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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'Suckerfish'

29 March 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- "Suckerfish" is a tale of betrayal and greed set in the pet store business, with improvised dialogue and low-energy laughs. Producer-director Brien Burroughs' debut feature has the hit-or-miss appeal of many a Jim Jarmusch-style low-budget independent.

A sly film noir knockoff that hit with critics, it won a special jury prize at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and has a decent shot at theatrical distribution.

Filmed in 16mm, technically unpolished but often original in its approach, "Suckerfish" works swimmingly in stretches. The fairly simple plot unfolds at a slow pace, however, with the performers carrying the load. Luckily the cast of unknowns is inspiring when Burroughs' direction is not.

Dick Goodman (Tim Orr) is a sharp, predatory salesman whose clients are dull, timid pet store owners. Dick has been doing well since the retirement of Whitey, a longtime veteran who dominated the local market. He has an attractive, demanding wife (Gerri Lawlor) who is sleeping with his rival Alan (Dan Donovan).

Dick and Alan have the skills to suck up to and swim circles around suckers, but both are threatened by the arrival of Ken Preston (Kurt Bodden), who is taking over for Whitey. Telling a series of outrageous lies to the gullible clients, Dick and Alan conspire to drive Ken out of town, but their evil ways come back to haunt them.

The black humor is more in the premise and many inserted shots of fish and other animals chowing down than in the mostly bland dialogue and static camera work. Taking a serious turn, the ending is darker than one anticipates. Overall, the four main characters are well-realized, with Orr and Bodden making the strongest impressions.


Glass Eye Prods.

Producer-director: Brien Burroughs

Director of photography: Christopher Brown

Editor: Gail Mallimson

Music: Jason Tubbs, Joshua Raoul Brody



Dick Goodman: Tim Orr

Alan Walker: Dan Donovan

Ken Preston: Kurt Bodden

Elizabeth: Gerri Lawlor

Running time -- 88 minutes

No MPAA rating


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