"Albiino alligaattori" (1996): A MOVIE REVIEW
by Dane Youssef
"When criminals get put in the line of police fire. When Actors get behind the cameras."
A gang of crooks. The perfect plan. It all goes wrong. They're in trouble. The police are outside. They're cornered. What are they gonna do now?
The movie seems like it's trying to be a combination of the acting workshop, the "indie" film and the theater.
It's the kind of things that actors love--it's kind of like a workshop or a play because it mostly consists of tight focusing on the actors acting... acting angry, tense, scared, conversing, scheming, planning--giving the performers a lot of free range to really ham it all up.
A trio of crooks, one leader, one goon, one brother, come up with a big heist scheme... and a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. To top things off, there's a bit of a "fender-bender" and one of the crooks in flung through the back of the windshield. The cops are on their tail and they stumble into a bar named poetically (and leadenly) "Dino's Last Chance."
Spacey, as director, tries to keep the focus on the actors' performances and delivery of dialouge. He pans over to a bright passion-red cigarette ad of a smoking and smoldering Bogart. And he keeps all the violence off-screen, really. I think that was a mistake. Focusing on the intensity and gruesome violent scenes would have given the movie some edge.
Matt Dillon ("Drugstore Cowboy" and "Wild Things") seems too young and too idealistic to be the leader of this gang.
Spacey lacks the ability to create a lot of tension and keep it going. The characters are mostly chatting away, trying to think of a plan... and they're to calm and too articulate. There's even a scene where the crooks are playing pool with a whole swarm of armed cops right outside, ready to strike. At one point, one of the crooks even call the police who are right outside the bar. Oh brother. Oh bother.
These cops are going to either blow them away or going to lock them up. Shouldn't the holed-up crooks be a little scared, a little uneasy? Meanwhile, all the real action is happening inside.
Someone whips out a gun, a baseball bat, which leads to an ugly confrontation off-screen and there's one more casualty that happens that's... well, kinda sad. But...
Faye Dunaway also should have spent more time with a dialect coach, improving on her New Orleans accent. Skeet Ullrich is fine in a smaller part.
A cop listening in reaches for a pack of matches at the absolute worst time is a nice look. And so is a scene where someone goes right through the rear windshield.
The dialouge is obviously trying to go for a David Mamet approach and it's as profane, but never as realistic or as insightful.
The movie feels like too much of what it really is... a really low-budget movie with an actor behind the camera for the first time directing other actors from a script that's "not bad, but needs a few more re-writes." Spacey shows he's not a terrible director, but he lacks a sort of feel for "shaping a movie" and it feels like he's just filming actors act.
These actors are all talented and could work with the material, but they all feel out of place. As I said before, the movie really suffers from miscasting. The problem with the movie is that it moves too slow and suffers from miscasting in almost every role. I don't mean that the wrong actors were cast. I think they found just the right cast, but placed them in all the wrong roles. I think switching some of the roles would've helped immensely.
Gary Sinese seems to brooding and deep in thought to be a spineless tag-along with these guys and Joe Mantaga is somewhat effective as the traditional routine foul-swearing mad-dog police lieutenant who's all thumbs, but he isn't given anything to really do here. William Fischter is the only actor who is believable in his role as a brainless grunt who just wants to spill blood.
And the crooks are in a tense situation where they either go to jail or they try to think of some way out of this.
Having veteran mob actor Joe Mantagna play the leader of the pack, Gary Sinese as the angry police lieutenant outside on his bullhorn giving orders and barking at his troops, keeping Fischter in his "bloodthirsty goon" part and Matt Dillion as the sacrificial lamb. That would have been a big improvement.
When some actors direct, it works. They can even win Oscars for it. But a lot of the time, when actors direct, they have a tendency to just focus on the performances. Just shoot the actors acting. Sometimes it works... but they need a good showcase for it. An excuse for it. Hostage situations are all pretty much the same in real life just like coming-of-age stories so it's only natural that movies about them will go from point A to point B as well.
There are a few really great entries into this genre.' Spacey himself appeared in a similar movie about hostage situations: "The Negotiator."
This certainly won't become a cult classic, let alone one of AFI's 100. Still, it does have a few nice moments and personal touches, but in the end, it's instantly forgettable and the kind of movie that would play best on regular TV. It's just not worth going out of your way to see. I give a 3 out of 10.
Spacey's other directorial credit, "Beyond The Sea" was apparently a better effort. Hmmm... maybe it's true. You do need to fail before you succeed.
--One Bad Alabaster Crocodile, Dane Youssef