5 Great 90s Crime Thrillers You (Probably) Never Saw
The list is long when it comes to thrillers in the 1990s, many ending up on late night cable access or the back wall of a video store. Some truly great movies were released and lost to the shuffle for whatever reasons. A lot of big names and small names that would become big starred in a number of quality films that deserve a look. Here are 5 great 90s crime thrillers you (probably) never saw, but should.
Jennifer 8 (1992)
DIRECTOR: Bruce Robinson STARS: Andy Garcia, Uma Thurman SCORE: ★★★★☆
A moody, dark, steamy story, this atmospheric movie centers on a disillusioned L.A. detective named John Berlin (Garcia) who leaves the city and heads to the rural north to take a spot on a small town police force. Right away, he discovers a woman’s severed hand in the local landfill and reopens a case involving an unidentified murder victim named “Jennifer” for the files. He notices some scarring and calluses on the fingers of the hand and deduces she was blind, adept at reading Braille. In time, he thinks the cases are related, even though some colleagues are not so quick to believe the same. He soon learns there have been 6 other blind victims, making the unidentified girl number 7 and the hand, 8. He then meets Helena Robertson (Thurman), the blind roommate of a woman who has gone missing, whom Berlin suspects is one of the victims. As Helena resembles his ex-wife, he begins to have affection for her, but soon, she becomes the next target. But when another cop is killed, all evidence points to Berlin. A very well-directed and acted thriller. And speaking of blindness . . .
DIRECTOR: Michael Apted STARS: Madeleine Stowe, Aidan Quinn SCORE: ★★★☆☆
Long before Jessica Alba was seeing dead people with someone else’s eye (which itself was a remake), there was Madeleine Stowe in Blink. Playing a 20-something violinist (hey, so was Alba) who has been blind nearly her entire life, Stowe plays Emma, a girl who undergoes an experimental new procedure that restores her sight, though because the brain has trouble suddenly absorbing the sudden surge of visual stimuli (this is the movie talking), it begins to scatter the order of what she sees. Things she thinks she sees now happen far earlier. It gets worse when she suspects she witnesses a murder hours before she actually ‘sees’ it. In comes Aidan Quinn, playing the detective assigned to the case. You can be sure they’ll be having lots of steamy sex. But things get complicated when even the cop can’t be sure what is seen or unseen. Who can he trust? A fantastic thriller, this one feels authentic despite it’s premise, sold on two great performances from the leads. And while we’re talking about an Apted film . . .
Director: Michael Apted Stars: Val Kilmer, Graham Greene SCORE: ★★★☆☆
Val Kilmer may have a bad reputation but he made some great movies that didn’t get a lot of attention. This crime/thriller/western is loosely based on the real events of 1973 when followers of the American Indian Movement seized the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee in protest of U.S. government policies for Native Americans. Val Kilmer plays FBI agent Ray Levoi, a man of mixed Sioux descent, sent to help investigate the murder a tribal council member. While some of the locals, including the tribal police officer (Graham Greene), mock the half-white man, the tribal elders believe his is the reincarnated “Thunderheart”, the slain Native American hero of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 come to save them. A tense, emotional story, it sees enemies come together to fight a greater evil. Since we’re out West . . .
Red Rock West (1993)
Director: John Dahl Stars: Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper SCORE: ★★★★☆
This criminally under seen thriller stars two of Hollywood’s most beloved ‘crazies’, though neither are as over-the-top as expected. In fact, Nicolas Cage is rather subdued in a compelling performance as a drifter caught in betrayal and mistaken identities. When Michael Williams (Cage) rolls into the eponymous town, a barkeep named Wayne (J. T. Walsh) thinks he’s the hitman he’s hired to kill his wife. Giving him half the money now and promising half when it’s done, Williams then warns the wife Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), who offers him more to kill her husband. In comes the real assassin, Lyle from Dallas (Dennis Hopper), and soon enough the four are mixed up in a deadly game of survival. Shamefully sent right to video on release, it finally got a theatrical run half a year later where it was a hit in the few markets it played. A deliciously twisted caper, Boyle is drop dead sexy, Cage roguishly tough, and Hopper just as good as the mad bomber he’d play the following year in Speed. And speaking of shameful distribution of a Dahl film . . .
The Last Seduction (1994)
Director: John Dahl Stars: Linda Fiorentino, Bill Pullman SCORE: ★★★★★
This is one of the greatest unseen movies in cinema. Meant to be a cheap skin-flick for late-night cable TV, the makers secretly pledged to make a great movie, even when an executive accused them of filming an arthouse film. The story follows a beautiful woman who steals the drug money her doctor husband just received for the cocaine he sold, after he became indebted to a nasty loan shark. Bridget (Linda Fiorentino) goes on the run, working on a new scheme to con a local dupe and eventually end her husband’s wrath. Fiorentino, who was making a career out of black widow types, took things to the next level here, earning unanimous praise and a rigorous campaign to get an Oscar nomination, even though she was ineligible because, surprise, the film was deemed better-suited for HBO than the theater. Whoops. If you only get to one movie on this list, see The Last Seduction. It’s that good.