Phoenix (1998) Poster

(1998)

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7/10
Superstitious
jotix10029 May 2004
This film was a complete surprise. One of those rarities that come out out of nowhere and knock your socks off without much effort. Danny Cannon, it's director must be given credit for bringing this story to the screen, or video, as probably was the case.

Any film where Ray Liotta appears, is worth a look. Now, if one adds the great Anthony LaPaglia, one of the best actors around, it has to be outstanding. Mr. LaPaglia has never struck a wrong note in whatever I've seen him do. He shines here playing against type and almost stealing the film from Ray Liotta.

The story about bad cops in Phoenix is presented with a total sense of honesty, no pun intended. There are a bunch of these guys in every police department in large cities. The director packs a lot of action into this movie. It will keep the viewer glued to the screen.

In addition to Ray Liotta and Anthony LaPaglia, there are brief glances at Anjelica Houston, Brittany Murphy, Jeremy Piven, Giancarlo Esposito and others that make this film a delight for fans of thrillers.

Either catch it on cable, or run to the video store and rent it. You won't regret it!
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At last - a good Danny Cannon film
bob the moo24 October 2001
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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8/10
A Hidden Gem
tarbosh2200012 May 2010
"Phoenix" is a hidden gem. I've seen it over five times. For some reason, it never gets old.

Harry (Liotta) is a cop with a gambling problem. He can't stop. He owes money to "Chicago" (Tom Noonan) and he if he doesn't pay up, he dies. Harry's partners Henshaw (LaPaglia) and Nutter (Baldwin) are dirty and are becoming "collectors" to bookie Louie (Giancarlo Esposito). Harry needs money fast and the only way is to rob Louie. Everybody goes along with the plan until there's a double cross.

There's not a lot of action in the movie until the end, but it's not needed. Ray Liotta is excellent in the movie. But the supporting cast steals it from him. LaPaglia is fantastic as Henshaw. He makes the character come alive. Baldwin, Esposito, Kari Wuhrer, and Anjelica Huston all get their time to shine.

"Phoenix" is a gritty crime movie that Liotta and LaPaglia fans must see.

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7/10
Cool little film
refinedsugar9 September 2001
Sometimes I question why one movie gets theatrical distribution while another does not. To be fair, I think things generally swing the right way. Movies that call video their home do it for sometimes a much deserved reason: they stink. This is not the case with Phoenix however.

It's a breath of fresh air to take a chance on a direct-to-video quickie and have it turn out this good. The story is tight and look at all the recognizable faces in the cast. That helps me out. The whole police officer-gambling junky angle is different - Liotta as the lead carries it off well and Phoenix is just all around better than most cop boilers I've seen in the last six months. It sure ain't lacking in clichés of the genre, but that has come to be expected. Phoenix is just a well filmed, nicely acted piece of work from director Danny Cannon who makes amends for the theatrical bomb Judge Dredd. Worth a look on a slow night or for Liotta fans.
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8/10
Colourful Characters & Excellent Performances
seymourblack-122 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This superb thriller features an array of colourful characters and some beautiful cinematography which not only looks great but also complements the rather menacing atmosphere of the piece. The action takes place in an environment in which everyone is corrupt and the threat of violence is ever present.

Harry Collins (Ray Liotta) is a police detective with a gambling addiction whose work brings him into contact with violent criminals and a group of colleagues who are all thoroughly corrupt and untrustworthy. In amongst all this moral bankruptcy, Harry is something of an exception as he, at least, has some (albeit unorthodox) ethical standards which govern his conduct. His inability to control his compulsion to gamble, however, eventually gets him into a tight spot when his losses increase to $32,000 and local gangster Chicago (Tom Nonnam) wants to be repaid promptly.

Harry's desperation grows as he knows he'll be killed if he's unable to pay his debt but then he's presented with two opportunities to resolve his problem. Chicago promises to cancel his debt if he kills a young man called Joey (Giovanni Ribisi) who's in police custody because Chicago fears that he might give the police information about his operations in order to get a lighter sentence. Harry isn't prepared to do what Chicago wants and also refuses an offer from his unscrupulous fellow detective Mike Henshaw (Anthony LaPaglia), who's willing to kill Chicago.

