Mother, Jugs & Speed

“I can’t help myself. I’m crazy!!”

A throwback to a far-gnarlier style of filmmaking, this pitch-black mid-’70s comedy trails along as private ambulance companies wage a war on the streets of L.A.

The often criminally-underrated Raquel Welch teams with Harvey Keitel and a pre-scandal Bill Cosby to form a trio of characters living on the edge, using humor to push back the bleakness of their lives.

The drivers drink and take drugs on the job, attack civilians, and scare nuns, chasing a few bucks and a little respect.

It’s M*A*S*H in an ambulance, and that’s high praise.

 

The January Man

Sometimes, everyone is wrong.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, when it comes to this hybrid between a police procedural and an off-kilter rom-com.

Critics and ticket buyers hated it in 1989, but I’m calling from 2021 to say I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Kevin Kline is just right to play an espresso-loving disgraced cop, brought back to catch a serial strangler, while the supporting cast goes extremely-deep.

Best is sardonic artist Alan Rickman, arching his eyebrows to the heavens, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as dewy and delightful as they come.

A perfect film? Hardly.

An entertaining one? Absolutely.

 

Bad Lieutenant

“I’m sorry, Lord. I’ve done so many bad things.”

As rough and unapologetic as any semi-mainstream ’90s film, this hard-edged neo-noir gives Harvey Keitel one of his best roles.

He’s a miserable pile of crap masquerading as a cop, only awoken (for a moment) from his self-induced stupor of drugs, drink, and corruption by a nun’s brutal assault.

Keitel hides nothing, his character going full monty while also baring a scorched soul.

It’s riveting work in a film which should be seen in its original NC-17 form, not the chopped-up edition commissioned back then by Evil Empire twits at Blockbuster.

Mean Streets

A career-changer.

After making two largely forgettable films in a five-year span, Martin Scorsese suddenly locked-in big time with feature #3, launching himself and stars Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel into the national conversation.

The tale they’re telling is a familiar one — two lifelong friends, one trying to live life by a certain code, the other one bouncing off the walls, a word or action away from fatally irritating the wrong person.

Since the duo hang out in dangerous circles, mingling with made men, De Niro’s abrasiveness is no small matter.

This one hums with life and vitality.

 

The Piano

Love speaks its own language.

Mute since childhood, Holly Hunter finds herself adrift after being sold into marriage to Sam Neill.

Completing an unconventional love triangle is rascally retired sailor Harvey Keitel, while Anna Paquin, second-youngest person to win an Oscar, is her mother’s faithful companion.

The women communicate by sign language, while Hunter only truly comes alive when playing her piano.

Lush and mesmerizing, this is a throwback to when complicated, art house-style films were given a chance to hold their own at the theater on my own fairly remote island.

The ’90s — quite a time for film fans.