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8 Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy

three stills from Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy

A list of 8 movies that seamlessly blend crime and comedy, from Rian Johnson’s Knives Out to more popular films.

Author: Dimitris Passas

Blending two fictional genres that are as distinctive as crime and comedy in cinema is no easy task. Yet, the crime-comedy movies have been so popular throughout the years because of how engaging they are. Audiences find themselves drawn to these films’ witty dialogue and light-hearted plotlines, which soften the mood of vicious storylines. Joel and Ethan Coen, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Rian Johnson are among the most prominent filmmakers who made movies that seamlessly blend crime and comedy during the last three decades, sprinkling their otherwise distressing stories with humor and comic relief.

However, the archetypal crime comedy was shot back in 1973 by George Roy Hill. The Sting became a classic and a point of reference for future productions by virtue of its screenplay’s (David S. Ward) jolity. And this was only the beginning. Crime comedies proved to be immensely popular, with the release of Fargo (1996), Pulp Fiction (1994), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), In Bruges (2008) and many more. We made a list of 8 movies that all constitute a prime example of how to blend the comical with the -deadly- serious.

1. Knives Out (2019)

(Rian Johnson)

Knives Out (Review): Whodunnit Subverts Expectations – L&C
Review: Witty, unpredictable and surprisingly insightful, Rian Johnson’s whodunnit Knives Out keeps you guessing until the very end.

In 2019, Rian Johnson wrote and directed the first Knives Out murder mystery and added a modern twist on the classical cozy mystery, most often associated with the Golden Age of Detective Fiction that thrived during the Interwar period (1920-1939). Johnson assembled a group of distinguished actors to breathe life into a spotless screenplay that became a blueprint for most aspiring filmmakers of the crime genre.

Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) receives an invitation by an unknown sender asking him to investigate the apparent suicide of an elderly renowned crime writer, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). The victim’s family is interrogated by the authorities, and it soon becomes evident that they are not entirely truthful concerning their relationships with the late patriarch and their whereabouts at the time of the murder.

The comedic aspect is ever-present, mainly through Benoit Blanc’s quirkiness: the amusing dialogue between him and the other characters manifests his ferocious intellect. Ana de Armas plays Marta Cabrera, a key character for the plot, as she is the last person to have seen Harlan alive. Knives Out features an all-star cast including Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and others. Johnson’s well-received film sets an example of how to blend the two genres in the most brilliant and effective way.

2. See How They Run (2022)

(Tom George)

See How They Run Review: Smashing Whodunnit – Loud and Clear
Featuring a show-stealing Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run is both a well-crafted whodunnit mystery and a witty deconstruction of the genre.

Overflowing with self-referential connotations and a zestful, playful tone, Tom George’s See How They Run is the definition of a postmodern whodunit. The plot is based on the paradigm and structure of the genre’s classic works, but it also incorporates many hilarious sequences that are meant to provoke roaring laughter. Regardless of whether the film succeeds in its objectives, George’s movie is saved by the grace of Sam Rockwell, who delivers an outstanding performance in the role of the world-weary detective Tom Stoppard.

Stoppard is called to investigate a murder that took place backstage at a theatre The victim is Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), an American expatriate who was involved in the production of Agatha Christie’s infamous play “The Mousetrap.” The victim was despised by all the members of the production and the cast; thus, there are plenty of suspects. See How They Run has great potential and it is a film that must be watched not as a mere replica of the classic whodunit but as a fresh title in a saturated genre.   

3. Nine Queens (2000)

(Fabián Bielinsky)

three characters look at each other in a confrontational way in Nine Queens, a movie that seamlessly blends crime and comedy
8 Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy – Nine Queens (Lionsgate)

Fabián Bielinsky’s Nine Queens (Nueve Reinas) can be seen as the Argentinean version of the The Sting. The film is about two professional con men who join forces to swindle a stamp collector by selling him a sheet of counterfeit rare stamps. Its backdrop is the Argentinean financial crisis that marked the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, something that adds a different gravitas to the story. The movie revolves around the relationship between the two grifters, astutely portrayed by Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls, and the fundamental question: is either of them worthy of the other’s trust?. The ending reserves a huge twist that upends the narrative and provides the best finale to one of the most delightful blends of crime and comedyoriginating from Latin America.

4. Fargo (1996)

(Joel and Ethan Coen)

Frances McDormand, the sheriff, points a gun at someone in the movie Fargo, which seamlessly blends crime and comedy
8 Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy – Fargo (Working Title)

Joel and Ethan Coen have proved, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they have a singular understanding of what a modern crime film should look like. Some of their most renowned works (such as their debut, Blood Simple)became an international phenomenon, shining a light on the two creators who subsequently made their presence known to the wider audiences. With their 1996 Fargo, the Coen Brothers reached the most mature stage of their career, delivering a milestone achievement in the modern neo-noir phenomenon.

Set in a small, seedy Texas town where moral virtue is a concept unknown to its inhabitants, Fargo narrates a cynical story featuring largely immoral characters. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hatches a plan to kidnap his own wife in order to collect the ransom money. However, things go pear shaped and Jerry gets deeper and deeper into murky waters as he struggles to maintain control over his scheme. Greed, sexual jealousy, and every kind of human pathos constitute the motives of the protagonists in the fictitious – though sometimes eerily resembling reality – universe created by the Coen brothers.

