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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 <email@example.com>
Did you ever see one of those awful action thrillers or crime dramas (where, as Jon Stewart once pointed out, "all the action takes place in a strip club"), usually starring Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Rutger Hauer, Michael Madsen, or some refugee from the Brat Pack, on late night cable? Well, "Phoenix" is the "Chinatown" of those movies. Which, in case you miss my meaning, means it's really quite good.
This is a supremely fun film if you like (or hate but have seen) any of these B action flicks. It should be used in film schools when teaching this overlooked genre ("Contemporary exploitation films," they'd probably call them.). This movie has a loan shark, a bookie, crooked cops, bagmen, a strip joint that figures prominently in the plot, a sultry siren in bed with everybody, a cleverly masked heist, a lucky fill-in-the-blank item, a burned out beauty with a sexy jailbait daughter, and a hero with a chance at redemption, if only he can keep from screwing everything up. This movie's got everything, and that's the point.
Ray Liotta stars (in, for my money, the best performance of his career) and, although one of the aforementioned crooked cops, has an incorruptible sense of honor. For example, he has accumulated a substantial gambling debt, but won't let anyone else pay it off or make it go away because he refuses to "welsh." It's a piece of advice given to him by his late gambler father, you'll probably not be surprised to learn.
The plot is, to pay off the sizable debt, Liotta and three of his fellow crooked cops mastermind a heist in a strip club where everything goes wrong while they wear funny animal masks. "But," as I often tell people, "it's not like it sounds."
If you're still not convinced, the fact that Anjelica Huston is a part of this film's great cast should tell you something. Also, watch out for the amazing Tom Noonan as a lisping bookie and a scene with Giovanni Ribisi where you can see the conclusion coming but is still satisfying even if you've already figured it out because of Liotta's intense performance.
3 out of 4 stars on the fun scale. (Probably less on the quality scale.)
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