"The Best--Or Worst Way To Kill Yourself?"
by Dane Youssef
"Tarantinoesque (adj) – referring to or reminiscent of the work of the American film-maker and actor Quentin Tarantino (born 1963), known for the violence and wit of his films." --Collins English Dictionary
Tarantino never set foot in a film school. He might not even have taken TV Media in high school. But... he started writing, directing and acting--and he still changed the genre. With "Reservoir Dogs," he was established. Paticularly in the U.K. (he was chased like The Beatles). With "Pulp Fiction," he was God.
Hollywood is like high school. When one does something that really gets popular, it sparks... the trend. And all the others follow suit--following the leader like cult lemmings. And in film, influence can be essential. Or just sad and embarrassing. Tarantino inspired many--a lot of particular imitators. Some good. And... as for this one?
"SUICIDE KINGS" dares to spin a yarn of a quartet of wealthy privileged youngsters who dream up... and then try the most desperate and daring of schemes--they abduct an ex-Wiseguy.
The reformed mobster is on his way home one night after an invigorating evening out. There's an ambush, he's attacked. He comes to... only to find himself bound-and-gagged in a chair somewhere. What the hell's going on?
A hostage film. A mob-crime flick. And also eventually... kind of mystery "whodunnit?" thriller, the plot twists and turns--especially in the last quarter of the picture.
Just a bunch of boys having fun. Bein' boys--not unlike "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" and "Django Unchained."
"The Godfather in question" finds in a cabin somewhere surrounded by rich collegiate in nice suits who seem to fancy themselves their own independent Mafioso. He sees red--on someone's shirt, as it's covered in the Goodfella's blood. The whole plan goes as wrong as we'd expect and the spoiler richies panic--and then these dumb rich silver spoons all turn on each other.
There's a bit where they cut off the mobster's finger (remember the cop's ear in "Reservoir Dogs"?) The mob is infamous for this. There's a moment where two henchman talks about his shoes--White Nikes, Bruno Mackie's and Stingray Boots, (the discussion of Big Macs and McDonald's in Holland vs. America), these kidnappers are all in fine suits (Tarantino's henchman always were too).
The standard big-heist/kidnapping/robbery/caper genre picture has been a staple of cinema since before movies could speak. And in the '30's, the genre reached its zenith.
"SUICIDE KINGS" boasts one of those casts that we'd expect from the latest Tarantino picture. Christopher Walken, Laura Harris, Jeremy Sisto, Brad Garrett, Jay Mohr, Johnny Galecki, Sean Patrick Flanery, Henry Thomas, Laura San Giacomo and Dennis Leary.
OK, not quite the highest-of-profile names for the most part. But still, everyone does a worthwhile job. Only Walken, Leary and Galecki only really stand-out.
Christopher Walken confirms the belief that any scene he's in--just flat-out works. Even when the screenplay gives him the most ludicrous insights: "But I come from out there, and everybody out there knows, everybody lies: cops lie, newspapers lie, parent's lyin'. The one thing you can count on - word on the street... yeah, that's solid." Uh-huh. That's why so many schoolyard and water-cooler rumors are considered holy fact.
Denis Leary has the most fun in his role doing what I suppose can best be described as "the quintessential Denis Leary role." He's "Denis Leary in the mob." Ranting about his wife and his expensive footwear. Doing a good deed and then bring down his usual Biblical wrath.
Galecki is kind of fun as the rich worrywart nebbish whose family owns the place and seems a lot more concerned with mud being tracked on the floor, what happening to his father's favorite chair than the fact that a mobster is bound and he know everyone's name...
All the other actors--they get a passing grade, but they don't quite stand out. And at times, "SUICIDE KINGS" is like that--hit-and-miss.
The whole abduction is so badly planned out--the movie itself even takes notice of this. At one point in the movie, Walken's character says to his captors: "You guys didn't think this through too good, did you?" Anyone with a handful of working brain cells will be thinking the same thing. I kind of wanted to ask the filmmakers this. The amount of obvious mistakes these guys make. Oh, they're clearly not professionals.
These guys kidnap a man with mob connections. They let him know who they are. They introduce themselves to him at the beginning. Really get to know each other. Of course they have to get to know each other, take their walls down and open up... it's integrate to films like these for male bonding--or rather, character development.
