best trash movies of 2018

To quote the poet Oscar the Grouch, “Oh, I love trash.” There’s a soft-spot in my heart for trash movies. The trashier the better. I’m not talking about the worst movies of the year. Nor am I talking about movies that are so bad they’re good. Instead, I’m referring to a special type of a film – one that is perfectly content to be, well, garbage. Movies with little-to-no ambition that aren’t trying to do…anything. Except present you with cheap, cheesy, trashy spectacle. These are the type of movies destined to play on fuzzy TVs in cheap motel rooms. The type of films you put on in the background as you sit in a one-bedroom apartment, guzzling cheap gin and eating microwave pizza. The motion pictures you wake up to at 3 a.m., blurry-eyed, cotton-mouthed, and not sure where the hell you are. These are the best trash movies of 2018.

the meg trash

8. The Meg

Here’s the pitch for The Meg: there’s a big shark. That’s it, really. Alright, I guess I should add a caveat (spoiler alert): there are two big sharks. What will those geniuses in Hollywood think of next? A big elephant, perhaps? Or a big goat, maybe?

It took a very long time to bring Steve Alten’s 1997 best-seller Meg to the big screen, and the end-result certainly wasn’t worth the wait. Hampered by a watered-down PG-13 rating, The Meg has no real bite. What it does have, though, is Jason Statham running and swimming around with a blank look on his face. If you told me that someone just made a motionless rubber Statham mask and put it on some random dude’s face for most of the movie, I’d believe you.

Statham’s character and the big-ass shark have a long history together – they dated in high school. No, wait, sorry, that’s not right. What I meant to say is: Statham encountered the shark a few years ago, and it killed some of his friends. But no one believed him! “Told you so!” Statham more or less says when the shark resurfaces and starts fucking shit up.

As far as killer shark movies go, The Meg is unapologetically uninspired. It has no interest in doing anything new, at all. It just wants the big shark to swim around, and Statham to frown. The only genuinely surprising thing in the movie is a last-minute twist in which we find out a tiny dog we all thought met a gruesome end is alive and well. Cinema!

 

venom trash

7. Venom

Venom made a bazillion dollars at the box office, proving once and for all that there is no God. Sorry, religion! Time to pack it up. You hear that, Pope Whatever Your Name Is? Get the hell out of here!

In Venom, a self-proclaimed loser alien comes to earth and eats heads and also trash chicken. I won’t sugarcoat this: Venom is bad. The script is an abysmal mess (“Sorry about Venom,” co-star Michelle Williams is forced to say with a straight face at one point); the action is lame; the CGI is unimpressive; the direction borders on incompetent; the supporting characters are unmemorable and one-note. And yet…there’s something wonderful about Venom. And that wonderful thing is Mr. Tom Hardy. Hardy is a pro, and he never phones in a performance. And his work here has to be seen to be believed.

I don’t even know what it is Hardy is doing here as Eddie Brock, the hapless journalist possessed (?) by Venom. But whatever it is, I love it. Hardy flails, twitches and rolls around the film as if he has fire ants in his pants. At one point, his character crashes into a fancy restaurant, yells about how warm he is, and then proceeds to climb into a lobster tank to cool down. Best of all: this was entirely Hardy’s idea. He showed up on set, saw the lobster tank, and decided he just had to get in it. That, my friends, is acting. Venom earns its spot on this list both for Hardy’s performance, and for how dull and unimaginative this movie is. The same year that brought us the innovative, rule-breaking Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse also brought us Venom, a superhero movie that looks like it was made in 2003 and not released until 2018. Trash!

 

red sparrow trash

6. Red Sparrow

Hoo-boy is this movie sleazy. I’m talking 1990s, scripted by Joe Eszterhas, playing at 2 a.m. on Cinemax sleazy. At one point, Jennifer Lawrence was one of the most promising young actresses in the business. Now, she’s doing…whatever this is. This overlong (140 minutes!) thriller finds Lawrence donning a series of terrible wigs and employing an unconvincing accent as a Russian ballerina turned spy. To become a spy, she goes to spy school, where she’s instructed by Charlotte Rampling in the fine art of taking all of her clothes off and standing perfectly still in front of a classroom. Just like James Bond!

