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Welcome to Collinwood

Bumbling thieves try to pull off that one big job.

Welcome to Collinwood
By Jeff Koyen Add to favorites email print this article Share on FaceBoook

Welcome to Collinwood
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Screenplay by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo based on I Soliti Ignoti
Starring William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell, Patricia Clarkson

I’m the kind of person who sees only faults. Without fail, I note the flaws first. Show me a diamond, and I’ll tell you why it’s not perfect.

My first impressions are always negative. Introduce me to your new boy-friend, and I’ll predict the break-up.

Artistic endeavors must earn my praise. My time is too valuable to waste on mediocrity. As soon as I’ve listened to an album or watched a movie, I am compelled to deconstruct it down to its influences. It’s my way of controlling the artist.

Actually, none of this is true. I’m quite easygoing, optimistic and forgiving of most artistic efforts, even imperfect efforts, when they are sincere. Especially when it comes to film. That’s why I can enjoy a movie like Welcome to Collinwood. It isn’t the best comedy to pass through Prague in recent months, but it certainly isn’t the worst.

Miserable cynics should avoid this movie. If, however, you’re willing let a well-intentioned comedy sweep you along, it’s worth seeing. Like an early Woody Allen film – before Allen became a boring, miserable cynic – Collinwood has enough laughs, interesting characters and inventive moments to entertain you for an hour and a half, even if it won’t change your life.

Cosimo (Luis Guzmán) has been arrested for grand theft auto. From his cellmate, he learns about a once-in-a-lifetime heist, which in Collinwood lingo is called a “Bellini.” Apparently, before going to prison, the cellmate erected a “Krazner” wall between a certain apartment and the neighboring jewelry store. In the store’s safe: enough money for a man “to live several lifetimes.” Cosimo simply needs to get into that apartment, knock down the fake Krazner wall and crack the safe.

But he obviously can’t do the job while serving time, so he asks his girlfriend, Rosalind (Patricia Clarkson), to recruit a “Melinsky,” someone who will confess to the crime and take Cosimo’s place. In the course of finding the Melinsky, Rosalind inadvertently recruits a few would-be big-timers to participate in the Bellini.

Pero is an amateur boxer who takes the lead in organizing the heist; he also steals most of the scenes. Sam Rockwell brings a goofball charm and bumbling bravado to the role. He’s a likeable character, and the perfect man to lead the pack of small-timers who just want a fair shake at a better life.

William H. Macy’s Riley is struggling to raise his infant son while his wife serves a year in prison for fraud. If he had $1,000, he could pay the fine that would set her free. Leon (Isaiah Washington) would use his share of the money to pay for his sister’s wedding. Basil (Andrew Davoli) is a young hustler who’s ready to let a good woman turn him into an honest man. Toto, the most down-and-out of the crew (Michael Jeter), wants to buy a new tombstone for his wife’s grave.

Though based on an Italian comedy from the late ’50s, Collinwood could just as easily be adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel. (Incidentally, Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks borrowed from the same film, I Soliti Ignoti.) It’s a solid entry into the Get Shorty genre, but beats Get Shorty at its own game. That movie was too earnest in its effort to not be taken seriously. Collinwood knows it’s a fun, daffy film. The characters are exaggerated but not cloying. They’re dopey, but not too stupid. Most importantly, Collinwood knows that you know that jingly lingo such as “Melinksy” and “Bellini” and “Krazner” were employed to greater effect in Miller’s Crossing.

That’s why the cynics will piss and moan: the obvious influences, the exaggerated characters, the unoriginal invented language thing. They can stay home.

Don’t expect uproarious laughs from Welcome to Collinwood, but rather a sustained smile. This movie winks at you, and if you’re not the self-serious, overly analytical type, maybe you’ll wink back.

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