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1 review, 7 user ratings

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Altruist, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A great dark concept expertly handled."
5 stars

Mick McCleery, I like to think, fired up a nice cigar after he thought up the premise of "The Altruist." There are people out there who enjoy killing; there are people out there who would like to die. And there is, according to the movie, an organization that brings the two groups together. Terminal Assist, it's called. Kind of a Jack Kevorkian rewrite of "Grosse Pointe Blank," this is a twisty and darkly satisfying comedy that pushes beyond its premise to become a far purer example of film noir than "The Black Dahlia" ever manages.

Nick Andrews (the great Billy Franks) runs Terminal Assist out of a deep need to help his fellow suffering human beings, though he usually cloaks it with a cynical, foulmouthed veneer. His agency "matches" despondent or terminally ill people clients with sociopaths willing to put the former out of their misery. There are bound to be flaws in this system, and writer/director McCleery has thought of most of them: clients who have second thoughts, killers who can't be trusted to carry out clean hits or keep their mouths shut about them. It's a low-rent operation, tolerated by cops on the take and based in a shabby office plaza.

The plot thickens when Teresa (Bobbi Ashton), the widow of a client, looks further into his death (which got complicated by an overeager killer). She rightly suspects Nick, and he finds himself smitten with her pain and determination. Added into the mix is the deceased's best buddy (John Innocenzo), a doctor who seems to have his own designs on Teresa. And the FBI is trying to infiltrate Terminal Assist by sending in an undercover agent (Nancy Jarrell) to pose as a deathly ill potential client.

It could've been all too easy for The Altruist to lapse into faux-Tarantino territory, but McCleery keeps the proceedings genuine and rooted in reality. There aren't as many laughs to be found as the film goes on, but that's not a criticism it indicates that the movie is actually dealing with the issues it raises, rather than disregarding them in favor of some ironic, post-everything romp where life doesn't matter. What happens, for instance, when the elderly widower of a client seeks revenge on the people who took her from him? She wanted to die, but he didn't want her to; Nick may force himself to turn a blind eye to the bereaved at least until Teresa catches his eye but the movie doesn't.

The denizens of this half-underworld are immaculately cast, too, from Mike McLaughlin as a company facilitator known as "The Weasel" (fifteen years ago, Steve Buscemi might've played him) to Jonene Nelson as the snappish receptionist to the hulking Nick Cammarano as "The Force," the big dog who keeps the smaller mad dogs in line. Holding it all together is the smartly morose Billy Franks, who comes on like the product of John Cusack and Joe Strummer after a trip through Seth Brundle's pod he makes Nick a man exhausted by his knowledge of what some people are willing to do and what others are driven to do to themselves.

I hadn't expected much beyond the neat concept, but "The Altruist" delivers something a good deal more profound a light-footed riff on Eros vs. Thanatos, like all good noir. Where other films of this type fall apart, this one clicks together; it's a tight unit, fully imagined and wittily presented. Like "Grosse Pointe Blank," it understands that there is humor in the hit-man theme, but not just humor.

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originally posted: 09/24/06 06:19:11
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User Comments

10/02/06 Christine Paoli Fabulous film. Fabulous concept. Fabulous dialogue..Mick your Fabulous !! 5 stars
9/29/06 Rich McLaughlin Excellent movie, the cast are top notch, and know how to party. 5 stars
9/27/06 Wayne Stallworth I really enjoyed the film. 4 stars
9/26/06 Hilda I was sucked in ! Very Deep! 5 stars
9/24/06 Sammi Highly recommended!! Great film 5 stars
9/24/06 Hugh "The Altruist" is a truly exceptional film! What else can i say but see it! & believe it. 5 stars
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  15-Mar-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 15-Mar-2006



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