You'd think they would have blindfolded him, or be masked themselves. They drop their names. Surely they don't honestly believe they're going to get away with this. And then, is there really a possibility that... how Walken attempts to get out of this... or they do. Even in a god-dammed movie....
The movie's screenwriters Josh McKinney, Gina Goldman and Wayne Allen Rice take Don Stanford's original short story "The Hostage" from and heavily "Quentin Tarantino-ize it." Some thought they paid homage real proper. Some thought all this seems like something at best he might have in the bottom of his drawer--and forgot about forever. The scribes here don't seem to have quite that golden ear. It's not quite tin....
Director Peter O' Fallon has real flair and style. He certainly films this thing with a lot of energy to spare. The kind we've seen best in... well, you know where.
Heist/kidnapping movies that deal with "inside jobs" just gotta have that moment where the ship's going down in flame and the rats all turn on each other.
There's even the plot development where they all turn on each other, trying to find out who the traitor is, the mole feeding the cops the info is--remember the last act of "Reservoir Dogs"? Where all of the criminals go nuts, pull out their guns and...
"SUICIDE KINGS" is nice, fun and disposable. The most memorable thing about it is Walken taped down in a chair. And that's only of the best ways to get Waken. The filmmakers know that.
In the end, most of it is forgettable. Kind of fun (especially the comic stuff), but no, really nothing especially special. No must-see classic. Well, what do you expect from a designer imposter Tarantino?
I agree--a little too much (and I mean from beginning to end) is recycled from Tarantino. Except I don't think Q.T. himself ever rotoscoped.
And Tarantino himself admits to being a big-time movie imitator--one of the very best there ever was. But when he plagiarizes, he knows damn well how to make it feel fresh. He steals from the best of the old school. But he has that golden ear, that Beethoven savant.
"SUICIDE KINGS" is still worth a look for a slow night. Better than a lot of the merde being shit out of Hollywood's big uncreative anus. "Suicide Kings" doesn't beat the house and take the pot, but like poker, it's not a bad way to spend a slow night with your friends.
Oh come on, people. It's obvious why they're trying to make designer-imposter Quentin Tarantino. Hollywood is like high school. Show them something most'll get into and watch the trend spark. Before you know
Audiences are just like that--more of the same until they get really sick of it. Couldn't the real criminals here--the culpable screenwriters Josh McKinney, Gina Goldman and Wayne Allan Rice have maybe given this just one more re-write? Or honestly, maybe a few. Should've gotten an expert team of script doctors. Quentin got his personal style by stealing from a lot of different sources. The mistake here--they're just taking directly from Quentin.
But director O' Fallon gives a lot of wild-child style and so does everyone else involved.
I have to say... it is fun. It is a lot a fun. But it is kind of disposable. Better than the average throwaway movie you watch to fill or kill the time on a slow Tuesday night for a buck from Redbox. The picture does have a nice mood and atmosphere--Designer Imposter Tarantino or not.
And in the end... Well... Yeah, it's true. This is all pretty unbelievable. The ending however, is inevitable. And makes all the sense in the world.
It's funny how this movie bombed when it first came out. Maybe cause 1997 was the year of "Titanic," "L.A. Confidential," "Good Will Hunting" and "The Ice Storm." And a real Tarantino film--"Jackie Brown."
From "Reservoir Dogs" to "Pulp Fiction." Hey, if the writers and director had waited a little later, they could have pilfered a little from Quentin's "Jackie Brown" which came out later that year around Christmas. It is a real Hell of a wild ride, Tarantino-esque or not. Like Doug Liman's "Go."
See, for me--The Suicide Kings seems more like Jon Favreau's "Swingers" than the Reservoir Dogs. Hey, maybe that was another source of inspiration!
Walken sees how nervous they all are (who wouldn't be?) and attempts to get them to turn on each other. Seeing as it's a typical hostage situation with the victim being tied to a chair--he tries the usual of divide-and-conquer. "There's an inside guy. A mole," he tells them. "But who?" When they do finally start playing poker, Walken reads them easily.
You might have to see it more than once to really get it all straight. Take notes, if you have to.
Not to give anything away at all, but just to close it all on this one poetic line: "Sometimes the ends really do justify the means. Or at least define the meaning of the words 'karma' and 'justice'."
--Having Really Enjoyed It, Dane Youssef
Suicide Kings review