Tag Archives: John Turturro

The Flamingo Kid (1984)

flamingo kid

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Get rich selling cars.

The year is 1963 and Jeffrey (Matt Dillon) is an 18-year-old still looking for direction. While working a summer job at the Flamingo Club he meets Phil Brody (Richard Crenna) who fills his head with big dreams of getting rich while selling cars. Jeffrey’s father (Hector Elizondo) wants him to go to college, but Jeffrey finds that idea to be boring and likes getting on the ‘fast-track’ to success better. After many arguments he finally moves out only to realize that Phil’s promises are empty and full-of-strings.

The movie is entertaining mainly because it manages to successfully suck you into a whole different time period. I loved the colorful cars with fins, the snazzy outfits and bouncy tunes. Most movies recreate a bygone era with an air of contempt about it, but this film makes the early ‘60s seem fun, nostalgic and full of opportunity. It also does a great job of exposing the different layers of American capitalism from those that feed off of it and exploit it, as with Crenna’s character, to those that are just happy to get by and not take any undue risks as with the father and then to the teens who are always convinced that attaining the American Dream is much easier than it really is.

The best part of the movie though is the way in analyzes the relationship between the son and father. So many movies seem to prefer looking at conflicts between mother and daughter, but fathers and sons can have just as many quarrels and this film delivers them in a way that is relatable and believable while also being a bit touching as well.

Dillon is terrific and I liked the way the character isn’t overly cocky or crude like in most ‘80s teen movies, but instead clumsy and socially awkward only to finally find the confidence when he needs it the most. Crenna is outstanding as is Elizondo, but I thought it was unusual that he got cast in the role since he is clearly Puerto Rican and Dillon, as is son, isn’t.

Jessica Walter as Crenna’s perpetually crabby wife is wasted even though she does look fine in a bikini despite already being in her mid-40s at the time of filming. Peter Costa is a scene stealer playing the same type of role that he later did in the ‘The Cosby Show’ as a shy child who doesn’t say anything, but still manages to get into everyone’s way.  John Turturro and Marisa Tomei can also be spotted in non-speaking bit parts.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Gary Marshall

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

 

 

 

Rounders (1998)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gambling can hurt you.

‘One does not find one’s destiny one’s destiny will find them’. This seems to be the moral of this multi-faceted character study that has all the right ingredients, but is incredibly flat.

The story involves Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) a man trying to forge a normal life with a good job as an attorney and a relationship with a pretty woman. Yet he can’t beat his urge to gamble. When his friend Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy (Edward Norton) gets released from jail he finds himself led back into his old habits and his life soon falls apart.

The film wants to take an honest look at the lifestyle of a gambler without taking any shortcuts. In most ways it does an honorable job. It takes a more technical approach to poker playing and therefore makes it more enlightening. The situations seem a bit overly-dramatized, but overall are quite believable. It definitely has insights and is well crafted.

The problem is that it never comes together. Nothing is compelling and the momentum is lacking to the point that it starts to drag. Certain ‘strong’ scenes that are meant for impact end up having no effect at all. In the end it comes off as being too obvious and having too much of a textbook type approach.

Damon has proven himself to be a solid actor, but his character here is bland and colorless. Norton, as his troubled friend, is a little more interesting, but he is trapped in a stale setting. Both men look way too boyish to be playing the parts of seasoned, hardened, ‘been there, done that’ type characters.

John Malkovich is on hand to give an offbeat performance as a Russian born card player complete with a thick Russian accent. At first this is fun, but he ends up overdoing it and eventually makes it too campy. John Turturro gives an amazingly restrained performance, which could be of interest too his followers.

The one scene that really caps this off as being a bad movie for me is when Norton and Damon are caught cheating while playing amongst a large group of off-duty policemen. The police all gang up on them and pummel them in a way that should produce severe life threatening injuries. Instead they are thrown out of the building with not even a strand of their hair being out of place. They have a few streaks of red on their faces that is supposed to be blood, but it looks like paint put on by a paintbrush. Damon goes through the rest of the film with a slightly darkened eye and two scratches around his nose. Everyone comments that he looks like he “got it bad” when I’ve seen third graders with worse looking injuries after a playground fight.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 11, 1998

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: John Dahl

Studio: Miramax

Available: DVD, Blu-ray