SUICIDE KINGS(director: Peter O’Fallon; screenwriters: Josh McKinney/Gina Goldman/Wayne Rice/ based on the short story “The Hostage” by Don Stanford; cinematographer: Christopher Baffa; editor: Chris Peppe; cast: Christopher Walken (Carlo Bartolucci/Charlie Barrett), Denis Leary (Lono Vecchio), Jay Mohr (Brett Cambell), Henry Thomas (Avery Chasten), Sean Patrick Flanery (Max Minot), Jeremy Sisto (TK), Johnny Galecki (Ira), Lisa (Laura Harris); Runtime: 106; Live Entertainment; 1997)
“Trying to figure out who the rat is, is enough of a story line for this film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Another film in the ’90s skewed for Tarantino enthusiasts, and this one is just as conversationally maddening. It’s filled with vulgarities and street talk, but no sex. It pays to be the first one on your block to do it because imitation is always a second-hand form of flattery, and this film has the feel of something already done by many other copy-cats. But it was a funny movie, in a perverted way, even if the story line just didn’t add up. But, then again, life often doesn’t make sense. Carlo Bartolucci, the retired crime boss, knows that. He is the ‘Main Man,’ aka Charlie Barrett (Walken), and the reason this film comes up looking so good. He gets kidnapped by a group of rich young men: Avery (Henry Thomas), Max (Sean Patrick Flannery), TK (Jeremy Sisto), Brett (Jay Mohr) and Ira (Johnny Galecki). They chloroform and duct-tape him to a swivel chair in the isolated, shuttered summer house in Long Island of Ira’s father, and cut off his ring finger. Ira is the only one in the group who didn’t know what was going on, as the boys showed up at his house with Charles when he thought they were coming to play poker. He is the only funny one among the boys, berating them for drinking his parents’ liquor and messing up the place. He acts like the nerd he is and is the butt of their jokes.
Avery’s sister, Lisa (Harris), gets kidnapped on a date with her steady squeeze Max (Sean) and supposedly has one of her fingers cut off. There is a ransom note for two million dollars, which the family can’t afford to pay. The boys figure that by kidnapping the crime boss (the logic being, he’s a bad guy anyway and deserves what he is getting), they can get him to put up the ransom and use his underworld contacts to find the kidnappers.
This is Peter O’Fallon’s feature film debut as a director; he chugs out all the slickness he could muster to make this a happening film, including glittering credits that seem to be dancing on the screen. The slick title refers to the king of hearts (the one with the sword through his head). But the title also could refer to the ill-advised nature of the mission the boys are on, because what they are doing is surely suicidal.
Denis Leary as Lono, the wise guy lieutenant in Carlo’s mob and the temperamental strong-armed enforcer, has a constant dialogue going on about his $1,500 cowboy boots. He is brilliantly funny in this role, providing the film with a barrage of wisecracks and a penchant for controlled violence to keep everyone honest. He keeps contact with Carlo’s lawyer and zeroes in on both sets of kidnappers. Lono’s encounter with the dopey kidnappers of Lisa, pulls the film into the gangster genre for a few minutes before it goes back to its satire of that genre.
Suicide Kings has its share of surprises and plot twists, as it becomes evident from Charlie’s contacts that there was an insider on this job. Trying to figure out who the rat is, is enough of a story line for this film.
Once in a while, the film comes up with a real knee-slapper for dialogue: Charlie utters a priceless pearl of wisdom during his confinement — “Everybody lies: But word on the street, that’s solid.”
REVIEWED ON 5/25/99 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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