by Chef ADogg
Sometimes, when I'm just sitting around contemplating life, I imagine what the world would be like if there was some sort of method to it--if there was justice, if there was fairness.Tom Cruise would never get work, teenyboppers would give up the Backstreet Boys after realizing that Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg would pop two cops in each of their respective asses (that's ten caps, for those of you counting), there would be no sequels to good movies, and, of course, there would be no poverty, war, suffering, et cetera et cetera.
"Oh no--the tough guys are walking in slow motion again."
And Ray Liotta would be the biggest name in Hollywood.
If there were any justice to be found in this huge stinking trash heap known as planet Earth, "Phoenix" would have been his big comeback--a grungy little crime movie with superb dialogue and lots of great performances from actors we don't see enough of.
But as things are, "Phoenix" became a straight to tape flick after debuting on the Home Box Office channel. While I've never put much stock in general opinion (cause people, in general, are fucking morons), it depresses me that more folks didn't get a chance to savor the marvelousness that is "Phoenix."
Liotta plays a mildly corrupt cop fighting an addiction to gambling. He's ready to go straight and hook up with an elegant bartender (Anjelica Huston), but first he needs to pull off one last heist to get himself out of debt.
Obviously, the heist goes wrong and more than a few people end up dead. The plot is familiar, yes, but "Phoenix" is so much more than the sum of its parts.
The fun is watching the actors bite into their roles and bringing the characters alive. Anthony LaPagilia, Daniel Baldwin (the fattest, sweatiest Baldwin brother), and Jeremy Piven play his cop buddies who aid him with the heist, and their interaction provides the heart of the film.
The dialogue is quick and witty, flowing throughout the film. Director Danny Cannon has chosen actors who can handle it, particularly Liotta and Piven. When big Ray busts out the King Kong speech ("They build a big fuckin' door!"), I nearly pissed myself with joy.
"Finally," said I. "A movie that can handle pop culture rants." The scattered references don't sound snarky, and more than live up to the legacy laid down by "Pulp Fiction."
This movie also has the benefit of some very hot chicks. Brittainy Murphy has her first good post-"Clueless" role, even if her nipples do most of the talking in her biggest scene, and Kari Whuhrer proves once again that she can realistically play a slut.
More important than anything, though, is the performance by Ray Liotta. Glorious Liotta. The man continues to be an inspiration to us all--bleary eyed, frazzled, and somehow beautiful, he finally delivers on the potential he displayed in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas."
Liotta is all grown up now, and he finally gets a role that suits his newfound maturity. After sleepwalking sad eyed through dreck like "Unforgettable" and "Turbulence," he gets a chance to show what he can do when the material is up to par. The script is there, Liotta is on, and it gets my mojo risin.'
"Phoenix" is a great movie, but not a flawless one. A few scenes are too misogynistc for their own good, and there's the requisite shot of a group of menacing men walking in slow motion, glaring at the camera.But, if you look at it the right away, even that is pretty damn funny.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=547&reviewer=123
originally posted: 08/24/99 02:25:06