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Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper) is the son of Brooklyn gangster Benny Chains (Dennis Hopper), but does not work in the family business because he failed the test Uncle Teddy Deserve (John Malkovich) put him through as a child: he couldn’t shoot a snitch. Matty shares a similar problem with his friends Taylor (Vin Diesel), Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli) and Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), who all have family issues. Desperate to prove himself, Matty persuades his father to let Marbles fly his plane to pick up a badly needed half a million dollar loan in cash. But while refuelling in Wibaux, Montana, Marbles panics when he sees the local sheriff (Tom Noonan) and the bag of cash goes missing. Now Taylor, Scarpa and Matty must head out west to set things right.

Review by Louise Keller:
A gangster movie dressed up as a western with a wonderful cast, Knockaround Guys will probably find its market on DVD, where its audience will be more forgiving of the brick wall that the script hits during its last 20 minutes. Nonetheless, its top ensemble cast headed by the ever-remarkable John Malkovich and charismatic Vin Diesel has appeal. 

What begins as a laconic comedy holds our interest for the first hour. It’s not that it’s filled with laughs, but there’s an undertone that is sardonic with a sense of the ridiculous. This is a story about the sons of the guys in the mob. They’re would-be if they could be, and they sure wanna be, but they seem to have just sunk into oblivion and become errand boys for their dads. Not only are these guys hindered by their blackened pedigrees, but they don’t seem to have what it takes to succeed either in the real world, or in the underworld. 

One by one we meet these knockaround guys, who seem to be just hangaround guys. Matty wants to prove himself for once and for all, but he is relegated to delivering the sandwiches. It’s good fun watching ‘the big guns’: Malkovich oozing smarmy evil as loathsome Uncle Teddy – his every mannerism unforgettable as is Dennis Hopper as big daddy. 

Things really hot up when a little spot of trouble brews in the small township of Vibaux whose lanky, corrupt county sheriff makes it clear that he is calling the shots. Tom Noonan at 6’6” makes an imposing sheriff towering above everyone. Even Vin Diesel, who at 6’3” and exploding with well developed biceps is put in his place. It’s when the mob from New York comes to Vibaux to rescue the situation that the plot goes awry and the disappointments set in. It just goes to show - two directors (and two writers) are not always better than one. 

There are four deleted/alternate scenes, each with optional commentary, while Brian Koppleman and David Levien (writers and first time directors) give a good insight into their philosophies behind the film. Their intention is to make you feel comfortable and then ‘pull the run from under your feet’. It’s a proficient and interesting commentary, that describes how the filmmakers set about to create the mood and how their plan to make a different kind of mafia movie was achieved.

Published September 18, 2003

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CAST: Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Seth Green, Andrew Davoli, Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich

DIRECTOR: Brian Koppelman, David Levien

SCRIPT: Brian Koppelman, David Levien

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

PRESENTATION: Feature ratio 2.35: 1 ; Dolby 2.0 & Dolby 5.1; DTS 5.1; English and Greek Subtitles

SPECIAL FEATURES: (All Access Pass) Audio commentary by filmmaker; deleted scenes with audio commentary; theatrical trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 24, 2003

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