Some movies suck balls so badly that you’d rather count every chipped paint spot on your bedroom door than ever have to endure them again (2018’s Robin Hood would have me doing that 10 times over). Everything about them is unmitigated dross, and you remain forever incredulous as to how the creators ran through the finished product and didn’t end up setting fire to it. But every so often, a film comes along that, whilst being rather hackneyed and limp-dicked, has one or more redeeming features that keep curiously drawing you back to it again. It’s nowhere near the recommendation ballpark, more something you privately enjoy/deliberate over, and the aforementioned ballpark comment notwithstanding, here are 10 of mine I thought I’d share with you.
1. Kiss Of Death (1995)
Despite a relatively cool cast, this remake of the 1947 noir classic is a rather shoddy affair. The acting isn’t that great, the script is amateurish and disjointed, and there are many attempts at humour that miss more than they hit. That being said, there is something bizarrely compelling in watching David Caruso giving it his all in an attempt to save his career, his noble ex-criminal Jimmy Kilmartin facing off against Little Junior Brown, an unpredictable, asthmatic weightlifting psychopath played by the veritable Nicolas Cage. Seeing Cage batter people to death while playing Jump Around by House Of Pain automatically makes the whole thing worth it.
2. Capricorn One (1978)
This is a film that had ‘New Hollywood Classic’ written all over it, and I was hoping for something in the vein of The Parallax View, an intelligent, downbeat conspiracy thriller that provokes thought and ruins evenings. Instead, Peters Hyams delivered a rather goofy film that treats its central conspiratorial conceit as a gimmicky plot device weaved around a very formulaic and predictable thriller, Elliott Gould’s bumbling journalist racing to save the day against big bad NASA, and a horribly misjudged comic relief cameo by Telly Savalas. But there is something so innocent and wholesome about its utter stupidity that I can’t resist letting it roll whenever it comes on the box.
3. 15 Minutes (2001)
Being 13 years old upon this film’s release, I thought it was the most awesome thing I’d ever see in my entire life at the time, with its lurid setup, gratuitous violence and lead performance from God a.k.a. Robert De Niro. Having revisited it recently, it is clearly a satire with potential, but one that tangles itself up in contrived subplot silliness and bonding sessions between De Niro & Edward Burns that don’t really work. What should have been something along the lines of ‘Network, with violence’ just ends up being far too obvious and nonsensical for it to pack any real punch, there is no wit or real daring in there. But there is something troublingly addictive about the two central Russian menaces and their camcorder killing spree, so the film has one saving grace, or I just need help.
4. The Good Son (1993)
It’s become something of a cult classic since its release but, when all is said and done, this is an exquisitely shitty movie. Neither Macaulay Culkin or Elijah Wood truly convince in their roles, Mac coming across as an annoying little shit who needs a good leather belting as opposed to a terrifying menace, and Woods engaging in monotonous cue-card delivery with virtually every line of dialogue. I’d rather let my kids spend all day with Donald Trump than any of the adults depicted here, all attempts at domestic realism falling hilariously flat on their nose. Watching Culkin desperately try to disassociate from Kevin McCallister with increasingly absurd acts of violence and psychopathy make this a splendid guilty pleasure, a snacks-and-booze night in indeed.
5. Funny Man (1994)
This one gets a tiny bit more love than the others as it is one of my favourite bad movies, but in the context of cinema as an art form, it is impossibly hopeless dreck. The textbook definition of cheap and nasty shit, it was made on a budget of £50,000, with baffling and tacky costume and set design, dreadful gags, and splatter that tries too hard to be comical. The acting, on the whole, leaves a lot to be desired, but there is something enticing about Christopher Lee’s ridiculous, poetry-spouting sinister millionaire Mr Chance, and watching Tim James ham it up as the titular demonic jester, complete with a host of bizarre accent changes and weirder disguises, does provide sporadic bursts of idiotic fun.
6. End Of Days (1999)
As with the majority of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oeuvre, End Of Days is a fountain of stupid bullshit. Playing washed-up, suicidal ex-cop Jericho Cane, Arnie must save Robin Tunney and New York City from Gabriel Byrne, overacting his nuts off as Satan himself. The dialogue and special effects are utterly dire, and both plot and character development are sorely lacking in depth, intrigue or sense. However, the film does get brownie points for having moments such as when Miriam Margolyes beats the shit out of Aahnold, and Byrne molesting his friend’s wife before blowing up a restaurant for absolutely no reason. The fact that it’s all set to a Nu-Metal soundtrack compounds it as unintentional hilarities galore.
7. Blue Steel (1990)
While it does feature a cracking performance from Ron Silver as an absolute looney tune of a villain, everything about this film is absurd from the get-go. Jamie Lee Curtis’ character arc gets progressively unrealistic and improbable, which is a shame as it was written by Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red, two of my all-time favourite movie peeps. Silver’s Eugene slowly transforming from a murderous stockbroker who hears voices in his head into an unstoppable bad guy who is able to infiltrate every aspect of Curtis’ life on a whim, the high-school level script never lifts this out of sleazy late-night cable territory. But the disturbing violence and weird eroticism still speak to the 14-year-old me that originally saw it, so it receives a shameless pass on that count.
8. The Last Boy Scout (1991)
The Last Boys Scout displays a little more self-awareness than the other entries on this list, but not enough to render it a wittily orchestrated send-up of stupid action thrillers. As Joe Hallenbeck, Bruce Willis appears to channel a hybrid of John McClane and any given Clint Eastwood character, squintingly growling crude insults and one-liners while demolishing one Marlboro after the other, as he and a far-too-90s Damon Wayans take on a shadowy gambling ring. With its ludicrously ultra-American theme song, hamfisted dialogue and violence so over the top that it makes Tarantino and Michael Bay look arthouse, it is one of the dumbest films in existence. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t also one of the most fun.
9. Cruising (1980)
Good lord, where to start with this one. It’s just all over the place. What begins with Al Pacino’s ingenue cop Steve Burns being assigned undercover in NYC’s gay S&M subculture ends up as…I don’t know the fuck what. The depiction of the city’s gay leather bars is hilariously bogeyman-like, replete with silent gimps sitting in corners, hostile piss fetishists with flashing belt buckles, and guys being openly fisted in the ass atop pinball machines. The serial killer element is horribly contrived and becomes less interesting as the film slugs on, and Burns, who is in his 30s and committed to his live-in girlfriend, having a crisis of sexual identity feels bereft of sense and utterly tacked on. But the soundtrack is great, there are plenty of unintentionally comedic moments, and it hasn’t lost its power to shock, even 40 years later. It’s amazing without being all that good.
10. Ricochet (1991)
Despite being released weeks apart and with highly similar storylines, Cape Fear had little to worry about when it came to this ridiculous gem. Whereas that film was commendably intelligent and suspenseful, Ricochet is a bad-guy-out-for-revenge thriller on amphet and crack, chock full of weirdly unsavoury set pieces, cheesy dialogue and ropey acting (don’t get me started on Ice T’S inane gangsta-ism). The film is ultimately saved by John Lithgow as vile contract killer Earl Blake, utilising all manner of mind games and deviant behaviour to ruin the life of his nemesis, cop-cum-D.A. Denzel. Lithgow’s vicious and sickeningly funny performance make the film worth a revisit, every other facet being so by-the-numbers and stupid that you root for him all the way.
Do you agree with these picks? Comment with your agreements/disagreements, mention your own, and keep visiting for more lists and reviews regarding cinema past and present.