Wednesday, April 22, 1998

Suicide Kings

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Will Hollywood cinema never recover from the rise of Quentin Tarantino? Ever since Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer terrorized those coffee shop diners at the start of Pulp Fiction, every hack screenwriter has yearned to be the next "genius" to portray white kids acting like savages. Peter O' Fallon's Suicide Kings does that to excess, while ripping off Quenty's entire written oeuvre for good measure.

Charlie Barrett (Christopher Walken) is a retired mafioso who finds himself tied to a chair after running into Avery Chasten (Henry Thomas) and his crew of brats in a restaurant one evening. Through a disconcerting sequence of story leaps (see Reservoir Dogs for references), O'Fallon shows these five jerks plotting to kidnap Barrett in an attempt to rescue Avery's sister Lisa (Laura Harris), who's also been made a hostage.

After nabbing him, the kids threaten Barrett with random decapitations to impress on him the importance of Lisa's rescue. No bones about it: This is sick, sick stuff. But more relevant than its tepid attempts at black humor or social commentary is that Suicide Kings really affects with its observation of how sick society is becoming as a whole.

Added to the mess is washed-up comic Denis Leary as tough Irish hitman Lono. While the S & M kings bargain inanely through Barrett for Lisa's return, we get to watch Lono give ethical speeches and pound goons' faces in with toasters for extra realism. With dreary pacing, O'Fallon tries to milk both character study and morality play from the plight of the kidnapped mobster. Given Walken's considerable talents, the ensuing failure speaks volumes of the director's ability.

For the audience, even those of us with a measurable amount of sanity, Suicide Kings drudges by, tedious and tormenting, like time being strapped to a chair. "Drivel" best describes the efforts of these dopes trying to rekindle the success of a certain film geek. The extra half-star goes to Walken for stumbling through it all.

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