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The Real Thing Reviews

Despite its title, THE REAL THING is yet another Quentin Tarantino clone, an exercise in fatalistic cinema stripped of surprise and power, but loaded with shoot-'em-ups, numbingly slangy repartee, and freeze-dried acting. While stuck in a holding cell, smartass punk James (Dave Buzzotta) overhears a heist plan concocted by vicious career criminal Dexter (Pat Gallagher) and his outside man Collin (Esai Morales). Resisting efforts by his ex-con brother Rupert (James Russo) to reform him, released James brags all over town about usurping Dexter's plan to rob a trendy disco on New Year's Eve. On that busy night, club owner Victor (Rod Steiger) will carry two suitcases of cash to a limo. The still-jailed Dexter orders Collin to wipe out blowhard James, but Collin only manages to shoot James badly enough to destroy his liver. To acquire funds for a liver transplant, Rupert decides to do the robbery himself. He puts together a gang of small timers, including his buddy John (Jeremy Piven); John's girlfriend, Carla (Ashley Laurence); Alfredo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio); Eric (Robert LaSardo); and Rupert's former girlfriend Lisa (Emily Lloyd). Rupert intends for Carla, Alfredo, and Eric to create a diversion in the club while he, John, and Lisa bust through a wall connecting an abandoned bagel shop to the disco. Rupert doesn't know that Dexter has broken out of prison and is also planning to hit the dance club with his more professional crew. Rupert's scheme unfolds smoothly, until they encounter Dexter's thugs in Victor's office, just after they have massacred Victor's guards and most of the club's patrons.) In the ensuing bloodbath, Eric, John, and Collin are shot; the police arrest Alfredo; Carla gets away; and Lisa is killed during a police chase. The wounded Dexter pursues Rupert as he flees with the money. In an alley, Rupert knocks down Dexter with the case and shoots him. He is then run over by a passing truck. THE REAL THING is proficient on a grinding level of familiar crime-film bloodletting and may satisfy the cravings of hungry gangster-holics. What it fails to do is to create a single character either sympathetic or memorably nasty enough to engage the viewer. The principals are all stamped "generic lawbreakers." Rupert's bunch exhibit one personality trait apiece, while Dexter's thugs are cut from a cookie-cutter pattern of nihilism. Rendered complacent, the audience neither cheers nor boos. As a result, the film never establishes a dialectic between its two contrasting criminal philosophies: Rupert breaks the law out of economic necessity, while Dexter exemplifies the bandit as vocational desperado. The movie might still have gotten by on directorial verve, but there's none to be found. What THE REAL THING does have is a surfeit of histrionics by three of Hollywood's biggest hams (Russo, Steiger, and Gary Busey, ridiculously shoehorned in as Russo's ex-employer). (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, adult situations, substance abuse.)