on October 25, 1996 by Susan Lambert
   Inspired by the whimiscal misadventures in Italo Calvino's short stories from the late 1940s, "Palookaville" is an equally playful tale of three buddies who keep trying to take the low-road, but never quite succeed because of their awkward, bumbling way and their innate good-natured personalities. Consider it a film that asks the hypothetical question "What if Inspector Clouseau had three kids born in New Jersey?"
   They might be named Sid (William Forsythe, "The Water-dance"), Russ (Vincent Gallo, "House of Spirits") and Jerry (Adam Trese, "Laws of Gravity")three through-thick-and-thin friends stuck in no-end and low-end lives with no jobs in sight. So what do they do? What every red-blooded American movie male does: turn to a life of crime. The only thing is, they're not very good at it. Whether breaking into a jewelery store and ending up instead in a pastry shop or taking the dying driver of the armored security truck into the hospital for his heart attack, it's just not in them to be criminals. But they keep trying, lending the film a nice, quiet desperation in counterpoint to some honestly funny moments.
   Debut director Alan Taylor gets the most out of his talented cast and a sharp, engaging script, subtly see-sawing between gritty reality and hopeful humor. A crime movie with little successful crime, this is a period film set in the '90s and Taylor plays it perfectly with a light, poetic grace. Forsythe is an incredible leading man who keeps re-inventing himself with amazing character roles like this one. Gallo's portrayal is edgy and smoldering, perfect as a man waiting to explode. In "Palookaville," a gentle, magical quality of tone meshes with drastic melancholy to create a welcome comic symphony. Starring William Forsythe, Vincent Gallo, Adam Trese and Frances McDormand. Directed by Adam Taylor. Written by David Epstein. Produced by Uberto Pasolini. A Samuel Goldwyn release. Comedy. Running time: 94 min. Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
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