Urban Cinefile
"If being offensive or provocative is a motivation to get up in the morning and do the movie, that's fine - "  -Paul Verhoeven
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday, October 18, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A VIDEO_FILE
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

CLAY PIGEONS

SYNOPSIS:
Clay Bidwell (Joaquin Phoenix) is in a mess of trouble. His best friend has killed himself, having just found out about Clay’s affair with his wife Amanda (Georgina Cates); but has done it in a way to make it appear as murder. Clay disposes of the body, but the ice cool Amanda acts as if nothing has happened. For his part, Clay simply wants Amanda to leave him alone. Then he meets Lester Long (Vince Vaughn), a truck driver passing through the small Montana town. He strikes up a friendship with Clay; but things take a decidedly nasty turn when several bodies start turning up. That brings the FBI to town; specifically Agent Dale Shelby (Janeane Garofolo). With the help of the laid back local Sheriff (Scott Wilson) she starts delving into the unsolved crimes, which all seem to point to Clay.

"If our synopsis is a tad short and mysterious, it’s just because this is the sort of film best approached fresh, with little pre-existing information. (That’s probably true of most films, but readers generally want something to go on…) Entertaining and always unpredictable, Clay Pigeons wavers between black comedy and bleak drama; between character driven thriller and comedic bravura of the mental kind. The entertainment comes from several elements, not the least being top performances. Other aspects likely to feed your fun are the music-based references to other films – mostly in a tongue in cheek sort of way, such as an eerie moment on a beautiful but isolated lake, underscored with an excerpt from Duelling Banjos, infamous for its presence in Deliverance*. But don’t fret, there is enough country music in the film to fill a whole afternoon session on local radio. But the heart of the matter is murder – or several – and the question of how the innocent will avoid getting hung for it while the guilty get to have the best lines of dialogue. It’s a bit all over the place in some respects, but the characters work and the edginess makes the fun sharper. Worth a summer evening’s outing."
Andrew L. Urban

"The greatest appeal about Clay Pigeons is that it keeps you guessing. Tinged with black humour, the script volunteers offbeat, colourful characters that are entertaining, intriguing and engaging all at once. Each character offers more than expected, and brings surprises. It's not quite as funny as I expected; it could be said that the murders are handled a little tastelessly at times. But the performances are terrific – especially Vince Vaughn, who makes a formidable cowboy, and is a real scene stealer. Joaquin Phoenix makes an appealing anti-hero; I especially like Scott Wilson in the role of the country cop who has more to offer than you at first imagine. Janeane Garofolo also brightens up the screen with her non-compromising FBI agent who has an eye for detail. It's quirky, it's surprising and introduces some characters that will burn their psychedelic way into your memory bank."
Louise Keller

"The Western noir thriller tends to be a problematic sub-genre. Getting the right mix of the Western and thriller elements has eluded several talented filmmakers. It was probably best done in recent times by John Dahl in his Red Rock West. But that was before Quentin Tarantino burst onto the scene. Clay Pigeons owes a lot more to him than it does to, say, John Ford; and that’s its primary weakness. The film is a little too glib about the killings which are central to the plot; and a little too blasé about the horror associated with them. Apart from the final scene, the Western sensibilities used so effectively by Dahl are foregone in favour of a kind of pseudo-cool. The other main problem is Vince Vaughn’s character. His clearly affected accent and "quirky" mannerisms quickly become annoying. But there are some good things about the film. One huge plus is Janeane Garofolo (the queen of the one-liner) as the dry-as-a-vodka-martini FBI agent sent to solve the killings. Her character is a wonderful mix of wry humour and genuine human concern. Joaquin Phoenix plays the patsy well, but we rarely get any deep insight into his character. The film is directed with style by David Dobkin in his feature film debut; and his effective use of the mountain scenery is notable. Clay Pigeons is uneven and isn’t completely effective, but it’s well put together and definitely worth a look for Garofolo’s fine performance."
David Edwards

"One more in a line of depressingly 'quirky' thrillers, bastard children of Fargo and Twin Peaks: a trace of Tarentino in the chopped-up scenes of violence set to vintage pop songs, some second-hand Hitchcock in the bond between the weakly decent hero and a florid nutcase (à la Strangers On A Train). Like many recent would-be ‘cool’ films, Clay Pigeons concentrates mainly on making fun of folksy kitsch and showing off its daringly flip attitude to sadism and murder. It’s not any more new, interesting, or intelligent than you’d expect. The treatment of women is knowingly obnoxious: Georgina Cates overacts grossly as a disposable bitch/bimbo, and the filmmakers don’t really make things better by yoking in Janeane Garofolo to play (surprise) a gravelly-voiced, ball-breaking FBI agent. What stays in the memory, for better or worse, is Vince Vaughn as Lester Long, a swaggering good ol’ boy full of outsize, leering charm. Equipped with giant white hat, braided rodeo outfit, and Cheshire cat grin, Vaughn has a chunky, hyperreal presence, bigger than life like a man on a billboard; framed by himself in a shot with Montana's snow-capped mountains behind him, he looms for a second as part of the landscape, a face on Mt Rushmore. It’s hard to shake off the spectacle of this robustly smug actor camping it up as a crypto-queer: the creepy power of his hammy performance is part and parcel of its obvious, crude unpleasantness."
Jake Wilson

Email this article

________________

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

_______________


*Deliverance (1972)
Written by James Dickey, directed by John Boorman; stars Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty – a tense, memorable thriller set in the wilds of the American bush, when city folk have a weekend they’ll never forget. If they survive it.

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

CLAY PIGEONS (MA15+)
(US)

CAST: Vince Vaughn, Janeane Garofalo, Joaquin Phoenix , Georgina Cates, Phil Morris, Scott Wilson, Vince Vieluf, Nikki Arlyn, Monica Moench, Joseph D. Reitman, Gregory Sporleder

DIRECTOR: David Dobkin

PRODUCER: Ridley Scott, Chris Zarpas

SCRIPT: Matthew L. Healy

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Alan Edwards

EDITOR: Stan Salfas

MUSIC: John Lurie

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clark Hunter

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 7, 1999

Video Release: August 24, 1999
Video Distributor: Roadshow Home Entertainment







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017