As Wichita falls, so falls Wichita Falls
Charlie (Cusack) is a small time lawyer in Wichita Falls who decides with his partner-in-crime Vic (Thornton) to steal from a mob boss, believing they have pulled off the mythical “perfect crime” on Christmas Eve. All they have to do is make it through the night before they leave the town to start new lives with their ill gotten gains. Of course, life isn't this simple and Charlie finds he has to survive a night filled with incident after incident, from trying to assist Renata (Nielsen), a strip-club manageress, obtain a picture that Vic owns, drunken adventures with his friend Pete (Platt) who is also his ex-wife's new husband, all the time trying to avoid Roy, the muscle for the mob boss they've just robbed!It's an odd title to summarise, because effectively not a huge amount happens as such. Some of the events aren't important to the plot, some of them are and to divulge too much about which are important would be the equivalent of spoilers and I absolutely deplore spoilers. The problem mostly about elaborating on the story is when the plot isn't particularly deep, it's hard to dress it up as something it isn't, but that's not to say it's not enjoyable. The problem is, is it a thriller masquerading as a dark comedy or a dark comedy masquerading as a thriller? Well, it's both, but neither are 100 percent successful. As mentioned, the plot is a simple one regarding trust and who is pulling who's strings, but it will hold your attention, mostly because you'll think or hope something good will happen. However the performances are considerably better than the story.
John Cusack is always watchable in my opinion, be it from Say Anything to Grosse Point Blank. He even elevated Con Air to something semi watchable (it still isn't great, but then it could have been far worse). It could be his dead pan delivery, just as he does in other comedy movies, such as Grosse Point or Must Love Dogs. Either way, if you like him as an actor, you'll still like him here. Billy Bob Thornton, or the one who let Angelina get away, is very similar to Cusack in that he is usually very watchable, again Cusack has Con Air on his CV, Thornton has the evil that is Armageddon and yet he was still watchable in that. Here he is a somewhat slimy character who Cusack isn't sure he should trust when events unfold, but to be honest, I wasn't sure I'd trust his character from the beginning - not because he is a pornographer and strip-club owner, but because he seems that way - think how you picture car salesmen, then crank it up a notch. To me though, the really unusual character is Renata played by Connie Nielsen. If you're expecting her to be similar to her turns in The Devils Advocate or even her turn in Gladiator, think again. She is a femme fatale, sure, but she's channelling Kathleen Turner from the 80's. Not so much Crimes of Passion but a cross between her turn in Body Heat and Roger Rabbit. She even looks like her and that's not a bad thing either, because let's face it, if you're going to be a femme fatale, you need to ooze sexuality. Let's be honest, and without going too far off the subject, if you think femme fatale, you might think Jessica Rabbit, you might think Matty Walker (K. Turner from Body Heat), but you don't necessarily think Catherine Tramell and that's the difference between seductive and brazen in my mind. Renata is seductive; she isn't brazen at all - a flash of stocking, a slow seductive tone to her voice but no leg crossing to be seen. Even Randy Quaid, playing against comedic type as the mob boss Bill Guerrard is interesting to watch, even if the on-screen role is a short one.
However, no matter how interesting the characters and actors are, one can't help but feel short-changed by the plot. It is a sadly shallow state of affairs, which does have one or two moments of humour. View this as a comedy and you'll feel robbed due to a lack of laughs. View this as a thriller and you'll feel robbed due to the slight plot and the lack of real twists and turns. But if you view this with no expectations, you may well get a kick out of it.
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