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Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Amateurville. There’s a decent enough set-up to this rom-com caper, as long as you don’t think it thru. An underachieving highway toll collector in Buffalo (Keanu Reeves) is all too easily tricked into driving getaway for a bank robbery by a couple of low-life pals. (He thinks he’s driving to a ball game.) But the plan goes wrong, the pals run off, and only Reeves lands in jail. Once out, he figures he might just as well rob that bank since he’s already done the time. A sentiment that almost makes sense, at least comic sense. Reeves, in a career-slump at the time (the film only earned a token release), is fine in deglamorized mode, but the creative team hasn’t any idea how to work this thing. CLUE: Comedy doesn’t need less logic than drama, it needs more. After Reeves meets-cute with struggling actress Vera Farmiga (in a weirdly unpleasant perf), he discovers her little theater has a prohibition-era tunnel that runs right into the bank vault! Who’d-a-thunk? Maybe Keanu could get one of the parts in her play. (He’s a novice; it’s Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD; sure.) Now he can dig from his dressing room straight into the bank! And with newly paroled prison pal James Caan and those two low-lifes who started the whole thing to help, who’d notice anything? So much privacy backstage, ya know. The film seems to be going for an unlikely mix of ‘30s screwball comedy sheen and drab ‘70s rust-belt realism, but nobody here is up for making either happen. And it only gets worse as it goes along, finally collapsing in a series of unresolved false-endings.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Bill Duke, who plays a helpful bank guard, used to direct this sort of mixed genre item. Try A RAGE IN HARLEM/’91.

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