a critiQal film review Knockaround Guys (2002)

Plot: Matty (Pepper) wants in on his father Benny’s (Hopper) business: the mob. He gets his friend Marbles (Green) to go fly and pick up a bag of cash. After seeing a couple of cops, Marbles freaks and loses the bag. Now Matty, with the help of his buddies Taylor (Diesel) and Scarpa (Davoli), has to go and find the bag, before Benny’s friend Teddy (Malkovich) has to go get it himself.

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  • ...If this is what this century’s mob movies are going to be like, count me out.

Welcome to the new generation of mob movie making. Instead of the classic formula, about tough guys who defy the law and don’t care ‘bout nothin’, instead we have a couple of scared kids trying to act tough, but crying on the inside. It just doesn’t work here.

If you are going to a mob movie, you’re looking for toughness, a Robert DeNiro in Goodfellas, or Al Pacino in Scarface kinda toughness. Not a sappy wimp acting tough. It just doesn’t work. It drags the movie on longer than it should (or at least the minutes drag by…).

This is one problem a lot of action movies are having these days. From Schwarzenegger playing a revenge-needy hubby in Collateral Damage to this movie, action stars are starting to wimp out.

The Replacement Killers (1998) did it right. Show some emotion, but don’t look like you’re about to break down crying in every scene (take note Barry Pepper and Seth Green). Keep the tough guy exterior, and just go get the guy that caused this crap. Simple, wouldn’t you think?

I must say, in the scenes where Barry Pepper is acting the tough guy (especially the bar room scene), he really shines. When he’s getting all sentimental and whiny, he falls apart.

Vin Diesel apparently can’t play anything but a thug (didja notice? Pitch Black (2000), The Fast and the Furious (2001), Saving Private Ryan (1998), xXx (2002)…) and it’s getting old. He’s ok at it, but he’s basically letting his muscles do his acting, and it shows.

Seth Green, who was fantastic as Oz in earlier seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV), is ill-used here, basically just for laughs. John Malkovich is not my idea of a mobster (who picked him? Sheesh.) and looks just like an over-the-hill businessman who’s upset because someone took his parking space. Doesn’t work here. Put him in more In the Line of Fire (1993)-type films, and I’ll go check ‘em all out. But a mobster? Not if this is any indication. Dennis Hopper is in, what, three scenes? He’s not even on screen enough for me to form an opinion.

The plot starts off well. Marbles loses the bag, and then Matty and his buds have to come in and collect, before the head mob guys hear about it. But, it starts falling apart pretty soon after they arrive in town. In this town, apparently, everyone is on the take (for enough money) and is willing to kill to keep it. I don’t remember there being one honest citizen in the whole town (I’m surprised Montana isn’t complaining…), so it gets real predictable. And the ending is incredibly contrived, and way too predictable.

If this is what this century’s mob movies are going to be like, count me out. Bring out some more like the classics, and I’ll be in the front row. If a few scenes had been cut out, this movie would have been better, but the pace would still be a bit too slow, and the plot would still be way too predictable. Throw in a few twists and turns we can’t see coming miles away, and the tension would improve, which would cause people to pay more attention, and the movie would come off better in the end.

On the whole, this movie is a rental…if the rental store is out of Goodfellas, any of the The Godfather (1972) films, Casino, Scarface, and The Untouchables (1987) and you’re dying to see a mobster movie – and that’s at least the second rental store you’ve checked.

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