I don’t know about you, but when I think of Christmas one of the first things that comes to mind is film noir. Nothing says “holly jolly Christmas” like terse tough-guys and a fiery femme fatale. But, just in case you aren’t similarly inclined to equate noir with Noel, I’ve got two movies that show that crime and Christmas go together like Santa and reindeer, like tinsel and holly, like zombies and Easter.
Granted, the entire film doesn’t revolve around Christmas, but the holiday provides a pivotal plot point as well as some nice character development. So, I have no qualms with starting off my noir-y night with:
L.A. Confidential (1997) – Dir. Curtis Hanson
Now, before you start calling “shenanigans,” remember: everything that happens in L.A. Confidential is predicated upon the Bloody Christmas incident at the beginning of the film. James Ellroy’s entire story rests on the groundwork put into place by his adaptation of this real life event involving police brutality. If the cops didn’t beat the prisoners they had in custody, then Ed Exley wouldn’t have testified against them, he wouldn’t have been promoted to Detective Lieutenant, Dick Stensland wouldn’t have kicked off the force, so he wouldn’t have been at the Nite Owl, and Exley couldn’t be assigned to the case… etc, etc, etc.
So, no Bloody Christmas, no L.A. Confidential. Also, the intro to Bud White (Russell Crowe) where he pulls the Christmas decorations off the house is probably one of my all-time favorite Christmas scenes.
And the second half of my Christmas noir double-feature:
The Ice Harvest (2005) – Dir. Harold Ramis
Christmas in Wichita, a mob lawyer, a strip club owner, a plot to swindle money from a local crime boss… doesn’t Christmas in Connecticut have a similar story?
Seriously though, the film takes place on Christmas Eve as Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) prepares to abscond with a large sum of his employer’s money. Things are bit more difficult when your employer also happens to be a mob boss
But with the help of his friend Vic (Billy Bob Thorton), Charlie plans to make his escape before anyone knows the money is gone. Unfortunately, the roads are closed due to an ice storm. So Vic and Charlie spend Christmas Eve evading the suspicious mob boss (Randy Quaid), hanging out in strip clubs, drinking and swearing. It’s a wicked good time.
And the naughty folks make Christmas more interesting. Just ask the Krampus.