Directed by Michael Dinner
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's always amazing how films seem to come in pairs. Two films will come out very close to each other that have very similar premises, but must be coincidental. The makers of The Crew most likely didn't know about Space Cowboys until it was too late. Now, they are experiencing same failure that Stir of Echoes saw last year in the shadow of The Sixth Sense.
In this case, however, the real comparison should be to GoodFellas, since the opening of The Crew is entirely lifted from it. Four wiseguys are introduced, in a black and white flashback (without the Space Cowboys-style dubbing) narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, who plays Bobby Bartellemeo, the "hero" of our story. Back in the day, he and his crew were indicted for all the unsavory things that they did, leading to prison time. Decades later, the four guys have settled down in Miami, where Bobby is looking for his estranged daughter, who he hasn't seen since leaving prison.
They live at the Raj Mahal, which was once a retirement home, but its ocean view is attracting young people, who move in after the old residents die off. Bobby, Bats (Burt Reynolds), Brick (Dan Hedaya), and Mouth (Seymour Cassell) are trying to live law-abiding lives, but when their rent threatens to increase, it's time to relive the old days.
This involves the crew in a scheme where they stage a murder at the Raj Mahal, using a corpse from the morgue that Brick works at. That gets the young people out and brings the rent down, but then Mouth's stripper girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) wants to hire them to kill her stepmother (Lainie Kazan), and so on, as the ads indicate. It takes a good hour to get through what the trailer indicates within 60 seconds. Other developments and subplots are left to surprise the audience. Unfortunately, the surprises are dragged out, and the film just goes on, offering occasional laughs, but no big payoffs.
In cases like this, I would tend to blame the filmmakers, but the cast doesn't even step up like they should. Dreyfuss is totally miscast as a geriatric mafioso, and his approach to the material is to weakly impersonate Ray Liotta, then add thirty years. Compare this to his performance in Lost in Yonkers, and you will see how far this once-great star has fallen. Reynolds does a slightly better job, but once again it is Hedaya who saves the day. He plays his simple-minded character beautifully, even though the writing is mediocre. Cassell gets off easy -- his character barely speaks.
One of the ads for The Crew quotes a critic who calls it a combination of GoodFellas and Grumpy Old Men. Was this a compliment? I'd say the same thing against the film: it wants to be Grumpy Old Men, but steals from GoodFellas to have a gimmick that brings it closer to Space Cowboys. The public has already cast its vote, staying away in droves, preferring to continue the success of Clint Eastwood's film. That's right, Yogi, it's déjà vu all over again.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Crew (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan