(Welcome to Employee Picks, a series where Jacob Knight uses his day job expertise as a video store manager to recommend unique and often overlooked alternative options to the big movies hitting theaters and home video.)

Hello and welcome back to Employee Picks! We’re on our last round of video releases for the summer (before switching back over to theatrical alternatives in September). In order to avoid some overlap with our previously published “Summer Guide”, a few of the bigger titles (Infinity War, Deadpool 2) have been omitted this month, because I already told you what to watch instead of those (so get on it, y’all!). We’re trying to stay fresh in this little corner of the Internet, so don’t look at me funny for operating in the name of #goodcontent.

The Major Release: Breaking In

Your Alternative: Unlawful Entry (1992, d. Jonathan Kaplan)

Where Breaking In finds Gabrielle Union struggling to defend her brood during a home invasion, Unlawful Entry sees Kurt Russell’s hunky hubby thwarting the advances of a psychotic cop (Ray Liotta) who becomes obsessed with his sultry wife (Madeline Stowe). The ironic twist? This perverse boy in blue’s voyeuristic fixation is kicked off when he’s called in to investigate a break-in at the well-to-do couple’s home. Jonathan Kaplan (Truck Turner, Over the Edge) is one of the all-time great, unfortunately unheralded exploitation directors, having delivered everything from naughty nurse pictures for Roger Corman (Night Call Nurses) to iconic court procedurals (The Accused). Unlawful Entry is his entry into the “erotic thriller” subcategory that overtook late night cable during the late ‘80s – its run lasting up through the ‘90s – and is easily one of the very best.

Unlawful Entry is available to stream on Amazon.

The Major Release: The Rider

Your Alternative: Junior Bonner (1972, d. Sam Peckinpah)

Out of all the adjectives used to describe the films of Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs), “sexy” is rarely amongst them. Yet that’s precisely what Junior Bonner is — a damn sexy motion picture. Capitalizing on Steve McQueen’s studly appeal (that was seemingly impervious to the assaults of time), screenwriter Jeb Rosebrook’s character study about an aging rodeo ace discovers the arousing side of men coated in dirt, dust and blood. Watching as the West he once knew slowly dies around him, Bonner carries a melancholy air that disarms McQueen’s rugged masculinity. Both the actor and Peckinpah wring every moment of stoic silence for all it’s worth, contrasting the movie’s contemplative nature with the thundering violence of wrangling and riding bulls. Junior Bonner is probably the most overlooked film in Peckinpah’s career, and that’s a shame. While nowhere near his best work, the picture fits nicely between big, bombastic shoot-out pictures; a welcome respite where Peckinpah continues to follow his virile fascinations, but leaves the loaded guns behind.

Junior Bonner is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The Major Release: Lowlife

Your Alternative: Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1995, d. Gary Fleder)

In the wake of Quentin Tarantino’s multi-narrative crime film game changer Pulp Fiction, there were a wave of imitators that flooded the market. Many of them were very bad (here’s looking at you, 2 Days In the Valley), while others scratched an itch for those anxious to see how Tarantino would follow up his monster hit via their knock-off tomfoolery. One of the better entries into the “Tarantinosploitation” subgenre was future TV workman Gary Fleder’s Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. Showcasing a smooth Andy Garcia (as Jimmy “The Saint”) and a motley crew of ‘90s “who’s who” Miramax casting – Steve Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd, Treat Williams, William Forsythe – it’s a rather routine gutter tale about a botched job and the crew who are trying to keep an unruly crime boss’ murderous ways at bay. Thankfully, said mafioso is a wheelchair-bound, scenery chewing Christopher Walken, who monologues about sticking shotguns up dudes’ asses and manages to be almost as menacing as he typically is with the use of both legs. Denver isn’t going to change your life or anything, but it’s a nasty little programmer with some solid dialogue that’d act as a great companion piece to Lowlife’s cartoonish luchador masked mayhem.

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead is available to stream on Amazon.

The Major Release: Bad Samaritan

Your Alternative: The Collector (2009, d. Marcus Dunstan)

One of the keys to pulling off a successful home invasion – a strangely recurring theme in this month’s home video alternatives – is to make sure that nobody else is casing the place you’re looking to rob. Such is the hook for The Collector, the directorial debut of regular Saw sequel screenwriter Marcus Dunstan. Taking that franchise’s affinity for nasty traps – as Dunstan and writing partner Patrick Melton originally envisioned the picture as a franchise prequel – and essentially combining it with a low-rent crime picture, a burglar (William Prael) finds that the country home he’s targeted for looting is also on the radar of the titular serial killer (Juan Fernández) who’s rigged the domicile with a series of nasty contraptions, all of which could kill both the desperate bandit and the family trapped inside. Thus begins a cat and mouse game, where almost everybody is eradicated in rather grisly fashion. A ghoulish programmer that became a decent enough hit on video to warrant a sequel (The Collection, which played Fantastic Fest in ‘12), The Collector should keep gore hounds happy, should they not be willing to put up with any more of David Tennant’s trademark overacting in Bad Samaritan.

The Collector is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment.

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