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Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Barry Pepper, Andrew Davoli, Seth Green, Vin Diesel, John Malkovich, Arthur J. Nascarella, Tom Noonan, Nicholas Pasco
Writing Credits:
Brian Koppelman, David Levien

How many friends can you trust with your life?
Box Office:
Opening weekend $5.016 million on 1806 screens.
Domestic gross $11.632 million.
Rated R for violence, language and some drug use.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Surround
English, Spanish

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 2/25/2003

• Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
• Feature-Length Audio Commentary
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• DVD-Rom Content: Script-to-Screen and Link to Theatrical Website


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Knockaround Guys (2001)

Reviewed by David Williams (March 5, 2003)

This film sat on New Line’s shelf for well over 18-months – long enough for Vin Diesel to go from supporting actor to top shelf action star – and it’s unknown whether or not Diesel’s involvement is the only reason this film saw the light of day. First time directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the writers behind 1998’s Rounders, have come up with a very interesting concept, but have failed to completely deliver on the premise. Is it a comedy? Is it an action flick? Is it a black comedy? Unfortunately, it’s hard to say. It doesn’t really succeed at either and regrettably, the film falls somewhere in the middle of all three.

The film follows a group of friends who are all the young sons of real life gangsters. These kids have tried all their lives to live up to their dad’s expectations for them and all have somehow or the other, failed miserably. With their fathers all in “the business”, it’s also been hard for the guys to make a living legitimately as well. Their last name has become a stigma that they just haven’t been able to shake.

The story is set up via a childhood flashback, as notorious gangster Teddy Deserve (an over-the-top John Malkovich) asks his young nephew, Matty Demaret (played by a young Andrew Francis), to aid him in offing a snitch. It seems that this particular snitch was responsible for putting Matty’s dad, Brooklyn mob boss Benny “Chains” Demaret (Dennis Hopper), behind bars. However, when it comes down to brass tacks, Matty simply isn’t able to pull the trigger and finish the job. This incident not only sets off his Uncle Teddy, but will haunt him for the rest of his life, as Teddy just doesn’t feel that Matty is cut out for the life of a mobster.

We then cut to present day where Matty’s (played now by Barry Pepper) dreams of becoming a sports agent are slowly vanishing because of his mob ties. Surprisingly enough (well, not really), he has some other friends - who also happen to be sons of mobsters – and they’re experiencing the same employment woes as he is. We are introduced in short order to a pimpin’ playa’, Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli); Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel), a gambling machine repair man; and finally, Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), a small time pilot and coke addict. The group decides that they could all be doing better for themselves and they attempt to find the right job to stake their reputations on.

Matty decides to ask for one more chance to prove that he’s right for the gangster life by persuading his father and his Uncle Teddy into letting him supervise a routine transfer of illicit cash with his newly formed crew. For whatever reason, the boys are given the job and it’s up to Johnny Marbles to transport the dough, with Matty supervising things from home base.

However, it doesn’t take long for problems to arise. After stopping over in Montana for refueling, Johnny Marbles gets a little spooked by seeing some local cops, as well as the gangly sheriff (Tom Noonan) hanging around the airport. Marbles decides to hide the money while he waits for things to cool down somewhat. However, when he goes back to the hiding place, he finds out the money is missing and when he reports back in to Matty that the money is gone, Matty, Talyor, and Chris decide to fly to Montana and help Johnny take care of business. From this point on, it’s on like a chicken bone, as the gangsters and the locals have a no-holds-barred fight to the finish in order to recoup the cash.

While Koppelman and Levien manage to evoke a nice companionship among the wanna-be mobsters, the characters themselves are either too stupid or too one-dimensional for us to even really care what happens to them. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t have enough time to go around feeling sorry for spoiled rich kids (Mafia or not) who are too incompetent to make it in the real world like the rest of us. Suspension of belief is one thing – feeling sorry for a bunch of morons is another thing all together. Even so, performances were somewhat solid all the way around and it’s through no fault of the actors that they weren’t given much to work with. (However, they did choose to be involved in the project.)

Knockaround Guys ends up being nothing more than a predictable, run of the mill action flick (that takes itself a bit too seriously) and one that most viewers will more than likely forget mere hours after popping it out of their DVD player. It’s an entertaining film – far from great – and one that’s worth a rainy day rental in my opinion.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B- / Bonus C-

New Line beautifully presents Knockaround Guys in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with anamorphic treatment. In true New Line form – whether the movie is good, bad, or indifferent – the studio always gives it their best when bringing a title to the home consumer. While the film may not be as gorgeous as some of the other titles in New Line’s impressive catalog, it’s still better than most, as an average transfer from New Line is a top-notch transfer from most other studios. New Line has also provided a fullscreen version of the film that’s available on the flip side of the disc for those of you who are interested, but for purposes of the review, I’ll only review the widescreen version.

