Night at the Golden Eagle

on April 26, 2002 by Chris Wiegand
   A nasty little L.A. story from writer-director Adam Rifkin (“The Chase”), the noirish “Night At The Golden Eagle” gets off to a strong start, with Tom Waits wailing on the soundtrack as aging con Tommy (Donnie Montemarno) is set free by prison warden James Caan after a seven-year stint in the can.

   Waiting for Tommy on the outside is Mic (Vinny Argiro), his old pal and former partner in crime. Itching to get back to a life of stealing cars, chasing women and smoking dope, Tommy is frustrated to find that Mic has gone straight and that he plans to move to Las Vegas to see out his days working as a croupier. Skeptical, he is persuaded to follow Mic back to the Golden Eagle hotel, a sleazy skid row flea pit where he has a room, to hear more about the plan.

   Having heard Mic's dreams for a new life in Vegas, Tommy eventually acquiesces and the duo resolve to leave the hotel in the morning for their new start. Everything seems set until--against Mic's advice--Tommy hires mouthy hooker Amber (“American Pie's” Natasha Lyonne) from a vicious local pimp (“Snatch's” Vinnie Jones). It is an act that signals the start of a long and bloody journey toward the end of the night.

   This labor of love from Rifkin, financed in part by his scripts for '90s family fare “Mousehunt” and “Small Soldiers,” is every bit as grimy as the squalid hotel at its center, thanks to some dirty cinematography and an unpleasant subplot that involves a young girl's initiation into prostitution. The tone is particularly soured by Jones' most sinister screen turn yet, one devoid of any of the humor or quiet charm of his previous appearances. Comic relief is offered by some of the Golden Eagle's colorful characters--the sort that can be found in the pages of Charles Bukowski or John Fante--including an old-time hoofer played by veteran tapdancer Fayard Nicholas. Rifkin's references are also impeccable throughout: the diverse score mixes hip-hop with Billie Holiday, soul legend Sam Moore plays a small part and Francesca ‘Kitten' Natividad, star of several Russ Meyer films, also appears.    Starring Donnie Montemarano, Vinnie Argiro, James Caan and Natasha Lyonne. Directed and written by Adam Rifkin. Produced by Adam Rifkin and Steve Bing. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 88 min.

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