Knockaround Guys (2002)
"This guy made the mistake of thinking he was Vin Diesel's buddy and called him VD."
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If the high energy of Knockaround Guys proves anything, it's that Vin Diesel works best in a supporting role. Although it's quite obvious that this long delayed film has been tinkered with in the editing room (resulting in a lack of character development), the charismatic Diesel gets far more mileage out of this character then he did as Xander Cage in the over bloated and all too silly XXX. Although Knockaround Guys is hardly about Diesel's character, he's quite captivating every moment he's on screen.
In this noir/crime thriller, Barry Pepper plays the son of a reputable New York mob boss. While this young man desperately tries to play life straight, he can't avoid the baggage that comes with the family name. Tired of looking for a regular job, he decides to follow in dad's footsteps. Unfortunately, everything that could possibly go wrong during a routine money drop off, does go wrong.
Pepper and his second generation of mob wannabe buddies, head off to a small town in Montana to find their misplaced loot, but get more than they bargained for when they come face to face with a local sheriff (played with glee by Tom Noonnan) who has plans of his own.
Knockaround Guys is similar in feel to Christopher McQuarrie's Way of the Gun from a couple of years back. But while that film tried awfully hard to be hip, this movie opts to take a straight forward approach. Knockaround Guys slips into the confines of the familiar mobster movie, but it's energy and cast elevate the plot above the norm.
Pepper (who also appeared with Diesel in Saving Private Ryan) does a good job at displaying the frustration of his situation. He's a good man trying to be bad, and the Battlefield Earth star (OUCH!) is able to convey this in a subtle manner. As I've already mentioned, Diesel is terrific as the heavy who will do anything to protect his friends. As good as he is, Noonan steals the show as a local sheriff who's far smarter than he might look. Noonan has been around for years slipping into the shoes of all kinds of characters including the bad guy in Michael Mann's Manhunter. Here, he really seems to be having a good time and I enjoyed the hell out of his performance.
Veterans Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich play a mob boss and his right hand man. Hopper is very comfortable in his role, but Malkovich can't quite pull it off. He has the energy, but I never really bought into him. Perhaps it was that less than convincing Brooklyn accent.
Screenwriters/directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien, keep things simple but energetic, and as I watched Knockaround Guys, I found myself immensely entertained despite the "I've seen this before" moments. It's too bad the studio didn't get behind this film a little bit more because it's really well executed.
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