During the course of her spy career, Lawrence’s character enters into a kind-of relationship with lonely CIA operative Joel Edgerton. Oh, and there’s some bullshit about double-agents or something. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that while Red Sparrow is kind of a shit-show, it’s weirdly watchable, mostly in a rubbernecking sort of way. The film frequently dips into strange soft-core porn territory, and it keeps throwing great cast members on the screen in useless roles (Mary-Louise Parker shows up at one point and then is immediately hit by a truck). Whatever you think of Red Sparrow, you have to respect such a big studio movie embracing sleaze over substance.

 

hurricane heist trash

5. The Hurricane Heist

Sometimes, all you need is a title. The Hurricane Heist – it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? There’s a heist, during a hurricane. Original Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen helms this cinematic wind machine, featuring Toby Kebbell doing the worst Southern accent ever captured on film, Maggie Grace as some kind of cop or something (I forget; who even cares?), and a whole slew of unconvincing special effects. Not only does the hurricane footage never look real, but everything else looks fake as well, including the two trucks full of money that were featured in all of the marketing.

Like Snakes on a PlaneThe Hurricane Heist really should’ve been a slam-dunk. How do you fuck up that concept? But just like SnakesHeist never quite lives up to its fist-pump inspiring title. And it clearly has no intention of even trying. Everyone involved with this flick likely assumed the title would do all the heavy lifting. Who needs a script, or even a basic understanding of entertainment, when your movie is called Hurricane Heist? The saving grace here is not one but two different scenes, separated across time, of a GIANT FUCKING SKULL forming in the clouds during the storm. We first see the skull-cloud when Kebbell’s character is a child. Then we see it again when he’s all grown-up. As if to say this same skull-cloud has been tracking him for over 25 years.

 

breaking in trash

4. Breaking In

Breaking In would’ve been right at home with ’90s domestic thrillers like Unlawful EntryPacific Heights and more. I mean that as a compliment. It’s also a pretty shameless rip-off of Panic Room, in which a mother living in a fancy house with her kids has to fight off thieves. A part of me wishes this film would launch an entire series of direct-to-VOD sequels in which Gabrielle Union‘s character has to keep beating the shit out of idiots who get in her way, because it’s extremely fun to watch.

I can’t speak on the PG-13 version of the movie as I haven’t seen it. Instead, I watched the unrated cut on Blu-ray, and I have to say: it was pretty damn violent. I have no idea how they cut it down for the PG-13 theatrical cut, and I don’t really care, either. The fact of the matter is the producers completely misunderstood what they had on their hands. If your film features Gabrielle Union bloodying up some fools, you don’t cut down the blood. Give the audience what they want: carnage.

My favorite element of Breaking In is that Union’s character is never given a backstory to help flesh-out her extreme fighting ways. In the olden days, anytime there was a film like this where the main character turned out to be an unexpected ass-kicker, we’d always get a scene where someone justifies it by saying the character in question used to be a Marine, or special ops, or something along those lines. Not here! Union just instantly knows hand-to-hand combat and can easily get the drop on a team of armed baddies. I’m not complaining.

 

the predator trash

3. The Predator

Shane Black directing a Predator movie? What could go wrong?

Everything. Black is one of the best screenwriters in the business, and he’s blossomed into a swell filmmaker as well, helming the memorable, hilarious Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. And while Black’s script (co-written with Monster Squad director Fred Dekker) for The Predator is pretty damn funny, the movie itself is a mess. Watching The Predator, it becomes clear that the movie started shooting without its screenplay locked down. As a result, nothing quite makes sense, and the stuff that does make sense is dumber than a bag of rocks.

But you know what? It’s very funny. Black isn’t making an sci-fi action movie here. He’s making a comedy, filled with quirky, off-beat characters who are constantly quipping, to the point where it almost becomes exhausting. We’re talking wall-to-wall jokes here, almost as if this were an Airplane or Naked Gun movie. The plot, such as it is, involves a Predator on earth trying to…uh…well, I guess it doesn’t actually matter. If Black and company don’t care much about explaining what’s going on here, why should I? All you need to know is that one Predator shows up, and then an even bigger Predator shows up. And Sterling K. Brown is hilarious. And Boyd Holbrook is not. And Olivia Munn deserves better.

