Sunday, February 21, 2010

The mystery of Cletis Tout solved

Who Is Cletis Tout? (2002)
Starring: Christian Slater, Tim Allen, Portia de Rossi, and Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Chris Ver Weil
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Master forger Finch (Slater) has made his good his escape from prison, he's got a lead on a hidden stash of diamonds from his partner (Dreyfuss) and his daughter (de Rossi), but there's just one problem. Finch has stolen the identity of a man the mob wants dead, and now they're after him. Can Finch convince hit man Critical Jim (Allen) that he is not who he said he was in time to get the diamonds, the girl, and give the movie a happy ending?

"Who Is Cletis Tout?" is a charming, if forgettable, comedic crime caper. It takes all the standard elements of a film noir drama--a jewel heist, a prison break, mistaken identities, bloodthirsty mobsters, coldblooded hit men, an alluring femme fatale--and turns them all a bit sideways. It all comes together in a pleasing package, but nothing really ever 'wows' the viewer. There are some chuckles, but no real laughs, and the only tension that the movie ever really generates comes at the very end.

Still, the movie is fast-paced and the actors all give great performances. Tim Allen in particular shines as a quirky hit man who is such a movie buff that he strives to shape his life (and when possible, the lives of those around him) into the form a movie. I might even say that it's Allen's character that makes this movie worth watching. His commentary to Finch on the current sorry state of movie making is also dead-on, particularly his lament that most modern movies lack a third act.

(As I post this review, "Who Is Cletis Tout?" is out of print, but it is available for rent from Netflix and other outlets.)

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