Tag Archives: Joe Piscopo

Wise Guys (1986)

wise guys

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hiding from the mob.

This review contains some Spoilers!

Harry and Moe (Danny DeVito, Joe Piscopo) work as errand boys for a Newark, New Jersey mob run by Castelo (Dan Hedaya). They are tired of doing all the odd, dangerous jobs that no one else wants to and long to one day break away and open up their own restaurant, but lack the required capital. Then one day they are assigned to go to the track to bet on a certain horse, but Harry is convinced that another one will win, so they place all $250,000 dollars on that one only to lose. Now they must go on the run searching for Harry’s Uncle Mike who they hope can replenish them with the lost money before the mob’s henchman The Fixer (Captain Lou Albano) catches up with them to dispense their punishment.

Director Brian De Palma returns to his comical roots of Hi Mom! and Greetings, but unfortunately this film lacks the creativity and originality of those and instead comes off as just another tired, generic 80’s comedy. The attempted twists are not interesting or surprising. Having them lose on a ‘sure thing’ after they initially start gloating when it looks like their horse would win is comedy writing 101. The Sting-like ending is equally contrived and something I figured out long before it gets revealed. Again, you simply have to know the rules of a Hollywood comedy, which states every ending must be a ‘feel good’ one, so if a main character suddenly dies you automatically know there’s got to be some sort of catch to it such as is the case here.

The motivations of the characters are loopy. For one thing going back to their boss while putting up only a mild resistance after they’ve lost the money for what will most definitely be punishment and torture seems dumber than dumb even for these dimwits. The idea that they would both stay loyal to one another even during torture is not believable. Yes it may sound noble, but realistically especially when their families were being threatened it would have to be expected that at least one of them would crack and betray the other. Then the boss has them assigned to kill the other one and for a while they both secretly consider it, but this doesn’t make sense either because if they are going to remain so loyal to the other during torture then shouldn’t it be expected that they would immediately tell each other that they’ve been pegged to kill the other and then come up with some alternative plan to get out of it?

The destruction of Fixer’s convertible becomes another logical blunder. Yes, they both despise him and the chance at destroying his prized possession would seem tempting to anyone in their shoes, but they also need his car to get away and go places, so destroying it until it is literally inoperable becomes really stupid.

DeVito is great at playing arrogant, sarcastic jerks, but as a sympathetic good guy he is benign and out-of-place. I also didn’t care for wrestler-turned-actor Albano’s presence as his character is too one-dimensionally crude and obnoxious and the part where he is shown lying on his back with his big fat belly exposed is just plain gross to look at.

There have been some great gangster movies throughout cinema history, but they all tend to be ones that take the genre seriously and when they try to give it a comical spin it comes off as lame like this one. The part where Harry’s grandmother (Mimi Cecchini) reveals a million dollar bills that she has ‘stuffed under her mattress’ and the way all of Castelo’s henchmen eagerly light up his cigarette every time he puts one in his mouth, which happens twice with the second time being the gem, are the only two mildly amusing moments in this otherwise flat comedy.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: April 18, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Brian De Palma

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Dead Heat (1988)

dead heat

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: These cops are dead.

Roger and Doug (Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo) are two cops fighting bad guys that seem to be indestructible. They get shot at, but never die. Upon further investigation it seems some maniacal madmen (Darren McGavin, Vincent Price) have come up with a resurrection machine that can bring dead people back to life and they are being used as zombies to rob banks and commit other types of crimes. When the two cops end up being killed while on-duty they are put onto the resurrection machine themselves and ultimately making it dead cops chasing after the dead bad guys.

The film’s script by Terry Black is creative and has enough energy to be passably entertaining. Unfortunately the pace is too fast and the runtime too compact making the many elaborate twists and turns happen too quickly and conveniently and many times making no sense. Mark Goldblatt’s direction looks amateurish with a faded color and a film stock that looks like it was initially done on video and then transferred to film. The special effects are surprisingly good given the budget and for the most part the film’s only saving grace. The two best moments are when the two leads get attacked by produce at a meat market including that of a beheaded steer as well as when the Randi character (Lindsay Frost) decomposes right in front of Roger.

The acting is genuinely poor and Piscopo is especially weak, but has funny enough lines to at least be humorous. McGavin looks understandably embarrassed and seems to be simply going-through-the-paces while Price in one of his last film roles appears tired, old and frail.

William’s gives an okay performance and I liked how his is more subdued and educated character played off of Piscopo’s hyper one, but the way his character responded to things seemed weird. For instance when he finds out that he is dead and brought back to life for only a short time before decomposing he doesn’t respond with panic, but instead continues to go about his job in a very matter-of-fact way and when his partner is found dead in a particularly gruesome way he doesn’t react with any type of emotion or shock.

The film also fails to follow through on its own logic. For instance when Roger finds out he is dead and then gets cut on some glass he does not bleed, but later on when he gets shot there is blood coming out of his bullet holes. The bad guys cannot be killed by bullets because essentially they are dead already and yet somehow can still be stopped by electrocution or impalement with a pole, but why as essentially they should still be able to continue no matter what the injury.

The final act becomes like a cheesy B-horror movie that goes way over-the-top and overall the whole thing is badly disjointed. However, it’s an okay time-filler if approached with exceedingly low expectations.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 6, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark Goldblatt

Studio: Image Entertainment

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video