Ten Underrated Movies From 2013 That Deserve More Love

Shock horror! 2013 was a decade ago now and we’re going to dive back and look at some underrated films that deserve more love…

2013 still feels like last week to me. Actually, 1993 still feels a bit like that. Time flies pretty fast but let’s consider what the year 2013 offered cinematically. It was a reasonable year all told. A few films were probably a little bit overrated, more marvels of technical wizardry as much as anything (Gravity) but there were also a host of interesting and engaging movies and, you won’t believe this… a cinematic landscape of more original content that wasn’t just comic book movies. 

Get yourselves ready for a movie-going tour-de-force, as we look at 10 underrated films that deserved a bit more love from critics and/or fans. We’ll start with a critical darling that really seemed to divide fans…

Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s cerebral and odd philosophical horror stars Scarlett Johansson as a creature who is either from another world, or a mythic folk creature (Selkie) from Earth depending on your reading. She lures men with the promise of carnal delights, only to have them consumed by an unseen overlord she collects for. Glazer’s arthouse masterpiece, one of the early entrants in A24’s catalogue (in conjunction with Film Four), tells a dazzling and enthralling tale with very little dialogue and a lot of striking imagery (and a great score from Mica Levi).

The more she encounters humans, the more she begins to ponder and try to understand emotions. In a strange way, its something of a coming-of-age story for a creature with a singular purpose who begins to wonder what else there is. Critics lapped it up, but many film fans found it frustrating. It’s a film that requires patience, a couple of viewings to fully appreciate and a little bit of participation to fill in the gaps the ambiguity may leave. Scar Jo fans may have enjoyed the nude scenes and not much else, perhaps more at home with her MCU exploits, but it still remains one of her most engrossing performances.

Joe

Before Nicolas Cage fully began his Cage-Naissance, he made a shining gem among a slurry of straight to video thrillers. The film was Joe, which in many ways feels like a spiritual cousin to the Matthew McConaughey resurrector, Mud. Not least because Cage plays a morally obtuse surrogate further figure to a troubled youngster who is played by Tye Sheridan (who played it pretty close to this in Mud).

Cage is really dialled back here. It’s an understated and melancholic performance. This one probably isn’t quite as interesting as the more recent Pig, and it’s no Mud, but it certainly deserved more of an audience upon release. It has also held up well and needs a bit more appreciation for what is a very good film, anchored by Cage and Sheridan. 

Oblivion

Before Tom Cruise and Joseph Kosinski hit the skies and reached for the stars with Top Gun: Maverick, they made a seriously overlooked blockbuster sci-fi in 2013. Oblivion does certainly wear a host of influences on its sleeves, from Moon, to 2001 and a whole host more, but critics seemed to be indifferent to a film with more brains than most of the blockbusters coming out, plus the usual adherence to as much practical work as possible thanks to Tom Cruise being the star and producer.

Oblivion may not reach the heady heights of the 2001s or Blade Runners of the world, but in a genre so difficult to nail these days and in a sea of largely yawn-inducing, CGI heavy blockbusters, Oblivion was blessed with killer visuals, exciting set pieces, a great support cast and a stunning soundtrack. The twists range from engaging to a little telegraphed, and if there’s a weakness, it’s perhaps that Tom Cruise doesn’t dig deep enough into the emotions of the character, occasionally feeling like Ethan Hunt again and running through hero motions. Still, a Rotten Tomatometer of 54% feels harsh, though the IMDB score of 7/10 (which has risen in time) is a little closer to where it should be (albeit I’d push it up a few points personally). 

Filth

Based on an Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) novel, Filth feels like a spiritual cinematic cousin to the Danny Boyle adaptation. It’s also filled with hedonistic and flawed characters, some of who are deplorable. At the centre we have James McAvoy as a corrupt, drug addicted and bi-polar cop, who tries every trick in the book to gain a promotion and try and win back his estranged wife. It’s pure Bad Lieutenant debauchery with a rather ludicrous, if apt (for the tone and style of the film) twist.

The cast is great, and the film is wince-inducing and funny in equal measure but McAvoy gives a tour-de-force performance. You cannot take your eyes off him and I love these kind of films, even if by their very nature, are doomed to be divisive. It was largely greeted with indifference, though fans have given it something of a cult following. It’s no Trainspotting, but it’s definitely better than T2

Locke

This taut real time thriller plays out almost entirely from the confines of the protagonist’s car. Tom Hardy is tasked with maintaining your interest, aided only by a handful of voice actors (including Olivia Colman) on speed dial to help. The titular Locke has a hugely important job to oversee but at the same time is having to travel to help a one night fling deliver his baby into the hospital. Locke’s world is shattering through his journey and he’s desperately trying to hold it together.

Many people watched this and wondered what the fascination was with watching a man in a car for 90 minutes. Again, it’s one you need patience and investment in, but Tom Hardy is one of the few actors capable of such mesmeric stoicism and interesting character choices, who could pull this off. Pull it off he does… with aplomb. It really isn’t appreciated enough for how well delivered this concept is. 

