Ever tool around on Netflix Instant, unsure of what streaming film to dive into for the night? Tired of simply resigning yourself to streaming more reruns of The Office instead of exploring new movies? Then dig into our Netflix Instant Gems below, wherein we’ll offer up a weekly list of quietly excellent—and highly recommended—films tucked away in the shadowy corners of Netflix Instant. Each week will feature a different theme, this week we’re digging into quirky crime films. Check out our suggestions below—you’ll thank us.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is notable for a number of reasons—first and foremost, it’s the final film of director Sidney Lumet, who directed such flicks as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network. It also just happens to be one of the best films of 2007, and features stellar performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marissa Tomei, and Albert Finney. The story? Hoffman and Hawke play two brothers with dizzying financial problems (Hoffman’s embezzling dough from his business, Hawke owes three months of alimony), who decide to rob a mom and pop diamond store in New York to make an easy and clean $600,000. The twist? The mom and pop store is owned by Hoffman and Hawke’s, well, mom and pop. The film plays like shattered glass, as the fractured timeline of the movie is shaken out of chronological order, so that we see the robbery that the brothers set in motion first, then we see the events leading up to, and then following, the crime played over and over, with new details and layers being revealed each time. A devastating look at a family that has rotted from the inside out, and at how time itself is perceived (and is impossible to avoid), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is one of the best crime gems currently burrowed within Netflix Instant.
Buffalo ’66 (1998)
Buffalo ’66 is not only one of the quirkiest crime films on Netflix Instant, it’s one of a quirkiest films ever. It goes something like this—Vincent Gallo (who also wrote, directed, and scored the film), plays a Buffalo Bills fan who loses a massive bet to a mobbed-up bookie when he put money on the Bills in 1991, when kicker Scott Norwood famously missed a goal and cost the Bills the Super Bowl. Unable to pay off his debt to the mob, Gallo agrees to take a fall for the mob and admit to a crime he didn’t commit, and serve hard time in prison for the mob to absolve his debt. Years later he’s released, with one thing on his mind—kill Bills kicker Scott Norwood, whom Gallo is convinced missed the goal on purpose. On the way, Gallo reveals himself to be an insecure headcase with a tiny bladder, a professional-level bowler, and a kidnapper, when he nabs tap dance student Christina Ricci and demands that she pretend to be his wife during a brief visit to his parents (whom he told he was a secret agent for the FBI, and that he’s been on assignment the past few years). Before the film comes to a brilliant end, you’ll see epic solo bowling scenes, oddball tap-dancing vignettes to King Crimson, mildly retarded sidekicks, Angelica Huston as an insane, football-obsessed mom, and one of the best uses of Yes in a film, well, ever. Forever defying description, Buffalo ’66 is as quirky, and good, as it gets on Netflix Instant.
The Way of the Gun (2000)
A dark and wacky little flick written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (you know, the guy who, along with Quentin Tarantino, helped usher in the quirky crime genre of the 1990s by writing the script to The Usual Suspects), The Way of the Gun is a stark and minimalist tale of two drifters (Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro) who decide to kidnap Juliette Lewis. Why? Lewis is the surrogate mother for a rich couple, and the pair decide to hold Lewis, and the unborn child, hostage. The catch? The rich couple hire a squad of bloodthirsty killers to either get the surrogate mother back, or, failing that, simply kill everyone involved. And then James Caan shows up, as a badass bagman for the mob, who has more at stake in the situation that is immediately obvious. A quiet, darkly funny tribute to films like The Getaway and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Way of the Gun is the cream of the 1990s’ post-Pulp Fiction crime film crop. Definitely a hidden gem–check it out.
What do you think of our picks?