October 1 1, 2002
Diesel, Malkovich can't save
uneven 'Knockaround Guys'
By Ryan Lewis
Daily Arts Writer
Apparently, the unfortunate sons of
mafia bosses have little to look for-
ward to outside of following in their
fathers' footsteps. No respectable busi-
ness will take you on as an employee,
no matter how straight-edged you
might appear. No future seems bright,
and even the gangster life has faded
significantly since its heyday because
of snitches and the FBI. Without the
experience of their predecessors, all
they can hope for is the life a
"knockaround guy," a gopher. That
life, just like this movie, is drab,
monotonous and completely stripped
of the glory that it could have been.
Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper, "Sav-
ing Private Ryan") has it rough. As the
son of infamous crime family leader
Benny "Chains" Demaret (Dennis
Hopper, "Blue Velvet"), he can neither
get the sports managing job he desires
nor become a legitimate part of the
family. When he was 11, his father's
next-in-command, Teddy (John
Malkovich, "Being John Malkovich"),
tested his toughness and grit to see if
he could cut it; he failed. Disheartened
by his lack of employment prospects,
he turns to his father for work to prove
his readiness, but the elders do not
trust his willingness. His friends, as it
seems, all have similar predicaments.
Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel, "Boiler
Room") can never be a part of the
mafia due to his Jewish relgion but
only fits in that domain, Johnny Mar-
bles (Seth Green, "Austin Powers") is a
screw-up who nobody trusts and Chris
Scarpa (Andrew Davoli, "The Yards")
lives the legitimate life after his father
had been freed from prison. Nothing
fits for any of them.
After some pleading, not enough to
be believable, Benny "Chains" gives
his son a job. It is so simple that it
would take effort to err. Of course,
Matty makes Johnny the main player
in the action, foreshadowing the cer-
tainty of mistakes. Johnny flies to
Montana to pick up a package that he
is forbidden to open,
and on the return S
flight's gas stop the
sight of cops provokes *1
him to drop the bag.
Obviously, this is bad. KNOCKAR
When Marbles fails to GUY
retrieve the bag, con-
sequently full of At Showca
money, the rest of the Quality
wannabe crew has to New Line C
come to the rescue.
Problems occur when
the cash falls into the hands of the
local sheriff (Tom Noonan, "Man-
hunter"), and Teddy is forced to fly to
"Knockaround Guys" has a very
interesting premise that has inherent
meaning for the next generation of
adults moving up into the business
world. This idea of disenchantment
could have worked almost as a power-
ful antithesis to popular gangster films.
However, the writer/director/produc-
er team of Brian Koppelman and
David Levien drag the intriguing
nature of the story deep into the
despair of blandness. It seems as
though after the majesty of their first
co-written screenplay "Rounders,"
which became a great film, this pair
ran out of interesting material for their
second attempt. Directing and produc-
ing certainly provided no help. The
plot is slowly developed and the char-
acters are annoying and quite apathet-
ic. A flat script, insipid
characters and absence of
style turn the film into a
horribly mediocre piece.
The characters are
kOUND extremely one-dimen-
(S sional and stereotypical,
as if Koppelman and
ase and Levien had mixed and
16 matched from past gang-
?inema ster movies and removed
any notion of personality.
equipped and capable actors severely
suffer from lack of motivation and
direction. Talents like Pepper, Hop-
per, and Green are wasted as their
roles become less and less interest-
ing. Although Diesel has. some bright
moments and Malkovich is always a
pleasure to watch, their acting is ulti-
mately hampered by the linearity and
stiffness of their characters and poor
Most problematic in the film is the
lack of a defined tone. While it
begins as a more serious story, it
develops into more of a cross-genre
mess of attempts at humor, and it cli-
maxes back to a serious, action driv-
en cliche. In trying to expand the
generic boundaries, the directors
severely limit development.
Maybe with practice, Koppelman
and Levien will evolve into an inter-
esting and inspiring team. This sour
failure of a first attempt, however, is
one film that should be forgotten
rather than used for development.
Unique in concept and thematic
nature, "Knockaround Guys" proves
to be a movie that could have been.
Scotty Evil doesn't look so tough next to two WWII vets and two presidential assassins.
'Guys' directors discuss film b1Z
By John Laughlin
Daily Arts Writer
"We've been friends for years ... all that lifetime of
friendship and shared vision and interest made us really
compatible as filmmaking partners," David Levine told The
Michigan Daily when asked how he and his best friend
Brian Koppelman began making films together. Most
notably known for "Rounders," the two are getting ready to
release their next film, "Knockaround Guys." The two
recently held a screening here at the University, which hap-
pens to be Levine's alma mater. "I took most of my film
classes and a couple of writing classes with Hugh Cohen.
