PREPOSTEROUS THRILLERS, AN APPRECIATION

In my latest piece for the Telegraph, I apply myself to examining the subgenre I have called The Preposterous Thriller, in which characters and their behaviour bear no relation not just to life as we know it but to any sort of properly structured fiction we may hitherto have encountered. Favourite examples include Color of NightBasic Instinct 2Mindhunters and Knight Moves.

In Dead Man Down, Noomi Rapace plays a scarred New York beautician who asks Hungarian hitman Colin Farrell to kill the man whose drunk driving caused her disfigurement. There are gangsters getting bumped off one by one, more chat about Tupperware than you normally get in revenge thrillers, plus a clutch of wacky one-liners such as, “Rabbits don’t come in chartreuse”. And Isabelle Huppert pops up in a green facepack as Noomi’s deaf mother.

But these elements are par for the course for today’s thrillers, which seem to have given up all pretence to plausibility in favour of non sequiturs and baffling plot developments. Dead Man Down implodes in an imbroglio of unnecessarily complicated murders, a badly hidden secret room, questionable fashion choices and a collapsing house. It’s a Preposterous Thriller.

To read more, please click on the picture to be taken on an interplanetary hayride to the Telegraph‘s website.

deadmandown

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8 thoughts on “PREPOSTEROUS THRILLERS, AN APPRECIATION

  1. Nice piece, (if a teeny, tiny bit short, or to put it another way. I being a greedy piglet, would have liked to read you exploring the idea a bit further, sorry, mia culpa and all that.)

    Some films seem to begin, wanting to be a ‘daring’ thriller and most don’t make it and just end up looking preposterous. (Yes Mindhunter, I AM looking at you!)

    But occasionally a film, starts with a preposterous idea and turns into a thriller. ‘Phonebooth’ an entire film about a man trapped in a phonebox? That’ll never work!, but it does.

    And even rarer a film with a preposterous idea that just gets madder and madder. ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’* starts odd, and just gets more and more outlandish.

    [*Admittedly the sexual politics are more than a bit suspect, and MonBel is largely wasted in the last half. Though her scene in the nightclub where she 'removes a ring' never fails to divide the audience, one half laugh their heads off, the other half wimper slightly (amongst other uncomfortable reactions, involuntary screaming, fainting, throwing up etc.)]

  2. Thanks. IMO most blog posts (including, very often, my own) are overlong and could do with drastic editing down – better to leave readers wanting more, rather than sated and exhausted. Most of the time when I read long blog posts I get bored with the endless waffle and give up halfway through. Shorter word counts would focus these writers’ thoughts, cut out pointless badinage and force them to consider what, exactly, they’re writing about (as opposed to throwing in everything including the kitchen sink), but since there are fewer space restrictions online they don’t bother to edit themselves.

    Ideally, a blog post should make readers think a bit, and leave room left for them to contribute, as you have done here; unfortunately if newspaper readers take the trouble to comment (on the Guardian and Telegraph websites, especially) it’s usually something negative, often indicating they haven’t actually bothered to read the article in question and certainly not engaging with the subject matter.

    • Good to see Color of Night getting a shout out – it’s one of my guilty pleasures – i even went and bought the American dvd with the longer director’s cut. Most critics scoffed at the film when it first came out, and i think it won (if that’s the right word) Worst Picture at the Razzies. Interesting that you mention the Italian giallo movies – Color of Night looks like something Sergio Martino could have directed back in the seventies.

  3. Nicely put, and spot on. Though just to disagree a tiny bit, there is very occasionally, a sound reason to expand ones thoughts on a topic in other outlets.

    I’ve rewritten that twice and it makes no sense. Lets try a very rough example ‘concrete’, Article in Telegraph, featured on blog, with links (on blog) to posts about the individual films referenced. For those that want a more rounded view.
    (Though that is very easy to say and very hard to do.)

    (I’ll whisper this bit, because you earn a crust from that part of the media. Most people gave up reading the comments on articles on newspaper websites years ago. They go off topic by about comment 6, in very, very predicable fashion, as people use it to push their own private agendas. Comments there are not about “giving people a voice” it’s about getting “page views” and serving adverts.)

  4. As you write, “very easy to say and very hard to do”! Or prohibitively time-consuming, anyway, and there are also the copyright issues that prevent freelancers from publishing pieces elsewhere until a substantial amount of time has passed.

    I’m starting to enjoy the Telegraph comments – the more curmudegonly they are, the funnier I find them. (And I still know lots of people who read comments, even if they do it against their better judgement…)

    • Good to see Color of Night getting a shout out – it’s one of my guilty pleasures – i even went and bought the American dvd with the longer director’s cut. Most critics scoffed at the film when it first came out, and i think it won (if that’s the right word) Worst Picture at the Razzies. Interesting that you mention the Italian giallo movies – Color of Night looks like something Sergio Martino could have directed back in the seventies.

      • I LOVE Color of Night! I like that you can spot the “twist” as soon as it appears on screen, and I like that the therapy group is entirely composed (with that aforementioned exception) of well-known character actors all trying to out-ham each other. Glorious stuff.

    • Ooops, I seem to have managed my usual trick of opening my pudding chute, and sticking both feet in there.

      I was foolishly only thinking of links to ‘stuff’ that was already ‘on the shelf’, (I wasn’t aware that the restrictions on linking to time elapsed content were quite that onerous.)

      Well newspaper comments used to be fun but I’ve developed a taste for the ‘harder stuff’ these days.

      Like Dara O’Brien on Alternative Medicine.

      (Anyone who is not a freelance should not watch it in the office, as it’s moderately sweary!)

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