In order to extricate himself from the fix he's in, Harry devises a plan to relieve a nightclub owner called Louie (Giancarlo Esposito) of the considerable amount of cash that he knows he regularly keeps in his office safe. Then, with the assistance of three of his colleagues, he goes ahead with the robbery so that he can pay off Chicago and pursue his relationship with the empathetic barmaid Leila (Anjelica Huston) who he thinks provides him with his best opportunity for a better future.

"Phoenix" has a great soundtrack, some entertaining dialogue and well rounded characters but it's the quality of the acting that's most impressive. Harry Collins is a very troubled and psychologically complex man and Ray Liotta's portrayal of him is extremely powerful. Anthony LaPaglia is tremendous as the completely amoral Henshaw and Anjelica Huston shows the rather resigned manner and cautious nature of someone who carries the emotional scars of the past. The performances of the supporting cast are also strong and make their characters very memorable.
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10/10
An Outstanding Film!
Tiger_Mark3 July 2002
I was somewhat shocked at just how good this film was. I should not have been, the cast is outstanding! Moreover, when you have Ray Liotta in the lead role, you are going to be pretty good. However, this film goes way beyond pretty good and close to perfection.

The Movie tells the story of four Phoenix detectives, each of which is somewhat less than perfect (to say the least). In fact, a couple of them are criminals (Anthony LaPaglia is great). The story centers around that of Ray Liotta's character, a hopeless gambler. However, to Liotta, gambling is somewhat of an honorable tradition (one carried down from his father). He speaks of gambling as if it was his religion. He bets on everything. He starts conversations with people he considers lucky, in attempts to get some kind of a hidden tip on a horse. He sees a cute little girl and asks her her name, she says Betsy. So he looks for a horse named Betsy. However, like he tells one of his partners, "I don't gamble to make money." His partner's response, "no s**t." The more bets Liotta makes, the more he loses. Pretty soon, he is in pretty heavy to a loan shark named Chicago (played brilliantly by Tom Noonan). When his fellow partners suggest arresting or killing the loan shark (that is starting to lean heavy on Liotta), Liotta is shocked, there is no honor in welshing on a bet. From here, we see the downward spiral of all people involved in the story.

I mentioned the cast in this film and it is an incredible group. What is greater, is that each is given a real character to play, with unique flaws and traits. Each scene is wonderful to look at, visually. Be it a rainy night, a heist with animal masks, or a brutal Arizona desert. The dialog is sharp and very witty. The images are gritty and slick. Symbolism abounds in every scene. This is really a tremendous film! **** out of ****.
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8/10
I'm not surprised that almost no-one knows it, but it's a shame
philip_vanderveken13 July 2005
Once in a while you come along a movie that, even though it is already several years old, you have never heard of before. "Phoenix" is such a movie. The only reason why I gave it a try and taped it is because there is a famous actor in it who I usually like to see playing (Ray Liotta) and because I hoped that the story might be something nice (most of the time I like crime movies). And because I really didn't know what to expect from it, it's only good that I didn't see that cover photo first. That ugly thing doesn't really give a good impression of what this movie is like. When watching that picture, my first impression is that this will be a typical action flick, Stalone or Jean-Claude Vandamme style, while in reality that certainly isn't the case.

"Phoenix" tells the story of Harry Collins, a cop whose life isn't exactly going all too well. He's a hopeless gambler who only loses a lot of money and never wins anything. But that's not how he sees it. He considers gambling not as something to make money with, he sees it as as an honorable tradition which he has inherited from his father. He gambles on anything he can possibly think of and he really sees a hidden tip in everything: the name of a girl, a conversation with some people who he considers to be lucky... Pretty soon he has a lot of debts with a loan shark named 'Chicago', which he can't possibly pay. When his colleagues suggest that they could arrest or even kill the man, he is shocked. There is no honor in doing such a thing, but from one thing comes another and soon Collins and his colleagues find themselves in a downward spiral of corruption, deceit, murder...

