WHO IS CLETIS TOUT
Trevor Finch (Christian Slater) escapes from jail but finds himself hostage of hit-man Critical Jim (Tim Allen), who has a passion for old movies. Being the movie buff he is, Jim puts the hit on hold when he senses that Finch’s story has the makings of a modern three act classic, one that involves a diamond thief (Richard Dreyfuss), a beautiful girl (Portia de Rossi), a case of mistaken identity – Cletis Tout - and even a prison escape.
Review by Louise Keller:
From its lollypop opening credits to its offbeat and amusing characters, Who Is Cletis Tout (pronounced ‘cleatis towt’) is an unexpectedly fresh comedic crime caper noir filled with novel ideas and escapist nonsense. The humour may not always be of the laugh aloud variety, but the chuckles come from a delectable mix of oddball characters, unexpected situations and some droll one-liners. Christian Slater plays straight man to Tim Allen’s very off-centre hit-man Jim, who speaks in a language based on an alphabet of movie references. While the structure may be rather confusing (dipping in and out of past and using a Tarantino-like circular structure), it doesn’t really matter with the pieces of the jigsaw falling into place without having to work too hard. The ingredients? A prison break-out, a daring (and magical) diamond heist, a beautiful blonde, homing pigeons, a case of mistaken identity, and a coroner with crooked connections (Billy Connolly almost steals the film). There’s much to hold our attention and I would have loved to see more of Connolly (“No coffee here, this isn’t Quincy”), who is in super form – plenty of dash, nerve and verve, while RuPaul milks every moment as the showy transvestite neighbour with spider-eyelashes and a purple feather boa. Writer/director Chris Ver Wiel takes all these ingredients and gives them a sideways shake, delivering a crazy cocktail of wacky delights. The plot is highly improbable of course, but if you’re hankering for a black comedy with plenty of colour, this one may tickle your fancy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I suppose if your name is Chris Ver Wiel, Cletis Tout doesn’t seem an odd name. He should soon become a household name, though, with this clever (but not too clever), amusing and inventive script, cast to perfection. (He won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Canada for this, his fourth film, which is a good start.) Who Is Cletis Tout is a self assured, movie-referential crime comedy in which time unravels in flashbacks and the sheer exuberance of the script and the performances make it thoroughly entertaining. It’s novel in the way New Zealand films are novel: just left of centre, with well rounded characters and unexpected situations. The opening credits (including the music) remind me of The Pink Panther (no bad thing, by the way), and The End is an echo of the kind of filmmaking Critical Jim likes so much. Tim Allen is ideal as Critical Jim, the sort of hit-man we all aspire to be. Christian Slater underplays his character to great effect, and the scenes with Billy Connolly are worth the ticket price. Creatively risky but technically adept, Who Is Cletis Tout is a likeable cinematic fantasy and a great palate cleanser amidst movies that want to replicate life like a photograph. This is a painting.
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WHO IS CLETIS TOUT (M)
CAST: Christian Slater, Tim Allen, Portia de Rossi, Richard Dreyfuss, Billy Connolly, Peter MacNeill, Elias Zarou, Richard Chevolleau, RuPaul
PRODUCER: Matthew Grimaldi, Daniel Grodnik, Robert Snukal
DIRECTOR: Chris Ver Wiel
SCRIPT: Chris Ver Wiel
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jerzy Zielinski
EDITOR: Roger Bondelli
MUSIC: Randy Edelman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charles Rosen
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 8, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: November 13, 2003