Knockaround Guys
**.8 GM
Starring: Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, John Malkovich, Seth Green, Dennis Hopper, Andrew Davoli, Tom Noonan


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I generally try not to take into account backstage whoozie-whatzis and Hollywood shuffling into my reviews, ignoring the baggage around it and preferring to just examine the picture as it is. However, this film has rather obviously been on the shelf for a few years now, and I feel the need to mention this because my prediction around The Skulls time seems to have come to fruition - Andrew Davoli's heartthrob character sports 'the new mullet,' that absolutely absurd hairdo with everything combed forward into a asinine little perpendicular fork above the forehead like an ugly, stupid rooster, and it already sticks out like a crack whore at a bake sale.

That aside, this film is a so-so script tentpoled by cool dudes giving enjoyable performances. The story is thus: Matty (Barry Pepper) is a mob kid that fails a rite of passage (i.e. can't bring himself to kill a guy at age 12), so he grows up trying to make it in the legit world, only to be refused employment every time somebody finds out his father is a famous mob kingpin (Dennis Hopper). Finally he gets to the point where he feels like all he has left is to start bustin' his hump for the family. His dad is against this, but his right hand man (John Malkovich) convinces him to let the kid try his luck at a simple money transport job. So Matty brings together some of his pals - the smooth-up ladies man Scarpa (Andrew Davoli), jumpy ex-cokehead pilot Marbles (Seth Green) and hardass of hardasses Taylor (Vin Diesel) - to take care of it. Of course, they screw it all up, and they find themselves invading a small Montana town to track down the missing loot.

Big city low-rent mobsters, or "knockaround guys" (which has to be the coolest nickname for any subcategory of humans), in small town Hicklanta - fish outta water stuff. It makes for a reasonably entertaining film, but nothing really stands out at all. It seems to have been going for a sort of "please think we're as cool as - or if not, at least somewhere around the same league as Reservoir Dogs" thing, but it falls a bit short. It's a good idea that has a hard time riding the 'dramedy' line - like it wants to be funnier than it is sometimes, but feels it would betray the grittiness it also wants to maintain. The sparse, random stylization also helps to make the road bumpier than it should be.

What keeps it afloat are the actors. Pepper, although often appearing to be constipated or "making his lemon face," still manages to come off as a good goodfella. This is the sort of role Vin Diesel was born to play - the hardass street fighter with a wisdom behind his words - and he makes good on it here. Seth Green is Seth Green, as usual: a fun guy to have around, but I don't see him stretching out that far as an actor. We'll see. Tom Noonan is a good time as the ex-Marine sheriff of the Montana town that tosses a monkeywrench or three into the works. Malkovich... man. Malkovich has this thing about him. At the beginning of the film, I thought he was giving an atrocious performance, but as it went on, his whole ridiculous manner of speech seemed to become more of a character quirk than a crapass acting job, and by the end I thought he was an amusing kinda guy. Is Malkovich just fooling everyone into thinking his weird staccato enunciating delivery is always great thespianism? I think I need to see a really good Malkovich role sometime soon, just so I'm sure that my opinion of him being a good actor is on the money.

So a collection of guys that are fun to watch make a movie more enjoyable than it should be. Not the first time that's happened and it won't be the last.

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