Knockaround Guys (2002)

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Released 24-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Audio Commentary-Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Writers/Directors)
Deleted Scenes-With optional commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 87:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (42:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Koppleman
David Levien
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Barry Pepper
Vin Diesel
Seth Green
Andrew Davoli
Dennis Hopper
John Malkovich
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Clint Mansell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper) is the son of infamous mobster Benny ‘Chains’ (Dennis Hopper). Because of this association, Matt cannot get himself a legitimate job. However, his father refuses to accept him into the world of organised crime, believing on the recommendation of his trusted associate Teddy Deserve (John Malkovich) that Matt does not have the stomach for it. Matt’s friends are also privileged sons of organised crime figureheads or otherwise involved in the business – there is the sophisticated womaniser Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli), his whining screw-up of a cousin Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), and strong-arm man Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel). None of them are enjoying legitimate or even quasi-legitimate life and are looking to get promoted into the world of real crime. At Matt’s insistence, and Teddy’s acquiescence, they are given the opportunity. The task is to ferry a half-million dollars across state lines to New York in Marbles’ private plane. There is just one hitch; Marbles loses the bag in the nowhere town of Wibeax, Montana. Soon the whole crew is in town, looking for their money, and pitted against a couple of dirty local cops.

    Knockaround Guys is a fairly by-the-numbers gangster flick. It exhibits some cool, but nothing like that evinced by Tarantino’s contemporary gangster flicks or Francis Ford Coppola’s more elegant Mafiosi films. Neither does it have the offbeat quirkiness of organised crime in the new millennium as so aptly portrayed in The Sopranos. It is somewhere in limbo, trying but not quite succeeding. Perhaps even trying a little too hard.

    I saw the trailers for this not so long back and was surprised when I saw it up for review so fast. I was curious and picked it up, already wary and with some low expectations – this is usually how I approach a film when it gets passed over quickly at the box office and crops up on the rental circuit in record time. In many ways I was right to treat it with scepticism. This is a long way from A-grade material. That is not to say this is a bad movie. It is very well produced and executed, and the acting all around is pretty good. It just doesn’t have panache or even depth.

    I like my antiheroes really bad, and maybe this is part of the problem. These guys are really try-hard but that's about it. The writer/directors – Brian Koppelman and David Levien – wanted it both ways; nice guys with a bit of attitude and a mafia background. But the entire point of antiheroes is that although they are bad, they are charismatically bad, with truly antisocial attitudes. The only thing that makes them heroes as opposed to villains is that those they are generally up against are very nasty people and even worse than they are. Let us take a look at a few examples of my favourite antiheroes for a bit of comparison.

    First up, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) from David Fincher’s brilliant adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Fight Club. This guy is bad to the bone, exercising mischief and mayhem by blowing up buildings in the name of anti-consumerism and destroying commercial art. But he is stylish, funny and likeable. Second, how about Samantha Cain (Geena Davis) and Mitch Hennesy (Samuel L. Jackson) from The Long Kiss Goodnight? Samantha turns into a chain smoking sociopathic assassin who carelessly kills people and does it with a smile and glib remark. Mitch is little more than a common crook and is happy to spout sexist and racist jargon while blowing people away. But they had class and a cool all of their own. Thirdly, how about John Lee (Chow Yun-Fat) and Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) from The Replacement Killers? Again an assassin and a petty criminal, but stylish in a cold-bloodedly ruthless, clad-in-a-black-suit fashion. Then you have Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) from the vastly underrated The Last Boy Scout, a borderline psychopathic ex-Secret Service agent turned private detective with a seedy, crazy and casually violent kind of cool. Does anyone remember the line, “Can I have another cigarette?” Ouch.

    In stark contrast, the boys from Knockaround Guys have try-hard, spoilt brat, wimpy and whiney cool, and no real street cred. I mean, sure, they are meant to be utter screw ups, but they are not cool screw ups, no matter what brand of fashion you put on them, and that is an important distinction. They are too nice to be borderline nuts, and too mafia to be particularly nice. You might think this makes an interesting contrast, but really, it doesn’t.

