Darkly comedic “Suicide Kings” revels in gruesome reality

Suicide Kings_

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
April 17, 1998

2.5 stars

Carlo Bartolucci proves to be a more formidable foe than his youthful kidnappers had anticipated in the dark comedy.  Of course, when they plotted the abduction, they used a blowup doll as a stand-in for the semi-retired but still feisty Mafioso.

Played with sly humor by the chalk-complexioned Christopher Walken, Bartolucci is more honorable than the wealthy post-prep school thugs, who chop off his pinky to prove they mean business. He learns early on that the friends are hiding secrets from one another and uses that information to plant seeds of doubt in  them.

It’s not much of a divide and conquer, given the friends’ ambivalence and ensuing confusion.

The premise itself is silly: After the police fail to rescue Avery’s kidnapped sister, Avery (solemnly played by Henry Thomas) and his pals decide to kidnap Bartolucci and force him to use his resources to pay the girl’s $2 million ransom.

Bartolucci tells one of his abductors that life “doesn’t follow logic or order.” The same could be said for this movie, which is best enjoyed if you can suspend your belief in reality.

For instance, it’s not likely that the street-savvy Bartolucci would willingly go off with the men, even if they did appear harmless.   It’s even more implausible that at a time when the average 9-year-old knows how to operate Caller ID and automatic call back, Bartolucci’s lawyer couldn’t trace his boss’ calls back to the mansion where he’s being held, whack the kids and free his boss.

Most of the muted action is set inside the plush mansion, which is owned by nebbishy Ira’s parents. Played with earnestness by John Galecki (best known as Darlene’s boyfriend on “Roseanne”), Ira is the wannabe to his relatively cool-guy friends. More concerned with tracking mud – and blood – on the floor than the fact that there is a nine-fingered wise guy bound to a chair in his family room, Ira whines, “Who’s gonna help me clean up?”

Also caught up in the misguided scheme are longtime friends Brett (Jay Mohr),  Max (Sean Patrick Flanery) and T.K. (Jeremy Sisto), who walks around in scrubs and performs a finger-ectomy on the transitive theory that since his father is a doctor, he can perform surgery just as well.

The surprise ending will shock few viewers. But the actors turn in appealing performances that make the movie worthwhile.

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