The Yakuza (1974, dir. Sydney Pollack)

A former detective returns to Japan from the US: an old friend’s daughter under threat. Neither quite a neo-noir, an action thriller or a study of overseas crime syndicates, The Yakuza tries to be all three with variable results. Slow, but interesting, with flashes of a darker, better, and more violent film lurking.

Here’s the trailer.

Ghost Story (1981, dir. John Irvin)

Four old men, and the sons of one of their number, are each haunted by a vengeful spirit. Straightforward (and not that scary) adaptation of the Peter Straub novel: it doesn’t gel as a whole, but there are effective sequences and some lovely moments, both in production and performance terms.

Here’s the trailer.

Christmas Eve (2015, dir. Mitch Davis)

After an accident, six New York elevators halt: their occupants are forced to know each other – and themselves – better. Contrived and clumsy festive ensemble movie: an unsubtle Christian message delivered via what’s meant to be Richard Curtis-style whimsy. Some moments work nevertheless.

Here’s the trailer.

The Glass Man (2011, dir. Cristian Solimeno)

A man spiralling in work, money, and relationship issues is made an offer he daren’t refuse. Odd drama with genre elements that has strong performances (Andy Nyman and James Cosmo are great) though which struggles to tell a story: overlong, episodic but interesting, and worth sticking with despite its frustrations.

Here’s the trailer.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A suburban dad is drawn to a Wyoming mountain after a close encounter with an unidentified flying object. Still hugely-effective blend of heart and smarts: perhaps Spielberg’s most complete film, mixing technical excellence with quest narratives, hard SF and senses of innocence and wonder.

Here’s the trailer.

The Tax Collector (2020, dir. David Ayer)

An LA gang’s debt collecting team comes up against a rival street organisation. Very straightforward gangland drama/thriller that doesn’t offer much that’s not been seen many times before. Despite director Ayer’s welcome return to the streets, this isn’t near his best work.

Here’s the trailer.

Muscle (2019, dir. Gerard Johnson)

A downtrodden salesman gets in over his head when he joins a tough new gym and starts to be mentored. Tough drama with thriller and arthouse elements: not for everyone, but well-acted, directed and focused throughout. Well worth sticking with, though it’s a touch overlong.

Here’s the trailer.

Snitch (2013, Dir. Ric Roman Waugh)

A father makes a deal with the DEA and works undercover to save his son. This attempt at gritty drama is hampered with a trite script and a lost cast including a strange choice of lead. The result is reasonably compelling though suffering with a weak final act.

Snitch (2013, Dir. Ric Roman Waugh)

Pain and Gain (2013, Dir. Michael Bay)

A gang of body builders in Florida attempt the kidnap and extortion of a businessman. Loosely based on the actual events and court case surrounding the ‘Sun Gym gang’, this outrageous film is entertaining but struggles between crime dramatisation and glorification. A good cast works well here though. Watch it and decide!

Pain and Gain (2013, Dir. Michael Bay)

Escape From Alcatraz (1979, dir. Don Siegel)

Dramatization of a 1960 escape attempt from The Rock. A lean, laconic prison drama with some wry touches, Escape isn’t a standard action/thriller offering, but something more meditative, and all the better for its deliberate pace and careful style. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.