A scene from 'Knockaround Guys'
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**1/2 stars
92 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, October 11, 2002
Written & directed by David Levien, Brian Koppelman

Starring Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Andrew Davoli, John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, John Liddle, Tom Noonan, Nicholas Pasco

Interview with writers-directors David Levien & Brian Koppelman


This is the kind of movie that will run 10 times a month in the middle of the night on pay cable in a few months. If you feel the urge to see it, just wait until then.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 02.25.2003


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Mob progeny lose kingpin's $500k in a crooked Montana town while trying to prove their mettle in gangland B-movie

By Rob Blackwelder

In a reasonably fresh twist on the organized-crime genre, "Knockaround Guys" is a post-Tarantino-styled slick flick about a quartet of pampered gangsters' sons trying to prove their worth as wiseguys.

"To regular people we're stone f**ing goombahs," gripes sharp-dressed 20-something tough Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper), who has recently given up his dream of going legit as a sports agent because his last name scares the bejesus out of potential employers. "But to knockaround guys, to our fathers, we're nothing but errand boys."

Now Matty's plan for his crew to earn some respect within the mob has gone horribly haywire. Entrusted to deliver $500,000 cross-country, Matty enlists a paranoid, recovering cokehead buddy called Johnny Marbles (Seth Green) because he flies a small plane and can make the trip in a day or two. But while refueling at remote Wibaux, Montana airport, Marbles panics when eyed by the local law and lets the bag of money out of his sight.

Big mistake. The sheriff 'round these parts, he's ruthless, cagey, derisive and crooked. And now he's rich.

Scripted and directed by Brian Koppleman and David Levien (the writers of "Rounders," the 1998 Matt Damon-Edward Norton drama about back-alley card sharps), "Guys" follows Matty and his pals -- smooth operator Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli) and bruiser Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel) -- to Montana, where they try to get their money back using Brooklyn-style muscle. But they find almost as much trouble in Wibaux as they'll face back home when their fathers get wind of this botched job.

Taken as a new-school mobster B-movie matinee, the film has its merits -- not the least of which are the performances of Diesel (quietly volatile as a cucumber-cool professional thug), Dennis Hopper (as Matty's tightly-wound sub-boss father) and John Malkovich, who steals his every scene as Hopper's right hand man, a soft-spoken, insidiously reptilian enforcer with an accent that meets somewhere between Ivy League erudite and Long Island hoodlum.

But this isn't a picture that will stand up to much scrutiny, especially since the plot invites many questions and has at least one big hole.

If at the beginning Matty wanted to get a real-world job so badly, why didn't he try looking in another city where nobody knows his family's reputation? Why did Matty trust a schmuck like Marbles to deliver half a million bucks on his own? Why didn't one of his cohorts go with the guy?

Where "Knockaround Guys" really sours, however, is in a big shoot-out scene that goes down after Hopper and Malkovich come to town to clean up Matty's mess. The way the bloodbath begins requires experienced mobsters to endanger themselves with such stupid moves that the film loses 90 percent of its credibility in an instant.


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