A movie with Ray Liotta in it is always worth watching, no doubt about that. Even a movie that isn't that good can be saved by his appearance. But this movie didn't need to be saved at all. This was actually a very nice film with some well-developed characters and a nice storyline. I might even say that this entire movie was a big surprise to me, as it kept my attention from the first moment until the last. And not only Ray Liotta is worth mentioning. Anthony LaPaglia, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven,... all did a very nice job in this movie. Still, in the end I'm not surprised why so little people know this movie. OK, it has a cast with some famous people in it like Anjelica Huston, Jeremy Piven and Ray Liotta, but this is also the work of the same director who gave us movies like "Judge Dredd" and "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer". I'm really wondering what made that man decide to do this project in the first place and where he ever found so much excellent inspiration. Anyway, there is one thing that I'm absolutely sure of: I will definitely recommend it to everybody who wants to hear it. I give this movie at least a 7.5/10.
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Fates calling the shots
chaos-rampant28 April 2016
I was expecting straight-to-video fodder here the kind you watch stupefied because it happened to be on late at night. It revealed itself to be a taut little thing that tries to create its own world.

It was caught in the Tarantino craze so we have small talk about cartoons, movies and music peppered throughout. It has, eventually, a heist in animal masks gone awry that makes poor sense and cookie cutter resolutions where we drive around to settle scores with a bunch of characters that were left hanging so that it's all neat by the end.

For a while it manages to strike some spark, most of it in the first half.

A man who we understand is trying to be upstanding while everyone around him is fickle, but he has a blind spot for gambling. It's not about the money, for him it seems to be a warped way of measuring himself up against the universe, challenging the fates to pave whatever way they have in store so he can have a mandate to abide by. He makes a mess, owing everyone in town, but won't take the easy way out because a bet is a bet; opportunity for self-worth.

So when the fates shuffle the deck and he's dealt the role of hapless stooge who loses everything, he goes through it with stoic persistence to settle debts. Ray Liotta is as good as he was for Scorsese in a similar twitchy role as fates conspire to crush him.

It's no Asphalt Jungle where the heist is the ritual that opens us from anxiety to dreamlike visions, but it beats Reservoir Dogs.

Noir Meter: 2/4 | Neo-noir or post noir? Neo
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7/10
Decent crime flick
The_Void28 December 2007
There was no shortage of 'cool' crime thrillers released on the success of Goodfellas in the nineties, and while I wouldn't say that this is one of the very best of them; it's certainly one of the better ones. Phoenix benefits from Scorsese's leading man Ray Liotta, who takes the lead role in this film as a gambling addicted copper. The plot focuses on crime as you would expect, but the gambling side of the plot is what really makes and sets it apart from most of the other nineties crime flicks. Ray Liotta is Harry Collins, a cop with a gambling addiction; and, like most gamblers, a money problem resulting from it. He owes money he doesn't have to his bookie, a man who calls himself "Chicago", and after being given a few days to pay; he soon realises that he's going to have to take steps to raise the money. This prompts him to set up a plan with his fellow coppers Mike, James and Fred to rip off local pimp and all round bad guy Louie. Naturally, the plan goes tits up and pretty soon all four of them are forced to pay the consequences...

The film is never really brilliant (though in fairness, this sort of film doesn't usually turn me on all that much), but it manages to keep a fairly good pace going throughout and doesn't get boring. Ray Liotta has played this sort of role many times before and since, and as you would expect he is well at home with the leading role in this film. British director Danny Cannon (also director of rubbish such as Judge Dredd and I Know What You Did Last Summer) has recruited a decent cast of below a-list stars, which includes Anthony LaPaglia, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and Xander Berkeley, as well as one of my favourite B-movie actresses, Kari Wuhrer. Anjelica Huston also appears, but is horribly miscast as Liotta's love interest. There's plenty of what most people will have come to expect from modern crime flicks; we have car chases, shootouts, sharp dialogue and all the rest of it. I'd have preferred the film if we'd have got a bit more of the gambling theme thrown in, but that's not too important as overall, this is a more than passable effort and I'm sure crime fans will enjoy it.
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Somehow crept under the radar...
JoeytheBrit13 May 2007
This is one of those films that somehow falls under the radar and languishes undeservedly in obscurity. In a fairly convoluted plot, Ray Liotta plays an honest cop with a gambling addiction who comes up with a plan to rob a loan shark in order to pay off his debts. He enlists the aid of three of his colleagues (Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and the unappreciated Anthony LaPaglia, who gives a film-stealing performance here) unaware that one is sleeping with another's wife and is under investigation.

