Flicks & Folios – Film Review: Knockaround Guys

Vin Diesel is a supporting player in this film shot partially in Alberta. Unfortunately, the the stark “real” Canadian look is obvious and everywhere: lighting, clothing and sets. Deisel plays Taylor Reese, a Jewish gangster in the mob wearing mostly an undershirt and (finally) fairly tight blue jeans.

We get our first look at him in a local store that has arcade games that he’s apparently in charge of. When he tries to collect his cut of the money the owner of the store is hiding every penny. Reese, gets furious and bashes the machines to pieces with a crowbar.

The film opens with a very young Matty Demaret being led into a restaurant to handle a traitor in “the organization”. He is given a gun to shoot him and by the way he behaves at first we figure he’ll do it. It doesn’t happen, but the bad guys then decide to cut his tongue — ick! Barry Pepper plays a grown up Matty Demaret. He has a face you’ll probably recognize but not a highly known name.

Seth Green is in the film as well and does his usual mousy character. His tiny build makes him quite in demand for these kinds of roles. John Malkovich is Teddy Deserve, and Dennis Hopper is Benny Chains, who shows up in, like, three scenes. Malkovich is not in the movie much either. Money, I suppose.

The plot goes like this; the mob needs a bag of money delivered. The young couriers screw up and the money gets stolen by two punk kids who start to spend it. They aren’t terribly swift and get caught by the local sheriff. The sheriff then takes the cash. Taylor decides to give the toughest guy in town the beating of his life. He beats him up in a local bar in order to get the message across to everyone that the kids who did the stealing had better come forward.

It works, of course and the beaten punk goes out and finds the money holders. Then Taylor and the gang stake them out and watch the sheriff find them. All this watching costs them time. It costs them new guns and it some of them their lives. Their own people come around and kill them when they futz up the “simple” task the family has given them.

Taylor has a few really cool speeches to give. The bar scene yields a wonderful monologue about being a legitimate tough guy. It makes great sense and Vin delivers it well. Then the punching starts, or as I like to think of it, the dance. It is a physically “brutal” beating but the delivery is so fluid — perfect follow-through and balance that have Diesel’s early years as a dancer written all over them.

Later, Taylor talks about how “it’s not like the stories your uncle used to tell us. For 99 guys outta 100 this is a lose lose situation.” I enjoyed that insight into his character. To me Taylor knows he’s in too deep, won’t get out and that this is his place — hired muscle. Nice muscle. I like his tattoo too.

It all ends after a shoot out with the sheriff and then finally Matty retires. Taylor and Matty drive off in a simple van and we end this rather simple film. A note: this film ended shooting at the end of 1999. It sat on a shelf for three years before it was released. I still like certain parts of it and I find the character study of Taylor interesting. On the whole it is a dull film though.