Movies · Reviews

Imprint Brings More Dark Thrills to Blu-ray with After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two

Six neo-noirs, some hitting Blu-ray for the first time, are collected in this fantastic box set from Australia.
The Way Of The Gun
By  · Published on March 3rd, 2023

Imprint’s first volume of 90s neo-noir is already one of 2022’s best home video releases, and After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two is every bit as terrific. It extends the parameters just slightly beyond the decade, but each of the six films included — Blue Steel, Internal Affairs, The Crimson Rivers, The Way of the Gun, The Yards, and Narc — deliver good to great highs with exciting thrills, rich characters, energetic thrills, and more.

As with that first set, the films come contained in a sturdy, top-loading box with a die-cut lid. Inside is a 60-page booklet featuring new essays on the films, and then each movie is in its own Blu-ray standard snapcase.

Now keep reading for a look at the six films comprising After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two, in order from best to least best!

The Way of the Gun (2000)

Some criminals have it all worked out, but Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro) are crooks taking it one messy day at a time. Their latest criminal endeavor involves the kidnapping of a young pregnant woman who’s acting as a surrogate for a wealthy couple. Seems simple enough, but the abduction turns into a bloodbath and only gets darker, more muddled, and potentially doomed from there.

Christopher McQuarrie came out of the gate strong (The Usual Suspects, 1995) and is sitting pretty these days thanks to a partnership with Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher, 2012; Edge of Tomorrow, 2014; the Mission: Impossible franchise). His directorial debut, though, was apparently enough of a disappointment (financially and morally) that it left him in “director’s jail” for over a decade. Time has been much kinder to The Way of the Gun turning it into something of a cult favorite, and it’s easy to see why — the damn thing is a charismatic, nihilistic gem.

Phillippe and De Toro do fantastic work as bad guys, and make no mistake, these are bad guys. The film’s choices make that clear early on, and the pair become something like doomed anti heroes who we reluctantly root for. McQuarrie’s sharp script is a meaty ride for all involved, and in addition to the leads we also get strong performances from James Caan, Juliette Lewis, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt, and Geoffrey Lewis. Action beats are gritty and mean, character moments are honest (and mean), and it goes out in the fashion of a terrific (and mean) western.

Imprint’s release features an HD presentation previously available on earlier Blu-rays. It looks good, and as the film’s reputation suggests the studio won’t rush to authorize a new restoration anytime soon, it’s the best we should expect for now. The extras are slight, but both the older commentary with McQuarrie and the brand new track with Travis Woods make for fantastic listens for fans.


Narc (2002)

Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) was a rock solid undercover cop before an operation went sideways and he ended up with innocent blood on his hands. He’s called back to duty when a murder investigation involving other cops goes cold, and he reluctantly agrees. Tellis is partnered with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), a detective with history of his own, and the truth begins to emerge from the darkness.

I’m of the opinion that Joe Carnahan‘s The Grey is not only his finest film but one of the best of the 2010s. Turns out his feature debut is one of the best from the decade prior. An electric opening scene sets the stage for the violence and loss at the heart of it all, and Patric nails the character of washed up cop looking for both satisfaction and redemption with this new assignment. As good as he is, though, the film belongs (unsurprisingly) to Liotta who simply eats up everything in his path as a cop who’s seen too much.

Carnahan shoots the film with energy and style, and he brings a familiar tale of corruption and greed to gritty, dangerous life. Some story beats follow expected paths (although they were less expected twenty years ago), but that familiarity never gets in the way of the grip the film has on you. It feels as if either lead can bite it at any time, and it keeps you on edge as a result.

Narc still isn’t available on a U.S. Blu-ray, and it’s one of the releases here that make After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two a must-own for fans of the genre and time period. The HD presentation from Paramount looks damn good, and the selection of new and archival extras offers a detailed look into the film’s production.

Infernal Affairs (1990)

The only people cops hate worse than civilian observers are cops who are members of the Internal Affairs department. They’re the cops tasked with rooting out bad behaviors among their brothers and sisters in blue. Det. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia) is IA, and the latest bad apple to enter his crosshairs is a cop named Dennis Peck (Richard Gere). It’s clear that Peck is trouble, but the closer Avilla gets to his target the more the man gets under his skin — and the pair are heading towards a violent confrontation.

Brit Mike Figgis seems an odd choice to direct an American thriller about police corruption, but just because his tastes typically lean more dramatic doesn’t mean he can’t get his hands dirty on occasion. Internal Affairs is that dirty, mean little movie heavy in the sweat and musk of masculinity gone awry. There’s drama, to be sure, but the focus is on the brewing intensity between two guys who feel compelled to constantly prove their manhood to the world and women around them.