Although the story unfolds a little too slowly at times, writer Eddie Richey's script has a lot of depth, lending some diversity to a bunch of what could otherwise have been genre-stereotypical tough guys. The quality of the writing is high, with some off-the-wall dialogue and unique insight into such diverse subjects as King Kong, Three-on-a-match, Looney Tunes cartoons, and Dostoyevsky's gambling addiction. Brit director Danny Cannon creates some arresting images (an alternately sun-scorched and rain-sodden Phoenix in monsoon season) and manages to create loads of atmosphere despite often selecting extreme close-ups to emphasise the thoughts and emotions of the characters. There are no weak performances but, together with LaPaglia, the ever-dependable Ray Liotta stands out in the lead role.

The ending is probably weaker than it should be because it takes a little too long for all the strands to be neatly tied, but this is still an impressive piece of entertainment that deserves to be better known.
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Bad Cable Action Cinema At Its Best!
jayandsjosh10 June 2001
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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HIDDEN GEM!
jmorrison-227 December 2002
I, too, had never heard of this movie. I never saw it advertised, and I never saw it at theaters. I happened to stumble on this on cable one night. Man, what an excellent movie. A dark, brooding movie of desperation and corruption. Ray Liotta is as good as I've ever seen him, and Anthony LaPaglia nearly steals the movie with his portrayal of an evil, brutal cop, whom you will hope and pray you never cross paths with. Just an excellent little movie that, it appears, not too many people knew about. Very well done!
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9/10
This is a very good film!
markguszak26 December 2000
I caught this on HBO and was totally taken with it. I don't remember it ever playing at the theater and that is a shame. As far as cops and robber movies go, this one is outstanding. The movie has a gritty and dirty sense about it. One really senses that they are involved in these sordid tales that take place in the arid Arizona wasteland that is Phoenix. Although this is a movie with no real good guys, Ray Liotta is a pretty good guy. The only problem with Liotta, is that he cannot stop gambling and this keeps him in trouble with a local shark, who might be willing to forgive a debt for a favor. Did I mention that Liotta is a cop? Of course, Liotta has interesting partners that work with him, all more dirty and corrupt than himself. Great character actors assembled for this one, but Liotta is the shining star here. His witty observations and philosophies on life serve as great filler as we wait for the next action to take place. Through out the movie we see Liotta break a number of laws, however the one thing he will not corrupt is what he holds sacred to himself, gambling. Just watching these cops attempting to dig out of the hot messes they create for themselves is worth the price of this rental. However, many more people will want to see it again, as they root for their hapless Liotta to get out of the mess he is in. Very good movie!
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8/10
Seriously Gritty Drama
screenman18 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of my (very) lucky dips into the supermarket bran-tub. It was just 50p. But it starred Ray Liotta and Angelica Huston, so it had to be worth a punt. I had never heard of it before.

Big surprise. Liotta plays a detective on the skids. He's basically a decent character who is fatally flawed by the vice of gambling. We follow his life as - by turns - it deteriorates into a chaos driven by mounting debt. He has cop colleagues who are even less reliable than himself. Collectively, they present a bitterly amoral face of modern-day policing in Phoenix. This is not a feel-good movie.

In crisis, he recruits 3 confidantes to rob a familiar hood, in order to pay off his debts and something to spare. It turns into slaughter. Their senior officer becomes aware of their behaviour but as well as reporting it, decides to cut a slice of the action for himself in a brutal business of corruption, double-cross and murder. There is no happy-ending.

The dour characters are set against often gloomy weather and nocturnal activity, enhancing the movie's down-beat texture. Even in the desert sun they are often cast into dark relief by the harsh light.

Script is suitably cynical and well-chosen. All the players fit their characters well. Anthony Lapaglia, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven et al, give excellent returns. There's no bad egg in the carton. Lighting, sound and editing are all up to the job. Four men walking abreast to a common destiny is a very old theme in cinema. We've seen it in 'Gunfight at the OK Corral', 'The Wild Bunch', 'Resevoir Dogs', and probably others.

This movie lacks that touch of comic irony that lights up even the grimmest of Tarantino movies, rendering - I think - a greater sense of realism. It's dark and uncompromising; it especially reminds me of 'The Grifters', which also starred Ms Huston. I can't say better than that.

