WHOLE NINE YARDS, THE
(director: Jonathan Lynn; screenwriter: Mitchell Kapner; cinematographer: David Franco; editor: Tom Lewis; cast: Bruce Willis (Jimmy Tudeski), Matthew Perry (Oz Oseransky), Rosanna Arquette (Sophie), Michael Clarke Duncan (Frankie Figs), Natasha Henstridge (Cynthia), Amanda Peet (Jill), Kevin Pollak (Janni Gogolak); Runtime: 98; Warner Brothers; 2000)
“The film is funny in a crass way.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
What can I say about a film that was laugh-out-loud funny in spots, was driven by a fantastic performance by Bruce Willis as a contract killer, but was disturbingly vulgar (the murder of an undercover cop is used as part of the comedy routine). These demented zany characters (reminiscent of Pulp Fiction and Analyze This) make this gangster film into a screwball comedy.
The plot starts off simple and then becomes more complicated, as more characters are introduced. Oz Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is a hapless dentist living in Montreal with his harridan French-Canadian wife, Sophie (Rosanna Arquette), whose main asset seems to be her large boobs. She, also, amusingly struggles with an improbable French-Canadian accent. They have been living together for seven unhappy years after her dentist father, whose partner was Oz, embezzled funds and committed suicide sticking Oz with the debt. She is disappointed that the likable Oz can’t make a good living out of his practice. So she hires a hit man, or in this case a hit woman (Oz’s new assistant Jill (Amanda), whose role model is Jimmy the Tulip), to whack him to collect on his life-insurance policy. But as coincidence would have it, Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Willis) — a contract killer who killed as many as 17 for the Gogolak Gang’ Hungarian crime family in Chicago — becomes Oz’s suburban next-door neighbor. Jimmy got away with just serving five years in prison after ratting out the gang’s leader. Because of his arrogance, he has refused to go into the Witness Protection program. We first see him confidently grinning, as his stammering neighbor introduces himself. The trembling Oz recognizes who his neighbor is and the two start a friendship which will be tested many times for how strong its loyalty is.
Sophie talks Oz into giving Jimmy’s location away to Jimmy’s old mob boss, Janni (Kevin Pollak). In return, she will grant him his much wanted divorce. So off to Chi town goes Oz, but who should meet him in his hotel room…but a mammoth black man about the size of the Sears Tower, Frankie Figs (Duncan). He tells him he works for Janni and after punching the dentist around, offering some more excuses for sight gags and pratfalls, he brings him to see Janni. The conversation from the heavily accented Janni goes something like this, “I yust hate Yimmy. I vill kill the wermin.” Oz is then introduced to Jimmy’s luscious wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge) and is immediately attracted to her. What transpires is a series of double-and-triple-crosses involving $10 million in cash, with everyone except the dentist wanting someone whacked.
The British born director Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny), after a so far mediocre career, has become more skilled at pacing a film as the non-stop action scenes make the film fly by quickly, which might actually be the film’s best asset. This is lightweight entertainment and should work well if one chooses to overlook a flawed script, questionable values, and that there are no nice people in the film. Don’t tell me the dentist is a good guy! There should be no doubt about his character after he conspires with the contract killer to hide some murders! But…the film is funny in a crass way.
REVIEWED ON 3/11/2000 GRADE: C