Flipping: Gene Mitchell’s Debut–Tarantino-like Crime Drama

(Crime Drama)

The shadow of Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” looms large over “Flipping,” a suspenseful crime drama dealing with the psychological dynamics among a bunch of lowlifes who rebel against their boss to some bloody effects.

Gene Mitchell’s feature debut will suffer from comparisons with the recent crop of indie crimers, such as “The Usual Suspects” and “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” both of which were star-studded, stylish entertainments.

Even so, a limited theatrical release should serve as a calling card for a new writer-director who shows facility at constructing a taut, fast-moving narrative.

A boys will be boys movie (there’s only one tiny female role), “Flipping” is set on the wedding night of Hooker (Shant Benjamin), with the latter’s macho friends celebrating the event while at the same time carrying on their “routine” chores. After a sexually ambiguous scene between a strange cop, Billy (David Proval) and a handsome toughie, Michael (David Amos) in the men’s room, story proper begins with a quartet of thugs going to collect debts from a gambler. Not surprisingly, the encounter ends in bloodshed, though it whets the team’s apetite for bigger rewards for their work.

Michael, who earlier eliminated the gangster target of the obsessed cop, is a small-time con man with grand ambitions for power and wealth. But he’s not as bright as he thinks he is and when he conspires a mutiny against greedy chief Leo (Keith David), unexpected things happen. In fact, the entire crew is highly proficinet at what they do, but they’re not very smart (which is one of the points of the film). Almost every routine encounter leads to shouting–and shooting–and it takes the smallest provocation for the thugs to pull the trigger, often at each other.

The movie is cleverly crafted and its plot is intermittently entertaining. But the film lacks the existential edge and poetic vision that mark the celebrated crime-noir genre, which makes “Flipping” no more than a decent crimer. Ultra-violent in the manner of Tarantino, but without the latter’s flair for comedy or irony in executing shootouts, the film is overbaked, always on the verge of breaking into hysterics.

Excepting a subplot involving a gay cop, pic charts a territory well-mined by other crime flicks of the l990s. Its grand finale unveils some suspected truths about sexual identity, loyalty and duplicity, but is too imitative of “Reservoir Dogs.” Scripter Mitchell has etched half a dozen characters that are distinguishable in motivation and demeanor, but, unlike Tarantino’s or even Bryan Singer’s characters, none of them is particularly sympathetic or engaging, which works against the film’s emotional impact when one by one they are eliminated.

The uneven writing is compensated by an accomplished cast of both vets and newcomers, with impressive turns by David, as the crime chief Leo, Proval as the troubled cop, Amos as the charming opportunist Michael, and helmer Mitchell in the pivotal role of Chat. Directed with energy and flair, “Flipping” boasts striking visuals by lenser Phil Parmet and extremely smooth editing by Kevin Krasny.

A Mon Frere Motion Pictures production. Produced by Gene Mitchell and David Amos. Executive producer, Michael Woods. Co-producer, Anthony Miller. Directed, written by Mitchell. Camera (DeLuxe, color), Phil Parmet; editor, Kevin Krasny; production design, Diane Hughes; costume design, Nadine Reimer; sound (Dolby), Benjamin Patrick; associate producer, Joshua Silver; line producer, Eric Davies; assistant director, Justin Muller; casting, Pat Melton,
Paul G. Bens.

Running time: 109 minutes.

Michael Moore…David Amos
Billy White…David Proval
Shot………Gene Mitchell
Hooker……Shant Benjamin
Joey……….Barry Primus
Dennis………..Paul Klar
Chuckie……..Tony Burton
C.J………… Mike Starr
Leo Richards…Keith David