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Gigli

Gigli (2003) gathered the moss of critical contempt before it was released. How do such things happen? How do critics fall into lockstep, become victim to groupthink of such Orwellian proportions over something as simple as a movie? According to some, reviewers were determined to hate it. But this writer, for one, found Gigli to be amusing and surprisingly sweet-natured, with some good acting turns, even from Ben Affleck. Unfortunately, to view Gigli with an unprejudiced eye one way or the other is now almost impossible. Larry Gigli (Affleck) is a youngish enforcer collecting debts for an irritable, transplanted gangster in Los Angeles named Louis (Lenny Venito). Larry is given the task of kidnapping and then babysitting Brian (Justin Bartha), the brain-damaged brother of the prosecutor harassing Larry and Louis's boss, Mr. Starkman (Al Pacino). Louis doesn't trust Larry's competence, however, and sends over another "contractor," a female enforcer who goes by the name Ricki (Jennifer Lopez). Ricki turns out to be a lesbian and finds Larry at first highly resistible. But eventually she is charmed by his sincere spirit and the human hurt hidden beneath his tough facade. Writer/director Martin Brest (Midnight Run, Meet Joe Black) writes good dialogue, and though the critics who were unified in their hate of Gigli will no doubt scoff at such a notion, he is perhaps the only living heir to Preston Sturges, able to amusingly and convincingly put high-flown verbiage in the mouths of the low or loathsome. Each character has a distinctive manner of speaking. In fact, one could also argue that the cast was given instructions to mimic other actors: Affleck is doing De Niro from early Scorsese films (which is plausible: Wouldn't a lot of young aspiring gangsters mimic De Niro?), and Christopher Walken, in a cameo as an inept police detective, seems to be delivering his lines under the inspiration of Al Pacino in Heat. Then Al Pacino himself shows up, and he seems to be mimicking Ron Silver from Blue Steel! And the film is at least thematically consistent. Gigli opens and closes with the premise that "you just never know," and the movie hews to that theme with its unpredictable, if soft in nature, plot-line. Though far from the vile excrescence denounced by the reviewers, Gigli does remain a far-from-perfect film. Lopez's character is a little too smugly knowing and in control of Larry at the start, and brain-damaged Brian seems weirdly irrelevant to the actual mechanics of the plot. Perhaps the greatest problem is that there really isn't any conflict in Gigli, unlike in earlier Brest films. Columbia TriStar does not offer the filmmakers a forum to fight back — the DVD comes sans audio track, sans "making-of," sans everything, with an adequate anamorphic transfer (2.40:1) and pan-and-scan option, as well as DD 5.1 audio and an array of subtitles. Trailers, keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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