Friday, March 31, 2006

Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead (1995)

Andy Garcia can't carry a movie on his own. Lucky for him, he didn't have to-- well at least not this time around. While Garcia did get top-billing and his mug shared the movie posters with that of the beautiful Gabrielle Anwar, this film is much more of an ensemble performance. Sharing the screen with Garcia are Treat Williams, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn and a delightfully quirky Christopher Walken as a quadripilegic mob boss.

If taken seriously, this film is absolute tripe. But this is a film that lampoons itself by simple virtue of its own existence. This film is emminently enjoyable if you allow yourself to have as much fun watching it as Christopher Walken appears to have had performing in it.

Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead gives a glimpse into a culture completely foreign to most people. It's not so much a portrayal of a life in the mob as a caricature of it. The dialogue is pure joy as you, the viewer, get drawn in by mafia colloquialisms like "boat drinks," "buckwheat," "the man with the plan" and assorted other lines you probably have never heard before in any other mob films, and are more than likely certain to never hear again.

Essentially it's a tale of an "action" gone wrong. The Man With the Plan (Christopher Walken) orders Jimmy the Saint (Garcia) to give his son, Bernard's, ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend a bit of a scare so he'll back off making the way for a reunion between Bernard and said ex.

When things go horribly awry resulting in death sentences for everyone on his crew, Jimmy feels responsible and does his best to make things right with his crew-- to get them out of the city before the hitman, "Mr. Shhhh" (played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi) has a chance to take them out.

Unfortunately for Jimmy, he's recently fallen in love with the beautiful Dagney and he realizes if he doesn't extricate himself from his relationship and make himself scarce he's as good as signed a death warrant for both of them.

While the plot isn't one of the better to emerge from Hollywood, it doesn't matter. The true enjoyment of the film comes from its dialogue (what you might expect from David Mamet if he had a sense of humor) and spot-on performances from the entire cast. While it borrows some lighting and camera angles from classic film noir it's not so much a film noir as a poignantly humorous caricature of a film noir.


Bruce said...

I really liked this film. It was a bit quirky, but I like quirky. Another one of the reasons is William Forsythe(I like anything he's in).

David Amulet said...

Amazing. I generally keep up on movies, but I have no memory of this one.

-- david

Perplexio said...

Bruce: Thank you for the kind words. This is one of my favorite obscure films. It is indeed rather quirky but I think that's what makes it so enjoyable.

david: Check it out. As Bruce stated it is rather quirky. But man it's also quite enjoyable. It's also very quotable. And although I don't believe one has been developed yet, a drinking game could be developed around all the gangster slang that gets used in the movie... although such a drinking game would probably be lethal (kind of like that drinking game for Resevoir Dogs where you're supposed to take a swig any time someone swears).