Jerry And Tom
It's been six years since its release, an eternity in the quicksilver world of popular culture, but Pulp Fiction's shadow still looms large over an entire subgenre of talky, pop-culture-obsessed thrillers. The directorial debut of actor Saul Rubinekwho co-starred in the Tarantino-scripted True RomanceJerry And Tom stars Joe Mantegna as a laid-back Chicago hitman and used-car dealer and Sam Rockwell as his anxious young protégé. As has become the norm since Pulp Fiction, Rockwell and Mantegna are a chatty pair, and the film's first hour is almost entirely devoted to conversations involving Rockwell, Mantegna, and their respective victims, a similarly talkative bunch that includes Ted Danson and William H. Macy. Opening with a scene in which Rockwell and Mantegna hold Peter Reigert captive to the lighthearted strains of Peggy Lee's "Call Me Irresponsible," Jerry And Tom makes no attempt to hide its obvious debt to Tarantino's oeuvre. But while other Tarantino knockoffs gravitate toward the director's crowd-pleasing blend of kinetic violence, pop-culture references, and convoluted chronology, Rubinek borrows less obvious and more rewarding elements. Flawlessly integrating his influence's fluid, graceful camera movements and long takes, Rubinek clearly shares Tarantino's love of actors, and gives each of his impeccably cast performers plenty to work with, resulting in fine performances from a group that includes Maury Chaykin, Sarah Polley, and Charles Durning. Jerry And Tom's leads are particularly inspired, with Joe Mantegna giving a wonderfully lived-in performance and Rockwell once again proving himself to be one of film's best young comic actors. But while the film's laconic tone is preferable to the twisty over-eagerness of most Tarantino knockoffs, it has almost no plot and even less momentum. When Rubinek and screenwriter Rick Cleveland finally introduce elements of a plot in the last 15 minutes, it feels forced and arbitrary, resulting in a film, that, while a superior knockoff, is still just another knockoff.