Underworld

on September 19, 2003 by Susan Green
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   What hath Quentin Tarantino wrought? Apparently, a new genre: the Cinema of Self-Consciously Quirky Thugs. Judging by "Underworld," screenwriter Larry Bishop ("Mad Dog Time") and director Roger Christian--Christian, no less!--have sold their souls to this derivative devil. And they've persuaded some otherwise well-respected performers to worship with them at the "Pulp Fiction" altar.
   In this dreadful concoction, Joe Mantegna ("Eye for an Eye") is Frank, a mob boss abducted by an ex-con ("Two if by Sea's" Denis Leary) named Johnny. Together, they ride always rain-slicked, steamy city streets in a red stretch limo as Johnny searches for an answer to the question, "Who popped my pop?" With his old man brain-dead after an assassination attempt, he suspects Frank, who has many opportunities to escape but is somehow content to stick close to Johnny and smolder.
   Taking place on Father's Day, the story is an elaborate pseudo-existential riff on familial bonds. A radio station broadcasts "Oh, My Papa." Someone discusses Oedipus. Johnny talks about being "an expert on dead dads." Yet, this mind-numbing wordplay is far less obnoxious than when the hoodlums start debating, in true Tarantino style, the merits of Danny Kaye, organ donations and Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. The film, now being released unrated, was originally given an R for pervasive strong language and violence, and for sexuality.
   Indeed, bloodbaths abound as gangsters--stopping first to chat about cultural trivia--massacre everybody in sight. As Frank's main squeeze, Annabella Sciorra has little to do other than be one of the movie's many scantily clad females and strippers; Abe Vigoda shows briefly as his estranged parent. James Tolkan plays Ned, a scum-of-the-earth sort who, of course, killed his own father. And Johnny gets to spout a scintillating line of dialogue to Frank: "I want to be frank about your frankness and, frankly, I don't give a damn." Frankly, neither does anyone sitting through this film.    Starring Denis Leary, Joe Mantegna, Annabella Sciorra, Abe Vigoda, Traci Lords and James Tolkan. Directed by Roger Christian. Written by Larry Bishop. Produced by Robert Vince and William Vince. A Legacy release. Drama. Rated R for pervasive strong language and violence, and for sexuality. Running time: 100 min. Screened at the Fort Lauderdale fest
Tags: Denis Leary, Joe Mantegna, Annabella Sciorra, Abe Vigoda, Traci Lords and James Tolkan. Directed by Roger Christian. Written by Larry Bishop, Produced by Robert Vince, William Vince, Legacy, Drama
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4 Comments

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