3 Movies Like Extraction (2020) On SHOWTIME

Staff & contributors

Appropriately for its literary focus, The Lesson feels, in places, like the gripping adaptation of a bestselling psychological thriller. Unfortunately, though, its initial cleverness peters out in a contrived ending that ironically feels like it belongs to the pulpy airport fiction that one character accuses another of writing.

The Lesson’s early chapters (another way the movie’s form mirrors its content) crackle with tension, as Oxford grad and aspiring writer Liam observes the icy dynamics of the Sinclair family, whose son he’s been hired to provide university admission tuition to. The Sinclairs are still grieving the loss of another child, a process made more painful by the brittle ego of their patriarch — JM (Richard E. Grant), a celebrated author who happens to be Liam’s literary hero. Liam’s career ambitions complicate his position: he’s as much an enthusiastic student as he is a teacher here, and among the screenplay’s many suggestions is also Tom Ripley-style envy. The Lesson ultimately scuppers this complexity, though, as the writing eventually abandons its psychological study aspirations and swerves into melodrama, leaving the cast struggling to make it all believable. Still, while the ending may disappoint, there are juicy, intelligent ideas to be pondered over — not quite a bestseller, then, but definitely not airport fiction either.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Crispin Letts, Daryl McCormack, Julie Delpy, Richard E. Grant, Stephen McMillan, Tomas Spencer

Director: Alice Troughton

Rating: R

, 2021

Though it only really serves as a recounting of events from 1971 rather than a much thorough analysis, Attica is a great example of that type of documentary that can be incredibly difficult to pull off well: that is, the archival documentary mainly told with already existing material. Thanks to plenty of detail (and the good instinct to know how to deploy these details), this documentary avoids feeling like a mere history lesson and begins to feel almost as dramatic as a radio play. And the film knows better than to be detached from its subject; it makes sure to characterize the inmates of Attica as an intelligent, passionate group that set aside their differences to stand up for their rights—and were summarily punished for it.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Clarence Jones, Elizabeth Gaynes, Herman Schwartz, James Asbury, John Johnson, Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon

Director: Stanley Nelson, Traci A. Curry

After directing George Harrison: Living in the Material World and No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese brings to the fore yet another singular musician, this time New York Dolls frontman David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter). More of a concert film than anything, this feature takes place during a live performance Johansen gives during his birthday; his raspy voice and poetic punk songs already tell a story in themselves, but Scorsese intercuts them with the occasional archival footage and interview, careful not to disrupt a glorious musical moment with cheesy throwback scenes. 

A Dolls or punk fan will be moved by the resulting film, a fittingly jagged but meaningful oeuvre of a tenacious artist. But if you're coming to this documentary without much prior knowledge about Johansen, his band, and the era from which he came, you might find it somewhat niche, but overall impressive, informative, and musically thrilling.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: David Johansen, Debbie Harry, Hal Willner, Morrissey, Sylvain Sylvain

Director: David Tedeschi, Martin Scorsese