8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG
(director/writer: Tom Schulman; cinematographer: Adam Holender; editor: David Holden; music: Andrew Gross; cast: Joe Pesci (Tommy Spinelli), Andy Comeau (Charlie Pritchett), Kristy Swanson (Laurie Bennett), Todd Louiso (Steve), David Spade (Ernie Lipscomb), George Hamilton (Dick Bennett), Dyan Cannon (Annette Bennett), Howar George (Big Sep); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Brad Krevoy/Steve Stabler/John Bertolli; Orion Pictures; 1997-USA/UK)
“A lame farce.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Tom Schulman (wrote the Academy Award-winning script for “Dead Poets Society”) directs and writes a lunkhead comedy featuring Joe Pesci in his by now all too familiar tough guy gangster role. Mostly this is a lame farce poorly directed by Schulman in his debut, and offers an absurd plot filled with inconsistencies. There’s a heavy-handed stab at lowbrow black humor that occasionally works for a laff–the heads starting singing “Mr. Sandman” while their decapitated bodies dance around–but most of the time the antics just seem too stupid and too forced. This one doesn’t have enough value for a feature film, as it seems best suited as a straight to TV movie.
The plot revolves around a snafu over identical duffel bags, as at the West Coast airport baggage claim counter the one belonging to menacing hitman Tommy Spinelli (Pesci) heading to San Diego is exchanged for the one belonging to mild-mannered med student Charlie Pritchett (Comeau) on his way to vacation in Mexico with his squeeze Laurie (Swanson) and her family–as he’s hoping to make a good impression on his future in-laws. Spinelli’s crime boss Big Sep (George) ordered him to transport the heads of eight dead men as proof of a Mob hit in New Jersey and they are en route to the interested crime boss who signed up for the executions. If Pesci fouls up, he’ll most likely become the ninth head in the duffel bag.
After awhile Pesci shows up at the Mexican resort to retrieve his goodies and in his deadpan expressions elicits the expected comical reactions from his situation, as he discovers some of the heads are missing and goes after the two medical students responsible–the irritating Ernie and the more pleasant, who tries to talk to the heads, Steve (David Spade and Todd Louiso). They are the fraternity brothers called by Charlie to bring him replacement clothes, but who get kidnapped by Pesci. Dyan Cannon is Laura’s mother and plays a recovering alcoholic who is driven to drink again upon seeing the heads. All the women get hysterical over the heads which is supposed to be funny to see how they moronically react, while George Hamilton plays the girlfriend’s wheedling but unflappable father. All roles were forgettable.
REVIEWED ON 1/12/2004 GRADE: D