- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Everyone knows the Sicilian Mafia has fallen on hard times, but surely things cannot be this bad. In "Knockaround Guys," a film that dumps four incompetent wannabe wiseguys into a rural Montana town, La Cosa Nostra looks positively like MTV's "The Real World."
With reality TV shows based on "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres" around the corner, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood sent mobsters into the wild, wacky West.
Maybe the sequel will transplant the boys overseas or maybe they'll pack into an RV, a la "Road Rules," and visit college campuses across the country.
The caricature that passes for this film's premise could not have been more crudely drawn: the tough-guy slicksters vs. them there tobacco-spittin', flannel-wearin' Montanans.
The eponymous knockaround guys that's mobspeak for errand boys are led by Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper), who's supposed to remind us of the young Michael Corleone: trying to lead an upright life in an impossibly corrupt environment.
Aimless, unfulfilled and unable to land a straight job because his mob-linked last name is notorious, Matty tries to get into the "business" run by his father, Benny "Chains" Demaret (phoned in by a lackluster Dennis Hopper), a Brooklyn-based underboss.
The problem: Benny doesn't think Matty is worthy of much more than making deli runs.
The weirdly named Uncle Teddy Deserve (John Malkovich, who speaks in a horrendous accent that sounds more like Slobodan Milosevic than a Brooklyn-born Italian) is personally fond of Matty but knows he doesn't have the stomach for the business.
In the movie's opening scene a nod to a certain torture sequence in Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" he gauges 12-year-old Matty's psychopathic parameters by goading him to shoot the fat, helpless man responsible for his father getting pinched.
Matty cannot do the deed, a failure of nerve that upsets his career track.
Such is the plight of the other three knockaround guys. Who knew the Mafia had a glass-ceiling problem?
There's Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel), Matty's mesomorphic Kemosabe who cannot climb the corporate-mob ladder because he's half Jewish.
Taylor, who seems to have minored in philosophy at Goon Squad College, delivers some of the movie's sagest lines about the lack of honor among wiseguys these days: e.g., "They'll hurt you if it helps them."
The sharp-suited Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli) is less concerned about things of the mind. His concern is the women who frequent his father's restaurant: getting them high and getting them into bed.
Rounding out this pack of wild and crazy guys is Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), the coke-snorting, Cessna-flying paranoiac whom Matty dispatches to Spokane, Wash., to pick up a $500,000 loan for Benny "Chains."
The job, which Matty begs for, should have been simple, but on a pit stop in Wibaux, Mont., Marbles panics and loses the cash to a pair of luggage-handling stoners one of whom happens to be the sheriff's son.
To retrieve the bag, the semi-employed boneheads head to Wibaux, a backward town where the Mafia is nothing more than an A&E; documentary subject. In the film's only redeeming performance, Tom Noonan plays the seemingly puritanical but actually crooked and ruthless sheriff who confiscates the cash and dares the hapless city boys to come get it.
Mr. Noonan's character is the only convincingly disturbing thing in a movie that wobbles between cartoonish, gruesome violence and flat, slapstick humor. Not even Mr. Green, most famous for his Scott Evil role in the "Austin Powers" series, can salvage the funny side of "Knockaround Guys."
In the end, these reservoir dogs don't hunt.

*1/2
TITLE: "Knockaround Guys"
RATING: R (Profanity, execution-style murders, graphic torture scene, drug use)
CREDITS: Written, directed and produced by Brian Koppelman and David Levien
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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