Rogue 10: Ten Tales of Desperate Criminality

Thursday, 27 October 2011 14:19 Written by  iamrogue
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Rogue 10: Ten Tales of Desperate Criminality

In 2005, writer-director Géla Babluani's hardboiled bit of criminal suspense, 13 Tzameti, cleaned up at the Sundance and Venice film festivals, becoming a surprise international hit in the process.  For his follow-up, Babluani has created a full-color English-language remake of his black and white original, and he's carried over it's novel premise revolving around a spectacularly illegal Russian Roulette tournament in which contestants put their lives on the line while luckier men place bets on whose gray matter will decorate the walls.  In 13, a down-on-his-luck guy played by Sam Riley adopts a dead man's identity and enters the contest, where's immediately in over his endangered head in a suspenseful story populated by actors like Jason Statham, Michael Shannon, Mickey Rourke, Alexander Skarsgard, David Zayas, 50 Cent, and Ray Winstone.

It's the sort of movie in which almost every character is either a disreputable criminal or a cop on his tail, but it isn't one built upon mustache-twirling villainy.  Riley's character, Vince, enters the tournament out of desperation, and quickly finds his desperation growing exponentially.  While movies in general tend to include no shortage of nefarious criminals, it's the stories of individuals who become embroiled in dangerous situations because of understandably dire circumstances.  So, inspired by tomorrow's limited theatrical release of 13, our latest Rogue 10 catalogs, in no particular order, ten examples of excellent films in which criminal enterprises are defined by desperation.

Thelma & Louise

The titular duo played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon start out looking to go fishing, but end up in gleeful transgression, happily abandoning their own lives and striking out against the male testosterone-ocrisy that previously dominated their lives.  Ridley Scott's criminal road trip has its highs and lows, but in the end, the mighty oppressive hand of manhood comes calling for the runaways.

Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino's first feature as director is a heist movie without the heist, with the central job having already gone horribly awry.  As they wait for a full rendezvous in their spartan fallback spot, the professional criminals turn on each other, knowing that someone in their midst is an undercover cop.  Shenanigans ensue.

Dog Day Afternoon

You know when you try to rob a bank in order to pay for your boyfriend on the side's sex change, but it all goes awry and you end up at the center of a media circus hostage situation that can't end well for you?  That's the case in this masterpiece from the late Sidney Lumet, which features incredible performances from Al Pacino and John Cazale.

Breaking Bad


Okay, okay, this is against the rules, because Breaking Bad is a television series on AMC, but come on.  Bryan Cranston is Walter White, a milquetoast chemistry teacher who, upon being diagnosed with terminal cancer, starts cooking meth for his family's financial future.  This wildly inadvisable choice kickstarts a journey from law-abiding family man to nefarious mastermind, with each frantic decision taking Walter deeper into a moral sinkhole.

Touch of Evil


Charlton Heston is a narc on his honeymoon with Janet Leigh in a Mexican border town.  One car explosion later, and Heston's irrevocably involved in all manner of illegal craziness.  Plump writer-director Orson Welles plays corpulent local lawman Quinlan, and this story is a reminder of his power as a cinematic storyteller.

The Usual Suspects

The principal criminals in Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie's twisty tale are pretty smooth operators for the most part, but when they get mixed up with mythical, possibly fictitious crime lord Keyser Soze, they're forced to take on a suicidal task in order to hopefully save their skins and the hides of those close to them.

City of God

Fast Five made illegal endeavors in Rio de Janeiro look like a whole lot of fun, but this movie figuratively hoists you into the air and breaks your back over its knee.  The protagonist in City of God is keeping himself straight as a photographer, but the almost indescribable corruption and cruelty of the setting provide a host of examples of potent, dangerous desperation.

Mean Streets

You knew Martin Scorsese, the director behind Goodfellas and Casino, had to show up eventually.  While the swaggering gangsters of those films certainly aren't on the up-and-up, Harvey Keitel's Charlie in the pre-Taxi Driver drama Mean Streets starts out a small-time hood, and his exploits in Little Italy lead to a destiny that feels pretty much inevitable.

The Asphalt Jungle

In John Huston's masterful 1950 noir, a big heist goes off more or less without a hitch, but in its aftermath, the participants find themselves falling victim to a variety of calamities both big and small that add up to a sort of tragedy for pretty much everybody involved.

A Prophet

Yes, it's French, but it's also brutal, uncompromising, and brilliant.  Une Prophete tells the epic story of Malik, an illiterate eighteen year old Arab starting his first stint in brutal grown-up prison.  It's a monumental movie, one that anyone who grooves to Scarface will almost certainly love.

13 hits select theaters on Friday, October 28th before arriving on Blu-ray and DVD November 8th.

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