1. THE GAME (1997; DAVID FINCHER).
As a birthday gift from his estranged brother (Sean Penn), Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a hugely successful, albeit introverted, banker, reluctantly agrees to take part in a real-life game personalised to the participant. Soon enough, the game takes a malevolent twist and Van Orton begins to fear for his life. Having made a lackluster feature-length debut with Alien 3, but then following it up with the harrowing yet highly esteemed Se7en, David Fincher was at a make-or-break juncture in his cinematic career. The Game was certainly a worthy successor to his blood-and-guts serial-killer romp which shocked audiences far and wide in 1995, not least for its stomach-churning ending.
2. THE INSIDER (1999; MICHAEL MANN).
Having sought the expertise of a former “Big Tobacco” scientist, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), a reputed 60 Minutes producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), begins to suspect that a bigger story lies behind Wigand’s reluctance to cooperate on such matters. Despite being a fairly difficult film to sell, given that the focus is solely on cigarettes and the resulting health effects, Michael Mann’s fly-on-the-wall approach to such an important issue is anything but banal. Guided by powerful, honest performances from its leading stars, his exposé tackles the tobacco industry and tackles it to the ground.
3. FALLING DOWN (1993; JOEL SCHUMACHER).
William Foster (Michael Douglas), a middle-aged man forced to deal with divorce and unemployment, treks across Los Angeles in order to attend his daughter’s birthday; however, Foster is having a very bad day. With a car that has broken down on the highway, a sweltering temperature, and a set of obstacles in the form of unsuspecting civilians, he proceeds on foot in rampaging fashion. It is the tiresome task of Detective Prendergast (Robert Duvall) to stop him. Before the Joel Schumacher who brought us such laboured attempts at high-quality cinema as Batman Forever and The Number 23, there was the Joel Schumacher who granted the world such effortless, engaging films as The Lost Boys, A Time To Kill, and St. Elmo’s Fire. Thankfully, we have the latter, and this is a Michael Douglas performance unlike any other, one which takes your sister out on a date and never calls her again.
4. AFTER HOURS (1985; MARTIN SCORSESE).
When Manhattan-based word processor Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) takes a cab to a woman’s (Rosanna Arquette) downtown apartment, his luck soon runs out as his $20 bill, the cab fare, flies out of the window. Not able to pay the fare, Hackett’s night descends into chaos, confronting bizarre, unnerving and life-threatening situations and an eclectic bunch of characters while trying to make his way back uptown. Made during the black-comedy phase of his career, succeeding The King Of Comedy, Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, certainly a lesser-known film of his, combines the masterful direction to which he has become accustomed, originality, playfulness, and a smart, witty screenplay to produce another triumphant piece of cinema.
5. ENEMY (2013; DENIS VILLENEUVE).
When a college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) sees his doppelgänger on television, he seeks out the actor and begins to delve into said actor’s private life. Released in 2013, the same year as Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal’s critically acclaimed Prisoners, Enemy is a convoluted, albeit absorbing, Kafkaesque look at life in a totalitarian state, touching upon elements of obsession, the subconscious, and subtle, underlying horror, and slotting nicely into what is quickly becoming an assured, faultless filmography of Villeneuve’s.
6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996; GREGORY HOBLIT).
Defence Attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere), who takes on clients for prestige rather than to effect change, begins the defence of an altar boy (Edward Norton) who has been accused of brutally murdering an archbishop. As the case progresses, the Church’s dark, unscrupulous secrets begin to emerge, taking on more dangerous aspects as the Church’s seedy underbelly presents itself. Given that this was Edward Norton’s film debut, his performance is, quite simply, superlative, earning him a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Gregory Hoblit’s (Fallen, Fracture, Untraceable) neo-noir thriller offers up tension, suspense, poised performances, and a riveting storyline.