Rogue 10: Ten Movies to Watch When You're Not Playing 'Grand Theft Auto V'

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 12:34 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue 10: Ten Movies to Watch When You're Not Playing 'Grand Theft Auto V'

Grand Theft Auto V is less a game and more a sprawling and vivid virtual world.  Within that world, there are a multitude of games, really.

The latest from Rockstar Games is a masterpiece, allowing gamers to play in the digital sandbox of an impossibly detailed megalopolis.  Grand Theft Auto V takes place in Los Santos – a barely-fictionalized stand-in for Los Angles – and in a variety of geographies around the faux-California of San Andreas.  The whole world and the games within are a vast pastiche comprised of innumerable influences drawn from all corners of contemporary culture.  Players encounter riffs on sources as disparate as reality TV, smartphones, music, advertising, talk-radio, video games of every genre, tabloids, network and cable news, and, of course, movies.

Since Grand Theft Auto III on Playstation 2, all the entries in the series have worn their cinematic influences on their sleeves.  The likes of Goodfellas and The Godfather cast a long shadow over Vice City, San Andreas, and GTA IV, each of which has its own distinct personality that evokes a movie like, say, Scarface.

The DNA of its forebears is identifiable throughout Grand Theft Auto V, but this entry cranks up the filmic qualities.  Playing through or just exploring San Andreas, you're reminded again and again of certain movies in ways both large and small.  So, as you and the other consumers who made GTA V a billion dollar-success in mere days continue to burn through missions of every stripe, we here at IAR have put together a little list, a cinematic travelogue of sorts.

This Rogue 10 lists, in no particular order, ten movies to watch once you've finished the missions and grown bored of trips to Ammu-Nation.  A GTA movie might never happen, but these ten movies are like distilled Grand Theft Auto V.

With no further ado, here's your latest Rogue 10:

Jackie Brown (1997) - written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

The source material takes place in Miami, Florida, but Tarantino relocated his adaptation to Los Angeles, and he has publicly said that, of all his movies, Jackie Brown best captures the sense of the Southland.  This tale is populated by a variety of criminals, weirdos, and misanthropes, from straighlaced bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to not-as-swift-as-he-thinks-he is Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) to toked-out beach bunny Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda).  Jackie Brown capture the bleached-out Dingbats and malls of LA and its characters would be right at home in San Andreas, too.

The Salton Sea (2002) - directed by D.J. Caruso, written by Tony Gayton

Not only does this twisty thriller exist in a lush and colorful underworld LA of dirty cops, secret agendas, and speed freaks, it also takes the action out to the titular salt lake in the desert outside of the city.  The dusty, smelly desert locale feels very much like the meth mecca Sandy Shores, which scuzzy Trevor calls home in GTA VNoseless, eccentric drug kingpin Pooh Bear (Vincent D'Onofrio) is a figure very much like the over the top criminals that inhabit the game, as well.  Actually, with his pig-squealing and remote control Kennedy assassination recreations, Pooh Bear might be too much even for Rockstar.

The Long Goodbye (1973) - directed by Robert Altman, written by Leigh Brackett, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler

Altman's revisionist take on noir kicks off with a beautiful view of LA in the middle of the night before moving inside the apartment of weary private detective Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould).  Both inside and outside, these views would be right at home in Los Santos.  Despite the forty-year gap between this film and GTA V, the typically Southern California environs of this loose Chandler adaptation display the kind of loving attention to location-specific detail that characterizes the game.

The Big Lebowski (1998) - written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

If gun-toting, quarrelsome Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) doesn't feel like a live-action GTA character, then who does?  Very few movies are concerned with the unglamorous Hollywood in which most would-be stars actually live, but The Coen Brothers' shaggy story brings the place known to gamers as Vinewood to weathered, chintzy life.  Throw in a mock-noir story that takes the Dude (Jeff Bridges) from high to low around the city and a bunch of singularly strange supporting players for good measure and you've got on hell of a comedic compliment to the biggest game of the year.  Oh, and one drug-fueled bit of GTA V hallucination immediately calls to mind the Dude's dreamy, post-head-trauma flight over LA.

Point Break (1991) - directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by W. Peter Iliff, story by W. Peter Iliff and Rich King

The answer to the question "Who is more GTA than Walter Sobchek?" could only be Pappas (Gary Busey), the oddly intense, Calvin & Hobbes-loving partner to Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), hotshot FBI agent on an undercover mission to expose a group of skydiving surfers who rob banks in their downtime.  If you've taken a flying leap from a plane, helicopter, or blimp in GTA V, you may just have thought of Point Break.  Even if you didn't, the game still presents a knowing play on the hyper-masculinity, two-fisted action, bluntly executed heists, and homoeroticism of Bigelow's movie.

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) - directed by William Friedkin, written by William Friedkin and Gerald Petievich, based on the novel by Gerald Petievich

From the Wang Chung score to the shockingly abrupt violence to the meticulous counterfeiting procedures to sense of manly cynicism that GTA V adopts as a funhouse mirror pose, the influence of To Live and Die in L.A. is pretty clear.  I mean, a guy falls off a rooftop and explodes in the first scene.  Take a drive down the freeway in the wrong direction and just try not to think of bungee-jumping Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William Peterson).

Seven Psychopaths (2012) - written and directed by Martin McDonagh

Like The Salton Sea, this one also eventually takes the action out to the desert.  The tale of a screenwriter (Colin Farrell) struggling with writer's block and alcoholism when his buddies' (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) dog-napping business goes violently wrong boasts a combination of humor, violence, and criminality familiar to longtime GTA fans.  And McDonagh lovingly shoots Los Angeles with an eye for evocative locations. 

Repo Man (1984) - written and directed by Alex Cox

The overtly satirical world of the Grand Theft Auto games has a spiritual sibling – or maybe a close cousin – in Repo Man.  Both movie and game have an alternately smirking and sneering rudeness that underlines their pointed critiques of contemporary consumer culture.  Both are also smart enough to couch their observations in cartoonish lunacy.

Drive (2011) - directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, written by Hossein Amini based on the novel by James Sallis

GTA V features a beefed up police presence and a trickier system for evading the fuzz when a player's wanted level rises, both of which bring the mind the introductory action sequence in Drive.  The unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling) expertly zigs and zags through Downtown LA, repeatedly losing and gaining the cops before cleverly finishing the job with little regard for his clients.  That's just one instance in which the game recalls this stripped-down thriller.  Others include the music, daytime and nighttime views of Los Angeles, splatteringly horrific violence, uncomplicated thieving, and a cast of characters that's not short on skeezy types.

Heat (1995) - written and directed by Michael Mann

It's a bit obvious, but our goal here isn't to be cunning.  This sprawling tale of big-time thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and dogged cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is all over GTA VMann photographs Los Angeles as beautifully as anyone ever has, evoking a genuine sense of place, and the relentless robbery sequences are like watching a live-action version of a less audacious heist by Michael, Franklin, and Trevor in the game.  While Heat subtly makes somber points about the culture at large, GTA V does so with sledgehammer subtlety and plenty of humor.  If Repo Man is GTA V's hopped-up sibling, Heat is its more serious father figure.  Or maybe a beloved uncle.

And that's all she wrote, folks.

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