Knockaround Guys

"Weak"

Knockaround Guys Review


Warning to Vin Diesel fans: Regardless of what the marketing surrounding the crime drama Knockaround Guys may tell you, Diesel, Hollywood's new action hero, is not the star of this film. He, of the deep voice and bulging biceps, is a featured player but has only moderate screen time -- he's even billed after Barry Pepper (*61, Saving Private Ryan). If you're hoping or expecting to see something like XXX, well... then see XXX again.

What you'll get with Knockaround Guys is another knock-off of a gangster film, 90 minutes of phony tough guy bravado, stagy dialogue, laughably inaccurate accents and, most inexcusably, a slow-moving story. This may all explain why Diesel isn't the lead in this chest-thumper: The film was made before his breakout success and has reportedly been sitting on the shelf at New Line. It must now be time to take advantage of his star -- and box office -- power.

And curiously, Diesel provides one of the truest performances in the whole shindig. He plays Taylor, a brooding, half-Jewish, street-fighting buddy of mobster son Matty Demeret (Pepper). Together with fellow mob spawn Chris (Andrew Davoli, Dino from The Sopranos) and airplane pilot/general screw-up Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), they attempt to pull off a simple deal for two middle-of-the-ladder Mafiosi, Matty's dad, Benny Chains (a silly Dennis Hopper, basically rehashing his role from Speed) and Matty's Uncle Teddy (an even sillier John Malkovich).

Writer/directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien (co-writers of Rounders) try to infuse their plot with a little taste of The Sopranos, giving these wiseguy wannabes a modern problem. It seems that Matty and Chris are stuck in a career rut: They're not considered hardened enough to do real mob stuff for their dads, but their last names prevent them from getting anywhere legitimate in the business world.

So in order to break through and impress dear ol' Dad, Matty has his ex-coke-tootin' buddy Marbles fly west to pick up an important bag of money. Of course, trouble ensues, and it leads to the most promising aspect of the film: Four Brooklyn toughies head out to middle-of-nowhere Wibaux, Montana to try and make things right. For these fish out of water, nothing goes according to plan. Especially when they run into a shifty sheriff (the remarkably underrated character actor Tom Noonan) who has what they want, and doesn't plan on letting them leave town.

As the guys kick around Big Sky country, elements of the far superior Red Rock West (another Hopper film) pop up, as Knockaround Guys tries to provide that most elusive combination of the gangster genre: fright and laughs. Neither work. We've seen most of the testosterone-driven posturing before in other bad movies (like last year's horrid Boston Film Festival entry One Eyed King) and the dark humor misses the mark nearly every time. Why do Koppelman and Levien base most of their laughs on two stoners that get tied in to the plot? Why not build something subtler when the guys hole up in a local honkytonk for a night?

Pepper, in the lead, is fairly competent but his performance suffers when he pushes his masculinity (and false accent) too hard; Hopper is wasting space and time (ours and his); and Malkovich is ridiculous, spitting Koppelman and Levien's simplistic tough guy banter out of his mouth with some wayward accent that sounds like Brahmin meets Brooklyn by way of diction school. And the guy's about as menacing as the Cookie Monster.

In the end, there's a big showdown, a la Reservoir Dogs (the film's producer is Dogs and Pulp Fiction producer Lawrence Bender). Guys say mean things and shoot a lot of bullets. Some of the characters die and others don't, and the film pretends that those living have learned some sort of lesson, and, really, nobody in the viewing audience cares.

Reviewed at the 2002 Boston Film Festival.

What kind of knockaround guy drives a Dodge Ram?



Knockaround Guys

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th October 2002

Box Office USA: $11.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $12M

Budget: $15M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: Lawrence Bender Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 79

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Matty Demaret, Andy Davoli as Chris Scarpa, as Johnny Marbles, as Taylor Reese, as Teddy Deserve, as Billy Clueless (as Arthur Nascarella), as Freddy the Watch, as Deputy Ward, as Brucker, as Benny Chains, Andrew Francis as Matty at 13, as Heslep the Barkeep, Kris Lemche as Decker, as Teeze, as Sheriff Decker

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