Kicked in the Head
1997, R, 89 min. Directed by Matthew Harrison. Starring Kevin Corrigan, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Rapaport, James Wood, Burt Young, Lili Taylor, Olek Krupa, John Ventimiglia.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 26, 1997
Kicked in the Head is a pleasant, non-threatening diversion that's neither commanding enough to be memorable nor muddled enough to be disposable. It's a frenetic yet slight New York City story about love, truth, and petty gangsters. The characters are all mighty colorful and the pace is appealingly brisk, but these aspects are only window dressing for a woefully nondescript and erratically developed storyline. A few years back, director Matthew Harrison burst into indie world prominence with his moody, super-low-budget Lower East Side drama Rhythm Thief. The film won the director's trophy at Sundance in 1995, as well as the award for best narrative feature at SXSW and other festivals. Apparently, Rhythm Thief also caught the discerning eye of Martin Scorsese who, along with his associate Barbara De Fina, produced and financed this new Harrison effort. Like Rhythm Thief, Kicked in the Head has ample style to burn, but that and some great performances are all the movie has going for it. Rhythm Thief actor Kevin Corrigan, who stars in Kicked in the Head (as well as having co-scripted with Harrison), plays a twentysomething named Redmond, who's too involved with his voyage of self-discovery to be encumbered by anything as pesky as a job or apartment. As the movie opens, Redmond's scam artist uncle (Woods) prevails on his nephew to deliver an unmarked bag to some men at an uptown subway station. Of course, this leads to no good. Evicted from his apartment, Redmond prevails on his buddy Stretch (Rapaport), a crazed beer distributor, to take him in. Then Redmond falls in love with a flight attendant (Fiorentino) he sees on the subway. While pursuing her, Redmond in turn is pursed by another old flame (Taylor). Woods is thoroughly delightful as the film's fast-talking hustler; it's a performance that practically steals the movie, although Rapaport and Fiorentino also bring an edgy energy to their roles. Taylor is underused as the pining ex-girlfriend (although the character is not one you'd really want to spend more time with). Corrigan, who has delivered such likable and winning performances in films such as Walking and Talking, Living in Oblivion, and the forthcoming Bandwagon, goes a bit overboard here with exaggerated mannerisms and facial expressions. Kicked in the Head also maintains an awkward level of comic violence, with street shoot-outs in which no one ever gets hurt and the gunmen are all colorful characters. There are kicks to be found in Harrison's film; it's just that they're too few and fleeting.