“Crime comedy” may seem like a broad, tired, oversaturated quasi-genre, and there are indeed tons of movies that loosely include both themes together – but not many movies feature genuine elements of crime and comedy; even fewer blend them together successfully. With the crime-com-leaning Tower Heist hitting theaters this week, we took a look back at the ones that got it right.
The masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino seamlessly mixed shocking violence and crime with his absurdist sense of humor. The result was a stunning mash-up that ushered in a necessarily new, mercifully fresh style of storytelling to the medium.
The Big Lebowski
Arguably the most beloved Coen brothers film, Lebowski is often remembered for The Dude and its overall stoner-friendliness, but let’s not forget that the story actually revolves around crime. The Coens wouldn’t make just a stoner comedy, or anything one-dimensional.
Also arguably the most beloved Coen brothers film, Fargo offered mainstream moviegoers their first glimpse at the duo’s trademark non-replicable “formula”: violence laced with pitch-black comedy.
Beverly Hills Cop
As we all know, Eddie Murphy – co-lead of the aforementioned Tower Heist – was once associated with edgy, R-rated comedy, never more so than with the first Beverly Hills Cop, a borderline perfect marriage of crime and comedy. Don’t hold its ‘80s-ness against it.
More or less the one that started it all, The Sting clicked on every single cylinder, racking up awards and gigantic (at the time) box office returns. In his original 1973 review, Roger Ebert explains it best: “It’s good to get a crime movie more concerned with humor and character than with blood and gore; here’s one, as we say, for the whole family.”
Wes Anderson’s feature directorial debut is an underappreciated gem of offbeat cinema (though not by Martin Scorsese, who named it one of his favorite films of the ‘90s). With virtually no budget, Bottle Rocket relied on Anderson’s formidable knack for quirky, offbeat humor—and in this case, quirky, offbeat crime.
Swept Away notwithstanding, Guy Ritchie has made a living out of crime comedy, with 2000’s Snatch possibly being his greatest contribution. Moviegoers have debated its greatness, but no one can debate the fact that it's the most energetic movie of its kind.
The subgenre lives on! Martin McDonagh’s somewhat ignored crime-com is the latest addition to this list – and proof that the mash-up can still be executed amazingly well. The director’s next movie, the superbly titled Seven Psychopaths (also starring Colin Farrell) seems destined to be even better.
September 19, 2003 6:25am EST
Darrin (Cuba Gooding Jr.) an advertising executive living in New York is totally bankrupt--both morally and financially. On the same day he gets fired from his job for embellishing his résumé Darrin finds out his aunt has died and he must travel back to his hometown in Georgia to attend her funeral. Turns out auntie left a small fortune for Darrin in her will but there's a catch: In order to collect the inheritance he must first lead the local church gospel choir to success at the annual Gospel Explosion--a national competition. But the choir which consists of a handful of older churchgoing folk is in shambles. Desperate for results Darrin draws potential members by opening the choir to just about anyone including prison inmates and atheists. Unfortunately the most talented singer in town is a jazz singer named Lilly (Beyoncé Knowles) who wants nothing to do with the church. Will Darrin be able to convince her to join the choir on a tune and join him on a date? Predictable from beginning to end this pic has one great thing going for it--the music. With gospel styles as diverse as traditional Southern to contemporary with a touch of hip-hop The Fighting Temptations will have you anxiously anticipating each musical number.
Gooding who last starred in the shipwreck Boat Trip misleadingly gets top billing in the comedy The Fighting Temptations. Sure the film revolves around his smarmy character Darrin but Gooding is outshined here by talented cast members that are either funnier or more musically inclined than he is. As Gooding's love interest Lilly Knowles who made her big-screen debut in last year's Austin Powers in Goldmember has found a perfect vehicle to show off both her multi-octave range and her developing acting skills. Unsurprisingly her musical numbers including her steamy nightclub rendition of "Fever " are much more memorable than her dialogue. But sandwiched between the sentimental scenes and rollicking musical numbers are two performances that really stand out. The first is Mike Epps as Lucius Monte Carlo's Caddy-driving welcoming committee. Epps (Friday After Next) livens up every scene he is in and the comedian consistently peppers his laugh-out-loud lines with subtle mispronunciations: "(Lilly's) in a spectrum of fine-ness; the energy is so potnent that she got a class-action suit against her right now for reckless endangerment." Adding to the comedy is Steve Harvey as the gossip-spreading local radio DJ. Like Epps Harvey's scenes many of which have him sitting behind a card table while reporting live from community events are refreshingly funny.
