Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead * * * *

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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.

Mark Walker

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46 Responses to “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead * * * *”

  1. Overlooked is right. I’ve completely overlooked this movie and it sounds like I’m missing out. Solid review bro. It looks like something I’ll be checking out.

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    • Overlook at your peril sir. I don’t know if I’m biased on this one. Quite possibly, but I seen it around the time of Tarantino’s emergence and it slotted in nicely. I had a lot of fun with this one.

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  2. HOW CAN THIS BE??? I was going to post about this movie this week!!! LOL – we’re totally in the same spectrum lately….

    This movie is fantastic and I’ve watched it DOZENS of times… great write up!!

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  3. You know what Mark, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this film.

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  4. ray brayne Says:

    Only two stars? Can’t be right. Gary Fleder seems to do TV pretty much these days. Too bad. Kiss the Girls, and Runaway Jury were also good. I like to see more fliks from him.

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    • It was four stars I gave it Ray. Unfortunately, when it shows up on screen, two are beside the title and two are underneath. I think this is a great film and it’s a shame that Fleder didn’t make a bigger name for himself.

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  5. I haven’t heard of this film before but it sounds like something I’d like. Nice review.

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  6. This film has always sparked my curiosity just by its title, but I never really knew what it was about. Thanks for detailing it and even suggesting it. I’m a huge QT fan so I need to track this down as soon as possible.

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    • Yeah, the title alone is great Nick, isn’t it? It’s not as tightly constructed as a Tarantino movie but the characters and dialogue are superb. It gets by on them alone. I found it very hard not to like it.

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  7. Never checked this out but sounds like I definitely should. Anything with Walken in and I’m sold! Great review mate.

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    • Cheers Chris. Walken is fantastic in this. He acts with his face only. Absolutely no body movements whatsoever, which makes him, surprisingly, even more sinister and threatening. You can tell he’s having fun with his role as well. Check it out, man. It’s an overlooked little treat.

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  8. great film, i’ve had a review on the back-burner for ages so you may have inspired me to finally complete my draft. good review my man! loved Treat in this, absolute madman!

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  9. Never seen this. But with this cast, and that grade? I should.

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  10. I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds good. Looks like it has a good cast too. I have to look this one up. Good review.

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    • Im actually very surprised how many people haven’t seen or heard of this Garrett. Maybe it was overshadowed by the likes of Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects which is a shame. It deserves more attention. Thanks for checking in, man.

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  11. Hi, Mark:

    Excellent choice for a forgotten gem.

    Intriguing cast with Andy Garcia in a surprisingly smooth role. Sad to see Treat Williams relegated to smaller roles after his ‘Prince of the City’. Though he does give ‘Critical’ Bill more than appropriate depth.

    Buscemi gives his ‘Mr. Shhh’ lots of room and steals every scene he’s in.

    Though, I’d have backed off when the rainstorm hit and the job really started. Too many bad vibes to get it done right.

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    • Hey Jack:

      I am very surprised how many people haven’t seen this, let alone heard of it. Great little film that deserves more attention.

      I’m with you on Treat Williams. Underrated actor that hasn’t really got the work that he should have and his performance as Critical Bill is proof that he’s good enough.

      Buscemi was great as well.

      When you look at it all, it was very foolish of Jimmy to make the decision he did but hey, every unravelling needs a catalyst.

      Thanks again Jack. Glad to head you’re fan.

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  12. Havent seen it for a ling time, but I own it and you have made me want to rewatch it! Always liked Andy Garcia for some reason 🙂

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  13. I haven’t seen this one yet Mark, though I have heard of this because the title is quite sensational (reminds me of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead). Glad to hear that the story is as good as the cast. Might give this a shot.

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    • I hope you do give it a shot Ruth. It’s a great little film. The whole cast are on form and the characters and dialogue are brilliant. Probably overshadowed by Tarantino’s early work but it’s of the same ilk.

      The title’s a beauty isn’t it?

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      • Will do Mark! I’ll search for it on Netflix, hopefully it’s available on Streaming as that’s what I have. It’s tough to come up w/ a clever movie title, so when it happens you definitely remember it!

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      • It does stand out. If you do get a chance to see it, you’ll probably find that the dialogue stands out just as well. I remember this when I was about 16 years old and it still stands up today.

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  14. Interesting review, Mark. I think I’ve heard the title of this film before, but that was about it. Now I’m inclined to think I should pick this up some time.

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    • You should pick it up Morgan. There’s a good chance you’ll have a lot of fun with it. I’m surprised that loads haven’t seen it but those that have are normally very positive about it.

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  15. Great review, Mark. I’d never heard of this movie before but I love the title!

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  16. Popcorn Nights Says:

    Boat drinks! Love this film Mark, it was one of my favourites in the 90s, and haven’t watched it for a long time – shame it isn’t more widely known, completely agree with you. I also think you’ve nailed it in your review – the strength of the supporting characters (and the people that play them) is top notch. Can you believe it’s 20 years old?!!!

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    • Yeah, 20 years old, man. I was about 16 years old when I seen it. It’s hard to believe. I watched it again a few nights ago and it still stood up. Great little movie and the dialogue is brilliant.

      Boat Drinks, buddy! 😉

      Like

  17. […] blogger who shall remain nameless (ERIC!) and he and another blogger who shall remain nameless (MARK!) were always shouting (well, typing) “Boat Drinks!” at each other and I was like […]

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