Despite a quality cast, this adaptation of Scott Phillips’ novel is a curiously flat affair.
Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) is a mob lawyer who teams up with a strip club owner (Billy Bob Thonton) to successfully swindle $2 million from a Wichita mob boss on Christmas Eve. However, things soon start to unravel into a quagmire of suspicion and double-crosses. On paper this probably had the makings of something special, but in practice it is little more than a substandard Fargo clone, with none of that film’s charm or invention. Cusack and Thornton do their best and Connie Nielsen is good value as the strip club manager but as the narrative lurches from one lacklustre set piece to another, one is struck by the lack of genuine laughs and thrills. It does have its moments – Oliver Platt’s drunken lawyer and the killing of someone in a trunk being two of the best – but for a film with a running time of 88 minutes, it feels an awful lot longer. Director Harold Ramis seems unsure of what the tone of the film should be and as a result it fails to engage either as a comedy or film noir. A missed opportunity for all concerned. (UIP, 15)