5. Under The Tree (2017)

(Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson)

a woman holds two garden gnomes in the movie Under the Tree
8 Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy – Under The Tree (Netop Films)

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s Under the Tree (Undir trénu) is a surprise from Iceland. This dark, character-based drama flirts with other genres, especially comedy, to the point that one can justly label the film as a tragicomedy. It revolves around an unfortunate neighbor adjacency between two families that begins with mutual expressions of concealed hostility but, as the story moves forward, evolves to a full-on, ruthless conflict that defies any sense of humanism and morality.

The main characters – Baldwin (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Inga (Edda Björgvinsdóttir) on one hand, and Konrad (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and Eybjorg (Selma Björnsdóttir) on the other – range from problematic to plainly despicable, and the cast does a terrific job, serving the film’s tone which is brimming with thinly veiled animosity.

In the case of Under the Tree, the characterization takes priority over the story; the plot is schematic and revolves around the dispute at hand, while the brief moments of comic levity provide a safe haven for the audience who may feel a bit disturbed by the movie’s atmosphere. If you are a fan of Icelandic cinema, you are simply not allowed to miss Under the Tree, a sublime Nordic sample of a successful mixture of crime and comedy.

6. Jackpot

(Magnus Martens)

two characters are drenched in blood in crime comedy movie Jackpot from Magnus Martens
8 Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy – Jackpot (Fantefilm)

Though Jackpot’s (Arme Riddere) running timeis short (85 minutes), the film is a fascinating and enticing cinematic experience that will appeal to the many Nordic Noir fans around the globe. It is based on a story by Norwegian super-star crime writer Jo Nesbø, author of the notorious Harry Hole series. This is a really dense film where the intricate and -in many parts- amusing plot unfolds at a brisk pace, leaving no room for pointless dialogue scenes. Four friends win the Jackpot in the national lottery and, as you can easily imagine, each one wants the money all for themselves.

The protagonist and narrator is Oscar (Kyrre Hellum), the most timid among the four and the one who finds himself in the toughest of predicaments as the story reaches its climax. The main question of the film is: is Oscar a reliable narrator of the events that occurred after the lottery win, or is he lying to keep himself out of prison? The riddle is solved in the last, ten minutes of the film, where everything turns upside down, as it often does in Nesbø’s stories.

7. Reykjavik-Rotterdam

(Baltasar Kormákur)

two characters run from an exploding car in crime comedy movie Reykjavik-Rotterdam
8 Movies that Seamlessly Blend Crime and Comedy – Reykjavik-Rotterdam (Rotterdam Films)

Most cinema lovers will be aware of the American adaptation of this Icelandic film, Contraband (2012)starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale. However, only a selected few know the original source: the 2008 crime/comedy Reykjavik-Rotterdam, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.  The Icelandic original features a solid and well-woven crime plot that is permeated with humorous dialogue, lightening the mood throughout the film’s short runtime. The playful screenplay adds a peculiar dimension to the desperation experienced by the protagonist, Kristofer (Baltasar Kormákur).

Kristofer is an ex-smuggler who accepts a job that will hopefully be his last, as he wants to live a quiet life alongside his family. Kristofer agrees to make one last trip from his hometown, Reykjavik, to Rotterdam to carry contraband alcohol and drug substances that will help him face an imminent family financial crisis.

Even though the American version puts the emphasis more on the action aspect than on the complex web of the relationships between the characters, the original film stands out due to its freshness and imagination. All actors do a splendid job in their respective roles, as the movie casts some of the most eminent native performers, such as Ingvar Sigurdsson (Steingrímur) and Olafur Darri Olafsson (Elvar). The humorous aspect is more conspicuous in the Icelandic version, and this is one of the main reasons to watch it first.

8. Jackie Brown (1997)

(Quentin Tarantino)

“Didn’t I Do It, Baby?”: Jackie Brown, 25 Years On – Loud And Clear
Review: As Jackie Brown celebrates its 25th anniversary, we look at Quentin Tarantino’s crime film 25 years on.

The simple fact that Jackie Brown is a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino and based on the namesake novel by author, short story writer, and screenwriter Elmore Leonard is enough to make you eager to watch this rather undervalued work within Tarantino’s overall body of work. The story connects the lives of several characters, and most of them are initially unaware of the others’ existence. The movie begins when Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), a flight attendant with a criminal past, is apprehended once again for drug smuggling. The police are pressuring her to reveal the name of her supplier, and this brings her face-to-face with the dilemma: should she become a police informant or should she stay loyal to the unwritten rules of the underworld imposing a code of silence?

Jackie Brown is a lavish production, and you can understand that simply by taking a look at the cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and many others. This is Tarantino’s lightest film, in terms of tone, as the director leaves room for Leonard’s novel to be voiced through the splendid, often lively, and witty dialogue. If you haven’t watched it, then do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in the fictional American underworld created by the mind of Leonard and the eye of Tarantino.

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