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Underworld Reviews

It's Father's Day and fresh-out-of-prison gangster Johnny Crown (professional motormouth Denis Leary) is intent on avenging his father, left brain-dead by a botched assassination attempt. Among the suspects: old pal Frank Gavilan (Joe Mantegna), who moved in on Dad's territory. One of the many insufferable conceits of costar Larry Bishop's obnoxious, talky script -- apparently designed to show the world just how clever, witty and ironic he can be -- is that Johnny earned a degree in psychotherapy while cooling his heels in the slammer, so he can justify babbling interminably at Frank by claiming he's helping his buddy work through his psychological kinks. "Can I be Frank?" Gavilan asks Johnny. "Can I be frank about your frankness, and frankly I don't give a damn," Johnny replies supportively. And this is far from the film's most mind-numbing exchange: There's healthy competition from a riff on the "fakiness" of the name Johnny Crown, delivered with a hefty dose of gravitas by the soporific Mantegna. Weighty, dramatic set pieces -- like the one that ensues when Johnny forces Frank to confront his ex-wife and estranged father (Annabella Sciorra and Abe Vigoda) -- fizzle rather than delivering an emotional wallop, in part because they're so utterly contrived. It's the measure of what a sorry excuse for a film this is that even the generous screen time allotted to irrelevant strippers, competing bands of assassin hooligans and bloody, Peckinpah-esque shoot-outs can't bring it to a semblance of life.