Killer deals all over this crazy car lot
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first feature film directed by veteran character actor Saul Rubinek. It is a skillfully executed dark comedy about two car salesmen who lead double lives as trigger men for Kovachy Motors, a contract-murder outfit with a record of hits that dates back to the Kennedy assassination.Jerry & Tom began life as a one-act play by Rick Cleveland in Los Angeles in 1992, where Rubinek first saw it and became instantly intrigued by its possibilities as a feature film. Set in Chicago but shot mostly in Toronto, the film has a delightfully oblique Pinter-esque quality in which the characters otherwise mundane lives are superimposed onto the extraordinary violence of their secondary "careers." According to the filmmaker, their fundamental hypocrisy is intended to mirror the culture and era in which they live: the U.S. under former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Jerry & Tom is a satirical fable that mocks the eighties, during which considerable lip service was paid to the concept of "family values" against a political backdrop of international violence, intimidation and government thuggery.Tom, the veteran of the pair, is played charmingly by Mantegna, whose work as one of David Mamet's favourite actors in such films as House of Cards, Homicide and Things Change equipped him superbly for this role. He's a likable family man, the father of three children, and a slick hustler of used automobiles.Jerry, played by Sam Rockwell (Drunks, Box of Moonlight, Light Sleeper) is Tom's protégé, a literal-minded, not terribly bright punk who is beginning to enjoy his work a little too much for Tom's more refined tastes.As the movie opens, Jerry and Tom are in the process of executing another victim, a mysterious hooded figure who tells a number of jokes while waiting for the inevitable.The opening hit quickly establishes the tone and setting of the film, but then it reels back in time about 10 years to when Jerry was just a kid hanging around Kovachy Motors washing cars and answering phones. Kovachy is played with great comic brusqueness by the inimitable Maury Chaykin, and it is one of the great delights of the film that it features cameos by a number of well known and gifted actors, including Charles Durning, Ted Danson, Peter Riegert and William H. Macy.Durning is particularly excellent as Vic, an old pro who hints at his involvement in a number of very famous deaths. Danson, of Cheers fame and who also starred in the sitcom Ink (of which Rubinek was also a cast member), performed his cameo "for a box of Cuban cigars," according to the director. He plays a lovesick loser who spends his days in a darkened cinema watching and weeping over the last performance of the woman he loves, who seems to have died prematurely in a bizarre film-set accident.Made for only $3-million (U.S.), Jerry & Tom will delight audiences who enjoy the comically macabre. Although violence and mayhem are obviously a big part of the film, the director is very coy about showing too much. Rubinek is more interested in how the violence affects the characters who commit it rather than the victims. Thus, with every crude act -- whether committed with gun, piano wire or chainsaw -- the film always cuts away to a hit man's face, usually the one watching and "assisting" in the killing.Rubinek and his superb director of photography, Paul Sarossy (The Sweet Hereafter), have also chosen to use an interesting transition device to reveal the changes in seasons, locales and years so that the scenes shift almost seamlessly with very few edits.Jerry & Tom is beautifully acted by all and smartly directed. Cleveland's script is spare and syncopated with the peculiar rhythms of David Mamet's crude, street-smart argot. It is a cool, stylish and funny morality tale that audiences with a taste for the wickedly offbeat will find to be a treat."
Not your usual kinda movie
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 07/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This extra-quirky black comedy works by dint of its unpredictable dialogue and sudden deaths (so to speak--it's the tale of two suburban hit men), as well as some unusual moments--one of the guys, burying a body in the forest, stops to look at a doe, only a few yards away. In addition, the scene transitions are cleverly done, moving back and forth in time and season--summer changes to winter in a few seconds, taking maximum advantage of the film medium to segue based on a few small random items into a milieu that's completely different from the previous one.The hit men are played by Joe Mantegna, one of the executive producers, and Sam Rockwell, and their boss is Canadian actor Maury Chaykin. All are effective in their darkly funny roles, as are Peter Riegert, William H. Macy, Ted Danson, and Charles Durning as an older hit man who taught Mantegna's Tom everything he knows. Durning's Vic also wants to publish a book about his life, using a "pseudoname"--which does not go over too well with others.Hit men are not called that for nothing. With a used car lot as a front, these guys get down to business wherever they're needed--northern Wisconsin or central Florida. There's a peculiar, but definitely interesting, mix of the comic and the serious as one of the two guys talks about how his newborn baby won't stop screaming in the middle of the night, making him think about exercising his craft on a family member. Juxtapose this with the same guy repeatedly cursing a chainsaw that refuses to start and you have one heck of a goofy movie that does stuff no other film has done...or maybe, wants to do.There are really no women in the film, save for a very brief scene with one of the two guy's wives, and she's sleeping. It's a guy film all the way and although it probably could have used more substance, it's very good for what it is.See it if you want to watch something different, unusual, offbeat, occasionally funny, and occasionally very sharp indeed."
Wry Black Comedy
flickjunkie | 02/23/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One has to have a morbid sense of humor to enjoy this wry black comedy about two used car salesmen who moonlight as contract killers. The comedy is very tongue in cheek as these two miscreants matter-of-factly whack a dozen or so marked men while bickering over trivialities.The gag is funny at first, but wears thin as we are treated to minor variations on the same theme for an hour and a half. Other than some innovative scene transitions, the direction by veteran TV director Saul Rubinek was nothing special, except I suppose he made good use of a very limited budget. The story was taken from a play by Rick Cleveland, ("The West Wing" TV series) and Rubinek maintained the theatrical feel using simple sets and concentrating mainly on the actors.Joe Mantegna is an excellent tough-guy character actor and conjures another terrific mobster. He is a hard but practical murderer who takes the task as strictly business and longs to get out of the game. Sam Rockwell is also good as his dim-witted cohort, who begins to like his work a bit too much. Charles Durning gives a droll performance as an over-the-hill hit man who wants to write a book about his targets. There are also cameos by William Macy, Ted Danson and Peter Riegert.This is a better than average B movie with some acting performances that are worth seeing. I rated it a 6/10. It is funny in a perverse way, and Mantegna's performance is a treat."
Dark, Funny & Satisfying
A. Neal | Echo Park/Los Angeles, CA | 02/07/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It had been a few years since I'd seen this film on cable, and had never seen or read anything further on it since. When I found it on Amazon recently, I was very curious to see if it held up to my memory of its impact. Long story short, it did and does. One thing however: During the years when I would recollect this film, I always thought of it as having been a David Mamet project since when I initially saw it i didn't see the credits. Upon re-viewing it, I can see why I assumed it was a Mamet film because it had a certain Mametesque dark humor and very un-dramatic depictions of violence, but Saul Rubinek should not be accused of mimicry - he has infused it with a distinct originality and character developement so that it does stand on it's own, even with repeated viewings. I recommend it without reservation."