First-time writer-director Jeff Nathanson's mushy comedy is spun from the misfortunes of aspiring filmmakers Dan Lewk and Gary Levy, whose hope of scoring that elusive one big break was cruelly crushed when the producer of their first feature suddenly pulled the plug five days before the start of production. Several years later, they learned from a Los Angeles Times article that the entire production had been an elaborate FBI sting designed to snare mobsters who were using corrupt union officials to manipulate the lucrative business of supplying transportation services to movie shoots. Filtered through Nathanson's ruthlessly schmaltzy sensibilities, this dark little story of shattered dreams and heartless manipulation becomes a mawkish fable about the allure of going Hollywood. FBI agent Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin) will do anything to make a bust, even let thugs cut off his finger in a Houston movie theater. But Joe's brother, Bureau bigwig Jack (Ray Liotta), is unimpressed; his idea of a suitable reward for such dedication is a transfer to Providence, Rhode Island. Hoping to make something of the demeaning assignment, Devine sets his sights on mobster Tommy Sanz (Tony Shalhoub), who's distantly related to New York mafioso John Gotti and also resents the Hell out of being stuck in the sticks. Focusing on Sanz's ties to the local Teamsters, Devine concocts an elaborate plan to nail Sanz for bribery that involves posing as a movie producer who wants to "work something out" with crooked union official Wally Kamin (Jon Polito). Since Devine knows nothing about the movie business and his superiors know — and care — less, he heads for Los Angeles for a crash course. And there he meets Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick), the poor schmo just desperate enough to believe someone is actually going to produce his precious screenplay, "Arizona," that he's willing to overlook the clear signs that Devine doesn't know a back-end deal from his own behind. The cast of colorful characters entangled in Devine's web of deceit soon includes Schats' ambitious girlfriend (Calista Flockhart), crazy brother (Tim Blake Nelson) and pathetic agent (Buck Henry), as well as a flaky actress (Toni Collette) looking to recapture the glory days of her Oscar nomination for cavorting naked with Eric Roberts. Nathanson processes this pungent stew of greed, ambition and self-delusion into pablum so sweet and bland it wouldn't shock a convent-raised idealist.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: First-time writer-director Jeff Nathanson's mushy comedy is spun from the misfortunes of aspiring filmmakers Dan Lewk and Gary Levy, whose hope of scoring that elusive one big break was cruelly crushed when the producer of their first feature suddenly pull… (more)