Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Suicide Kings' succeeds despite iffy start-point

Suicide Kings (1997)
Starring: Christopher Walken, Denis Leary, Henry Thomas, Johnny Galecki, Nathan Dana, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Jay Mohr
Director: Peter O'Fallon
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When Avery (Thomas) convinces some friends (Dana, Galecki, Flanery, Mohr, and Thomas)  to kidnap retired mob boss Charlie Bennett (Walken) in the hopes of forcing him to help locate Avery's kidnapped sister, they Ivy Leaguers quickly find themselves out of their depth. Things prove to be more complicated than even they even appear to begin with when, Charlie's eyes and ears on the street (Leary) discovers that one of the four friends was also involved in the kidnapping of the sister and that an elaborate double-cross may be afoot.

If one can set aside the weak starting point of this film (why would four otherwise intelligent people think it was a good idea to kidnap a violent and powerful mobster?) and some "huh?" moments in character behavior when the film is at its most tense, "Suicide Kings" is very enjoyable movie that skips back and forth over a dividing line between thriller and dark comedy.

While all the the cast does a great job in this character-driven movie, Walken is especially as the sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, always cold-as-ice-and-scheming mobster; Leary is fabulous as a thug with a soft spot for life's down-and-outs (but who otherwise is a remorseless killer; and Galecki is hilarious as an "audience stand-in character", expressing exactly the sort of fear and confusion . The rapid-fire, funny dialogue and the ever-larger questions of who will win the battle of wills going on between the kidnappers and their victim--not to mention who among the characters is the true criminal and who, if any, will walk away alive at the end--make the film even more engrossing.

If the story had been a bit more grounded in something that resembled common sense, this would have been a Seven Star movie. As it is, it's getting Six Stars for being an average "pressure cooker" sort of thriller with comedic overtones, but with some stand-out performances.

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