Five Troubling Crime Thrillers from the 2010s

Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto star in a serial killer story, “The Little Things”, and director/writer John Lee Hancock’s film opens in theatres and on HBO Max on Jan. 29.  To commemorate this star-studded movie, let’s look back at five recent crime thrillers that may have flown under your radar.  If you appreciate the genre, these five outstanding – but deeply troubling – pictures are worth a look.  Just lock the doors and turn on the lights.  You’ve been warned.


“Compliance” (2012) – In director/writer Craig Zobel’s surreal psychological movie, Indie Queen Ann Dowd – who is outstanding in everything (see also “American Animals” (2018), “Hereditary” (2018)) – plays Sandra, a stressed-out fast food restaurant manager.  She worries about bacon and pickle shortages before the upcoming dining rush, but as the locals order combo meals with supersized fries, a policeman’s phone call interrupts…everything.  Zobel works his twisted narrative like a maniacal puppeteer, as he plays on our fears and frustrations in the most maddening of circumstances during an ordinary night in Small Town, U.S.A.

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2   out of   ⭐⭐⭐⭐


“Headhunters” (2011) – Director Morten Tyldum’s borderline-insane Norwegian cinematic creation grabs us by our throats and drags us down two flights of stairs laced with rusty nails.  Before the bloody carnage begins, Tyldum’s movie starts more peacefully in the lap of luxury.  Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) works for a high-end corporate headhunting firm, and although he pulls down a hefty salary, his weekly paychecks cannot possibly fund his expensive cars and multi-million dollar home.  They don’t, because Roger has a criminal side-gig, but he faces a bigger, tougher baddie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who – while traveling at 200 kilometers an hour – wishes to stop our hero dead in his tracks.  Geez, does crime pay?  You’ll have to watch this kinetic 96-minute thrill-ride to find out.

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2   out of   ⭐⭐⭐⭐


“Hounds of Love” (2016)  – John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (Emma Booth) kidnap teenage girls for the sport of it, as director/writer Ben Young’s camera enters the couple’s home and documents the daily, grimy details.  The picture is raw and seems so authentic, as Young captures a documentary-like feel that crawls into the darkest space in your brain and burrows itself into your permanent memory.  Vicki’s (Ashleigh Cummings) memory is permanently scarred when John and Evelyn choose her as their latest prize, and escape seems hopeless except for a longshot idea by playing the lovebirds against one another.  Creepy, intense, and unforgettable, this Australian thriller/nightmare truly is a frightening gem.

⭐⭐⭐⭐  out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 


“Loveless” (2017) – Unfortunately, a significant portion of marriages fail, and this includes the nuptials of Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin).  They not only exist in a loveless marriage, but they despise each other and are not afraid to viciously express their ire.  Zhenya and Boris do still live together but are in the process of selling their apartment and physically going their separate ways, but their son (about 10 years old) suddenly leaves on his own.  Now, this cheerless couple suffers more heartbreak as they desperately search for their missing child.  Director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s (“Leviathan” (2014)) Oscar-nominated picture purposely mires in misery and hopelessness, and the famous analogy “finding a needle in a haystack” does not even begin to describe the scope of the couple’s new struggle.  Skillfully filmed and constructed under a gloomy atmosphere, “Loveless” is a stunner.

⭐⭐⭐⭐  out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 


“Prisoners” (2013) – In broad daylight on a gray Thanksgiving afternoon, two little girls – without warning – go missing, and the remaining family members lose their minds with grief.  Thankfully, the police find a suspect (Paul Dano), but officers let him go after 48 hours.  For a desperate father (Hugh Jackman), his anguish turns into rage, revenge, and madness.  Director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario” (2015), “Arrival” (2016)) weaves an intricate 2-hour 33-minute story down bleak, sobering paths and straight into a demented human car crash that leaves its characters emotionally or physically broken.  Sometimes both, and Jake Gyllenhaal plays a detective who tries to pick up the scattered pieces.

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2  out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Jeff Mitchell – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008, graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, and is a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic.  Follow Jeff and the ArtHouseFilmWire on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @ArtHouseFilmWire, respectively.

Image credits:  Magnolia Pictures


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