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Welcome to Collinwood

If there's a foreign film with at least one good idea in it, eventually Hollywood will either remake it (The Ring), steal mercilessly from it (Fear dot com), or import the people who made it. It's a long time coming then for 2002's Welcome to Collinwood, a thoroughly faithful adaptation of the 1958 Italian comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street — so faithful, in fact, that one of the gags might seem lifted from Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks, as Allen was paying homage to (or mercilessly stealing from) the original as well. The story follows a small-time hood named Cosimo (Luis Guzman) who hears of a once-in-a-lifetime score (called a "Belini") and needs to get out of jail to make the haul. He sends his girlfriend Rosalind (Patricia Clarkson) to find a "Malinski" (someone who will take the rap), but she keeps coming across people who can't: Riley (William H. Macy) has a baby to take care of, Leon (Isaiah Washington) has to look after his sister, Basil (Andrew Davoli) is worried about what his mother will think, and Toto (Michael Jeter) just has too many loose marbles. Eventually the failed boxer Pero (Sam Rockwell) says he'll do it, but the judge doesn't believe him and he gets sent to jail as well. While imprisoned, Pero tricks the Belini out of Cosimo and is released later that day. The score is a safe, and an easy target since it's next door to a vacant apartment with thin walls. Pero then assembles the motley crew of would-be Malinskis to do the heist. But though they get help from wheelchair-bound safecracker Jerzy (executive producer George Clooney), the operation is anything but professional. In fact, it keeps falling apart at the seams: The vacant apartment is rented by two elderly women, Pero falls for their maid Carmela (Jennifer Esposito) whom he was seeing to get information out of, and Basil falls for Leon's sister Michelle (Gabrielle Union). Welcome to Collinwood plays out — virtually scene for scene — just like its predecessor. But along the way it manages to capture the lighthearted tone that made the original work as well — the bumbling crooks are engaging without ever forcing their likability. And though it's not particularly clever or original, it does have a very good cast and the running time is swift. Warner Brothers presents the film on DVD in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a glossary of the criminal terms used in the film, a behind-the-scenes featurette that shows the cast goofing around (13 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Snap-case.

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