Double Whammy (2001): DiCillo’s Satire Starring Denis Leary

No matter what you think of Tom DiCillo–and I think his film output leaves a lot to be desired–he is a quintessentially indie filmmaker, one of the few to work in the vein of light satire; that he rarely succeeds is another issue. 

Based on an extremely slight if amiable narrative that would have worked better as a short,  Double Whammy deserves more credit for its intent than actual results. 

Starring Denis Leary, as a disgraced New York City cop who goes from one ineptly-executed job to another, the film also suffers from an unappealing performance by Elizabeth Hurley, but it remains strenuously afloat due to its offbeat humor and nicely-orchestrated visual gigs that in their good moments recall Blake Edwards (in the Pink Panther series).  Lions Gate release, the first acquisition at Sundance this year, may please hardcore indie patrons but will have harder time alluring mainstream viewers to a film impaired by uneven energy, draggy pacing, and more than a few dead spots.

 

DiCillo hasn’t made a notable film since Living in Oblivion (1995), a smart behind-the-scenes look at the foibles, perils, and hellish travails that define indie filmmaking.  Raffish and often wickedly playful, the comedy celebrated mischief so deliciously that it must have encouraged (instead of discouraged) newer directors to follow suit.  Double Whammy is not nearly as good, but it’s at least a notch or two above DiCillo’s last, disappointing efforts, Box in a Moonlight and The Real Blonde.

 

In farce, timing is everything.  Opening sequence introduces what will become the film’s recurrent motif: A cop whose timing is always off in trying to solve Big City problems.  After yet another argument with his chatty partner Jerry (a splendid Steve Buscemi), this time about who’ll get lunch, Ray (Leary) volunteers to do the job.  Unfortunately, a mad gunman opens fire on the burger joint after driving his jeep through its windows.  Suffering from a chronic bad back, Ray reaches for his gun but pain throws him to the ground, rendering him helpless.

 

Standing by, an innocent boy snatches the gun and shoots the killer in a noble act that makes him a local hero–and Ray a laughing stock, the “loser cop.”  Wherever Ray turns, he’s confronted with insatiable media, as much obsessed with the boy’s gallantry as with Ray’s botch.  Penalized by his embarrassed superiors, Ray keeps a low profile, spending his time smoking hash, while watching on TV trim cheerleaders stretching in suggestive positions–or so it seems from Ray’s point-of-view.  Depressed since his wife’s death in an accident he couldn’t prevent, Ray finds himself attracted to his sexy chiropractor (Hurley), who brazenly places her body against his in a personalized physical therapy. 

 

 Living in Ray’s building is superintendent Juan (Luis Guzman) and his rebellious daughter (Melonie Diaz), who suffers from a serious father problem to the point of hiring hit men to coolly ice him.  Populating the increasingly crowded milieu is another awkward couple, ambitious screenwriters (Keith Knobbs and Donald Faison) trying to enact a Tarantinoesque crime and torture scene.  Ensuing yarn, which overextends its welcome by at least 15 minutes, jumps around from one duo to another, occasionally mixing the participants in unexpectedly hilarious combinations.

 

If Leary rises above the limitations of the material, Hurley stumbles under them, proving she’s not a worthy foil for him.  Hurley’s role calls for a screwball comedy expert on the order of Claudette Colbert or Irene Dunne, who could have played her turn in their sleep.  Ultimately, Double Whammy is a movie of individual moments.  But what do you do the rest of the time  Suggestion: You think of how other comedy directors would have pulled off this gimmicky movie more charmingly and effortlessly.


Credits


Directed by Tom DiCillo.

Pro co:  Myriad pictures/Gold Circle Films presentation of a Lemon Sky/Apostle Pictures production

US dist: Lions Gate

Exec prod: Norm Waitt  

Prods: Marcus Viscidi, Jim Serpico   

Scr: Tom DiCillo  

DoO: Robert Yeoman

pro des: Michael Shaw 

Ed: Camilla Toniolo    

Music: Jim Farmer  

Main cast: Denis Leary, Elizabeth Hurley, Steve Buscemi, Luis Guzman, Victor Argo, Melonie Diaz.

 

Runnig Time: 101 Minutes.