This movie is definitely a collectors' item. Highly recommended.
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8/10
Unknown but pretty darn good
NotoriousJMG29 October 2005
Having grown up in Phoenix, I was fairly surprised to find that there was a police drama that had been set and partially filmed there. I looked into it a little, and found out that it had a fairly good cast, too - Ray Liotta, Anthony LaPaglia, Jeremy Piven, Tom Noonan, Anjelica Huston, Brittany Murphy, Stephen Baldwin. Baldwin actually turns in a decent performance - not the standard for one of the Baldwin brothers. Liotta is great as a crooked cop, though not nearly as good as he is in "Narc." Piven does quite well as the naïve cuckolded cop. LaPaglia and Noonan's performances are probably the best of the film, though. Noonan turns in an even creepier performance here than he does in "Knockaround Guys", and LaPaglia's corrupt-beyond-all-belief Detective Henshaw is practically the polar opposite of the straightforward good guys he plays in movies like "So I Married An Axe Murderer" and "Empire Records". I paid six bucks to pick this up on DVD at a used record place in Santa Monica, and it was worth every dime. If you can rent it, see it on late night, or whatever, I would recommend doing so.
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6/10
Phoenix Arizona: A case by case study of police corruption
sol-kay20 July 2004
****SPOILERS**** Really off-the-wall movie about police corruption, professional as well as personal, in the Phoenix PD with more double-crosses in the movie then in a cemetery. As your watching the film "Phoenix" your tempted to call your local police precinct and report a crime in progress, the movie, only to put down the phone feeling the police that your calling are the same police in the film.

Ray Liotta, Officer Harry Collins, is about the most normal of the bunch of cops focused on in the movie; Officers Mike Henshaw James Nutter Fred Shuster & Let. Clyde Webber, Anthony Lapaglia Daniel Baldwin Jeremy Priven & Xander Berkely. Collins lives by a code that he follows in that being a sick and degenerate gambler he doesn't welsh on a bet that he made, which is the movies main storyline. Collins wants to pay off his lone shark bookie Chicago, Tom Noonan, $32,000.00 that he owes him in betting action and he doesn't want to kill anybody. Which is something that Collins seems to have a lot of trouble keeping from doing in the movie.

Besides Chicago there's also Louie,Glancario Esposito, a pimp drug dealer and loan shark, who has Officer Henshaw working for him as a collector and enforcer. Incredibly the cops in "Phoenix" are even worse then the aforementioned gangsters, that's just how bad they are.

The police in the movie are made to look so bad that even their boss Let. Webber, Xander Berkley, who at first we see trying to set them up and have them arrested for their crimes is really only interested in ripping them off of their ill gotten gains and keeping them for himself. Collins is always betting in the movie from horses to cards even to cockroaches and raindrops rolling down his car windshield that makes you wonder how he can find time to do his job as a Phoenix policeman?

"Phoenix" is so anti-police that it makes you dislike the cops on the screen even if you want to find a reason to like them which it gives you none. Besides being corrupt the cops,Collins Henshaw Nutter &Shuster, are also very stupid as well. They end up wiping themselves out in some of the most ridicules shoot-outs that I've ever seen in a cop movie. There's a rip-off of Louie's joint later in the film to get his weekly, or was it monthly , take of some $250,000.00 that was so funny as well as bloody and brutal that it looked like a scene out of a Marks Brothers comedy.

Anjelica Huston & Brittany Murphy as Leila and her daughter Veronica were totally wasted in the film and I have the feeling that they had much bigger parts in the movie but most of their scenes were left on the cutting room floor, lucky for them. Ray Liotta was at his best playing the sick and unstable Officer Collins which seen to be the kinds of roles that he been playing in movies over the last ten years or so.

The cops in the movie were co corrupt and horrid in their actions that they made the corrupt cops in the film "Serpico" look like boy scouts stealing cookies from girl scouts. In one real nauseating episode Officer Henshaw has the terrified wife, Sibel Ergener, of Carl, Murphy Dunne, put out for him as her helpless husband is handcuffed to a pipe in their home. The next day Carl kills himself and Henshaw on the scene with Carl's wife present calmly puts his finger to his mouth as if to tell her to shut her mouth about what happened between him and her and Carl if she knows what's good for her.

The most sympathetic cop in the movie, next to Collins, Officer Shuster had his wife Katie, Kari Wuhrer,having affairs with almost all the cops in the precinct, except Shuster's partner Collins. Still Shuster thought that Collins was also involved with Katie and sets his partner together with Henshaw and Nutter up to get caught by Let. Webber; who unknown to Shuster is also having an affair with Katie.

