Dark & Violent Comedies
This month I’m listing four very dark, very violent comedies available on Netflix UK and Ireland.
dir. Joel & Ethan Coen – ★★★★★
Yes I’m recommending another Coen brother’s movie, this one was a comeback of sorts after the financial flop of ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’ and was their first film to get serious commendation at the Oscars with wins for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress for Frances McDormand.
Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a downtrodden car salesman who organises his own wife’s kidnapping in order to blackmail money from his rich father in law who has little or no respect for him. His seemingly simple plan goes very awry when the kidnappers (Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare) make a huge mistake, and it isn’t long before Marge Gunderson (McDormand) a pregnant police chief begins to figure things out.
The film is packed with moments of true violence and brutality and yet you’re laughing more often than not, mostly because of the Minnesota accents, the beautifully crafted set-ups and the typically well-drawn characters and performances.
dir. Adam Wingard – ★★★½
Dan Stevens, he of Downton Abbey fame, plays a man who turns up at a family’s home claiming to be a soldier friend of their son who died in combat. He’s taken in, but of course, he’s not all he initially seems.
The film is serious mish-mash of genres, there are strong elements of horror (particularly nods to John Carpenter) but then the film has the pacing of a thriller and it also manages to homage old school 80’s action movies. The humour stems from some amazingly over the top action sequences, character choices and how Stevens keeps a straight face through some scenes I’ll never know.
Some people aren’t so sure that this is all meant to be tongue in cheek or pastiche but judging by how good Wingard is as a director and his clear knowledge of genre films, it has to be.
dir. Hans Petter Moland – ★★★
Stellan Skarsgård plays Nils Dickman, who has just won the Citizen of the Year award but his civility goes out the window when his son is mistakenly murdered by gangsters and his life and marriage fall apart and he seeks revenge.
What could have been played straight and grim as a Charles Bronson/Liam Neeson revenge thriller is played for pitch black laughs when Dickman’s revenge sets off a chain of events that could lead to an all-out gang war in the town. Not everything works in the movie, some of the humour’s a bit off or ill judged, it could be paced a little bit better and also there’s a gimmick onscreen whenever someone dies that will either make you laugh or want to sit the director down and have strong words with him.
dir. Michael Lehmann – ★★★
A film that some people adore and some people hate but I’m in the middle camp. Winona Ryder plays Veronica who is growing tired of hanging out with the malicious and bullying cool crowd, three girls named Heather, and is drawn to a mysterious new pupil JD, played by Christian Slater. Veronica and JD hit it off and they plan to get back at the girls by playing pranks on them but he has much darker plans than Veronica could initially imagine.
The film acts as a satire of both the high school experience and also high school movies but the morals of the movie, at times, seem all over the place which makes some of the laughs very uncomfortable, but the fact it even exists is laudable because it’s something that could never be made by a studio nowadays. It also has some amazing dialogue and one liners and also the fact that the bite and shock factor are still fully intact nearly thirty years on is also to be applauded.
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