After looking at the movies that I liked the most in 2021 I decided to break them up into a couple of smaller lists that I’ll make sure to link to here when they are all finished: 2021, Discoveries, Crime, Indian, One Inch Tall.
Discoveries are usually older movies that I saw for the first time, though in some cases they are more recent movies that aren’t in the conversation enough. Not all of them are easily available but all are worth tracking down.
Aaranya Kaandam (2011) – Purported to be the first Tamil language neo-noir so of course I needed to track down a copy. It wears it’s Tarantino/Ritchie influences proudly on its sleeve but harnesses enough of its own energy to stand proudly with them.
Full Alert (1997) – In the years leading up to the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong from Britain to China, a massive feeling of uncertainty was present everywhere. It was like an entire country was being driven at full speed towards a cliff. No one knew what to expect, there was no future, and tensions were high. Within this atmosphere, some truly great crime and noir films were created. Of course Ringo Lam would create one of the better ones.
Go For Broke (1985) – The unlikeliest Seven Samurai riff you probably haven’t seen yet. Seven Japanese biker girls team up with the good kids to save a school from violent bikers. This movie is screaming for a proper release so it can become the cult classic it was destined to be since I’m pretty sure it has only been released on VHS.
Kamikaze Taxi (1995) – A true standout in the year that feels at the same time comfortable but also ahead of its time. You feel like you can see bits and pieces of other movies in it but then realize this came first. A unconventional crime gem waiting to be re-discovered. I truly love this movie. One of my favorites of the year and my estimation of it only grows the more it lingers in my mind.
Keep an Eye Out (2018) – I went into this one cold. It was available on Kanopy, the cover art was intriguing, and the synopsis had me curious. I was completely unprepared for what this movie was and what it pulled off. Barney Miller as a French, existential, absurdist comedy.
Men from the Gutter (1983) – I’ve had this on my watchlist for a couple of years and man did it live up. Shaw Brothers moving into crime territory so you get all those experienced action stunt guys going full speed in the set pieces. It’s truly jaw dropping stuff. An earlier example of heroic bloodshed and a pre-cursor to the Hong Kong action crime movies that would dominate just a couple of years later.
The Man Who Stole the Sun (1979) – I watched this back in January and it has stuck with me all year. Criminally under seen movie in The West, especially since it was written by Leonard Schrader. A flawed and sprawling masterpiece. One of my favorites of the year.
On the Job (2013) – To bring out an old hoary internet chestnut, this Phillipino neo-noir might just be the best crime flick that no one seems to have seen from the last decade. Deeply human characters, fucked up systemic politics that ensnare them, and some of the best action set pieces.
Soodhu Kavvum (2013) – Listen to me, the crime/comedy movie Soodhu Kavvum has big Elmore Leonard energy, specifically brushing up against the Killshot era.
Thupparivaalan (2017) – Even though I did this list alphabetically I’m glad Thupparivaalan comes after Soodhu Kavvum. There’s so many movies from India that seem to be unknown to many film lovers in The West. The director Mysskin has a great eye and clearly loves making genre movies. They do run a little too long in many cases but I’m always eager to see what he does next. Thupparivaalan is Mysskin’s take on Sherlock Holmes.
Target (1980) – Target is one of the vast numbers of Japanese films that are basically unknown and unavailable to those in The West. This cool, slick, and at times Parker like crime flick is well worth tracking down.