October 24, 2002


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Ever meet any children of organized crime kingpins? Most likely you haven’t come across any lately. Fortunately for kids like ourselves, Knockaround Guys, directed by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, gives us a little peek into what that life might be like. Starring Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, and Seth Green, Knockaround Guys is mainly about three twenty-something boys born and raised by a Brooklyn-based mob who desperately try to make something of themselves in the real world. They can’t quite seem to grasp the scheme of things, so they try their luck in the swiftly dwindling field of organized crime. An ideal opportunity becomes present when mafia boss, Benny “Chains” Demaret (Dennis Hopper) permits his son Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper) to run a dubious errand. Johnny Marbles (Seth Green) helps run this errand and as a result, the plan goes terribly wrong and Matty and Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel) come to his rescue. Unfortunately, things hardly go as planned, and the boys find themselves missing a duffel bag filled with half a million dollars cash. The bag winds up somewhere in the middle of Montana, and to retrieve it, the three of them are forced to deal with a wide array of teenage stoners, crooked cops, and country bumpkins. They answer to Benny Chain’s right hand man, Teddy Deserve (John Malkovich) who comes to Montana to keep them in check. Teddy steps in to help out the boys, but ultimately he seems to do more harm than good. Eventually, the three aspiring mobsters discover that organized crime isn’t all that their fathers said it was cracked up to be. The film is a whole lot of violence, murder, brotherhood, corruption, and betrayal all rolled up into one giant ball of good-looking gangsters — Did I mention Vin Diesel yet?

Knockaround Guys, in the end, turns out to be a fairly good film. The overall plot is a little predictable, and Vin Diesel is as built as ever. Nevertheless, he remains a cheesy addition to the cast. In the scene where he fights with a small town red neck, you can’t help but laugh as he goes through his macho man “500 fights” spiel. But John Malkovich, being the great actor he is, helps hold things together pretty well as he becomes progressively more violent and aggressive. Seth Green’s character is also reliable for his addition of humor to an otherwise serious plot. There is an unusually small amount of gore for a mob flick, and a few overly sentimental scenes where characters have an attack of conscience, but it’s got a twist of an ending that makes the film a definite must-see. Altogether, Knockaround Guys keeps up its end of the bargain.

It’s not close to The Godfather in any sense but it does have its redeeming qualities. If you’ve got a thing for Brooklyn and you like movies about mobsters, see Knockaround Guys. And if you aren’t, see it anyway.

Archived article by Ashley Ratner