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The last half of the noughties was a time of dread and uncertainty. The quagmire of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the failure of government relief after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the Wall Street collapse of 2008 telegraphed the message: the system was rigged.
Cynicism in America and across the world seemed to suggest that our best days were behind us and corporations mattered more than people.
In Hollywood, a similar disconnect took place, where big budget comic book movies threatened independent cinema and adult dramas.
But is it any wonder the crime film continued to thrive? Thrillers like ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘The Departed’ seized modern day anxieties to disquieting effect.
So, let’s look at some lesser-known good crime films from that time that held a compelling mirror to society.
“You’ve been this other guy, almost as long as you’ve been yourself. Hey, when you dream, are you still Joey?”
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a pillar of his small town community, operating a popular local diner. But when Stall ruthlessly executes two criminals attempting to rob his place of business, his wife and family begin to question if Stall is the man they thought they knew.
This is further exacerbated after a mysterious stranger (Ed Harris) arrives and forces Tom to confront his dark past, leading to a shocking finale.
While ‘Violence’ is a more grounded drama than is usually associated with sci-fi/horror filmmaker Cronenberg, its moments of gruesome, synaptic gore show his deft touch.
“If they think I killed her, why send me emails as if she’s still alive?”
This French adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name stars François Cluzet, as Alexandre, a doctor still struggling with the unsolved murder of his wife over eight years ago.
His problems mount after police discover two corpses at his home, and charge him with murder. The implications also make them question if he was responsible for his wife’s death as well.
But nothing can prepare him for an email that shows his wife is apparently still alive, followed by the message “Tell no one.”
Becoming a fugitive on the run as he seeks to reunite with his spouse, Alexandre must find her and clear his name in the process.
‘Tell No One’ is a stellar Hitchcockian thriller in the “wrongly accused man” tradition that will leave you scrambling for answers until the final frame. It’s the best crime film you’ve never seen, bizarrely relegated into obscure filmdom.
“We both worked there. We know the safe combinations. We know the burglar alarm signals. We know where everything is.”
Lumet’s (‘Serpico,’ ‘Dog Day Afternoon’) last film before his death, ‘The Devil’ is a mix of crime drama and black comedy, starring the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a debt-ridden broker desperate for cash.
He schemes with his dimwitted brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke), to rip-off a jewelry store. The catch? The store is owned by their parents, and their poorly planned scheme leads to fatal consequences that eventually pit father (Albert Finney) against sons, leading to a heartbreaking conclusion.
‘Devil’ is one of Lumet’s finest films since his 70s heyday – unrelentingly dark and framed by excellent performances.
“Everyone in this country is a victim of corporate crime by the time they finish breakfast.”
Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is the epitome of the happy worker, a seemingly wholesome employee at a lucrative food processing and commodities trading company.
His straight-shooting demeanor leads him to the FBI, where he feels duty-bound to disclose a price-fixing conspiracy within the company.
Soon, the agency have Whitacre wear a wire to gather more evidence in the case, but things get even more bewildering when they realize that their informant is no saint himself, embezzling heavily from the company he wishes to expose.
‘The Informant!’ is a comedic take on a true story, and Damon marvels as a habitual liar who can no longer discern the truth. But the film also serves to scold and rebuke a corporate culture that immolated the world’s economy in 2008, yet has paid virtually no penalty for their crimes.
“You know the one thing you’ve got going for you, Frank? You’re too old to die young.”
Convict Frank Perry (Brian Cox) plans a prison break after discovering his daughter is a drug addict and has nearly died from an overdose. He schemes with fellow prisoners (including Dominic Cooper, Joseph Fiennes and Liam Cunningham), hatching a plan in painstaking detail to dig a tunnel to freedom.
But his plot is in jeopardy of collapsing thanks to the evil Rizza (Damian Lewis), a brutal gangster that rules the inmate population and who has a vendetta against Frank and his crew.
Cox impresses as a man seeking redemption, while Lewis gives an ominous performance that predates his thrilling role in ‘Homeland’. Both serve a strong story from director Wyatt (‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’) that combines prison drama, life-lesson film and surreal fantasy in a unique and captivating vision.
As the noughties ended, there was a sense that few lessons were learned from a decade that showed such flagrant disrespect for the law and the middle-class.
The Wall Street bailout offered no comeuppance to bankers who defrauded their customers, and Middle-East military conflicts limped ever onwards.
Thus, crime films remained a sobering reminder of the evil deeds that men do – and get away with – far too often. It’s a genre that exists as grim commentary and much needed catharsis.
So, that concludes my list of good crime films from the years 2005 to 2010. What movies you would add to the list? Be sure to tell me in the comments.
And check out my articles on crime films from 1980-1985, 1985-1990, 1990-1995, 1995-2000 and 2000-2005, along with the honorable mentions below.
Honorable Mentions: ‘Sin City’, ‘Heist’, ‘Harsh Times’, ‘Animal Kingdom’, ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’, ‘Tsosi’, ‘No Country for Old Men’, ‘American Gangster’, ‘Bronson’, ‘In Bruges’, ‘Eastern Promises’, ‘Gone Baby Gone’, ‘The Town’, ‘All Good Things’, ‘The Life of David Gale’, ‘The Departed’, ‘The Proposition’, ‘Brick’, ‘A Prophet’, ‘The Chaser’.