Didn't everybody grow up with guys like this? To some it may be Italy, to some it may be Jersey City, but it sure looks a lot like Brooklyn to me. A bunch of buddies with no jobs, no futures, and nothin' much to do, decide to pull off a big heist and change the direction of their lives. Familiar story? If not in your own life, then perhaps it rings a bell from the stories of Italo Calvino, one of Italy's literary giants.

These three friends, Russ, Sid, and Jerry (played respectively by Vincent Gallo, William Forsythe, and Adam Trese), have been the route before. Their latest job involves breaking through a wall to a jewelry store only to discover that their miscalculations have led them into a bakery where they wind up with a loot of brownies and cannolis (and a $50 bonus from the register). These guys are goin' nowhere fast, but ya' gotta love 'em for tryin'.

This is a film about real people. Wiseguys without the know-how. Tough guys with a heart. Dreamers. Russ, who lives with his mother, sister, and brother-in-law, tries to avoid his chaotic circumstances by sneaking out the window, across the alley, and over the fence into neighbor Laurie's lovin' arms whenever he can. Neighbor Laurie (Kim Dickens), dreaming of the new life in California Russ has promised her, often climbs the fence too. Sid, on the eve of eviction, with nothing to eat and his telephone disconnected, is the brains (?) behind the newest scheme of how to make a million. His wife has left him and his two dogs are his constant companions and only love until Enid, (Bridgit Ryan) the second-hand store clerk, enters the scene. Jerry's family loses their only source of income when Jerry accidentally finds his wife's boss trying to slap the make on her and, in a blind fury, he tries to tear the man to pieces. In general, things could be better all around. Then Russ devises a plan to rob the local supermarket's armoured van. These guys are gettin' ready for the future; they even bone up by watching the old film Armoured Car Robbery on TV. The events that follow are so much fun to watch, it would be a pity to reveal too much.

Director Alan Taylor has turned out an impressive feature film debut. A brilliant cast of actors shows what cinema can be like when talent is at work. There is something absolutely riveting about Vincent Gallo on screen. He is not your normal 90's lead in the sense of classical beauty, but has a captivating quality that is well worth noticing. This could well his giant jump into the world of Hollywood hype.

The appearance of what feels like a low-budget independent production gives this film the kind of realistic edges found in the early Italian comedies of Fellini and this is enhanced by the 'Rota-esque' score of English composer Rachel Portman. Even the laughter evoked is reminiscent of the atmosphere created by those wonderful early films; one that, in recent years, has sorely been missed.

The original Italian stories of Calvino, which producer Uberto Pasolini has wanted to realize on film for some time, served as the inspiration for scriptwriter David Epstein's original screenplay which captures the sensibilities of the original tales.

Superb points for cast, director, scenarist, composer and everyone else involved with the film. A special lot of superb points for production designer Anne Stuhler whose attention to detail and exquisite choices are on display throughout the film. Not only are the exteriors ideal, but the set designs and props, down to the very wallpaper and ornamentation, are so appropriate they're exquisite.

What an enjoyable film. Truly a pleasure to behold.

A must see!

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett