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Small Time Crooks (2000)

They took a bite out of crime.

Original Title : Small Time Crooks
Director : Woody Allen
Writer : Woody Allen
Genre : Comedy
Crime
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : Letty Aronson , J.E. Beaucaire , Jean Doumanian , Charles H. Joffe , Helen Robin , Jack Rollins (II)
Photography : Zhao Fei
MPAA Rating : Rated PG for language.
IMDB ID : 0196216
Official site : http://www.amazon.com/smalltimecrooks
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poster for "Small Time Crooks" by Woody Allen (2000)
Small Time Crooks (2000) - Woody Allen
 

Starring

Woody Allen Ray Winkler
Tracey Ullman Frances 'Frenchy' Winkler
Hugh Grant David Grant
Elaine May I
Michael Rapaport Denny Doyle
Tony Darrow Tommy Beal
Jon Lovitz Benny Borkowshi
Carolyn Saxon Candy Salesperson
 

Plot

Dishwasher and small-fry criminal Ray hits on a plan with his partners in crime to re-open a local pizza place and dig through to the bank down the street. As his wife can't cook pizza but does great cookies, that's what they sell. While the no-hope tunnellers get lost underground, the cookie operation really takes off and the team find themselves rich business people. But the other local money isn't quite ready to accept them.
 

Comments

Funny-melancholy rumination on old age. This lovely, uneven comedy is a return to the light, broad comedy of 'Broadway Danny Rose' after the sophisticated narrative complexity of 'Sweet and Lowdown'.But, like 'Danny', its gag- and plot-driven surface does not preclude thematic depth.It's a relief to see a Woody film starring Woody that isn't obsessed with sexual anguish, that harks back to those earlier, legendary, 'funnier' films, when jokes weren't necessarily tied down to psychological plausibility, didn't need to be true, and so could spring from anywhere. Some of the funniest bits aren't even verbal, lovely physical moments that some directors might have cut, such as the reaction of the actors to the spurting drain they've hacked, as the line between character and actor blurs, and we see some amiable, middle-aged men trying to contain their bemused laughter at this probably only-take phenomenon. That's not to say there aren't verbal gems either.But this time, rather than simply give audience pleasure (which they do), they also, somewhat maliciously, turn against us.Some commentators have noticed the film's quiet subversion, its equation of capitalism with theft (did I really see a restaurant called 'Tout Va Bien'?!): this saves the film from its old-fashioned conservatism, the idea that people shouldn't try to be what they're not, should stay as they are, which is very convenient for some people. The film pits the deeply unpleasant, amoral, snobbish parasites against the amusing, amoral nouveau riche.This conflict is expressed in strange ethical terms, even though neither camp has any morality whatsoever.Maybe it's because the Winklers are gaudily open about their amorality, maybe it's because they're 'working class' (or Woody's version of that elusive concept), maybe it's because it's Woody and Tracey, and in any Hollywood film the English character is going to come out looking like the villain. The point is, narratively speaking we are on the Winklers' side, it's their rise and fall, their personalities, tastes, eccentricities that shape the film.But.Many of these verbal jokes are on them.The film could be seen as an attack on culture, the failure of culture, or, at best, the abuse of culture, its use, not as an expression of humanity through the creative imagination, but as a way of creating new, seemingly non-social hierarchies, of keeping people down, or out, an American equivalent of the 'Rich and Famous' programmes beloved of Frenchy. But to get these jokes, you have to have culture, placing us on a 'superior' level of knowledge to the characters, in effect, taking us out of identification with the heroes, and putting us with the villains.As the appreciation of a Woody Allen film depends on this kind of knowledge (and it's unlikely you'll find Ray or Frenchy at a Woody Allen film), you realise how pessimistic, even sour, the film actually is. Yet also rather sweet.There is a beautiful scene near the beginning, when Frenchy finally gives in to Ray's crazy felonious plans.On their balcony, they watch a gorgeous, Fei Zhao-photographed sunset over New Jersey, remembering their youth.They even call the 'front' business that makes their millions 'Sunset Cookies'.When we first see Ray, he is an old man in his 60s wearing shorts.When he goes home, the house is full of toys, teddies, pictures of clowns etc. As if answering all the critics (not another Woody film where he's chasing teenage skirt!), this is a wonderful film about accepting old age.Ray hangs around with friends half his age, his plans are attempts to capture his youth - his time in jail has prevented him from ever experiencing adult life.By the end, his only desire is to go to Florida, famed final resting place of the American aged.His scenes with Elaine May (why hasn't he worked with this genius before?All those Mia Farrow films!), another lost soul searching for company, therefore have a rich poignancy (in this context, his pitting himself against Hugh Grant, another famed transgressor, is inspired).You would have to see this anyway just for Woody's blinding suits.
 
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Small Time Crooks (2000) - Woody Allen
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