Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

Crew, The (2000) *

Directed by Michael Dinner. Written by Barry Fanaro. Photography, Juan Ruiz-Anchia. Editing, Nicholas C. Smith.. Production designer, Peter Larkin.Music, Steve Bartek. Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Bobby Bartellemeo),Burt Reynolds ("Bats" Pistella), Dan Hedaya ("the Brick" Donatelli), Seymour Cassel ("Mouth" Donato), Carrie-Anne Moss (Detective Olivia Neal), Jennifer Tilly (Ferris Lowenstein),Lainie Kazan (Pepper Lowenstein), Miguel Sandoval (Raul Ventana) and Jeremy Piven (Detective Steve Menteer). PG-13.

Fact. American cinema is increasingly youth-oriented as well as youth-depicting. Fact. The increase of independent films keeps adding to "youthism" in subjects, characters and film-makers. Fact. Mature characters are getting more and more rare. Fact. Older characters are even rarer. Fact. Among the summer flicks of 2000 A.D. "Space Cowboys" was a relative rarity for its starring a bunch of old (and well-known) actors.

Fact. On slim evidence, the addition of "The Crew" and its senior citizens has caused many to speak of a tendency-- which is a non-fact.

Though not too numerous, movies starring old people have always existed. Think of geezer films (several with George Burns or Walter Matthau, whether together or not) such as Kotch, The Sunshine Boys, Going in Style, Where's Poppa?, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (with Robert Duvall and Richard Harris), Going in Style, Grumpy Old Men, the recent (1999) The Straight Story, etc.. plus action movies --from cop stories to classic, elegiac westerns like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ride the High Country or John Wayne's swan-song The Shootist.

In conclusion, "The Crew" is not as noticeable for its cast's age as it is for being a truly bad film about old fellows. These are a quartet of four wiseguys (gangsters) from New Jersey, old pals and collaborators whom the too- lengthy opening sequences (with other players) first depict as they were in their prime.

Those scenes make the mistake of trying to show them both as jolly goodfellows and as ruthless killers, two ingredients that simply do not blend. Then the film jumps ahead to today. The foursome, oddly still together, is in unhappy retirement at Miami's South Beach. They all have physical and pecuniary problems aggravated by the contrasts with the swinging, shapely and moneyed youths of the place. Dreyfuss (whose real age is 52) is somehow the unelected leader of the group, where the others' ages run from 60 to 65.

Their day-to-day life includes touches often lifted from other movies and, in the new context, not especially funny. (Yes, I forgot to mention that "The Crew" is , in theory, a comedy). When the shabby hotel they inhabit becomes a candidate for going upscale --disastrous news for the four --the group takes measures which escalate and involve quid pro quo. These, in turn, lead to Latino drug lords, the local police, and other complications, not the least of which is that Dreyfuss's long-lost daughter is now a cop who just happens to get in touch with the crew.

There are some possibilities of acceptable comedy, but the overall movie lacks that minimum coherence which -- if you follow my drift -- can make incoherence funny. Instead we get the equivalent of disconnected scenes by mediocre standup comics. The individual gags which, in theory, might have worked, get lost in the plethora of confusion or forced situations.

Among its capital offenses the movie is steadily vague about its characters. These are supposed to be Italian-American hoods as their names (plus other signals) indicate, but they come through as vaguely Judeo-Italian or Italo-Jewish, down to mannerisms, body and language English, expressions, vocabulary, references and so on. The makers must have tried very hard to attain this messiness.

Expensive scenes and sets are also wasted, as are, without exception all the main characters, all one-dimensional, from headliners to most of the supporting cast. Jennifer Tilly plays a prostitute (" the leisure profession " she calls it) with a formidable decollete which may be by now her tiresome trademark. Laini Kazan, looking wonderful at age 60, has the best of the supporting roles. Though also forced, her performance recalls (very distantly) her scene-stealing in 1982's My Favorite Year.

If all sexagenarians were like Lainie, life could be beautiful. But what the movie suggests more than anything else is that when you reach 60 the best thing you could do is vanish from the face of the earth.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel