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Suicide Kings

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Suicide Kings

Starring: Christopher Walken, Denis Leary
Director: Peter O'Fallon
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Suspense

*Also starring: Johnny Galecki, Henry Thomas, Jeremy Sisto, Laura San Giacomo, Jay Mohr, Sean Patrick Flanery

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"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

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