Movie Reviews: Crazy on the Outside, 44 Inch Chest, The Spy Next Door
CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE After an impressive dramatic turn against type in David Mamet’s Redbelt, tool fetishist Tim Allen returns to lowest-common-denominator comedy as the star of his own ill-advised, irritating directorial debut. Fresh out of the pen, convicted video pirate Tommy Zelda (Allen) moves in with his tough-love sis (Sigourney Weaver) and her oversexed, cynical hubby (J.K. Simmons), who have perpetuated a lie to Grandma that our boy’s been in France for three years — zing! Tommy pines for his gold-digger ex (Julie Bowen), who still wants to fuck him on the side, even while engaged to an insecure consumer-electronics salesman (Kelsey Grammer). Will Tommy be able to move on, avoid the illegal temptations of his former accomplice (Ray Liotta), rebuild his late dad’s painting business and hook up with his sexy probation officer (Jeanne Tripplehorn), whose Little Leaguer son has taken a shine to him? Given Allen’s prefame background — he turned state’s evidence to lessen a coke-possession sentence in the ’70s — one might think Crazy on the Outside had the potential for a poignant, quasi-autobiographical tale about starting over. Instead, we get charmless hack work from two sitcom writers, a phoned-in ensemble, and for Allen a vanity role that could certainly be called criminal. (Citywide) (Aaron Hillis)
GO 44 INCH CHEST A quintet of pathetic pals are sized up in this often sharp, nasty exposé of masculinity, written by Sexy Beast scripters Louis Mellis and David Scinto, reuniting them with that film’s Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. Married for 21 years, Colin (Winstone) is told by wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) that she’s leaving him. His piggy body quaking with rage, Colin brutalizes his spouse (mostly told rather than shown) and assembles his mates — gay smoothie Meredith (McShane), still-living-with-Mum Archie (Tom Wilkinson), slow-burn psycho Mal (Stephen Dillane) and sclerotic old coot Peanut (John Hurt) — to kidnap and terrorize the French waiter (Melvil Poupaud) Liz has fallen for. With each “cunt” and declension of “fuck” spewed, with every threat of torture directed at their mute, bloodied captive, self-pitying, grief-deranged Colin and his crew further reveal their impotence, desperation and terror of women (suave Meredith may be untainted by hetero shortcomings but has pathologies of his own). As in Sexy Beast, Mellis and Scinto’s rhythmically aggressive dialogue becomes arialike. But first-time director Malcolm Venville lacks the visual flair of Sexy Beast’s Jonathan Glazer — a deficit that, combined with 44 Inch Chest’s wobbly final act, comes dangerously close to erasing the film’s uninhibited look at the measure of a man. (Nuart) (Melissa Anderson)
KILLING KASZTNER: THE JEW WHO DEALT WITH NAZIS For the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors who still remember him, and the thousands of young Jews and Israelis who don’t, there’s a lot riding on the posthumous reputation of Rezsö Kasztner, a Hungarian Jewish community leader who did business with Adolf Eichmann in return for a rescue train out of Budapest for Jews, among them his own family. As documentary filmmaker Gaylen Ross shows, it’s a measure of Israel’s confusion over what could possibly qualify as purity of motive under such circumstances that Kasztner was tried as a collaborator in 1954 in Israel, gunned down by a Jewish extremist in Tel Aviv, and then rehabilitated after his death (while Hannah Senesh — the novice partisan who parachuted into Budapest and saved not a soul but was killed by the Nazis — was all but canonized). With first-person witness accounts from crackerjack talking graybeards, Ross is very good at teasing out the politics behind Kasztner’s shifting fortunes, not to mention his murky ambitions. But closure is the last thing that’s needed here, and I wish she hadn’t parlayed the coup of getting Kasztner’s assassin (an articulate armchair philosopher who clearly lives in hell) into a horribly mawkish face to face with Kasztner’s still-grieving daughter and her children. As the murderer says when Ross drags him to the crime scene to reenact the shooting, “I showed you the bottom of my soul. Why do you need to see the bricks?” (Music Hall) (Ella Taylor)
THE SPY NEXT DOOR Like director Brian Levant’s last two outings — 2002’s Snow Dogs and 2005’s Are We There Yet? — The Spy Next Door is immediately forgettable family entertainment, suitable for release only in the dung-heap month of January. Jackie Chan, game as ever, stars as Bob Ho, an undercover CIA agent from China posing as a sweater-vested pen importer who offers to mind the three kids (roughly 13, 9 and 4) of his Albuquerque next-door-neighbor sweetheart, Gillian (Amber Valletta), while she’s away in Denver. When not preparing breakfast or shuttling his obnoxious new charges to school, Bob must also face Russian baddies hatching a petroleum plot, George Lopez as a mole and, most alarmingly, CIA colleague Billy Ray Cyrus’ bizarre, shellacked, middle-parted shag. Still immensely affable and eager, the aging action hero (Chan has two stunt doubles) seems not to mind the humiliation of sharing most of the movie with his exhaustingly hammy half-pint co-stars or unnecessary ESL cruelty: After apologizing to Cyrus’ character for suspecting him in the plot, Bob is told, “Don’t worry about it, buddy; chalk it up to the language barrier.” The end-credits blooper reel reveals Chan blurting out, “I hate English!” (Citywide) (Melissa Anderson)
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