The Last Stand

Arnie fans and action fans… I’m talking to you! How come this film isn’t held in higher regard? We’ve had a lot of half baked nostalgic throwback action films in recent years. Often they promise something on the tin and don’t really deliver. The Expendables franchise has been largely guilty of that for example. Since Arnie returned to acting from Governating, he’s had a largely forgettable time, from Expendables cameos, to some career lows like Killing Gunther, to a mixed back of experiments in showing range (the fairly decent Maggie, or the forgettable, Aftermath), and the less said about his returns to Terminating, the better.

The Last Stand was actually the perfect Schwarzenegger vehicle but action aficionados and Ahnuld fans largely didn’t appear to realise or appreciate it. Okay, it won’t win points for originality but there’s something to setting a 7/10 bar and clearing it with aplomb. It had the best director Arnie had worked with in almost a decade (Kim Jee Woon, albeit a tad restrained). With a nice mix of humour, gleeful violence and ably nailing action and western tropes, this also gave Arnie an age appropriate, fallible and likeable hero you route for. Come on guys, this one needs more love. 

Snowpiercer

This criminally overlooked sci-fi film definitely has some love, it’s just so few people have seen it. Reputedly derailed with no small degree of spite from nefarious producer Harvey Weinstein, the film was left to fester on a limited theatrical release with barely any promotion.

Starring Captain America, Chris Evans, and an impressive cast roster, this film, which introduced the western world to the genius of Bong Joon-Ho, has a simple but effective classist concept. The lower classes at the back of a perpetually looping train in a second ice age, seek to overthrow the elites and take control of the front of the train. It’s got lashings of Orwell and pinches of The Matrix but with a definite wry underbelly that’s almost Gilliam-esque. Snowpiercer is great. It had enough leverage from cineastes to warrant the more recent TV adaptation, but even that seemed to sink by the wayside. 

Ninja: Shadow of a Tear

Back to action and if we’re talking underrated, then we might as well look at the perennially, frustratingly, criminally overlooked Scott Adkins. The man who rarely lets his fans down, as long as he avoids sci-fi (bar Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning that is), has consistently made some great beat ’em ups over the past decade. He’s increasingly chipped out more and more audience but never been granted the big stage boost he deserves. Among an array of brilliantly crafted action films came Ninja: Shadow of a Tear.

Shadow of a Tear is the second Ninja film Adkins made with martial arts action director specialist Isaac Florentine. The first wasn’t great, but the second one nailed it, even if it never feels particularly like a ninja film. It’s more a beat nailing, box ticking revenge film, crammed with superb fight sequences. It’s Adkins at a stage where he was beginning to headline with more assurance and honing his charisma. Like any straight to video gem, not enough people caught this one. Though it’s not as iconic for Adkins as his Boyka films, it’s perhaps more rounded and an unfairly forgotten one of his standout heroic roles. 

The Wolverine

Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, an irreplaceable icon who nailed his role like very few others could in X-Men cinema (outside of the magnificent Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart of course). In his numerous outings, he’s appeared in a mixed bag of movies, with the Origins fiasco being the worst, and Logan being a somewhat overrated (though very excellent) redefinition of what a comic book film could be.

Logan came out and almost instantaneously erradicated a few previous films to distant memory, including The Wolverine, James Mangold’s first adamantium clawed stab at the character. Now the film isn’t perfect, but it gave Jackman some great material to chew on and at least until a messy finale, it feels like an exotic and interesting direction to take the character. It’s got great visuals and it’s also got Wolverine fighting ninjas.

The Double

Based on the Dostoevsky novella, The Double saw Richard Ayoade cement himself as an intriguing auteur to be watched. The multifaceted Ayoade, perhaps best known as the inimitable Moss in The IT Crowd, and for his enjoyable travel and gadget shows, is also quite the writer (in an array of forms) and director. Submarine proved expectedly quirky whilst crowd pleasing, but The Double was a calculated gamble which saw Ayoade adapting the complex ideas from the source and infusing the film with dashes of David Lynch and David Cronenberg.

Critics enjoyed it, even if it lacked the likeable accessibility of his prior film (even with a somewhat unconventional protagonist). Jesse Eisenberg plays dual roles as a bookish and painfully shy office worker who finds himself being upstaged by a double, one who no one else quite recognises the resemblance. Its atmospheric and noirish cinematography is striking and as a visual director, Ayoade proves confident in his vision. It feels odd that the film and indeed Ayoade as a director has faded in prominence in the last decade, particularly as its one of the more creatively engaging and different British psychological thrillers of the past 20 years. We don’t do it often, that’s for sure. 

What is the most underrated film from 2013? Any other hidden gems that are worth a watch? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…

Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out around the world, including When Darkness Falls and several releases due out soon, including big-screen releases for Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray) and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here

 

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