He taught this one cool class called like 'Literature of the
Outsider'," recalls Levine, "Frank Beaver was like one of
the big time guys back then. I never took a class with him
though and I feel like I kinda missed out."
Both directors grew up watching gangster films and west-
erns. Each majored in English while in college and later in
life began work on the script which would come to be known
as "Rounders." "We've always been drawn towards these
worlds that sort of take place on the margins of society -
sort of like outside the lines" Levine said. Koppelman added,
"There's something about insular worlds that are hard to pen-
etrate that draw us."
"Knockaround Guys" is just this type of film. Its charac-
ters are on the periphery - the outside of society and
despite all their efforts can't seem to break into the middle.
The film is actually based around the sons of wise guys the
two actually knew growing up. Levine states, "People
viewed them (sons of wise guys) with a mixture of excite-
ment and fear because of what their names were. When we
figured out that we should get them out of New York and
out of the usual neighborhood environment - that they
should go to a small town in the West where nobody knew
who they were, or what their names meant ... we could real-
ly have an interesting setup for the movie."
And an interesting setup it is. "Knockaround Guys" was
mostly shot in very small towns in Canada. The actors were,
in a sense, really outsiders. The locals supposedly reacted not
unlike what is shown in the film. This verite aspect only adds
to the flavor of the film and what the directors were trying to
get across with their work. When asked what, if any, type of
message they were trying to send out, Koppelman said, "It's
hard to talk about that stuff. It's better for other people to fig-
ure out what they get out of it than it is for us to figure out
how to talk about it. I think we're very interested in when you
feel entitled to something your whole life and the rug gets
pulled out from under you."
Koppelman and Levine are two directors that are able to
come up with and idea and really be able to put up on the
screen what they intended, despite the politics of big studios.
"Creatively, so far, we have had a lot of control," Levine
boasts, "New Line has been great to work with, but there is
always a certain amount of - when a lot of money's involved
there is a certain amount of politics and just business relation-
ships that need to be maintained."
The studio did step in by withholding their film for
release. "Knockaround Guys" is about to open in the U.S.,
but was first released in Italy. Koppelman adds, "When they
green lit the movie, the movie cost like $13.7 million to
make, New Line puts up a certain amount of that and then
right when they have the cast and the script, they sell it to all
the foreign markets. They get the rest of the money for the
budget from those foreign markets in advance and one of
those foreign markets, Italy, had a hole in their schedule." In
other words, the studio wanted to wait and release the movie
on the coattails of Vin Diesel's film "XXX" in the hope to
cash in on his success.
This did not seem to irk the directors in the least. They are
both very successful and are already at work on other proj-
ects. The two produced an indie film titled "Interview with
the Assassin" which is slated for release in November and are
already working on their next film at DreamWorks, titled
"The Storm Returns" which they co-wrote and are directing.
When asked if they had any advice for budding filmmakers
here at the University, Levine offered, "The best advice and
the only advice that sort of hands out to anything is you gotta
keep working at it. If you're writing, just keep writin' and
keep submitting your stuff around even if you get rejection
after rejection. Same thing if you're making films; just keep
trying to do your thing. Keep trying to raise the money or get
your thing together and make these movies. It's the only way
that you're gonna to be able to rise above the thousands of
other people trying to do it also." Koppelman added, "If that
doesn't work, sell your soul to the devil."
Courtesy of New Line Cinema
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Comedy Central is well known for its
original programming. "South Park"
and others have shown the creativity
and humor the network is able to create.
With "Porn 'n Chicken," Comedy Cen-
tral delves into a new type of original
programming, the TV movie.
Based on a true story about a group
of Yale students, "Porn 'n Chicken" is
the tale of an uptight student named
Hutch who only worries about getting
into law school. After Hutch is dumped
by his girlfriend, two of Hutch's friends
attempt to console him by making him
watch pornography while eating fried
chicken and drinking cheap beer. In an
attempt to win the affection of the wild
Polly, they tell her they have a secret
club. This leads to the formation of
PNC, Porn 'n Chicken.
Eventually the four friends and Polly
decide to take the concept to the next
level and make a porno. Meanwhile, the
administration learns about the events
and tries to shut down PNC. The club
goes on with their plan to film their
movie at the library.
The lowbrow humor makes this feel
like the same old college comedy; a
rehash of other, better movies. Basic
cable also hampers the comedy. In the
movie, the characters toast "to acts of
perversion and immorality," the movie
barely pushes the envelope.
"Porn 'n Chicken" is a mediocre