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As youths in Azusa, Vinnie, Carter, and Rosie pull off a racing scam, substituting winners for plodders and winning big bucks on long odds. When an official uncovers the scam, they set him up for blackmail. Jump ahead twenty years, Carter and Rosie are married, successful racers in Kentucky about to sell their prize stallion, Simpatico. Vinnie is a drunk in Pomona. Vinnie decides to make a play for Rosie, lures Carter to California, steals his wallet and heads for Kentucky with the original blackmail material. Carter begs Vinnie's friend, a grocery clerk named Cecilia, to follow Vinnie and get the stuff back that he has in a box. Will she succeed? Written by
very weak film noir with great secondary characters
Somewhere buried deep inside the mess that is `Simpatico' there lurk the makings of a pretty decent little love story. Unfortunately, one would have to eliminate pretty much the entire main storyline and all the major characters in order to find it.
This tale of `three people caught in a web of their own making' is so thoroughly inept, overwrought and inconsequential that it seems more like a parody of film noir than a serious entry in the genre. The crime that these three people perpetrated in their youth the one that keeps coming back to haunt them in their approaching middle-age - seems a piddling one at best for a film of this type. An even more serious problem is that the three lead performers seem stuck in roles that have come to define their métier as actors. Nick Nolte, for instance, plays his customary down-and-out, barely-teetering-on-the-edge-of-sanity middle aged loser whose capricious nature makes him forever a threat to the security of the group, while Jeff Bridges portrays the common sense, constantly put-upon ringleader who just wants to forget all about the past but who has a hard time keeping a leash on the unpredictable Nolte. Sharon Stone completes the trio as Bridges' now moody, alcoholic wife a pale imitation of her much more meaty role in Martin Scorcease's `Casino.' Stone's over-the-top thespian simpering reduces the (fortunately) few scenes she is in to the level of unintentional high comedy. Moreover, in their attempt to provide a dual level structure to their tale crosscutting scenes of the past with scenes of the present the filmmakers have been forced to employ actors who look nothing like their contemporary counterparts. The result is, initially, confusing and, ultimately, quite ludicrous.
What is most strange about `Simpatico' is that, while the story itself fizzles and the audience could care less what happens to these three whining, puling, muking central characters, writer/director Matthew Warchus and co-author David Nicholls somehow manage to create a back story and two minor characters who engage both our sympathy and our interest. These come in the form of the always splendid Albert Finney as the man our intrepid band of halfwit con men managed to entrap into an extortion scheme twenty years earlier, and the charming Catherine Keener as the highly principled grocery store cashier who finds herself unwittingly a pawn in Bridges' plot to rein Nolte in. Finney and Keener provide so much warmth and humanity in their few scenes together that we find ourselves regretting that the film does not revolve around them entirely. Wisely, after we wheeze our way through all the hullabaloo and nonsense necessary to bring the main plot to its ludicrous conclusion, Warchus closes the film with a coda focused on these two winning characters. The finale, in some inexplicable way, seems more like a beginning than an ending and we find ourselves wanting to see what happens to this offbeat, likeable couple. By wasting our time concentrating on the Nolte/Bridges/Stone triumvirate of insipidity, the filmmakers end up making us feel even more resentful in the long run. Like the victims of the trio's racetrack shenanigans, we feel robbed!
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