Re-watching: Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead is a neo noir from 1995.  1995 was a pretty good year for neo noir films with The Usual Suspects, Se7en, Heat and Casino just to name a few!  That maybe why this film gets lost in the shuffle of great noir films from that year.  No, it isn’t as good as those I’ve mentioned but it is a damn good movie.

The film is directed by Gary Fleder and written by Scott Rosenberg with our top billed star being Andy Garcia.  This cast is full of great performers through out.  See if you can spot Don Cheadle, Jenny McCarthy and Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister in some of the smaller roles.

This story starts with a guy jumping a fence to get into a school playground to try to steal a little girl and gets caught.  His father, a kingpin of sorts named “The Man With The Plan” is played by Christopher Walken.  He tells Garcia how his son was in love with a girl in high school and college and that girl left him for another man and moved to California.  This girl’s new boyfriend is on his way back to Denver to ask her parents permission to marry her.  This will push Walken’s son over the edge.  He hires Garcia to take care of this.  Garcia then gets his old team back together for one last easy payoff.  The gang consists of Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, and Treat Williams.  The job goes horribly wrong when things get out of hand and they kill the boyfriend, then the girlfriend gets out of the van and they kill her too.  Now they are in trouble because they have killed The Man With The Plan’s only hope for his son’s future happiness and normality.  Steve Buscemi is the hit-man hired to kill our team.  Gabrielle Anwar plays Garcia’s romantic interest.  Garcia is running all over Denver trying to get his team out-of-town and spend as much time with Anwar before he has to leave town himself.  Will our team get out alive?  Will Garcia save his team and sacrifice himself?  Will he be able to talk Anwar into going with him?

This cast of characters are a blast to watch and all have their unique weaknesses.  The slang in this movie is fun and original, who doesn’t want to use terms like Boat Drinks and Buckwheats. Our gangsters handshake is interesting and has a cool story behind it, we find this out from our old-timer gangster, played by Jack Warden, who pops up from time to time telling the tourists about the good old days.

If all this sounds amazing to you, you should check out this film right away.  It is a very good neo noir that may be overshadowed by some of the best movies of all-time that came out in the same year.  That doesn’t mean this isn’t worth watching too.  For all fans of noir looking for something to watch, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead maybe what you are looking for.

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Re-Watching a New Classic: Out of Sight

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Out of Sight is best known for the relationship between George Clooney’s Jack Foley and Jennifer Lopez’s Karen Sisco, but it is so much more than that.  I haven’t seen this since it came out in 1998 and just re-watched it.  I remember that Steven Soderbergh directed this Elmore Leonard story.  I didn’t realize this was Soderbergh’s first big budget film, not a bad first try, Though this was a box office flop for the studio. This is also one of my favorite Leonard adoptions, it’s funny but it’s the classic one liners and a few characters that don’t quite fit into society that make it funny, not trying to make it a comedy, that happens way to much with Leonard’s work.  Leonard is a crime storyteller first, funny second.  What I forgot about this film is the rest of the cast is brilliant! Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Catherine Keener, Dennis Farina,Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Nancy Allen and Luis Guzmán!

This movie’s most famous scene happens towards the beginning of the film and sets in motion what is to come.  That scene happens after Foley out smarts the prison guards and escapes prison.  When he is getting picked up by his buddy…Buddy, played by Rhames, FBI Agent Sisco is in the parking lot on an unrelated mater.  They steal her car and throw her in the trunk with Foley for the escape.  Their conversation about movies, which includes the classics Bonnie and Clyde, Network, and Three Days of the Condor, and life in general make for an intimate conversation that changes both of their lives.  We find from this scene that there is chemistry between our two leads, and both have a mutual attraction.  Both know this might just be their downfall.

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This gives a different spin on our plot.  Foley can’t keep away from Sisco even though he knows she will eventually put him back in jail and Sisco can’t stay away from Foley, even though she knows she should put him back in jail.  This is also unique because Lopez is not only our femme fatale, but also our hero for good. We have noir’s favorite sport-boxing, bank robbers, kidnappers, magician assistants, ex-cops, F.B.I., Detroit detectives, and a surprise appearance by none other than Samuel L. Jackson.

Enjoy this Leonard romp in the way a Leonard romp should be done.

Favorite tidbit:  Michael Keaton reprises his role as Ray Nicolette in a cameo, Keaton played Nicolette in Jackie Brown(another of my favorite Leonard adoptions) as well.