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Knockaround Guys

Hollywood seems to be working overtime to create its new "It" boys. Not that there's anything wrong with people like Ben Affleck, Heath Ledger, Josh Harnett, or Colin Farrell — but it would be nice to see a film that actually showed they had what it took to be front and center; some of these boys are veering a little too close to Troy Donahue territory. One could say the same of Vin Diesel as well. Sure he's been good and XXX was fun, but from his name to his look, he's a bit on the manufactured side. So it's almost too bad he finally delivers a great performance in 2002's Knockaround Guys, as the rest of the film (written and directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien) is a confused, mishmash affair. It stars Barry Pepper as Matty Demaret, who's always lived under the reputation of his famous gangster father Benny Chains (Dennis Hopper) and has never been taken seriously by his dad or his dad's peers after refusing a hit at a young age. The only people who support him in any way are Teddy "Salad" Deserve (John Malkovich), his other "sons of" friend Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli), and minor-league players Johnny Marbles (Seth Green) and Taylor Reese (Diesel). And when Matty finally gets to handle a cash delivery for his father, he brings in his friends — who screw it all up as Marbles loses the money. Eventually the guys have to square up against some none-to-honest cops (led by Tom Noonan) who aren't willing to give up the half-a-million dollars that Matty's dad needs to stay alive. If Knockaround Guys deserves any credit, it's for not coming off like another rip off of Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, or The Sopranos — which is all too often the sort of formulaic peddling that comes from this sort of noir-ish endeavor. Unfortunately though, in this standoff between the Junior Mafia (who are would-be criminals) and small-town cops (who are just as unlikable), the picture is more of a character study to fault, as most of the characters aren't interesting. The plot's mechanics never twist enough to keep things involving, and only Diesel rises to the occasion. It's nice to see Vin showing the talent that's gotten him touted as the next big thing, and his role as the no-nonsense bruiser is perfect for him, although he's only a supporting player. Meanwhile, Pepper's man-who-would-be-king is the main focal point and much less interesting. New Line's DVD presents Knockaround Guys in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan transfers, with audio in DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Extras include an enthusiastic audio commentary by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, four deleted/alternate scenes with optional commentary, the theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers. Keep-case.

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