    So, yeah, sure, there are still a few good lines, but nothing by comparison to Fight Club or The Long Kiss Goodnight or even The Last Boy Scout. Moreover, the finale is a bit of a fizzle, and the emotional climax somewhat muddled and confused. There were a couple of instances when I thought they were going to make something more out of this film, give it a serious and nihilistic edge, but overall the real bad guys just are not bad enough (or numerous enough) to be a worthy opposition, and what should have been an ultra-violent conclusion was little more than a couple of cap guns going pop. That might sound a little harsh, but when you watch a film like this with such big-name actors in it, you kind of expect something grand for a finale.

    Overall, worth it for some of the performances, and I cannot fault this film for its technical proficiency. However, the scripting needed more work before this went into production for it to be truly memorable, and sadly this is where the film falls down. Nice effort, but I was left with this feeling of wasted opportunity for something greater.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original aspect ratio.

    I stated above that I could not fault this film in its production values or technical proficiency, and I cannot fault the DVD in its transfer.

    Lush saturated colours; clean, crisp, well-defined picture; excellent shadow detail; no graininess; nary a fault to be found. In the interests of doing my job thoroughly, however, I will elaborate a little further.

    There were no MPEG artefacts, and the only film-to-video transfer artefact I detected was some very slight moire on a chicken-wire fence at 9:34 which lasts for about two seconds. Otherwise, there is no aliasing, no posterisation, no low-level noise, no nothing.

    Like most prints, there was an odd fleck of dirt here and there, but nothing significant or distracting. You have to be actually hunting them before you notice them, and even then they are very few and far between.

    Subtitles are available in English and in Greek only. They are white with a black border, clear and easy to read, and follow the dialogue fairly accurately.

    The dual layer pause is at 42:12. It is during a scene change and is not terribly distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks available: an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track, and an English 2.0 Dolby Surround track.

    There were no problems with the 2.0 Dolby Surround track that I noticed, although it is much thinner than the 5.1 Dolby Digital track and lacks the 5.1 track's surround presence and ambience. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track warrants a little more discussion.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, so long as you are somewhat familiar with the Brooklyn accent.

    The score by Clint Mansell is an excellent blend of laid back and groovy and dark and moody electronica styles, exhibiting a great surround presence and range, even utilising the subwoofer to get the most out of the bass.

    The surround presence is definitely noticeable, although there is no call for any intensive rear directional cues in the way that a film like, say, ID4 needed it. But the rears definitely add to the overall ambient effect, and, like I say, the whole thing is very technically proficient.

    The subwoofer gets a decent workout, mostly in the music, but also to give depth to heavy cars rumbling by and the occasional gunshot.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, and silent. The Main Menu has a 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio track and a snippet from the film. The Scene Selection menu has a 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio track and about 10 seconds of footage for each of the chapter selections.

Audio Commentary – Brian Koppelman & David Levien (co-writer/directors)

    Presented in 2.0 Dolby Stereo, these two have some interesting information on what they were trying to achieve and the choices they made when making this film, and I can see what they are trying to get at, I really can. I just don’t think they succeeded, and this whole project needed a little more work in pre-production.

Deleted Scenes With Optional Audio Commentary (11:12)

    There are four alternate takes/deleted scenes here. They are presented in 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced and with the original 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. I preferred the alternate takes here which gave more depth to the local law enforcement characters. The audio commentary, done in 2.0 Dolby Stereo, gives a brief description of why the shots were removed and who were cast as extras, and so forth.

Theatrical Trailer (13:12)

    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital, the trailer really plays up the humorous angle and makes the film look a lot more violent than it actually is.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release has an extra 5.1 DTS audio track, but is otherwise the same. Given that the score and sound to this film were pretty good, I think that makes this a clear winner for R1.

Summary

    Knockaround Guys is a very well produced film that is let down only by its somewhat muddled script. These guys can definitely make a film, they’re just not making the right film. Hopefully they will spend a little more time in front of the PC working out a better script next time. I look forward to seeing their next piece.

    The video is flawless.

    The sound is also excellent. It's a shame the R4 release didn’t come with the 5.1 DTS track available in R1.

    The extras were good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Monday, September 01, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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