Five privileged, former prep school buddies embark on the seemingly suicidal plan to
abduct mob boss Carlo Bartolucci (Christopher Walken). Their motive? The sister of one of
them has been kidnapped and the plan is to coerce Bartolucci (who now likes to be known as
Charlie Barret and claims to have retired from his underworld dealings) to use his money
and network of resources to recover the kidnap victim.
"For the most part, Suicide Kings is to a Tarantino movie as its youthful,
would-be mobster gang is to the real deal: tries hard, is more successful than might be
initially anticipated, shows occasional initiative, but is more often derivative of its
role models and ultimately lacks the finesse to totally clinch the jackpot. None of which
is to say that it isn’t reasonable entertainment. The directorial debut of Peter
O’Fellon is unpredictable enough to maintain interest; it just doesn’t entirely
fulfil the potential of a tasty initial premise. There is a single, effective mega-twist
in the latter half of the narrative but it doesn’t provide the overall entertainment
of Tarantino’s flashback retellings or even the serpentine plot of Lock, Stock and 2
Smoking Barrels. Galecki is impressive as Ira, the rather geeky friend of the
rich-kids-turned-gangster quintet, who isn’t in on the ruse at the start and acts
with understandable mortification when the situation is unveiled to him. I was previously
somewhat taken with Galecki’s performance as a scheming, gay student in the
‘Opposite of Sex’ and would be intrigued to see what he would make of a truly
challenging role. As might be expected, though, it is Walken who is the best value –
hamming it up in a battle of wits, through nearly all of which he is taped to a chair.
Dennis Leary’s henchman, however, is too derivative, as is the tough-guy comic
banter. Not a gangster movie to blow your head off, but an entertaining enough
diversion… if you feel the need to break your concentration."
It's a strange premise, but then Suicide Kings is an odd melange of seemingly incongruous genres that combine to form a compelling whole. At times comedy, noir and violent crime film, it builds to an unpredictable conclusion that rivals The Usual Suspects in the, "I bet you didn't see it coming" stakes. Walken is sublime. It matters little he's done this sort of part before because the guy does it so very very well, and a highlight is a flashback scene depicting him as a superfly 70s ne'er-do-well.
Denis Leary plays Lono Vecchio, a wise-cracking henchman with a predilection for hurting people with kitchen appliances and Jay Mohr (Go!) is excellent as Avery¹s take-charge buddy Brett. Bottom line? Sure, it's not without flaws (hey, it IS going straight to video) but is nonetheless a suspenseful story revealed piece by searing piece, and a worthy addition to the Walken body of work.
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on Christopher Walken
CAST: Christopher Walken, Denis Leary, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jeremy Galecki, Jay Mohr,
Jeremy Sisto, Henry Thomas, Laura San Giacomo
DIRECTOR: Peter O'Fallon
PRODUCERS: Wayne Rice, Morrie Eisenman
SCRIPT: Josh Mckinney, Gina Goldman, Wayne Rice
EDITOR: Chris Peppe
MUSIC: Graeme Revell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clark Hunter
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Eagle Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: September 16, 1999