When a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel decides to turn state's evidence and testify against the mob, it seems that a whole lot of people would like to make sure he's no longer breathing.
In Phoenix, Arizona, all is not well at the local police station as some of the colleagues are not good of heart. Superstitious cop Harry Collins is on the take. He a compulsive gambler who is forced to plan a heist with fellow cops Mike, James, and Fred to rip off local pimp and overall bad guy, Louie, to pay off gambling debts run up with "bookie" Chicago. Written by
Chris Foster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Harry is a police officer - he is also a degenerate gambler in debt to bookie Chicago for $32K. That's basically the plot, it seems simple but it is enough to drive the film's core once it has been surrounded by plot twists, tension, strong performances, interesting characters and good dialogue.
Hats off to Danny Cannon - he was the great British hope once after making Young Americans and going to the US he then messed up with Judge Dredd. But here he shows that he does have talent to lead a dark thriller successfully
albeit he is helped greatly by the plot and his actors. The film follows
Harry and his 3 colleagues as they revolve around several loan sharks and bookies whilst also trying to have lives and relationships. The main focus is Harry's addiction to gambling in all areas of his life. There is also a subplot involving Angelica Huston which is meant to represent Harry's potential redemption, but this is not well developed and is secondary to the main story. The story eventually turns into a heist-gone-wrong movie but even then has enough twists to keep the interest.
The main strength of the film lies in the actors that are assembled together here. Liotta plays the role well, making it possible to like this person but also making his gambling side believable - it's hard not to feel for him and his bad luck as the film progresses. Anthony Lapaglia, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven are all excellent for different reasons as his colleagues. Piven good as the cop drawn into things he doesn't want to do and Baldwin and Lapaglia are as solid as every in corrupt roles. Both Ribisi and Huston are capable of great performances but neither have a lot to work with here in terms of time or plot involvement. Giancarlo Esposito is as good as ever in a small role as Louie the loanshark - but then I've never seen him put in a bad performance, even in a bad film.
Overall the plot is similar to many other crime thrillers out there. What makes this rise above the normal TV material is a dark atmosphere from Danny Cannon, a strong lead in Liotta with uniformly great support from the rest of the cast and tension an twists throughout.
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