Underrated Movies 2017

The fifth and final instalment of my year-end movie quartet quintet, I give you ten wee gems that will undoubtedly have gone under the radar. Some are based on US releases so chances are you may get the opportunity to experience on the big screen in 2018; you just need to keep your eyes peeled.

For any that you enjoy, you’re welcome!

FANTANA’S MOST UNDERRATED FILMS OF 2017

10. Mudbound

It’s often the case with most Netflix Originals that they pass the majority of viewers by; an unavoidable bi-product of A) their lack of promotion, even on their own website, and B) their reputation for applying the ‘Original’ tag to far too much dross. But Mudbound is one of a very select group of films that break the mold. It feels like a ‘real’ movie, it bears texture and depth of character and a narrative loaded with compelling themes. It’s a war movie with nary a battle on screen, a romance without ever feeling romantic, a family drama of the most dysfunctional. It’s engrossing and deserves more attention.

7.5

9. Good Time

I’m surprised to see this is already on Netflix, despite a limited cinema run that feels only weeks ago. That being said there is no excuse not to sit down and enjoy Robert Pattinson at his most transformed, near unrecognisable and putting in an utterly magnetic performance. Should be seen for the way in which it subverts expectation and repeatedly pulls the rug out. A cracking surprise gem of the year.

7.5

8. Sweet Virginia

Possibly the most divisive film on this list, where it is my own proclivity for hard boiled noir that has justified its place; admittedly it’s probably not to every taste. But as noirs go, it is steeped in tension and driven forward by two smoulderingly intense performances by the ever watchable duo of Jon Bernthal and Christopher Abbott, driven forward towards a somewhat flat finale, which is the only disappointment. Everything that comes before it is charged with an energy both quiet and violent, suggesting a climax more ferocious. A worthy watch for any genre fans out there.

7.5

7. Brigsby Bear

This one has to be seen because its description on paper does not do it enough justice. Blending genres capably and bolstered by a charming central performance by Kyle Mooney, at times hilarious, naïve, and touching, this is an affecting character study but nowhere near as dry as that sounds. The comedy is subtle but offsets the more sombre themes ever so well. Don’t let the description fool you, don’t let the poster fool you; Brigsby is an absolute treat.

7.5

6. Thelma

Combining Raw, Firestarter and Carrie to stunning effect, Thelma is a fine example of how to build towards something and how to build well. I am utterly gobsmacked there hasn’t been more chat about this movie this year, seemingly overshadowed by its cannibalistic cousin above perhaps, but make no mistake this is a thriller both horrific and not, supernatural and not, almost certainly tragic but layered with so many human elements as we watch the titular young woman come into an adulthood she is not prepared for. The results are gorgeous and terrifying.

7.5

5. Shot Caller

If you’re a fan of American History X, if you’re a fan of Starred Up, if you’re a fan of A Prophet or any other gritty prison drama then this is a must. Chronicling the journey of one man’s metamorphosis from investment manager to inmate to street hood and beyond, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau delivers the thespian smackdown in the central role, allowing other greats such as Jon Bernthal, Lake Bell and Holt McCallany to merely orbit his sun. With a performance as powerhouse as this it’s hard to look away. Supremely watchable thanks to an electric cast and an ever-engrossing subject matter.

7.5

4. The Foreigner

As a non-Chan-fan I never expected to like this quasi-political thriller, let alone love it. The balance is just very right and anchored by an understated Jackie Chan and bolstered by a great support of British and Irish talent. The pacing, the characters, the sporadic bouts of action all keep the plot ticking over and never allow your attention to wane. Writing this I suddenly find it difficult to put my finger on what exactly makes it so watchable. It just is. Everything is done to a high and loving standard… that should be enough.

8

Trailer Credit: ONE Media

3. Okja

Following the Host, Snowpiercer, and now this wee daisy, Joon-ho Bong is now firmly on my must-watch directors list. When I reviewed Okja back in June I wondered why the creatives opted for a darker, more adult product rather than deliver a new generation their Goonies or Free Willy, a landmark childrens adventure for the ages, chronicling one girls journey to rescue her giant hippo-pig from a multi-national consumerist conglomerate, but I have to say – thanks to my own greed – I am glad they made the choice they did. Gorgeous from start to finish and done on a budget most blockbusters would scoff at, from a distributor sorely deprived of any respect, this is an outstanding win for Netflix. It’s just a pity the cinema run wasn’t longer but it’s movies like this that make you wonder how much longer it’ll be before the streaming sites start to spread their wings to a bigger format.

8

2. Jawbone

In a similar vein to Shot Caller, this one is all about the central performance, this time by the ultra-magnetic Johnny Harris and it is a crying shame he isn’t working more, on bigger stages. Charged with a visceral energy even in the quiet scenes, never mind the ridiculously electric boxing scene, this one just picks you up and takes you with it, making you watch, voyeur-like, Harris’ sorry decline into desperation, constantly seeking a redemption he’s not sure he wants or deserves. At a very palatable 90mins, there isn’t a scene wasted and you won’t want to miss a one, from the opening Job Centre altercation to quite possibly the most visceral and watchable boxing sequence ever committed to film (I defy you to look away for a second) and evocative closing scenes. A small and brooding masterpiece.

8

1. Small Town Crime

At the time of writing, Small Town Crime has now burrowed its way into my Top Ten films of the year list, ousting Gifted completely and relegating Thor Ragnarok to 10th place, but I can’t be bothered to update that blog post so John Hawkes and co. are getting pride of place right here. Packed with a dark, sardonic wit; characters unsavoury, irredeemable and pure; and an unflinching proclivity for sudden outbursts of creative violence, there isn’t anything I can say I didn’t enjoy about this one. In fact I fully expect this little crime gem to be the most re-watched film of this year in a few years time and to subtly climb the ranks that way.

Alright, second most re-watched after Blade Runner. But this is still a little known classic for the ages in the making.

8

Honourable Mentions: Jungle, Super Dark Times, Bad Day for the Cut, The Wall, It Comes at Night, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Pilgrimage, The Discovery, Bushwick, A Ghost Story, Berlin Syndrome, the Villainess

Let me know in the comments if you caught any of these gems and what you thought. Also if there was any I missed. Thanks for looking.

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