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"Crackers" falls into that category of films that have failed quite inexplicably - helmed by a great director, starring a cast of assured veterans (Sutherland, Warden) and talented newcomers (Penn, Baranksi) and written by the screenwriter of one of the best films of the eighties ("Cutter's Way"). Then why is it that no one talks about the film anymore? Firstly, the film has been made far more successfully on two other occasions in the guise of "Big Deal on Madonna Street" and then recently "Welcome To Collinwood". Secondly, Malle must have been going through an eighties dance music phase when he made the film because it is effectively ruined by an utterly dated and abysmal soundtrack - with a proper film score it would have been a far better film. Lastly, Sutherland gives what is probably his most broad and embarrassingly unfunny performance in the lead, subsequently hindering any sympathy for his character. There are other qualms (what exactly is the purpose of Baranski's character, lets throw in a slut for some wacky comedy?) but it is nevertheless still quite watchable. Shawn, who would collaborate with Malle on the acclaimed films "My Dinner With Andre" and "Vanya on 42nd Street", is very funny as the forever-eating Turtle and Penn is amusing in a dumb hood role he would practically resume for "We're No Angels", another film with a great director, writer and cast that would be a critical and commercial failure. No film made by Malle could be truly bad, and this isn't, but it is neither as quirky or funny as it wants to be.
Louis Malle lived in the USA during the last part of his life. If there
was anyone with enough talent to bring "Crackers" to the screen, it was
him. Unfortunately, sometimes, even with the best intentions, no doubt,
a great man produces a film that is well beneath himself. Of course,
anyone is entitled to a mistake, but if there was anything wrong with
this project it seems to be the Jeffrey Alan Fiskin's screen treatment
of the classic Mario Monicelli film "Big Deal at Madonna Street".
The cast Mr. Malle assembled for the film is a first rate one, just by looking at the names in it. Donald Sutherland, Jack Warden, Sean Penn, Christine Baranski and the rest have enough experience to show much better than what comes out on the screen.
Let's just remember Mr. Malle for his greatness, and not by this misguided effort.
As is often the case with Louis Malle, capitalism's absurdity is
highlighted. This is perhaps not his very best, but I thought I would
give it a ten, just because I thought 4.9 to be too low, I got more
from it than that. However, if you're not open to the idea that
capitalism is absurd, certainly 4.9 might seem like a good rating and
you wouldn't get that much out of it.
Capitalism is about fooling and being fooled, but who or what really gets fooled ultimately? My notion is that it's always capitalism that ends up being and is constantly fooled - by life.
This film lets you laugh at capitalism and it feels good.
Capitalism is alienating - like many of Malle's films, this film is about unalienating.
As I see it: There are some wonderful moments where you just laugh: I may have laughed most just because I found a somewhat old woman very funny, just hilarious. And it was just a brief scene, but it just made me laugh longer than the scene lasted (stayed with me sort of). This is what's needed for a good comedy, isn't it? Small things that make you laugh more than bigger things, in part because they're small. There's not a lot of that, but it's there and is perhaps all the more funny as a result. In addition there are bigger things, notably involving a glass roof.
I won't say that much more. Basically, if you're an anticapitalist like me, surely you'll enjoy it. If you're a capitalist - hell, who knows, you might change, life's bigger than capitalism, no?
I was amused watching the stellar cast waltz through this film. Any
movie with supporting characters including a traffic cop prostitute
and a pimp who carries a baby, will catch my attention.
Although released in 1984, this film has a 70s feel to it that I enjoyed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A motley band of desperate, unemployed, penny-less characters desire to
rob Pawn Dealer Jack Warden's safe while he's off to visit his mother.
Sutherland at first shrugs robbing his boss(for the time being;his job
as Pawn shop security is threatened when Warden mentions a desire for
an alarm system), but has motivation when he sees he'll soon be
unemployed again(..and losing his cable box only makes matters worse).
Warden is the "bad guy" of the film, a penny-pincher who stiff those
seeking a much larger sum than he's willing to pay for their valuables.
The thing is though, as Warden tries to tell the film's characters as
they come in to sell stolen merchandise or valuables from their own
homes, that business is business and turning a profit is essential. The
flick clearly exposes the unemployment hike and immigration pressure in
early 80's Reagan era.
Sean Penn(..tries on a Southern accent to give his character flavor and fails miserably) plays a wannabee musician, often seen blowing on his harmonica or clanging away on a guitar in Warden's pawn shop he had to give away, who is Trinidad Silva's thieving partner as they often commit petty crimes such as stealing car radios from BMWs only to get close to nothing from Warden for them. Penn takes a personal interest in Silva's sister Tasia Valenza, courting her when dear brother's back is turned(Silva is overprotective and wishes to pair Tasia with a bartender of his own choosing from Mexico). You have Wallace(MY DINNER WITH ANDRE)Shawn as an always-hungry pauper who is friends with Sutherland and hangs around the pawn shop playing chess all day(it's rare you don't see Shawn eating something which is a gag the film plays to the hilt). There's Larry Riley as a would-be pimp stuck with the baby of a former "employee". Following the cast of supposed safe crackers are Christine Baranski as a meter-lady who writes the tickets for those who stay parked too long on the side-walk who likes to moonlight as a slut and Charlayne Woodard as an always-unemployed maid who hooks up with Riley.
All that said, this is a forgettable, minor film from critically acclaimed director Louis Malle with a decent cast not having that much to do. It supposed to play as a bumbling-thieves comedy, but seems to want to take a detour into character study. I'd say unless you just wish to see the film for it's cast, this is a very skippable film which ends with the characters looking quite silly at staging such an attempt towards cracking the safe. They still face what we saw them against at the start of the film. After watching the film, I just felt that this flick wastes our time.
While most sane adults will find this movie pointless and without any merits,I still would like to point out a great deal of movies released to this day are far more repugnant...This movie features Sean Penn in his pre-Madonna youth,and Sutherland in his prime.OK,I admit that as a 10 year old boy,I fondly recall watching this movie over and over and over again on HBO....I suppose dozens of screenings,along with a nostalgia for one's childhood memories can make even Ishtar great..Nevertheless,the final 30 minutes are quite entertaining,with a pretty good ending.The love stories can drag out in this type of movie,and do.
The Watergate break-in ran smoother than the operation executed in this flick. Of course, to get an inexperienced crew from all walks of street life (a family pimp, a musical hick and his vato, a hungry bum, and a chief conspirator with a fantasy-fulfilling meter maid girlfriend) to work together to get a pawn dealer's suspected lode from a locked safe and not have the police bust you is dicey if the musical hick had not built the store alarm with the skill level he had to operate nitroglycerin on a building beam as if he were lighting a Christmas tree. This is why his vato doesn't want him near his sister as well as it being his sister. It is somewhat more understandable than the family pimp falling for a maid who pursues a chance at prostitution and is dissuaded by the pimp. "Crackers" is a business sector misadventure set in a not-so-bustling city .
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