Garcia and Gere are both terrific here, with Gere in particular channeling his malicious charm into a truly threatening character. The supporting players also bring the goods with solid work from Nancy Travis, Laurie Metcalf, Billy Baldwin, and others. The film is, in many ways, the epitome of the 90s thriller with big names going to some dark places — a thriller for adults that eschews flash and comedy in favor of tension, character, and brutally honest observations about the people around us.

Imprint’s new Blu-ray uses an HD presentation from Paramount, and it looks good despite being no revelation. The new extras are strong, though, with an interesting and revealing interview with Figgis being a particular highlight.

The Crimson Rivers

The Crimson Rivers (2000)

A body is found suspended from a remote cliffside, his eyes gouged out and hands amputated, and a Parisian detective (Jean Reno) is brought in to investigate the case. Another detective (Vincent Cassel) arrives regarding a nearby grave’s desecration, and it’s not long before the two men realize their cases are related. Unfortunately for them, freshly slaughtered corpses are dropping faster than clues.

The accusation that a movie is style over substance is often viewed as a criticism, but it’s hard to stand by that when the style is this damn entertaining. Director Mathieu Kassovitz adapts a dense piece of thriller fiction with an eye for memorable imagery and thrills, and a whole lot of logic gets tossed out the window in the effort to jam it all into a feature length. The clues and subsequent deductions feature some pretty big leaps, and you’re lying if you claim all of it makes sense. Cassel himself stated afterwards that even he can’t explain the movie because Kassovitz cut all of the “boring” parts — ie the scenes explaining everything.

And yet, the damn thing cooks thanks to two stellar lead performances and some gorgeous, stylish locales and set-pieces. The main setting is a remote, mountainside university, and the combination of nature and old architecture is a compelling mix. The film has wintry atmosphere to spare, and mystery oozes across the screen interrupted only by gory murder victims and brief action beats from chases to a wild martial arts fight between Cassel and some skinheads. This is a solid, twisty thriller, logic be damned.

While The Crimson Rivers is getting its first US Blu-ray release in early 2023, its presence in After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two more than satisfies. The disc includes trailers, complete storyboards, and the following archival extras.

The Yards (2000)

Leo Handler (Mark Wahlberg) walks out of prison and into a whole world of new troubles — his family business. They’re big in the contractor business overseeing rail car repairs in Queens, and while the front-facing side of things is wholly legit it’s a business powered by bribes, grift, and threats. Something will have to change if Leo wants to avoid heading back to jail.

Director James Gray makes thoughtful, character rich films, and while they don’t always work — it’s true! — those character elements are always on point. The narrative here is solid, but undeniably overshadowed by the interactions and arcs fueled by an electric family tree. Leo’s hopes for living the straight life are immediately threatened, and he’s forced into a tense obstacle course between family members, friends, and outside dangers.

Gray has a knack for finding intricate performances, and Wahlberg acquits himself well here — a feat managed in part by him playing a character who doesn’t rely on bravado like so many of his future roles would. Equally good are Joaquin Phoenix, James Caan, Charlize Theron, Ellen Burstyn, Faye Dunaway, and more. The familial conflict takes on near Shakespearean levels of betrayal and intrigue, and while it feels sometimes melodramatic, it’s an engaging ride through to the end.

Imprint brings the film to Blu-ray with a solid HD presentation from Paramount, and the extras are a mix of the new and old.

Blue Steel

Blue Steel (1990)

Being a cop isn’t easy, and rookie Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) learns that the hard way almost immediately. She interrupts a robbery, but rather than be seen as a hero she falls into a world of hurt when her gun goes missing. One of the civilians has stolen it, and his twisted brain soon sets them both on a path of violence and mind games.

I’m somewhat in the minority here, but while I love Kathryn Bigelow’s other genre efforts (Near Dark, Strange Days) and am a huge fan of co-writer Eric Red’s The Hitcher, their collaboration here is just a series of frustrations. The script is dumb to the point where you stop rooting for our protagonist and start hoping the madman kills everyone. Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver), our psycho obsessed with Megan, is a slippery bastard, but Megan is something of an idiot.

Anyway, if you can get past the absolute stupidity of it all, Bigelow and her cast and crew craft an attractive thriller. There’s a stylish approach to the bustling threats of New York City, and the cat and mouse angle is handled with adrenaline and sharp camerawork. Silver feasted as a big screen villain in the 90s, and we all benefited, and he’s joined her by the always reliable Clancy Brown, Kevin Dunn, Elizabeth Pena, Louise Fletcher, and Richard Jenkins. It’s a good watch if you can ignore the litany of idiotic mistakes made by our damsel.

There hasn’t been a Blu-ray released in the US yet, so fans should be excited about this region-free release included in After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two. The extras are all new and shine an informative spotlight on the film’s production.

Head to the official Imprint Films site for more info on After Dark: Neo Noir Cinema Collection Two and other great releases, and check out our review of their fantastic release of Walter Hill’s The Warriors.

Related Topics:

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.