They may be few, but this fall’s thrillers are most definitely noteworthy. There’s the fast-approaching cop film “End of Watch” this month, then “Precious” director Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy,” Ben Affleck’s “Argo” and the latest big-screen adventure for author James Patterson’s famous detective, Alex Cross.
Written and Directed by David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Frank Grillo
Summary: Two patrol officers find themselves targeted by a major cartel when they confiscate some cash and firearms during an otherwise routine traffic stop.
The Word: Hollywood’s resident cop film writer David Ayer, most known for “Training Day” and “The Fast and the Furious” (the original) gives us his first script in seven years with “End of Watch,” which has a pseudo-documentary look to it a la “Cops.” Early word is extremely positive for this one, which is unexpected but quite welcome.
My Thoughts: When a film that looks otherwise standard-order earns some good buzz, you have to take notice. I’m not quite sure I buy the Oscar buzz hype for some of the performances and such, but we get more cliché in this genre than almost any, so it’s exciting to know we have a strong entry on our hands.
Directed by Lee Daniels
Written by Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter (novel, screenplay)
Starring: Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack
Summary: A reporter (Efron) returns to his hometown in Florida to investigate a case surrounding a death row inmate (Cusack).
The Word: Lee Daniels’ follow-up to “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire” is decidedly different, a thriller that sees a reporter getting in way over his head with ladies and death row inmates. The film debuted at Cannes this year and played Toronto as well, and the reviews have been split. There’s a lot of sexually and racially charged stuff in this movie, apparently.
My Thoughts: For me, I need to see two great films from a director to always give them the benefit of the doubt as far as the Oscar conversation goes. It sounds like “The Paperboy” is a striking movie, but it also sounds bat-shit insane, to be blunt. Definitely not something that we are likely to be talking about come December.
Directed by Ben Affleck
Written by Chris Terrio, Joshuah Bearman (article)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin
Summary: During the Iranian hostage crisis in the ’70s, the CIA hatched an imaginative plan to free a half dozen Americans holed up in the Canadian embassy: pose as a Canadian film crew making a science-fiction epic.
The Word: Ben Affleck’s third feature as a director debuted at Telluride and played Toronto quickly thereafter — and it earned absolute raves as a top-notch fast-paced thriller with a captivating story. The cast of male vets could churn out one of the best ensemble efforts of the year, and many feel Oscar consideration for the film and many of its components and biggest players has already been assured.
My Thoughts: After “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” Affleck has earned my benefit of the doubt — and then some. It’s pretty amazing how the man has found his true gift behind the camera. He knows how to pick his scripts, and though Iran is a far cry from blue-collar Boston, “Argo” looks like his first award-worthy movie.
Directed by Rob Cohen
Written by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, James Patterson (novel “Cross”)
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols
Summary: Det. Alex Cross (Perry) begins to hunt down the murder mastermind known as Picasso (Fox), and it gets personal when the killer threatens his loved ones.
The Word: Alex Cross is one of contemporary mystery lit’s most iconic characters thanks to James Patterson’s ubiquitous novels. Choosing Tyler Perry — the man who produces, directs, writes and puts on a fat suit to play a crazed black woman named Madea — to take up the Cross mantle in place of Morgan Freeman, who played him in “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider,” is a curious choice, however. Matthew Fox (“Lost”) also looks completely out of his element.
My Thoughts: With one of the writers who adapted “Along Came a Spider,” you have to hold out at least enough hope that the cat-and-mouse story will entertain for the length of the film. Director Rob Cohen also adds some solid credentials to the project, so while it probably won’t relaunch the character for several more films, it could be entertaining enough.