Kicked in the Head (1997)


(director/writer: Matthew Harrison; screenwriter: Kevin Corrigan; cinematographers: John Thomas/Howard Krupa; editor: Michael Berenbaum; cast: Kevin Corrigan (Redmond), Linda Fiorentino (Megan), Michael Rapaport (Stretch), James Woods (Uncle Sam), Lili Taylor (Happy), Burt Young (Jack), Olek Krupa (Borko); Runtime: 97; October Films; 1997)

“Nothing seemed to really work well, yet all the supporting characters seemed to be pleasant and trying their best to make things work.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Matthew Harrison’s “Kicked in the Head” has its offbeat comical moments, but in the end dies from self-indulgence and too much cuteness. Kevin Corrigan wrote a juicy part for himself, but his part never caught fire; in fact, he was the film’s weakness. The supporting characters were at least funny when they did their shticks in this rambling, derivative NYC movie, that tried too hard to be offbeat and in the process forgot it would be nice to have a story that made some sense to go along with all the so-called comic antics.

Kevin is a confused young man named Redmond whose aimless life we will follow for a few days, as he is in the process of writing the poetical truth in a book about the meaning of life. From time to time, he spews out the childish doggerel he writes in his notebook, which he keeps in his knapsack. He has just lost his job and has been evicted from his apartment, which also just happened to burn down, when he meets Uncle Sam (James Woods) in the street. His loser uncle just stole a car and threw a pooch out of it. One of the running gags throughout is the sightings made of the lost pooch wandering the streets. Another theme running throughout is the newsreel from Pathe, of the Hindenburg disaster, which Corrigan seems to connect in a fatalist way with his life and his earnest pursuit of romance.

Sam asks Redmond to deliver a package for him at a subway station. At the station when he tries to deliver the package, a shoot-out occurs between the one who steps up for the package and another man, but the gunplay seems more comical than in earnest and no one gets hit. As a result, Redmond now has the package of cocaine.

The film then goes off on another tangent as Redmond goes to his best friend’s house, Stretch (Michael Rapaport), to crash. He is a beer distributor, “The King of Piss” as he likes to call himself. Stretch is an excitable character, just as easily pulling out a gun to ward off competitors as improvising with a full mouth to offer up his view on life.

Redmond, while he was on the subway delivering the package for his con man uncle, is attracted to the pretty legs or is it the tears coming from a stewardess on the train whose name tag says Megan (Linda Fiorentino). When he approaches her she calls him an asshole and brushes him off, but these two are destined to meet again.

There is also the other girl, Happy (Lili Taylor), who is Redmond’s ex but whom he now rejects as she tries to get back with him. The gag here is that he once told her if he says no to her, that means he has become temporarily crazy and that she should ignore his denials and continue to pursue him. When she does that, it is good for a few laughs.

Uncle Sam comes back into the picture to take Redmond to his mob boss, Whacky Jack (Burt Young), to explain the missing package. The Russian enforcer for Jack, Borko (Krupa), sits in on the meeting and later on has his few moments of comedy as he translates threats from an English dictionary of what he is going to do to Redmond if he doesn’t get the drugs back.

The scene of friends getting high and quibbling about the nuances of “The Planet of the Apes,” can be viewed as a Tarantino rip-off. Another questionable scene is the unlikely romance taking place between Corrigan and Fiorentino, which seemed out of context and added nothing to the story except it was more pleasant watching Fiorentino perform than it was Corrigan. She was so much better than him, that it made me scratch my head and wonder what he was doing there. Nothing seemed to really work well, yet all the supporting characters seemed to be pleasant and trying their best to make things work. But the film was too much of a childish fantasy on the part of Corrigan, and the dialogue was too flip.