Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (Gary Fleder, 1995)
[originally posted 13Jul2000]
Why in the world did this twisted, sick little gem of a film never get the attention it deserves? With a cast list with the kind of power this one has (to give you an idea, Christopher Walken’s name is tenth in the credits…), a fast-moving plot, typically wisecracking bad guys, Steve Buscemi in the role he always does so well (quiet, sociopathic Evil Guy<TM>), and a can’t-miss plot (bad guys screw up shakedown), how can you go wrong? Obviously, in promotion and distribution, because Fleder’s first cinematic offering (he’s done a lot of work as a TV guy) is missing nothing.
The Man with the Plan (Christopher Walken) is a bad, bad man. An assassination attempt has left his wife (Aelina Matthews) dead and him paralyzed from the neck down. His son Bernard (veteran TV heavy Michael Nicolosi) has slipped far over the edge into insanity, and in the movie’s very first scene we see him being arrested for attempting to snatch a child from a playground. Walken has a theory: his kid’s descent into madness started when his high-school and college sweetheart Meg (Sarah Trigger) broke up with him. Meg’s current beau, the guy she left Bernard for, is headed into Denver to do the propose-to-Meg’s-parents thing, and Walken wants him shaken down so he won’t marry Meg. He hires an ex-associate of his gone straight, Jimmy “the Saint” Tosnia (Andy Garcia), to do the job. Jimmy gets the old gang back together for the shakedown—Franchise (William Forsythe), Pieces (Christopher Lloyd), Easy Wind (Bill Nunn), and Critical Bill (Treat Williams). Of course, everything goes wrong, and there the fun begins. Oh, yeah, and while Jimmy is attempting to play both sides of the fence, he’s also attempting to woo another guy’s girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) while fending off the crush of a teen prostitute (Fairuza Balk).
It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s funny, it’s foul, it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie without Quentin Tarantino, and it deserves more attention than it got. Go see it. Now. *** ½
For some reason, I cannot find a trailer. So I’m giving you… CRITICAL BILL. You will understand why soon.