Supposedly rescued from a dusty studio shelf to capitalize on the rising star of heretofore Hollywood character actor Vin Diesel, the shady details surrounding the delayed release of this impressively cast, but horrifically scripted gangster comedy point to one overwhelming possibility: movie execs actually thought twice before unleashing this bomb on audiences. Whatever the reason behind the hold-up, the big surprise here is that the alluring ensemble cast-which includes respected thespians like John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper alongside up-and-comers Seth Green and Barry Pepper-turn in a collection of insipid performances to match the poorly-crafted story. Who knew a Brooklyn accent was so hard to nail?
Unsure how to traverse the territory of comedy and violence, Knockaround Guys never manages to successfully blend the offbeat with the dramatic. Most disappointingly, it struggles to capitalize on the novel idea of what becomes of the ill-equipped inheritors of the Mafia tradition. What happens to the Meadow Sopranos of the world when they try to make their way as law-abiding citizens? In other words, what are you to do when regular people think of you as a criminal and criminals think of you as regular people?
Such is the rock and hard place that Pepper's Matty Demaret is caught between. The son of notorious New York mobster Benny Chains (Hopper), Matty can't realize his dream of becoming a sports agent because of his notorious family name. But, as the sheltered son of the wealthy boss, he's also without the respect of older "made" guys. So, when an opportunity arises to deliver a hefty sum of money for his father, the wannabe gangster begs for the chance to organize "the drop." Of course the simple plan quickly unravels as Matty's buddy Marbles (Green) loses the suitcase somewhere in middle America.
To rectify the situation, Matty and his maladjusted crew (which includes Diesel's half-Jewish, and therefore ethnically undesirable, tough guy and Andrew Davoli's ladies man) roll into a small Montana town to locate their stolen cash and make all right with the mob.
The supposed yuks we should get from watching a group of leather-clad Brooklyn boys toss it up with a bunch of yokels never surface; unfortunately, neither does the hardship-ridden tale of proving yourself to be a "knockaround guy." And the blatant nods to crime films past, the Analyze This psychobabble and Reservoir Dogs group-style execution, only end up making you wish to be watching one of those movies instead.
What does come to the fore is the wincingly-bad dialog, worsened with its delivery from actors who must have been coached on the specifics of good accent-work by Kevin Costner. The only thing to keep you from worrying that Diesel might start to choke on whatever seems to be caught in his throat is the assurance Malkovich gives, with his bizarre take on Brooklyn-speak, that these foreign speech patterns are intentional.
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