A movie-mad hit man, Mafia goons, corrupt cops, carrier pigeons and an escaped con who assumes a troublesome new identity drive this insubstantial comic-caper picture, which recasts cliches as hommages and revels in self-referentiality. The story begins near the end: Tabloid shutterbug Cletis Tout (Christian Slater) is taken prisoner by hired-gun Critical Joe (Tim Allen), whose great passion is classic cinema. Does Joe believe Cletis's claim that he's really an unlucky forger named Trevor Finch? Maybe, maybe not. But Joe's waiting for his feel to be delivered, and he's always up for a good story. So Cletis/Finch pulls a neo-noir Scheherezade and starts spinning a tale that starts with a 25-year-old diamond heist. The robbery was executed by Micah (Richard Dreyfuss), a mild mannered widower with an adorable six-year-old named Tess. Micah buried the hot rocks in a field, but was jailed before he could reclaim them. Now little Tess (Portia de Rossi) has matured into a virtual stranger, and Micah is determined to retrieve the loot and get reacquainted with his daughter before it's too late. He and jailhouse pal Finch break out together, and Finch calls in a favor from a pal in the coroner's office. Presto: new identities. Unfortunately, Finch's new name is Cletis Tout, and it's up for grabs because Cletis was killed by the Mafia over an incriminating videotape of made man Rowdy Virago (Joseph Scoren) and a doomed hooker. And so the comic misadventures begin. Screenwriter Chris ver Weil's directing debut is good-natured and never dull, but its virtues are small and easily overshadowed by its predictability. It's the kind of film that plays better on video than in theaters. The snazzy, Saul Bass-inspired credit sequence is a keeper, and Slater's performance is refreshingly low key and self-deprecating; his slight wince when Joe asks whether anyone's ever told him he sounds just like Jack Nicholson is priceless. The ongoing bumbling-Mafia-goons (Louis di Bianco, Tony Nappo) schtick is tired, but their Tarantino-esque banter about DELIVERANCE (yes, every character is a movie buff) has an undeniable loony charm. Why, one wonders, would sex-crazed redneck degenerates make Ned Beatty squeal like a pig when they could do Burt Reynolds? It's to Nappo and di Bianco's credit that they make it seem an eminently reasonable question.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: R
- Review: A movie-mad hit man, Mafia goons, corrupt cops, carrier pigeons and an escaped con who assumes a troublesome new identity drive this insubstantial comic-caper picture, which recasts cliches as hommages and revels in self-referentiality. The story begins ne… (more)