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SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY(director: Adam Bernstein; screenwriter: Marc Gerald/the 1962 novel “Portrait of a Young Man Drowning” by Charles Perry; cinematographer: John Inwood; editor: Doug Abel; cast: Norman Reedus (Harry Odum), Deborah Harry (Kate Odum), Adrien Brody (Arnie Finklestein), Peter Appel (Abie Pinkwise), Elina Lowensohn (Iris), Jerry Adler (Louis Varga), Isaac Hayes (Bill Bennett), Holter Graham (Madden), Anna Thompson (Annibelle, prostitute), Vincent Pastore (Uncle Max); Runtime: 97; Stratosphere Entertainment; 1999)
“A sometimes funny parody and uncanny black comedy about incest, sexual repression, and the Jewish mob.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sometimes funny parody and uncanny black comedy about incest, sexual repression, and the Jewish mob. But by its pointless amount of gore, it allows the film to never live up to its artful plot setup. It brings up too many subjects as it just fires away, taking aim at everything and missing just as often as it hits.

It is set in the seedy neighborhoods of Youngstown, Ohio, and its focus is on a gentile, overbearing mother and her psychopathic son, who live in a depressing house. Kate Odum (Deborah Harry) is the mother who still bathes her son and dominates his life. She tells him women just want to use sex to get their hooks in a guy, “Girls today are no good. They’re sluts.” While she discourages him about sex, she flaunts her sex by walking around with sexy underclothes in front of him.

He is a repressed, virginal 18-year-old, named Harry (Norman Reedus-ex-model for Prado), with deep-rooted psychological problems. He talks to his alter ego, whom he names Madden (Graham), and easily loses sight of reality, not able to tell at times if he is Madden or himself. Madden is everything he is not: self-assured and sexually fit. In otherwords, Harry is a certifiable nut job.

Harry has conflicting feelings about sex sometimes when frustrated he gets very angry and violent, but at other times he is like a docile lamb. He works at odd-jobs and at a fast-food place. When he goes out for the first time on a “schlumping” with his best friend Arnie Finklestein (Brody), who is a crack addict and is working for the Jewish mob, he gets to beat an owner of a strip-joint senseless after watching the nude dancers perform. What upsets him after he sees the naked women, is that Arnie does not beat the guy hard enough. He is welcomed into the mob because as Arnie’s mobster boss says, the deadbeat learnt his lesson and paid the loan sharks off what he owes them.

The hit man for the gang, Abie Pinkwise (Peter Appel), an orphan raised by a gangster uncle, takes it upon himself to teach Harry the ropes and makes him his right-hand enforcer. While visiting Louis Varga’s (Adler) house (he’s the big boss), Harry eyeballs an Hungarian immigrant maid, Iris (Lowensohn), and is attracted to her because she walks with a limp. He thereby strikes up a strange romance with her. But his mother acts to thwart that romance when he brings her over to the house. Mama can never let go of her little baby boy.

How the film got its title is forced into one of the scenes when a policeman on the mob’s payroll, Isaac Hayes, beats Harry up in the stationhouse to determine if he’s a squealer, but Harry fights back and busts his nose. The breaking of the nose gives rise to the saying, which becomes the film’s title, I could have beaten him six ways to Sunday.

Harry becomes a full-fledged hit man, and gets to enjoy doing violent hits. His mentor Abie treats him like a son, while his boss Louis is pleased with his work and rewards him with a lot of money. Harry, as a result, buys his mother a new house, though she still brings with her all her old junk. The main staple being a living room lounge chair that sags to the floor when you sit on it.

This film should appeal mostly to those who like offbeat stories and their comedy to be darker than black, and don’t mind if confusion is the main ingredient that propels the story. I took it at face value to be a black comedy and found myself laughing often, though the people I saw it with thought it was over-the-top in blood and gore and found the film was far too self-indulgent to work as a love story.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”