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I am Godzilla! You are Japan!

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
(1995)

Whatever happened to Andy Garcia's career? He was the best thing in The Godfather Part III, but following Denver the air of danger he brought to the screen appeared muted in the stock villainy of the Ocean movies. Denver was unfairly maligned by some on its release as yet another sub-Tarantino movie, but Scott Rosenberg's script has much more heart than the glib genre-riffing Tarantino contents himself with. 

Not that Rosenberg hasn't done similar (Con Air). It also struck me that two of his scripts in a row had crucial plot points concerning the attraction of adult men to teenage girls (Beautiful Girls being the other). Rosenberg's career seems to have bottomed out, as does director Gary Fleder's (TV work being more common now for him than movies), but this is a strong debut from both of them.

Fleder makes sure the low budget doesn't show, and the fine cast assembled is testament to the quality of the script; Christopher Walken could sleepwalk through the Man with the Plan, he's riffed on such roles so many times before, but he's as compelling as ever. The assorted ex-cons gathered by Garcia might be labelled Usual Suspects if both films weren't released in the same year, but the job-gone-wrong at least strays from familiar heist territory. 

The crew consist of Christopher Lloyd (victim of an ailment that he leaves him short on digits), William Forsythe, Bill Nunn and as shit-eating Critical Bill Treat Williams steals the show. It even briefly revitalised him as a leading man (Deep Rising). His confrontation with Steve Buscemi's hit man ("I am Godzilla You are Japan!"). is magnificent. 


The ruminations on mortality running throughout aren't wholly successful (Afterlife Advice videos punctuate the narrative) and the final reel derails somewhat structurally (Garcia's repeated audiences with Walken don't seem believable when he's under imminent sentence of death; rather they are forced on the story in pursuit of some thespian fireworks), but the pervading melancholy is effective and resonant.

****


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