Set in Montana's Big Sky country, shot in Utah, lensed by Eric Alan Edwards (cinematographer of My Own Private Idaho)--no wonder it's hard to tell where Clay Pigeons lives, or where it's going. A Ridley Scott protégé previ... more »ously at home in commercials and videos, debuting director David Dobkin aims to deliver us into the blackly comedic badlands of neo-noir, territory mined by the likes of Red Rock West and Fargo. Pigeons launches strongly, with several cruel turns of the screw. Out target-shooting, Clay Birdwell (Joaquin Phoenix) is hit with the news that his best pal knows he's been boffing his ur-slut wife (Georgina Cates) and could take Clay out on the spot, but chooses a creepier revenge--committing suicide in order to frame the guy who's cuckolded him. Naturally, Clay covers up the mess, thereby opening the film's can of very nasty worms. A slick, fast-talking cowboy (Vince Vaughn)--the funhouse-mirror-opposite of Phoenix's sweet, slow farmboy--turns up, and a string of ugly murders begins to play out. Once Vaughn's Lester Long is on the scene, spreading his psychotically giggling bonhomie, Dobkin's skin-deep riff on Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train pretty much belongs to him. The rest of the cast looks more or less like clay pigeons set up by a scattershot script: exceptions include the always-estimable Scott Wilson who transforms his caricature-prone Sheriff Mooney into a character of nuanced humanity, and Janeane Garofalo, as an urban-hip FBI agent, whose single-chick sarcasm goes down in flames when Lester unholsters those big guns of come-hither charm. John Lurie of Lounge Lizards fame contributes a distinctive score, but Elvis Presley acts as the film's patron saint in more ways than one: Clay Pigeons' sexiest, scariest wet work is choreographed to "It's Now or Never." --Kathleen Murphy« less
Starts out great. But peters out. Hell its starts with a BANG! What happened to the direction? I know, Jeanne Garfalo appeared on the set and the movie went to shit. She has a remarkable way of doing this! I wish the homoerotic relationship between Vince Vaughn's and Joaquin Phoenix would have been explored. Total tacked on Hollywood ending.
A haunting, dark comedy...
jmk444 | Staten Island, New York USA | 09/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Clay Birdwell (Joaquim Phoenix) is a small-town guy who hates his ho-hum small-town life. In one afternoon all that changes. His best friend Earl (Gregory Sporleder) confronts him, while out target shooting, that he knows Clay's been involved with his wife (Georgina Cates). Earl commits suicide in an attempt to frame Clay for his murder...and with Clay's cover-up of that act, a chain of other terrible killings is sparked, as a charming, cowboy, serial killer, Lester Long (Vince Vaughn) senses an opportunity.Dead bodies start turning up in "Big Sky Country" (Montana) and, unfortunately all of them, right under Clay's nose. Soon, the FBI turns up as well. Janeane Garofalo is great as the skeptical and sarcastic investigating agent.This is a very well done dark comedy with a great cast - Vaughn is excellent, so are Garofalo and Joaquim Phoenix. Some great side characters are played by Scott Wilson (Sheriff Mooney), Vince Vieluf (Deputy Barney) and Phil Morris as the silent and brooding agent Reynard. A real keeper."
The Tangled Webs We Weave
Reviewer | 08/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In a small town out west, a target practice outing with a friend kicks off a chain of bizarre events that lead a man to involvement with murder and an unsolicited alliance with a person of, shall we say, "questionable" character in "Clay Pigeons," directed by David Dobkin. Joaquin Phoenix is Clay Birdwell, a regular guy whose lack of judgment and discretion catches up with him unexpectedly in this dark, maddening tale of morality and fate that is sometimes morose and disturbing, at other times darkly humorous, as it deftly examines the trappings of the tangled webs we humans weave. Clay has become mired in a moral dilemma from which there seems to be no escape, when he meets and is befriended by Lester Long (Vince Vaughn), a trucker passing through town one night. At a local bar, Lester observes that Clay doesn't exactly have a way with women; it gets Lester's attention, which leads to a game of pool and, later on, a casual fishing trip that, like the target practice outing, proves to be a life-altering experience for Clay. Phoenix is perfectly cast as Clay, ably conveying the effects of the dark quagmire into which he is cast by circumstances he is unable to control. His performance enables you to feel him sinking ever deeper as the story moves along, and to empathize with him and experience what he is going through. You realize that he understands his situation, and it becomes a matter of waiting to see if he will make the right decisions, regardless of the inevitable consequences. It creates a tension that makes you want to yell at the screen to tell him what to do. Vaughn is excellent as well as the cowboy trucker with the winning smile, robust laugh and a closet full of dark secrets. There's a menace behind the good-natured facade he puts on that becomes more pronounced as the events unfold. Pretty early on you know what this guy is all about, but somehow it only enhances the anxiety of the whole situation as it becomes a cat-and mouse game (with some unexpected twists) between Clay and Lester. Another notable performance comes from the charismatic Janeane Garofalo, who is surprisingly effective and credible as F.B.I. agent Dale Shelby, who comes to town when things take a turn and begin to heat up. It's a credit to her talent and versatility that she can pull this character off so well. The supporting cast includes Georgina Cates (Amanda), Scott Wilson (Sheriff Mooney), Vince Vieluf (Deputy Barney), and Monica Moench (Kimberly). There are moments in this movie that absolutely make you want to tear your hair out, a credit to the way Dobkin put this project together and delivered it. "Clay Pigeons" is a nail-biter that will keep you going right up to the end (which is terrific); Clay and Lester are characters you're going to remember, and just to make sure there's a brief, inspired reminder at the end of the credits (so stay with it all the way). Relatively overlooked during it's original release, this film should gain new life on video, and deservedly so; this is one you'll be glad you took a look at."
Excellent and Dazzling
Lux | Las Vegas | 03/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Clay Pigeons is one of my all time, favorite movies. Its scenes are exceptionally shot (the landscapes alone are enough to watch it, in my opion) and the acting is top of the line. If you are attracted to the work of ANY of the members of this cast, you are sure to love their performances.
Now no, this movie isn't for the faint of heart, nor is it as light as a 'dark comedy.' It's relatively intense, though not all that gory. For sinister-veined, drama lovers, it's right up your alley."
Film Noir for all
bluesgal | Scottdale, GA USA | 01/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Every now and then a movie will be released that will stimulate your brain and awaken your humorous bone which has been supressed by mind-numbing cinema. Forget formula who dunnit, this is a bit quirky with exciting twists and turns. Joaquin Phoenix is wonderful and demands your empathy for the character. What a feat in the modern world for an actor! Vince Vaughn is most charming and who wouldn't trust him?! My hat is off to the actors and the director of this beauty of a film. Thank you."
A Wickedly funny film.
K. Torrento | Elk Grove, CA USA | 11/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wickedly funny and very entertaining film. Each character is outstanding; especially Vince Vaughn; and the pace doesn't skip a beat. Very clever story; every scene is very engrossing. Highly recommended! Don't miss this one!"