The Predator isn’t just trash, it’s junk food trash. The type of deep-fried, cheese-crusted, cola-splattered trash you find spilling out of a garbage bin in the broken glass-littered parking lot of a fast food joint with multiple health code violations.

 

gotti trash

2. Gotti

Gotti was infamous before it even opened. The biopic of notorious mafia figure John Gotti was delayed several times before being released by troubled movie subscription service Movie Pass. Immediately trounced by critics, Gotti wasn’t a hit by any means, but it did better than expected. On top of that, the marketing department started releasing online trailers mocking the poor reviews. “Who are you gonna believe, audiences or some troll behind a keyboard?” these trailers asked. You can practically hear that sentence read in a generic wise guy voice, followed by “Fuggedaboutit!”

The draw of Gotti is John Travolta‘s gonzo performance as the Dapper Don. Sporting a towering wig and going through several different looks – he has to wear a prosthetic on his face at one point to show the character’s transformation after throat cancer surgery (“They took my tit and put it on my face!” he croaks) – Travolta is having the time of his life. Unfortunately, he’s the only one. Everyone around the actor seems awkward, sleepy, and just ready to get this over with. It’s like watching a coked-up wild man trying to keep a party going when it’s 4 a.m., and everyone just wants to go home.

Kevin Connolly, aka E from Entourage, is the artist responsible for Gotti, and watching this, one gets the sense that Connolly has never actually seen a gangster movie, but he might have overheard someone talking about one once. If you asked Connolly what his favorite mob movie is, he’d probably happily say “Good Fellows!” Connolly’s direction, which involves lots of medium-shots and montages to move shit along, does a disservice to Travolta’s wigged-out performance. Just imagine if someone like Abel Ferrara directed Travolta here. The script, by Leo Rossi and Lem Dobbs, doesn’t help either. There’s a scene where a character played by Stacy Keach tells Gotti that to become boss, he has to control the “Five Boroughs of New York.” Keach then proceeds to name all of the boroughs – “Manhattan. Brooklyn. Queens. The Bronx. And Staten Island!” – as if Gotti wouldn’t know what their names were.

Gotti‘s greatest achievement and greatest crime is that it tries to paint John Gotti in a sympathetic light. Even though we see Gotti brutally murdering several people, and acting like a complete asshole for the entire 112 minute runtime, the movie actually has the nerve to conclude with a montage of real-life acquaintances talking about what a great guy John Gotti was. Sure, he was a cold-blooded murderer, but he was also a family man who loved his son! So why couldn’t those lousy Feds get off his back? Imagine if at the end of Scarface, after Al Pacino is blown away, someone walked on screen and said, “Tony Montana was a class-act and we’re all gonna miss him!”

 

den of thieves trash

1. Den of Thieves

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Den of Mother Fucking Thieves. All you need to know about this movie is that there’s a scene where a bloated, red-faced, hung-over Gerard Butler staggers into a crime scene, picks up a doughnut from a blood-splattered box, and then eats it.

A shameless rip-off of both Heat and, oddly enough, The Usual SuspectsDen of Thieves is trash cinema at its finest. This is a four-course meal of trash, served to you on a fold-in card table covered with a torn tablecloth from the dollar store. Gerard Butler is ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien, a cop who looks more like the guy who does the guitar sound check at a metal bar. Unshaven, unkempt, and uncouth, you can almost see cartoon stink-lines wafting off Butler as he barges through scenes, belching and bleating. Butler and his team of lawmen are tracking a team of thieves, lead by Pablo Schreiber. Schrieber is a good actor, but sadly, he’s no match for whatever Butler is doing here. Imagine if Heat were made with Pacino still in his respective role, but also with Chris Klein stepping in to play Robert De Niro’s part.

No matter. What Den of Thieves lacks in substance it more than makes up for in B-movie style. This is the ultimate streaming movie – which makes the fact that it’s still not streaming in the U.S. (except on Showtime) a crime. What are you waiting for, Den of Thieves? America deserves to have this trashterpiece on Netflix, so that we can all put it on at midnight and watch while chugging the cheapest, most watered-down whisky available. At least we have the upcoming Den of Thieves sequel to look forward to.

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