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Safe Men

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 10/22/01 21:51:49

"It takes a special sensibility to really enjoy it, but I really enjoyed it."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The indie world has brought through a lot of great acting talents over the years, and whenever I'm asked for my favorites I usually raise the names of Steve Zahn (Out Of Sight, Happy Texas) and Sam Rockwell (Lawn Dogs, Green Mile) with as much sincerity as I give to the likes of Jack Black, Billy Crudup, Owen Wilson and Kevin Corrigan. In my humble opinon, both Zahn and Rockwell are the good stuff, so finding them both fronting a quirky indie comedy is a nice surprise. And Safe Men is definitely quirky comedy. Perhaps... a little too quirky... but at least it's not a Michael Douglas film.

Zahn and Rockwell play two awful singers in an awful cover band, who by a twist of fate are mistaken for safecrackers by the right hand toad (Giamatti) of a mobster by the name of Big Fat Bernie (Lerner). Threatened that they'll be pushing up daisies if they don't crack three safes, our twitchy heroes set out to find their way out of a decidedly bizarre mess.

Throw in a love interest (Christina Kirk, looking semi-awake most of the time), kid known affectionately as "Little Fat Bernie", a midget assassin with a sledgehammer, an homage to Say Anything and some flammable slacks, and what you have is a nice little comedy that phases from inspired to flat, and doesn't let dead ends in the plot stop it from getting where the writer/director wants it to go.

Zahn and Rockwell are very funny, in a Bottle Rocket kind of way, and Lerner does what he's been doing for years, just as well as he's been doing it for years, as the Jewish mob boss with an affection for leisure-wear. Keep an eye out for an inspired turn by Paul Giamatti, who seems to play his comedy like it's actually drama, and manages to have you feeling sorry for him while you're laughing at him - and also Mark Ruffalo, taking his first few steps into the fame game with a similarly assured comedic appearance.

Safe Men is one of those comedies that the thinkers will enjoy more than the lookers - the Rushmore and Bottle Rocket crowd will be all over it like a fly on digested peanuts, but its understated originality won't titillate everyone. There's much worse out there, and of late, not a lot better.

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