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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look48.72%
Average: 20.51%
Pretty Bad: 10.26%
Total Crap: 20.51%

4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Welcome to Collinwood
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by MP Bartley

"A Hatful of cliches, but bags of charm as well."
4 stars

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A rag-tag group of various low-lifes down on their luck, stumble upon a large containment of money in a location not too difficult to break into. Pooling their resources, they consult a more experienced criminal before attempting the job themselves. Comic hi-jinks result mainly through their own ineptitude and romatic entanglements. Do you know the story I mean now?

Yes, 'Welcome to Collinwood' is nothing if not un-original (particularly if you've seen the 1950's Italian original 'Big Deal on Madonna Street') and it could be lazily summed up as a low-rent, scuzzy version of 'Ocean's 11'. The humour tends to be of the slapstick variety, mainly focusing on various characters falling over, off or through things. It's farce pure and simple, for better or worse

Local hood Cosimo (Luis Gizmun) is in prison for car theft and asks his girlfriend Rosalind (Patricia Clarkson) to find a malinksi, or patsy, to take the heat for him. Cosimo has a bulini you see, a bulini being a job that can set you up for life, with his being a jewellers safe. Things don't according to plan however and the plan eventually finds itself into the hands of Cosimo's decrepit old partnet Toto (Michael Jeter), wannabe boxer Pero (Sam Rockwell), new father Riley (William H Macy) left holding the baby after his wife has been sent to prison and natty dresser Leon (Isaih Washington). Also causing complications is the bewitching Carmilla (Jennifer Esposito) whose flat is next to the jewellers and catches the attention of Pero.

So far, so cliched. There's nothing we haven't seen before and no great surprises in the plot so why is this comedy a hell of a lot more memorable than any of the last 15 Hugh Grant/ Sandra Bullock/ J-Lo movies?

Well, directorial brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have an appealing quirky eye, and invest the setting of Collinwood with a run down kind of charm. They keep the pace light and breezy, skipping from character introduction to the working out of the heist without much distraction. It feels as grubby and low-key as Soderbergh's 'Ocean's 11' felt classy and cool. The script doesn't take too much second guessing to guess developments, but neither does it take liberties with the audience, taking the time to introduce the characters with a little bit of honesty and sympathy. They're losers, they're not intelligent by any stretch of the imagination, but they feel real and not just cyphers to gain easy laughs. True, falling through a window is something you could find in any Martin Lawrence vehicle, but when the situation's been built up as carefully as it does here, it's actually genuinely funny.

But it's the cast that is the key here. Macy and Rockwell are two of those actors who can elevate practically anything they're in. Add in splendid performances from Washington and the lately departed Jeter, and you've got a cast that's sheer pleasure to watch at work.

Rockwell, building on his 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' notices, gives a performance that reminds you of Nicholas Cage at his best. He's nonchalantly cool in a way that means he doesn't have to play up to the audience, but also comes across as not being as cool as he'd like to be. It's a hard role to get right, but he nails it. Stardom surely beckons now for Sam the Man.

And Macy? What is there left to say about Macy? I would happily watch him read out his shopping list. He can steal a scene just with the expression on his face, which he frequently does here, as the increasingly wound up father. It's he, Rockwell and Jeter in particular that also give the film a surprising amount of heart, something you could accuse 'Ocean's 11' of lacking'.

But they're nearly all upstaged by a gut-funny, expletive laden cameo by George Clooney as wheelchair-bound safecracker Jerzy, who the gang turn to for help. He's in three scenes but steals them easily, the highlight being his expletive-laden rant against some local children.

What works best however, is the fact that this cast aren't trying to upstage each other. There's no over-the-top gurning or wacky voices to distract here, just some fine actors displaying some great comic timing. Scenes that do get stolen are stolen by the right character and for the right reasons (Jeter slowly losing his underwear, Macy's first appearance, Rockwell's courtship of Esposito). The only times the tone feels out of step is with Guzman's Cosimo. It's not that he's bad (has he ever been?) but his moments of violence and crudity don't seem to fit right. There's also a sub-plot involving Leon's younger sister and another thief Bazel, that just dissapears, seemingly there to pad out the running time.

Not a classic then, and certainly nothing strikingly original. What it is though, is a carefully directed and structured piece that elevates itself above average with a wonderful cast who wring out the right amount of laughs from a cliched set-up. A quirky delight that could attain a cult following, 'Welcome To Collinwood' is a place I'd happily revisit.

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originally posted: 05/12/03 23:43:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/30/05 Agent Sands Clooney's part is the highlight. 4 stars
8/16/05 Indrid Cold Mostly boring, but the heist at the end is surprisingly funny. 4 stars
5/12/05 Mike It was ok. My girlfriend loves it though. 3 stars
5/11/04 Matt Rahner Good movie, missed a bit on some scenes, the heist is the funniest. Sam Rockwell rules. 4 stars
5/02/04 The More You Know idiots make lousy filmmakers 2 stars
3/02/04 Ingo Totally boring, unnerving score - miss it. 2 stars
11/24/03 Monster W. Kung Please rent the great original Big Deal on Madonna's Street, not this crappy remake. 2 stars
9/16/03 Trevor Gensch Predictable, derivative but still a lot of fun 4 stars
5/17/03 George Jung Smarter than it looks...needs to be watched twice to enjoy it fully. 4 stars
4/12/03 natasha_theobald I couldn't connect with the rhythm of it 2 stars
2/21/03 Reini Urban An ok feelgood evening, formally astonishing 4 stars
11/21/02 andreas I laughed my ass off. Basically pure slapstick 4 stars
11/11/02 poetchuck great cast-- many disappointments 1 stars
10/10/02 daniboy some good stuff but not that great 3 stars
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  04-Oct-2002 (R)



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