Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Almost Guys

* * * (out of four)
Seen 11 September 2004 at Loews Boston Common #19 (Boston Film Festival)

Writer/director/star Eric Fleming admitted that this isn't necessarily the sort of film one associates with a film festival. It's a deliberate throwback to the 1970s, the sort of laid-back road caper that Burt Reynolds was once known for. The result, like its main character, is scruffy but likable.

Rick (Fleming) is a repo man, behind on his child support, prone to getting beat up and parntered with "The Colonel", a 73-year-old repo vet played by Robert Culp. Rick's already been smacked around twice, once by a tough called "The Monk" (Tae-joon Lee) and once by his ex-wife's new boyfriend, when he and The Colonel find something extra in the latest car they repo - big-league pitcher Jim Anderson (James Edson) tied up in the trunk, whom the car's owners intended to ransom in the days leading up to the World Series.

So, they should be heroes, right? Well, the pitcher was in on it, or was until his partners changed the plan, and the kidnappers are making threats, so Rick collects his son Buddy (Oliver Davis) and heads out with Buddy, the Colonel, and the pitcher to try to stay out of trouble and maybe see if they can't make the plan work for them. They wind up joined by Jim's first ex-wife, "Bigger" (Shawnee Smith).

The charm of this movie is that while Rick and The Colonel basically steal things for a living, they're actually not very good at crime. Jim gets beat up, the Colonel suffers the indignities of age (including a small bladder, the tendency to nap, and hands that really shake too much to hold a gun), and even the Italian kidnappers are a little outraged at how too many Americans carry guns. Bigger and Buddy tend to be the smartest and most level-headed of the group, and considering that Buddy is nine and Bigger's friendly with the blonde stereotypes even if she doesn't embrace them... Well, things go amusingly wrong.

Fleming does a good job with his feature debut - he's mostly worked at developing television since getting buzz with a 1997 short. He's got a good cast to work with (and said during the Q&A that he was quite frankly amazed at the people who expressed interest in Robert Culp's part), and finds humor in just about every corner, from slapstick to dialogue to subtitles. He actively avoids coolness, making his characters believable people who screw up in believable ways, but also grow to like each other.

It's a fun little movie, worth a look if it gets distribution.

No comments: