Diesel's latest fails to pack a punch with critics

Preview by Jack Foley

THAT old chestnut, the heist gone wrong scenario, gets a hip reworking in Knockaround Guys, a film which has been knocking around New Line cinema's film vault since 2000, but which has been released in America to cash in on the high-profile of its cool young cast.

Starring Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Barry Pepper and the more-established likes of John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper, the film follows the exploits of four young men in the nowhere town of Wibaux, Mont., as they try to retrieve a bag stuffed with $500,000 in Mob cash in just 48 hours.

The men in question are not gangsters, merely aspiring ones, who feel it is their birth-right to deal in the same circles as their hoodlum fathers. Needless to say, none are truly ready for the repurcussions of their actions and quickly find themselves out of their depth and facing a situation of escalating violence.

Knockaround Guys was penned and directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who last teamed up for the absorbing Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton), but it has largely been slated by critics in America for playing too easily to formula.

Yet the presence of xXx star Diesel, along with Saving Private Ryan veteran, Pepper, and Goldmember's Seth Green has helped it to the number two spot in its first week of release (beaten only by Red Dragon).

Not bad for a film which went into production on September 29, 1999 in Toronto, Alberta, and Ontario, Canada and wrapped later that same year.

What the US critics said...

The Knockaround Guys of the title took a few heavy blows from the critics in America, with only the Chicago Sun-Times finding anything positive to say. Its reviewer felt that it 'bothers to develop its characters and take an interest in them', and awarded it three stars out of four.

But the Chicago Tribune was more in keeping with the general reaction to it. It warned that 'anyone looking for a fresh or funny take on the mob-movie genre will find nothing but the same old cliches and stereotypes — just younger and hunkier', while E! Online described it as 'so derivative that it's almost shocking'.

LA Weekly felt that it was 'a pale Xerox of other, better crime movies', while the New York Post said it is as 'lame as a knee-capped wiseguy' and awarded it one and a half stars out of four. The New York Times, meanwhile, advised viewers that 'when it comes to father, sons and mob life, stick to The Godfather'.

Village Voice went a step further, saying that 'the only drama is in waiting to hear how John Malkovich's reedy consigliere will pronounce his next line'.

The Boston Phoenix was a little more positive, saying that the film boasts a 'few solid performances', which 'compensate for the perfunctory pastiche of mob/teen-flick archetypes', while JoBlo's Movie Emporium awarded it six out of 10 and described it as a 'decent "small" mob flick featuring a lot of big names'.

Entertainment Weekly rounds off this overview, however, by declaring that 'Barry Pepper ends up turning coolness into something far too mopey to identify with'. It awarded the film a C.

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