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  Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead Something In Common
Year: 1996
Director: Gary Fleder
Stars: Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Treat Williams, Jack Warden, Steve Buscemi, Fairuza Balk, Gabrielle Anwar, Christopher Walken, Michael Nicolosi, Bill Cobbs, Marshall Bell, Glenn Plummer, Don Stark, Sarah Trigger, Josh Charles
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jimmy the Saint (Andy Garcia) used to be a gangster, but he has since gone straight and set up a business recording videos of the dying to be played for their loved ones left behind as a memento, and to give them succour as they grieve. The trouble is, it might sound like a good idea to have this done professionally, but most are not bothering in the Denver area he works in, and his company is suffering for that, meaning he is need of a cash injection to keep it afloat, if indeed it can be. This brings him to his old boss (Christopher Walken), now a quadriplegic who runs his empire from his wheelchair; he has a proposition for Jimmy, easy money, all he has to do is help out the boss's son who has gone round the bend...

After Pulp Fiction was the huge success it turned out to be, there were a host of imitators who felt they had what was necessary to follow in Quentin Tarantino's footsteps, and frankly they were on a hiding to nothing as while he was both an imitator himself and someone who looked simple to emulate, he was actually in possession of a keener talent than they realised. Which was why the nineties were littered with films like this, some from Tarantino's producers the Weinstein Brothers as Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead was, and also why none of them ever took over the mantle from him as the foremost American stylist of the decade he emerged in. We are still feeling the effects of Tarantino in pop culture to this day.

All that said, while among those pretenders were plenty of duds who thought that guns and swearing were all you needed for your homage to Quentin, or his bank account anyway, that was not to say they were all worth writing off. This was an example of one of the better ones, picked up having been actually penned before Pulp Fiction was the hit, since it had a theme that was not going to get old, and that was what to do when you know your time on Planet Earth was running out, how do you spend it when the clock is ticking ever louder? Jimmy and his four colleagues find themselves in that situation thanks to, no, not a heist as most of these featured, but an operation to scare off the ex-girlfriend (Sarah Trigger) of Walken's unnamed bad guy's troubled son (Michael Nicolosi).

He has recently been arrested for trying to assault a little girl in a playground, so we can tell, if the crime boss can't, that the son is a hopeless case. Jimmy should have known better to get caught up in a world that is winding down to oblivion, even though we get the impression that's the state of affairs across the board for these characters no matter what side of the fence of privilege or the law they are on, but here he is with his quartet of henchmen (William Forsythe, Christopher Lloyd, Bill Nunn and a scene-stealing Treat Williams) on a rainy night out on the highway, messing up utterly and dooming each and every one of them. Garcia offered a performance of amused melancholy, romancing Gabrielle Anwar but aware she will move on without him even if he did not have a contract on his head, yet everyone here was obviously relishing Scott Rosenberg's screenplay.

Gary Fleder was the director, not a name that went on to cult renown but he worked steadily, mostly in television, ever since, and he had a neat sense of style to carry Rosenberg's idiosyncratic dialogue that was dreamt up as a form of invented gangster movie language, it sounded authentic as slang when it was really movie movie speeches and catchphrases ("Give it a name!", "Boat drinks!"). Except of course as nobody talks like that now and certainly didn't talk like that then, it comes across as phoney and posturing which is just about saved by the acting, though most of the pleasure was seeing these pros get together and share scenes which were going nowhere other than their eventual demise. There was a fatalism to this film that maybe cut a little deeper than the usual crime flick where death, violent death, was part and parcel of the plot, for the script was more invested in examining what it was like to hear the bell tolling and being unavoidably told your days were at an end. Contrived, then, but hailing from a place of sincerity that genuinely cared about everyone's destination in life. Music by Michael Convertino.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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