Let. Webber was only interested in getting the $250,000.00 that the corrupt cops ripped off from Louie and after getting his hands on the cash shot both Shuster who died and Collins who survived and got away. Collins ends the movie by killing Chicago and his mobsters for murdering a witness who Collins refused to kill! Thats because killing is not what Officer Collins is all about! that makes a lot of sense doesn't it?

Anjelica Huston in the small part that she had in the movie was about the most positive person in the film. That doesn't say much were everyone in it, the cops and gangsters, were about as sympathetic as Charles "Sweet Charlie" Manson.
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7/10
good job
milosz_m9 September 2005
I came into this movie as it was added on DVD to Playboy magazine. At first I didn't know what to expect. There were two options: 1) that it will suck tremendously 2) that it will be one of those movies that no one has heard yet they come out as little pearls waiting to be discovered. Frotunately #2 was the case of this one.Of course I was drawn into it by the cast. I mean Liotta, LaPaglia and Houston couldn't be that mad. Then as the subtitles at the beginning revealed the following cast: Murphy, Ribbisi, Esposito I was sure that "Phoenix" couldn't have been the wrong choice. And it wasn't. I know it's not bringing much new to the topic of dirty cops theme, but it gives a great look at gambling addict. The plot is basically combination of three: 1) addiction (gambling) 2) dirty cops 3) heist

and it is a well crafted combination. There is action, humour, beautiful women:). There are turning points. The screenplay is good so is the cast and it makes one wonder why it didn't get better fate (worldwide cinema distribution etc). Well no need in complaining. We can be happy it just IS. Because it is intelligent and highly entertaining movie.

Best regards
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10/10
Human Drama At Its Best!
phoenixmetro1879 November 2003
Many films try to examine the corruption of the human character, but only a very few succeed. Phoenix is one of those few. Writer Eddie Richey truly understands emotion. It's not a hero vs villain gratuitous action flick like the god awful Matrix series. The story's conflict is produced by the protagonist himself. And Ray Liotta is amazing. James L. Carter's cinematography is beautiful and Graeme Revell's score is moving. Director Danny Cannon's resume is embarrassing, but it's redeemed by this masterpiece. Phoenix is the very essence of human drama.
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7/10
"You're bad luck, Veronica. I'm taking you home."
smatysia14 April 2010
I've known gamblers like the Ray Liotta character in this film, those who crave action more than they like winning. Harry Collins at least realizes this about himself, whereas my acquaintances do not. There is some real humor to be dredged in this movie, among all of the truly evil conduct. It had reasonable production values, and a well-known cast, as if no one knew going in that it would end up direct-to-video. Kudos to much of the cast for making it all at least semi-believable. This includes Liotta, Anthony LaPaglia, whichever minor Baldwin brother this was, Brittany Murphy, and Angelica Huston. I will say one thing for it, I was almost never bored with it, and did want to find out what happened. Check it out.
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3/10
Heads we call 911, tails we don't
tomsview18 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Did the Phoenix Police Department sue the makers of this film for defamation? They should have.

Where is the entertainment value in this story? Corrupt cops with puerile senses of humour, driven by greed, poor decisions and a fixation on gambling.

The observation was once made that people go to the movies not so much to see things, but to feel things.

We can identify with characters on the wrong side of the law if they have some appeal. Look at "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "The Asphalt Jungle", "The Grifters" and any number of others. But to get us in they need a lightness of touch or characters with some charisma. Who has charisma in this movie?

"Phoenix" misses none of the clichés of the second-rate bad-cop movie. We have bookies and gangsters that seem like characters out of a "Batman" movie, we get inevitable pole dancers, inevitable shootouts, and finally, the twist that everyone, but everyone in the story is corrupt.

The team of detectives, Harry Collins, Mike Henshaw and James Nutter played by Ray Liotta, Anthony LaPaglia and Daniel Baldwin, decide to rob a wealthy pimp/loan shark. They reveal themselves to be totally inept robbers, but not in a fun way. There seems little point to their incompetence other than that the filmmakers didn't know how to sustain a consistent mood. Harry Collin's virtual flip of the coin in making every decision is stretched to the max.