In a career that spans nearly four decades director Jonathan Lynn has amassed a diverse hit-or-miss filmography that includes the cross-dressing comedy Nuns on the Run the fish-out-of-water hit My Cousin Vinny the not-so-distinguished The Distinguished Gentleman and the screwball comedy The Whole Nine Yards. While The Fighting Temptations is not a hit for the director it is not exactly a miss either; it is middle of the road. With the church scenes for example Lynn really gives moviegoers a sense of the feverish rejuvenation that takes place during religious musical performances complete with patrons being 'slain in the Spirit' and falling to the ground. Regrettably the story by scribes Elizabeth Hunter and Saladin K. Patterson also falls to the floor like a fainting churchgoer; the musical numbers liven up the otherwise humdrum plot involving Darrin and Lilly. Assembled under the guidance of music-savvy producers such as Loretha Jones and Benny Medina the movie ends up being surprisingly entertaining. Some of the top scenes in the film include Knowles' a cappella solo "Swing Low Sweet Chariot " The O'Jays barbershop rendition of "Loves Me Like a Rock" and a moving Gospel Explosion performance by the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Looks like Whoopi Goldberg's single again.
The Oscar-winning thespian turned "Hollywood Square" queen has split with her boyfriend of five years, actor Frank Langella, today's Daily Variety says.
The two have been an item since the mid-1990s when they met on the set of one of Goldberg's cinematic opuses: "Eddie" (the one where she plays the limo driver who -- oh, my! -- gets hired to coach basketball's New York Knicks! Hee, hee.)
Goldberg's last high-profile romance was with "Cheers" star turned "Becker" guy Ted Danson. That one hit the skids shortly after Danson's black-faced tribute to Goldberg at a Friar's Club Roast in 1993.
Though Goldberg, 50, and Langella, 60, never wed, Variety says the ex-couple intends to stay "close friends" just like real-live Hollywood husbands and wives who haul each other into divorce court.
CODA: Dennis Danell, a guitarist for the Southern California-bred punk band Social Distortion ("Ball and Chain"), died Tuesday of natural causes, the group's Time Bomb Recordings says. Some reports peg the cause of death as an aneurysm. Danell was 38. In a statement, Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness said: "I am saddened beyond any possible form of expression." The band's roots date back to 1979.
STERN TALK? Can't anybody just quit anymore? Does everybody have to talk about how they're thinking of quitting, and then talk and talk and talk about it for months, making their eventual act of quitting an anti-climax? In short: Does everybody have to be like Kathie Lee Gifford?
On the very same day the Hamlet-esque Kathie Lee finally dropped anchor on her morning talk-show gig, the equally Hamlet-esque Howard Stern told reporters that he was -- ugh -- undecided about his future on the radio.
"I have a couple months left on my contract," Stern said a press conference hyping his new FX sitcom "Son of a Beach" premiering March 14, "and I don't know what I want to do."
We hereby terminate this item until Stern decides what he wants to do.
OFF THE ROAD: It's the bus (or limo) for Eric Clapton in Britain, where the 54-year-old guitar god has been banned from driving for six months per a speeding conviction.
According to reports, Clapton was dinged by authorities for driving his Jeep at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone in October. In addition to the no-driving thing, the rocker also was ordered to pay a $569 fine.
OSCAR WATCH: "Austin Powers" star Heather Graham has been tapped to join the presenters lineup for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards on March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.