A Film Review By The Mike
Rating:R for Language, People being hit by buses, and excessive use of the phrase “Your mother’s a Whore!”
Starring: William H. Macy, Isaiah Washington, Sam Rockwell, Michael Jeter, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Esposito, George Clooney
Directed By:Anthony & Joe Russo
I hate Cleveland. Everything to do with the stupid place. Drew Carey? Hate him and his stupid show. The Cleveland Browns? Hate ‘em. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Hate it, because it won’t let Styx in. Well, today’s film, Welcome to Collinwood, opens with these words on the screen: Somewhere in Cleveland.
Needless to say, this was a bad start in this reviewer’s eyes. However the ensuing shots that fill the movie are all of a filthy, dirty city, and never once does the setting look enticing. This is good, as we finally see the filthy, dirty Cleveland we deserve to see.
Now that I’m past that, let’s talk about the movie. Welcome to Collinwood is an innocent, little, independent comedy, directed by the brothers Russo in their first noticeable effort, and produced by the power duo of George Clooney (who also has a small part) and Steven Soderbergh.
The story begins with Cosimo (Luis Guzman) and Toto (Michael Jeter) attempting to steal a car that no one in their right mind would try to steal. Of course, things go wrong, and Cosimo finds himself in jail, where an old man with a life sentence shares the plan for perfect job with him.
This matters little to Cosimo, unless he can get out of jail. So he sends his wife Rosalind (Patricia Clarkson) out with the story of a job, hoping she’ll find someone to take his wrap and get him freed. She goes to Toto with the secret, but he can’t help, so he goes to Basil (Andrew Davoli). After confessing the deal to him, with no success, the two go to Leon (Isaiah Washington), then to Riley (William H. Macy), and finally to Paro (Sam Rockwell), a down on his luck boxer with attitude to spare. He agrees to take the wrap, but things go wrong, and he finds himself in jail with Cosimo…at least for long enough to get the job from him. Once Paro is freed, the motley crew of thieves is assembled, and the job is set.
This type of dumb criminal scenario has been played out a thousand times, and it’s hard to believe that anything fresh could be done with the formula. Despite this, Welcome to Collinwood makes up for what it lacks in plot with funny dialogue, colorful characters, and some truly funny gags during the “big score” attempt. It’s a film that weaves from place to place easily, keeping us both interested and amused in each scene. There are definite ups and downs however.
The acting in the film is a prime example of these ups and downs. Sam Rockwell’s performance as Paro is at times perfect, at times annoying, and at times both. Rockwell has always been an annoyance to me (Even when he was a young kid in the classic Clownhouse), and I have to say that he surprised me with this performance, or at least with the good parts of the performance. Macy is as solid as usual, and gets some great material to work with. Jeter’s little old man character is always entertaining (except for the bare butt shots), but other than those three the rest of the leads are dull. Davoli and Washington both bring no depth to their characters. As for Jennifer Esposito, as the girl Paro must seduce to get the job, well…she’s simply there. Guzman’s Cosimo is, like Rockwell, a roller coaster ride of good followed by bad, and I wish we could have seen more of him. The biggest treat is Clooney in a small role as a wheelchair-bound safecracker, definitely the funniest and most off-color he’s been in his Hollywood career.
The film isn’t perfect however. It moves rather slowly through its hour and a half runtime. Usually this is good, signifying important plot shifts and/or character development, but in this case it’s just one gag or joke after another. The film gets bonus points for not slipping into gross-out or drug humor much (though the one drug gag, with Macy overdosing on pain killers is hilarious), but at times it seems almost too nice for a film about criminals.
But, these are not your average criminals. They’re way below average in that department. The key to the film is that, despite their ineptitude in career, they’re all worthwhile people. It’s refreshing to see a film with this laid-back of a style, and though it’s not the funniest or most entertaining film you’ll find, it’s worth checking out for the acting of Macy, Jeter, Clooney, and Rockwell, and it’s light-hearted (though obscenity filled) nature. Plus it makes Cleveland look really dirty!!!!