Ray Liotta has been in better things, even as a crooked cop. For Anthony LaPaglia, this was a warm-up for his bad cop in "The Salton Sea", however that was superior in every way. Angelica Huston has so little to do it's as though the filmmakers didn't know what to do with her.

I feel the themes in "Phoenix" have been handled with greater skill elsewhere. The main character here seems a loser in the worst sense of the word; any redeeming traits he has appear to have been grafted on to try and redeem the movie.
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7/10
A Gamble That Doesn't Quite Pay Off
rmc129-120 October 2001
Ray Liotta ought to be one of the BIG stars of cinema. He's got the looks, charm and talent to bury the opposition, but somehow it hasn't worked out for him

Phoenix is a case in point. Excellent cast - even in the minor roles - and a sound plot that grips the attention but somehow it doesn't quite make the grade.

I suppose the problem is that it is a derivative movie which the viewrer mentally compares (unfavourably) with what has gone before

All the same it is quite a good film with Liotta making a sympathetic figure out of the gambling addicted cop-gone-wrong and Anthony LaPaglia dominating the action every time the corrupt being that is his character 'Henshaw' ouzes across the screen. There is sharp, sometimes Tarantinoesque, dialogue but we've been here before and even the excellent performances on screen don't quite compensate.

Nevertheless, a watchable movie and well worth 7 out of 10
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7/10
A Gambler Implodes!
georgewilliamnoble20 August 2018
Few play flawed good guys who are bad guy's better than Ray Liotta and he is in his element in this movie about bad cops going down. All the elements of classic "film Noir" are here, even though this is a film in which the result is less than the sum of it's parts. None the less it is all very watchable even though the plot comes over rather stilted as a compendium of many other similar and largely better movies. Still for Ray Liotta's performance alone this 20 year old movie is worth watching, one more time.
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7/10
The honest loser gambler with strong beliefs!!
elo-equipamentos23 March 2021
The classy and unmatched "Goodfellas" lifts up Ray Liotta into another status at movie industry, actually all us envisages him at stardom soon, sadly it never happened, his follow up pictures assure this assertion, aside on "Hannibal" all remainders were wrong choices or Liotta was too overrated as a promising star, somehow in this unknown picture Liotta overcame himself as the superstitious and loser gambler, he plays a honest Cop Harry Collins at Phoenix's precinct straight together with a power trio closest Cops, the deceitful Mike Henshaw (Anthony LaPaglia) a collector of the shark loan Louie (Giancarlo Esposito) the frisk James Nutter (Alec Baldwin) and closing the odd team the slowpoke Fred Shuster (Jeremy Piven).

Harry a compulsive gambler already owes 16.000 bucks to bookmaker Chicago (Tom Noonan) who in dire straits doubles the bet in a dark horse, hence are 32.000 to pay in one week only, however Chicago is in trouble with a former gang member which is in jail waiting for be judged soon and maybe becomes a squealer, Chicago is willing to forgive the debts if Harry silences him for good, Harry promises to think about, talking later with his mates he tells the weird proposal, Henshaw suggests to Harry erases Chicago, swiftly denied by harry a sort of cop of strong convictions and won't give a default, instead he focuses in the low-down Louie that hold the money on the own safe at his night club, the robbery is settled, nonetheless many twist comes along on the fateful night.

Phoenix astounds by colorful characters, all them are distinguished each other, ramping up the clever plot, mixing many key elements as betrayals, mocking, sexiness, violence, all sort of things of the underworld of pimping, prostitution, gambling, spurious loan sharking, everything on the middle of the desert at Phoenix, it's a worth mentioning of the useless attendance of Angelica Huston as mere decorative pointless character.

Thanks for reading.

Resume:

First watch: 2021 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 7
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8/10
Delightfully scrubby
VisionThing22 January 2003
This is a delightfully scrubby crime movie, with lots of gloomy scenes and sweaty, bloated & crooked cops, plenty of antiheroic action, and a few minor but refreshing plot twists. Ray Liotta serves an exceptional performance (even on his standards) and the whole cast is solid through and through. By no stretch a "feel-good movie", but definitely a very entertaining film. Plus, Phoenix got the most fitting tagline in ages...
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5/10
Phoenix
Coxer991 July 1999
Gutsy crime drama with Liotta playing a cop who breaks the law to pay off his bookies. Some light humor and great exchanges between Liotta and Huston.
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