Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Directed by Gary Felder. Starring Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Treat Williams, Jack Warden, Steve Buscemi, Fairuza Balk, Gabrielle Anwar, Christopher Walken, Michael Nicolosi, Bill Cobbs. (1995, R, 117 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Thu., Feb. 16, 1995

It's somehow fitting that a movie with this unwieldy a title should also feature a cast of actors that virtually runs off the edge of the page. This unruliness may be the source of the trouble with Things to Do in Denver…. A dark gangster comedy/romance, there's more material here than can comfortably fit within a two-hour time frame. The movie, therefore, flits between characters, moods, and genres with the alacrity of a hip scenester making the rounds. About the only thing that doesn't change is the Denver setting, though even Denver seems a quirky setting for this urban wiseguys caper. Andy Garcia sets the tone for this whole thing as his Jimmy the Saint character moves through it all with a look of perpetual bemusement. The movie is essentially Jimmy's story, yet you never get a real grip on where the character's coming from. The story is not so much complicated as elaborate to relate since every step of the plot involves something squirrely. Jimmy the Saint is inveigled by an old cohort into committing a questionable “action” despite the fact that Jimmy's gone legit -- or as legit as a business that videotapes messages from the nearly-departed to their future offspring can be. The name of the old cohort (Walken) is The Man With the Plan, typical of this movie in which every character's name is some kind of handle. The reasons prompting the “action” are perverted, the way it's approached is twisted, and the way it spirals out of control is epic. Toss in a couple of unnecessary love interests and some underlying themes about redemption and you have quite some hodgepodge. Despite its inability to cling together, the movie has a memorable number of high-flying pirouettes. Treat Williams as Critical Bill goes way far out into psycho-land; Christopher Lloyd as Pieces essays some kind of leprous old dandy gone to seed, and Walken… well, just when you thought there remained no higher precipices from which his dementia might freefall, along come Things to Do in Denver…. The film's scriptwriter is Scott Rosenberg, who penned it as his first feature film and then moved on to Beautiful Girls for his second. It's the first full-length feature for director Felder. The movie also features a very cool soundtrack and more hip lingo than two ears can absorb. But, like the air in Denver, this movie is spread awfully thin.

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