Director: Gary Fleder.
Screenplay: Scott Rosenberg.
Starring: Andy Garcia, Christopher Walken, Treat Williams, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Steve Buscemi, Gabrielle Anwar, Fairuza Balk, Jack Warden, Bill Cobbs, Michael Nicolosi, Marshall Bell, Glenn Plummer, Josh Charles, Sarah Trigger, Don Stark, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Don Cheadle.
Post Quentin Tarantino and “Reservoir Dogs” there was an influx of stylish and fast-talking crime movies. It became the fad during the 90’s and beyond. “True Romance“, “Pulp Fiction” and “The Usual Suspects” were another few. Some fell by the way side while others genuinely succeeded and “Things To Do In Denver…” is one of those films that creates a positive, lasting memory. Crime escapades and colourful characters are what this film has in abundance.
In order to fund his small business, Jimmy the Saint (Andy Garcia) is in debt to lone sharks. However, his debt is bought over by an old venomous cohort from the past (Christopher Walken) who drags Jimmy back into a life of crime and orders him to scare off the new boyfriend of the ex-fiancée of the boss’s simple-minded son and heir. Jimmy assembles a tight-knit crew to keep the job simple but things don’t go to plan, leaving him and his friends with contracts on their heads.
As the lively and spirited Tom Waits song “Jockey Full of Bourbon” is played overhead we are introduced to our suave, confident, wheeler/dealer protagonist ‘Jimmy the Saint‘ and given an almost instant idea of this films stylish intentions. Like Jimmy, this film moves fast and talks fast. However, this isn’t strictly down to him. Where this film succeeds is not just in one particular character or it’s particularly cool demeanour. Where it succeeds, is in it’s plethora of interesting and delicately written supporting roles and a whole hot of quality actors to embody them. A lot of them get limited screen time but it’s still a testament to the writing qualities of Scott Rosenberg who manages to give them enough of a backstory to make them stand out and the actors bring the right amount of presence required for us to invest in them. The real standouts from Jimmy’s crew are: Christopher Lloyd’s leper – nicknamed ‘Pieces’ on account of his fingers and toes falling off from a circulatory disease and a completely on-edge Treat Williams as ‘Critical Bill’ – a psychopath, who can’t seem to stop harming people. He even uses funeral parlour corpses as punchbags to relieve his tension. There is also excellent support in Christopher Walken’s crippled mob leader ‘The Man With The Plan’, who’s so ruthless, he even threatens to have his henchmen pull out his “dead dick” for Jimmy to suck on. He’s a lamentable nasty but one that Walken excels at, and all the more, because he acts only from the neck up. On the sidelines – but no less memorable – is Steve Buscemi’s clinical hitman ‘Mr. Shhh’, who’s brought in to despatch of Jimmy and his crew. Buscemi gets the least amount of dialogue and screen time but anyone familiar his role in “The Big Lebowski” will know that this is never a problem for him to still make a lasting impression.
At times, there is an elusive nature to the sharply written dialogue and the characters’ use of a distinctive vocabulary but it only helps to convey a strong bond and understanding between them. On closer inspection, their patois is explained and the camaraderie and altercations throughout the film are driven by paying as much as attention as it does, to such a vernacular approach.
Fast talking dialogue with fast and colourful characters in the fast and dangerous Denver underbelly. This film has the goods to satisfy fans of the crime genre and manages just the right amount of cool that Quentin Tarantino made his name on. An overlooked and thoroughly entertaining addition to the genus.