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   KNOCKAROUND GUYS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Andrew Davoli, Tom Noonan, Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich
Directors: Brian Koppleman, David Levien
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: February 25, 2003

“To regular people, we're nothin' but stone-f***in' goombas, but to knockaround guys—to our fathers, we're nothin' but errand boys.”

Film ***

Ever since directing maestros like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino broke through with their unforgettable stories of crime and the underworld, it hasn't been too hard to believe that young men, to a degree, have been fascinated by the entire lifestyle. True, the mob is an endlessly sinful business, but it comes with limitless luxuries, and let's face, some guys were just born to do it. The characters depicted in the power fused crime thriller Knockaround Guys are good examples, as the story tells of what it might be like to be part of a crime family, yet never being able to be seriously considered a true member of the family. In addition to being a thoroughly entertaining yarn, the movie sparks a terrific cast of actors to give them some of their most astounding work to date.

The movie opens in 1987 New York, when twelve year old Matty Demaret is tested to see what he is exactly made of. Matty's father, crime boss Benny Chains (Dennis Hopper) has been sent away, and the boss' top hit man, Teddy (John Malkovich) gives young Matty an opportunity to display some payback. The boy is given a gun and is told to shoot the man who squealed on his father. After some resistance, Matty fails to go through with the task, and is seen as one who isn't cut out for his father's empire. Several years pass, and now a more mature Matty (Barry Pepper) feels that his time is now to prove himself to his dad. Although his father is hesitant about bringing Matty in, the boy has no other options. He's had countless job interviews, only to be turned down by each one simply because of who his dad happens to be. After some doubts, Matty is soon given his first task.

Matty has his friend, Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), who happens to own a private jet, fly over to Spokane to pick up a bag of money and fly it back east. When he stops for necessary fuel, Marbles comes across local cops and panics. Fearing he'll get tagged if he's seen with the suspicious bag, he drops the bag in a luggage zone. After paying for the fuel, Marbles finds that the bag has vanished. Matty can believe how screwed up the situation is, but nevertheless flies out to the small town of Wibaux, Montana, where Marbles last saw the bag. Matty also brings along for backup lifelong friends Chris (Andrew Davoli) and Taylor (Vin Diesel), who also want their employment in the business.

While trying to keep his predicament secret from his father, Matty and his boys scout the wee small town for clues as to who might have the money. Their trail leads them to the town's sheriff (Tom Noonan), who Matty witnessed first hand coming into possession of the bag, and with Teddy and his fellow goons headed on their way, there's no question that a war of wills is on the brink. With the situation becoming more complicated than expected, Matty will no doubt have to prove what he's made of, with no turning back whatsoever.

While Knockaround Guys happens to include a number of acting pros in its cast, the movie belongs first and foremost to the younger leads. Barry Pepper, a strong supporting actor as seen in We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan, is quite a revelation in the leading role, proving that he can willingly carry a movie on his own. A tense scene between him and Tom Noonan is a standout moment. As for Vin Diesel, who takes supporting credit this time around, still manages to have a scene stealing moment when he confronts a rowdy bar owner and applies what may be the most brutal beating ever given on film. Seth Green, meanwhile, provides expected comic relief as the obvious screw-up of the bunch. Even though it's not exactly a big role for Diesel, it ranks as some of the best work he's given yet.

If a movie's release is delayed, many will instantly speculate that the end result is one not worth even watching, not so with Knockaround Guys. The movie reportedly sat on the shelf at New Line for nearly two years, but finally saw the light of day thanks to the growing power of Barry Pepper and Vin Diesel. It's a very well written and entertaining crime thriller that also happens to include a dose of character development, making it even grander.

Video ****

New Line has already proven to be, as always, virtually unstoppable in 2003, as they provide a superb looking disc for Knockaround Guys. The anamorphic presentation, which is in fact 2.35:1 and not 1.85:1 like the back of the case suggests, is consistently sharp as a blade, and thoroughly alive in clarity, with natural colors and all. A full screen version is also included on the disc.

Audio ****

New Line never lets us down in the sound department, and they have once again issued a stunning 5.1 mix. The is some gunplay in the movie, which sounds incredible, but the sound quality manages to deliver on counts of other areas such as music, dialogue, and just about everything else which is capable of making even the most distinctive instance of sound, which is usual for such a top DVD studio. Pure top quality in every aspect.

Features **1/2

The only thing lacking from New Line on this release is their usual uncanny knack for extras, like their prized InfiniFilm or Platinum Series discs. What is included is a commentary track by writer/directors Brian Koppleman and David Levien, Deleted Scenes with optional commentary, and a trailer for this movie, as well as other New Line releases including Final Destination 2, Friday After Next and the upcoming theatrical release A Man Apart starring Vin Diesel.

Summary:

Knockaround Guys makes for both an profoundly entertaining movie, as well as superb disc presentation courtesy of New Line.

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