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Suicide Kings

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Suicide Kings

Starring: Christopher Walken, Denis Leary
Director: Peter O'Fallon
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Suspense

*Also starring: Johnny Galecki, Henry Thomas, Jeremy Sisto, Laura San Giacomo, Jay Mohr, Sean Patrick Flanery

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Imagine an actor giving one of his greatest performance while spending most of a movie taped to a chair! The sizzling dialogue and heart-pounding action of "Suicide King," Peter O'Fallon's dark comedy about kidnapping evokes a dazzling performance from Christopher Walken while highlighting an appearance by four 20-something actors in a film that is alternately jocose and jarring. Moviegoers who are fans of the work of Quentin Tarantino will take to "Suicide Kings," but so will theatergoers who enjoyed Lyle Kessler's "Orphans," about a middle-aged man taken hostage by young people he refers to as the Dead End Kids.

The kids in "Suicide Kings" are hardly dead-end, though. All rich--one even the son of a doctor who considers himself a pre-med student--they are ironically desperate for cash. The charming Lisa (Laura Harris), sister of Avery (Henry Thomas) and girl friend of Max (Sean Patrick Flanery) has been kidnapped, an amputated finger sent to Avery, and a random demand for two million dollars posted. Unable to raise the money on their own, the young men put together a daring and risky plan that soon involves them way over their heads. They will abduct the semi-retired Mob figure, Charles Barrett aka Carlo Bartolucci, and demand that he get his friends in the Organization to dig up the cash.

The movie is loaded with breathtaking action that contends with its broad humor, keeping the audience wide awake and involved in scipters Wayne Rice and Gina Goldman's bracing exchanges. It becomes clear even in the scene involving the chloroforming of their hostage in a madcap drive through a New York City tunnel that these kids are as much in the game for the sheer delight as for the money. Brett Campbell (Jay Mohr) is particularly convincing as the one kidnapper who adamantly refuses to cozy up to the quartet's captive, delivering a fully three-dimensional performance in his best appearance to date. Shedding his image as a stand-up comic on Saturday Night Live and his unimpressive role as a clueless accomplice to Jennifer Aniston's machinations in "Picture Perfect," Mohn is captivating as the conspirator who is opposed even to untying one of his victim's hands even while the mobster is bleeding to death from an dismembered digit.

"Suicide Kings" becomes one of the year's great mobster flicks largely by the way the rich kids are treated as individuals with their own, distinct personalities. The most amusing fellow is Ira (Johnny Galecki), a nerdy guy whose father's home is used by the gangsters as their headquarters completely unbeknownst by the bespectacled young man who expected nothing more than a game of poker and a few beers. Having a father who marks the levels of liquor in his bottles, Ira is concerned more with cleaning up the blood on the carpet than on the consequences of the crime, and uses the opportunity to take revenge on the pals that must have put him down not infrequently for his fussy ways. Jeremy Sisto comes across as the kid who hopes the AMA will not look harshly on his activities when the time comes for him to begin practicing medicine in about seven years. A drug addict equally adept at giving his prisoner sedating IVs as with injecting himself with heroin, the young man known as T.K. shows a side more concerned with most of the others with his client's welfare, pointing out that the mobster is probably an alcoholic whose liver is unable to process Vitamin K and is therefore prone to bleeding freely.

While "Suicide Kings" has a plot with enough twists and turns to keep the audience unnerved, it features also the comic side of Barrett's enforcer, Lono (Denis Leary), who can shoot people without the slightest concern and yet show remarkable defensiveness about the alligator boots for which he paid $1,500.

The title "Suicide Kings" comes from the game of poker, in which the titled monarchs are a wild card, but the best feature of the movie is the virtual chess game in which Barrett tries to outmaneuver his captors and save his own life by using his wits. Convincing the boys that the kidnapping is an inside job, that at least one of the five affluent kids has a direct hand in the kidnapping of Max's girl friend, Barrett demonstrates the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword.

"Suicide Kings" features several scenes of intense brutality including the bloody, bandaged hand of the captive, a baseball-bat bashing by Lono of an abusive pimp, and an intense tunnel ride involving the pile-up of motor vehicles filmed with style, even poetry. The narrative moves relentlessly, sidetracked only once during a throwaway scene featuring a long-haired Christopher Walken during the hippie- influenced 1970s, a winning action piece edited sharply and designed to appeal to an audience craving both visceral particulars and clever colloquy.

Copyright 1998 Harvey Karten

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