Director: Gary Fleder
Writer: Scott Rodenberg
Starring: Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Treat Williams, Jack Warden, Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken
Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead is a crime thriller that could only have come form the 1990s, it feels like an imitation of a Tarantino film, with stylised dialogue, a bunch of oddball characters and a tragic ending. The script was written before Reservoir Dogs (1992) was released, although the film wasn’t made and released until after Pulp Fiction (1994) in 1995. It wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the script was reworked to mimic Tarantino’s hits.
It’s most likely that Scott Rodenberg (who has gone on to co-write the two recent Jumanji films and Venom) had similar inspirations to Tarantino. There’s a lot of similarity here with wise cracking characters talking in unnatural ways. There is literally a character called The Man With The Plan. Things to Do in Denver isn’t as well remembered because its script isn’t as tight as a Tarantino one. The film is really baggy with too many characters, too many threads and a tone that says it’s all style over substance.
There are loads of great moments and character traits that should make this film stand out. There’s a character who to get away from fighting people, works in a morgue and gets rid of his violent urges by hanging up corpses and using them like punching bag. Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) plays Pieces, an aging projectionist at an adult theatre who is falling apart. He is introduced by saying that he lost his toe the other day, as if it’s nothing. There’s a specialist hitman, called Mr Shhh who specialises in making his hits feel as much pain as possible, played very unconvincingly by Steve Buscemi. The characters are all great on paper but fall flat on the screen.
Andy Garcia plays the main character, Jimmy the Saint, who is given the chance to have his debt wiped by The Man With The Plan. All he has to do is make Bruce break up with Meg, so she will continue to date Man With The Plan’s son. The plan goes wrong and Mr Shhh is brought in to take out those involved.
There are too many characters involved with the plan to intimidate Bruce. It’s not clear why so many are there, but it feels like it’s just so Mr Shhh has more to work through. The characters feel like they are little more than the quirky traits they have and when they start to die, you just don’t care.
The film spends too much time getting to the main plot. There is a lot of wasted time before the plan goes wrong and then the later half is too long in general. It’s just impossible to take Buscemi seriously as a hitman, there’s nothing menacing about him in the film and there’s a moment that he manages to kill everyone in a room with a pistol that has unlimited ammo. It’s a miscast character and the film suffers for it massively.
The music is great, but that doesn’t save the film. The dialogue is great, the characters should be great but aren’t. The story plods along at a very slow pace. This film has mostly been left in the 90s and that’s where it belongs.