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Welcome To Collinwood

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Welcome To Collinwood

Starring: William H. Macy, Michael Jeter
Director: Anthony Russo
Rated: R
RunTime: 86 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genre: Comedy

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Sam Rockwell does an admirable job holding up the holdup team in Anthony & Joe Russo's flip caper pic, "Welcome to Collinwood." Situated in the Russos' romantic Cleveland, the film, which borrows from Mario Monicelli's superior 1958 Italian parody "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (which bombed in a later incarnation on Broadway), is whimsical enough not to overstay its 82-minute hold on our attention. What could have been a true throwaway comedy is sustained by lying midway between arthouse fare and commercial sitcom, its idiosyncratic characters and deadpan humor giving the story more heft than you'd otherwise expect. While producer George Clooney stays in the background, handing the heist principally over to Sam Rockwell and Michael Jeter, these performers are made for their roles, particularly the muscular Mr. Rockwell whose facial expressions bear witness to his elation and misery alike.

This bevy of bumbling bandits, losers all, remind one of the bank robber who donned his ski mask, waited on the back of the line, and put his social security number on the deposit slip with a note announcing the stickup. Luckily for the stability of this country, most such crooks have lower I.Q.'s than the cops and feds who chase them regularly or the local banks would have to ask New York's Mayor Mike for loans every week.

Giving rise to some new terms that NY Times columnist William Safire ought to discuss in his weekly magazine contribution on language, the guys who plan to spend three or four hours patiently drilling into a diamond-containing safe at first look for a "Bellini" (a job that could allow the crooks to retire for life) and a "Mullinski" (someone willing to take another's rap in return for money). When a lifer cellmate of Cosimo (Luis Guzman) tells the story of a safecracking opportunity, Cosimo breaks out of jail and joins a team including the egotistical amateur boxer Pero (Sam Rockwell), Cosimo's girl Rosalind (Patricia Clarkson), Riley (William H. Macy), Toto (Michael Meter) and Leon (Isaiah Washington). All could use the money, but none is more desperate than Riley, who needs a grand to get his wife out of jail and to feed the baby he lugs with him everywhere. When for $500 a lesson, wheelchair-bound Jerzy (George Clooney) teaches the gang how to break into a safe, the motley crew are on their way, breaking into the apartment with the stones. Everything, but everything goes wrong, but all is not lost since one of the gang, Basic (Andrew Davoli) falls for Leon's sister Michelle (Gabrielle Union) while Pero takes up with the flighty Carmela (Jennifer Esposito).

This is the sort of material that simply had to be copied time and again. In addition to the hit Italian movie and the doomed Broadway show, no less a director than Louis Malle tried to cash in with "Crackers," but not even Donald Sutherland, Sean Penn and Wallace Shawn could evoke the laughs of the current version. Light, forgettable, cute.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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