I debated for 15 minutes as to what word I would use to describe this movie. My choices were boring and disappointing. I suppose that I will use both to characterize Knockaround Guys, a mob movie starring Barry Pepper and Vin Diesel, two young actors on the rise in Hollywood. Of course it didn't help seeing this movie next to Road to Perdition, a movie of similar ilk, as the latter completely outshone the former in nearly every cinematic aspect. The movie's plot centers on the Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper: The Green Mile, We Were Soldiers) the son of a mob boss (Dennis Hopper) who's been dying to get a job, either in the family business or on the "outside". The problem is that everyone legitimate knows and fears his father, and won't give him a chance, and his father, disappointed that Matty was unable to shoot another man at the tender age of 13, doesn't believe that his son has the moxy to survive the business. Matty is determined to prove himself to his father and win his favor, and put an end the low-level bitch work that even package boys don't do.
He finally gets his big break when his father needs some money transported from the West Coast back east. Seems perfect, foolproof, and simple right?...well, in theory, yes it was -- but so was the idea of Communism. Of course, if you haven't guessed it, the operation goes awry, when Matty's coked-up friend Johnny Marbles (Seth Green: Austin Powers) loses the money and then it is up to Matty, Taylor (Vin Diesel: Fast And The Furious, XXX), and Scarpa (Andrew Davoli: Bringing Out The Dead, The Yards) to get it back, and fast. The situation goes from bad to worse when they tangle with the local sheriff (Tom Noonan), the local yokels, and a couple of Dell-dude-type kids.
This movie, which obviously sat in a canister for a while, as it opened with a shot of the now-fallen Twin Towers, just failed to excite or engross me. It seems that director Koppleman was trying to mix a Goodfellas with a My Cousin Vinny, but he really didn't succeed doing much of either. The New York City slickers in the middle of bum fuck Egypt bit could have been better executed had the director had a better delivery of the gangster element. There is also the angle of a rite of passage and the distance the apple falls from the tree. Koppleman tried to weave these subject threads together, but as the movie progressed the fabric of the movie unraveled. What is equally disheartening is that Lawrence Bender (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction), [about whom I have impure thoughts], was unable to do a better job as the film's producer.
Despite the star power of this movie, including the usually intense John Malkovich didn't lend much weight either. Malkovich, who I regard as one of the best actors of our time, was not effective in this role. Foremost in my mind was his heinous and forced New York accent, which made his character unbelievable and flimsy. He sounded like he had a dick in his mouth. Truly, it appeared that none of these gifted actors were genuinely into this movie, or their roles, and that is a shame, given the rarity of such talent assembling. If these guys were trying to be Goodfellas, they came off as Badfellas, really bad.
This movie could have been smart, cool, and a good break from the monotony. Instead it was stagnant, colorless, and tedious. It lacked substance and cohesion -- just falling into triteness. At 93 minutes, it's 33 minutes longer than a Sopranos episode, which contains more core essence of the mob mentality than this movie does. Rent this if you want to expand the number of mob movies you've seen, but don't expect to be knocked off your feet. If you want something better, see Road to Perdition.
Notes: Unispired acting, sub-plots dissolve vice resolve, unclear direction.
Czarina's Caustic Comment or Captious Compliment: You'll feel knocked around after seeing this movie.
The Knockaround Czarina
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