USA - 1998
Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
Vince Vaughn wants to play Lonesome Rhodes in a reprise of the role immortalized by Andy Griffith in 1957's "A Face In The Crowd." Just thinking about the gifted Vaughn as a sleazy, media-driven character is a mouth-watering prospect. Right now, Vaughn IS Lester Long in "Clay Pigeons", the first film for screenwriter Matthew Healy and for director David Dobkin. Both Healy and Dobkin dive into the film noir genre like Philip Marlowe plunged into that bottomless black pool in "Murder, My Sweet." But this is neo noir, circa 1998, with its own twists and turns.
The world of "Clay Pigeons" is savagely funny, with vast, bright landscapes supplying the background for all sorts of violent surprises. Clay Bidwell (Joaquin Phoenix) is best friends with Earl (Gregory Sporleder), who believes that his wife Amanda (Georgina Cates) was a virgin when he married her. After learning that Clay and Amanda are carrying on, and knowing that his good buddy Clay would never, ever shoot anyone, Earl comes up with a surefire scheme of vengeance. What's a peace-loving small town guy like Clay to do? Then, Earl's "virginal" bride Amanda proves to be pretty faithless and she continues to practice her seductive tricks on poor Clay, who, it must be said, is not terribly bright. In frustration, he takes cute waitress Gloria (Nikki Arlyn) home to his water bed, a situation not missed by the also-frustrated Amanda. Nope, Clay and Amanda just can't seem to get along, a situation not missed by good old boy Lester Long.
Ah, Lester, what can you say about him other than he's good-natured and clean-shaven and wears a big cowboy hat and has a silly laugh that you'd never miss in a crowded bar? How Clay and Gloria and Amanda and Lester and Kimberly (Clay used to babysit her before SHE was a waitress) help each other fulfill their destinies is the tale that "Clay Pigeons" has to tell. That Healy and Dobkin make you laugh and shiver and look forward to every new sequence with breathless anticipation is a tribute to their fresh and vivid originality. Phoenix and Vaughn bring out the best in each other as actors (if not as characters) and every part down to the tiniest bit is splendidly cast. Once again, Janeane Garafalo is a delight as FBI agent Dale Shelby and who should be her granite- jawed partner but Phil (son of Greg) Morris from "Mission Impossible"? Scott ("In Cold Blood") Wilson plays decent Sheriff Mooney with every bit as much intensity as he once played Dick Hickock, and if you remember Cates from her work in the Brit flicks "An Awfully Big Adventure" and "Frankie Starlight", you'll be stunned at her unrecognizable transformation here as the trashy Amanda. If Vaughn can play Norman in the upcoming "Psycho" remake by Gus Van Zant half as well as his Lester Long persona, the Bates Motel will be under very stylish and capable management indeed.
© 1998 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 9/23/98
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