Much like a stage play, this violent effort was a career first for actor Kevin Spacey in that he is the film’s director.
It’s a straight forward story with a compelling twist to those involved in a hostage taking plot line with a top notch cast assembled here for the proceedings led by Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise and William Fichtner.
Our trio of low life criminals find themselves fleeing the scene of a break in when they set off a series of alarms. Speeding from the scene in a stolen car they happen through a late night stake out where the police are trying to keep a watchful eye on a suspect who shall remain off camera. Confusion ensues for the police officers and more than one of them will wind up dead by pure mishap.
Our threesome ditch their car and head into all all night gin joint and quickly find themselves thrust into a hostage taking scene when the police show up outside led by Joe Mategna. What Dillon and company don’t yet realize is that the police aren’t here for them. They believe the man from their stakeout is the one holding the gun and the hostages in terror.
Assembled inside the dive bar we have another talented group. M. Emmet Walsh and gorgeous Faye Dunaway work the bar while John Spencer, Skeet Ulrich and Viggo Mortensen are to be found enjoying a brew.
Tensions rise between the trio of thieves who are not about to be captured. Fichtner is a loose cannon of a hothead who isn’t to be trusted with a gun, Dillon appears to be the head man who isn’t too sure of what to do and Sinise is the level headed member of the gang who doesn’t want any part in killing hostages.
As dangerous as Fichtner is, he can’t be all that bad. After all he’s looking for Johnny Paycheck songs on the corner jukebox. He also has the flashiest role as the caged animal who is totally unpredictable.
The situation runs it’s course with twists down the stretch that may not be to everyone’s liking but there’s no denying that this ensemble cast does a good job with the material. It’s also a nice blend of up and comers along with the established Faye.
Mantegna has a great scene with a local news lady interviewing him for the evening edition while Viggo plays his role as a French Canadian in a very low key style. It’s this low key role that offers the hoodlum trio the best advice they’re to recieve all night as to how they should defuse the situation they have found themselves in.
There’s a nice nod to the great gangster stars of the thirties on the wall of the bar. A giant poster of Cagney in G Men and another of Bogie behind the bar. It should be noted that one could argue this film plays to the gangster genre in the same vein as Bogie’s breakthrough film The Petrified Forest did way back in 1936.
Whether you like this stage bound gangland flick or not one should always remember “the Stanton – Walsh rule.”
If the above rule is something you’re not familiar with then give google a try and see if you agree. I generally do but have been known to bend it to my liking.