coen Brothers.

As it is both films are available on DVD (unfortunately Director’s Commentary versions aren’t yet out there) and can be appreciated for the stylish and compelling films they are.

And they led into the next phase of John Ridley’s career.

U Turn: Price your copy here

Cold Around the Heart: Price your copy here

-End of Part I-

On THE AMERICAN movie trailer, George Clooney, and Spenser Tracy

“You’ve done much sinning.”

“All men are sinners, Father. Everything I’ve done, I’ve had good cause to do.”

… from the upcoming film THE AMERICAN

George Clooney is an actor, who early on with his work on ER distinguished himself as someone to watch. To be on the lookout for. His understated manner, with self effacing downward looks, that seemed not so much a style as a state. Not so much acting as being.

And he’s lived up to that small screen promise, with powerhouse performances in big screen films such as:

PEACEMAKER: An under the radar action flick, that takes the mold of James Bond or Bourne Supremacy and grounds it in some stellar performances and action sequences. Directed by Mimi Leder of ER fame, it is one of my favorite action films, in large part due to the humanity Leder brings to the scenes, there is a price to pay for the violence in her films. And Clooney’s performance, his ability to show that price… anchors and elevates the movie.

OUT OF SIGHT: I think my favorite of all the Soderbergh/Clooney pairings. In large part due to the chemistry of Clooney and Lopez.

And he’s done everything from the OCEANS films, to Coen comedies to MICHAEL CLAYTON to THE GOOD GERMAN to SOLARIS with varying degrees of effectiveness.

But for me where Clooney’s unconventional strengths shine… is in the conventional trappings of the action or thriller movie. It is here where his understated, but heart-felt, performance, where his character’s struggling toward grace, stands out from what passes for action heroes. He comes across (in his thriller films) very much as Spenser Tracy in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK as an actor who can do more with a whisper than everyone else can do with shouts.

So the fact that George Clooney has only done 2 action/thriller movies is I think unfortunate.

However, having watched the previews of his upcoming THE AMERICAN (check out the trailer here), this looks like one that will get me in theaters, and if it lives up to its preview I’ll be adding it to my DVD collection, beside PEACEMAKER and OUT OF SIGHT. (Assuming of course Anton Corbijn, relatively new director with only one feature to his name, the Joy Division bio-pic CONTROL, can steer the ship, on a very different type of film. Time will tell.)

And also I absolutely digg that poster. a great throwback to the pop art sensibilities that posters used to convey. All in all, it looks like a film to catch.