"Don't go dying on me," the old mobster's attorney tells his
client. "Don't forget, I'm a lawyer. I've got friends in hell." The
lawyer, who has just used his money to pay the mobster's ransom since
the banks don't open until morning, doesn't want any untimely demise
until he gets his loan paid back.
Dark comedies are among the most overused genres in Hollywood.
Many directors think that all they need to do is to turn down the
lights, get a bunch of angst-filled actors, find an outlandish script
and, voila, they've got a film noir a la Quentin Tarantino and a recipe
for instant riches. Although many have failed, director Peter O'Fallon
manages to make an intelligent and funny picture out of well-worn
materials. SUICIDE KINGS, which has nothing whatsoever to do with
suicide, delights sheerly through the strength of its execution rather
than the freshness of its plot.
The lead in the strong ensemble cast is a raspy-voiced Christopher
Walken as the aging mobster known as Charles Barrett - Mr. Barrett to
the rich, college-age kids who make the mistake of kidnapping him.
They know who they are abducting, but they do not quite appreciate his
cleverness or his tenacity. Walken, who manages to shine in movies
good and bad, is at the top of his form here. Although he spends
almost the entire picture lashed to a chair, his words and his devious
smile command our complete attention. This fast paced film is a lot of
fun, and Walken seems to be enjoying every minute of it.
A subplot has Denis Leary playing Barrett's hit man, Lono Vecchio.
In a scene reminiscent of PULP FICTION, Vecchio argues in his car with
his sidekick about a wide variety of issues from why Vecchio paid $1500
for a pair of "fish skin" boots to why he gave $500 to a bum with a
bucket. Leary, in a beautifully controlled performance, keeps the
repartee going without ever missing a beat.
The "kids" are played by Henry Thomas as Avery Chasten, Sean
Patrick Flanery as Max Minot, Jay Mohr as Brett Campbell and Jeremy
Sisto as T.K. Johnny Galecki plays a fifth kid, Ira Reder,
accidentally along for the ride since the other four use his parents'
big summer house to hold their hostage. The setup for the story is
that Avery's sister has been kidnapped. The kidnappers have demanded a
two million dollar ransom and will be cutting off parts of her anatomy
until they get it. It seems she has already lost a finger.
The spoiled kids devise a plan whereby they'll hold Mr. Barrett,
cutting off identical pieces of his body, until he uses his connections
to get rid of the kidnappers of Avery's sister. In addition, they want
him to pay the ransom since they figure their rich parents are too
cheap to come up with the loot.
The already complicated plot gets even more so when Barrett finds
out that there's an "inside player." As the kids try to figure out who
it is, their camaraderie begins to implode. I figured it out who it
was right away, but that isn't important. It is the dynamics and the
tension that ensues that creates rewarding viewing, not the mystery.
At one point, Barrett, taped to the chair, fusses to his
incompetent hosts that he's about to die of boredom. Although his
complaint turns out to be a ruse, boredom is a calamity unlikely to
afflict the audience.
SUICIDE KINGS runs 1:46. It is rated R for profanity and
sporadic, strong violence and would be fine for older teenagers.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes