Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Dennis Leary, Steve Buscemi, Elizabeth Hurley, Luis Guzman, Chris Noth, Keith Nobbs
Director: Tom DiCillo
The individual parts are promising: a plot which is not afraid to take risks with the conventions of the standard ‘shabby cop makes good’ story; a credibly inventive director (Tom DiCillo – JOHNNY SUEDE, LIVING IN OBLIVION); the endorsement of a supporting turn by indie king Steve Buscemi; and the engagingly offbeat opening titles all auger well for a Fargo-esque blackly comic police thriller. Sorry to report, then, that DOUBLE WHAMMY is ultimately a somewhat slight and inconsequential affair which falls short of the Coens’ ability to integrate cartoon stylings into dark subject matter without compromising the plot or the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Denis Leary plays Detective Ray Pluto, a New York City cop who fails to stop a burger bar massacre because of his bad back and is thus vilified by his Lieutenant and the tabloid press. His friend, and partner, Jerry Cubbins (Buscemi) suggests he visits a chiropractor for his back ailment and Pluto subsequently finds himself attracted to his doctor (Elizabeth Hurley). Meanwhile, back at the apartment block where Pluto lives there is murderous intrigue involving the building’s janitor (Luis Guzman), his daughter, and a pair of sharp-suited screenwriters who are trying to develop their first script into a Cannes award winner. Despite not being assigned to the case Pluto finds himself heavily involved in its machinations and realises that this may represent a chance for him to redeem himself.
Despite some interesting plotting and occasional good comic momentum DOUBLE WHAMMY fails to convince. The main problem is that it is never quite sure how to handle its disparate strands. It tinkers with a character study of the slightly against the grain Pluto, a standard murder plot, a clumsily handled romantic subplot, and episodic comic non-sequiturs which represent nothing more than a token stab at tangential indie credibility. It almost seems that the makers of DOUBLE WHAMMY do not have the confidence to fashion their various parts into a cogent whole.
In recent years an about-turn in quality control has seen television become the foremost medium for setting the benchmark of excellence in genre-defying crime drama, and an hour spent watching any of the plethora of impressive American imports currently beloved of Channels 4 and 5 is ultimately more satisfying than 90 minutes of wannabe filmmaking.