The image was very sharp and detailed, with excellent clarity throughout the film. The film’s color palette was rather generic and subdued, but even so, things were always properly balanced, saturated, and contrasted. There was never any smearing or over-saturation noted and black levels were consistently deep and bold, allowing for excellent shadow detail and delineation. Fleshtones were spot-on and natural and never showed any signs of overt softness or redness.

There were few flaws with the transfer, with only the occasional flake and fleck noted on the print - even so, the master print seemed to be in excellent condition. Edge enhancement was noted on occasion, as was some slight grain and shimmer, although none was seen in distracting qualities. All in all, it’s a fine looking print and New Line handles everything as wonderfully as they always do.

Once again, New Line gives viewers a very solid presentation and it’s hard to find much fault with Knockaround Guys … at least the transfer side of it anyway. New Line has provided fans of Knockaround Guys with a couple of really nice audio tracks for the film – one in Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as one in DTS 5.1. (However, if you choose to watch the fullscreen version of the film, you’ll only have the Dolby Digital option available to you.) Both tracks suit the material well and either way you go, you’ll be more than pacified. However, as is usually the case, I found myself drawn to the DTS track a bit more so than its Dolby Digital counterpart.

Surprisingly enough, the film doesn’t offer up too many instances for aggressive surround usage, although there are times where the track does get to show out a little bit. There are some pretty nice sequences later in the film that offer up some nice envelopment and antagonistic surround usage, but there’s not enough consistency in the action to keep you impressed from beginning to end. There is some nice split surround usage and separation to be found in the track, as well as some very deep .1 LFE in certain areas as well.

Dialogue in the film was placed firmly in the front surrounds and was always crisp, clean, and easily understood. Distortion and edginess were never an issue and overall, the track contained excellent dynamics and fidelity. Ambience was present in the track on quite a few occasions and New Line has done a commendable job of keeping the rear surrounds engaged if by nothing else other than the score. LFE usage was laudable and while it’s not quite as bombastic as many of the action films I’ve seen, it was certainly welcome.

Also included are English and Spanish subtitles, as well an English track in Dolby Surround 2.0.

Being that the disc is a flipper, you might expect the extras to be identical on either side of the disc. Well … you’d be wrong. However, unlike the recently reviewed Brown Sugar, where the extras were split across both sides of the disc, Knockaround Guys contains extras on the widescreen side only. That’ll learn all you fullscreen folks out there …

First up is a Filmmaker Commentary that is hosted by directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien. In a nutshell, the commentary is rather generic and very screen specific. The duo does a decent job of keeping things lively, but for two people, there were admittedly a few too many dead spots in the track. There were some interesting personal stories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes that were shared by the two and they offered listeners a few fleeting moments of joy, but as a whole, the commentary relied a bit too much on relating what we already saw on the screen, as well as other, rather laborious (and obvious) topics.

There are four Alternate and Deleted Scenes that contain optional commentary from Koppelman and Levien. The scenes included are “No Problem on the Green” (3:49), “The Ballers” (2:19), “Working Hard for the Money” (3:25), and “Cereal Stash” (1:42). None of the scenes would have really helped the film one way or the other and the commentary was rather generic as well. Enjoyable somewhat for fans and easily forgotten by others.

The Original Theatrical Trailer follows, as does More From New Line - trailers for other New Line projects including A Man Apart (the new Vin Diesel vehicle where he stars as a DEA agent), Final Destination 2, Dinner Rush (review coming soon), and Friday After Next.

Last up on the disc is some DVD-ROM content that contains a “Script-To-Screen Viewer”, as well as some weblinks. Nothing major included here, although the script viewer is a nice addition to the DVD.

This is a rather disappointing set of extras even by most anyone’s standards – especially New Line’s. However, considering the amount of time the film sat on the shelf – and the relatively small box office take – New Line did what any other studio would have done and put only the minimal amount of supplements on the disc.

Knockaround Guys is definitely better than I was led to believe, but even so, the shortcomings in the film make it hard for me to recommend a sight unseen purchase. If you’re already familiar with the film, or a die-hard fan of one of its principals, Knockaround Guys would be a decent purchase – especially considering the A/V treatment New Line has given the DVD. (Although the asking price is a bit stout.)

There’s no doubt the DVD is solid from top to bottom – even considering the lack of substantive extras - but make sure you like the film before dropping the bone. I’d say a rental is in order unless you saw the film in theaters and loved it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 8
2 3:
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