Last night we watched an unintentional doubled feature we would come to dub “Stupid Criminals” – but that doesn’t quite do it justice.
Suicide Kings is a movie you’ve almost certainly skipped over for a couple of decades now. It was released in 1997 and was so bad that Christopher Walken would have to resort to music videos to revive his career. He plays a former(ish) mob boss who gets kidnapped by a bumbling quartet of friends because he’ll have the money and the connections to help find a (girl)friend of theirs who also happens to have been kidnapped. The boys (including Jeremy Sisto, Jay Mohr, Johnny Galecki, and the kid from E.T.) are a mixture of over and under prepared – they bring a bone saw and an IV full of pain killers to better saw off appendages, but haven’t quite sorted out whose beeper the kidnappers will use for ransom arrangements. Thank Christ for Denis Leary, the competent gun for hire who will surely track down Walken and bring this movie to an end. He’s the only one who makes this whole thing bearable, and he actually improvised his whole part, which is no doubt why it stinks a whole lot less than the rest. Although, come to think of it, Walken’s shoe-polish-black hair is quite arresting. But the young criminals are quite brainless, although not quite as brainless as the actual criminals (Brad Garrett!), and the plan was absurd even if it had gone right, which of course it didn’t.
Faults you may be more familiar with – it’s a little film that gained a certain amount of traction because it’s an interesting directorial debut (Riley Stearns) with a concept that seemed ripe for mining. Ansel (Leland Orser) is about as sad-sack as they come. A “foremost” expert on cults, his expertise is so 2008 and he’s barely scraping by giving sparsely-attended talks to reluctant hotel guests and hawking a book nobody wants to read and that he’s gone into debt to his manager in order to self-publish. Orser does a great job with this, and the first 20 minutes during which his character is established are the best. You may want to stop watching here.
If you continue, you’ll find that a couple of desperate parents hire Orser in order to kidnap and deprogram their daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) from a mysterious cult called Faults. This goes about as well as you’d expect with creepy-possibly-molesty dad butting in with crop tops and short shorts, and the manager’s goons breathing down Ansel’s neck with threats aplenty, and Ansel basically being bought for the rice of a hot breakfast. The whole affair is less dramatic and more sad than you might imagine, with a few moments or real dark comedic gems that are unfortunately too few to make the enterprise worthwhile. You can almost taste the ambition of this movie. It wants to serve you this brilliant treatise on mind control but doesn’t quite know how to do it. So it’s a worthy first effort but not quite satisfying in a meaningful way.