Clay Pigeons

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Clay Pigeons

The funny serial killer is the bogeyman for our savvy age. The faces of fear are no longer those of supernatural fiends concealed by spray-painted William Shatner masks. Now it's Shatner himself who would be the frightening killer stalking the lovelies for a real postmodern scare. Hollywood is hung up on the lovable sociopath, perhaps thinking that the moviegoing public remains scared by the handsome human face of fear. It's an idea driven home over and over again, to the point where the surprises aren't surprising. Such is the case with Clay Pigeons, a movie whose main offense is the smug manner in which it unfolds. Joaquin Phoenix is really in a pickle when his best friend, distraught over the fact that his wife and Phoenix were messing around behind his back, kills himself and makes it look like a homicide. Then, after Phoenix disposes of that body, the crazed widow kills someone he's with. As if that weren't enough, he's then befriended by Vince Vaughn, a handsome cowboy trucker who's also a serial killer! Bet you didn't see that coming! Of course, what would a crazy serial-killer thriller/comedy be without some wacky foils? That's where the laconic small-town sheriff, the small-town deputy (named Barney, of course), and the sarcastic urban sophisticate (Janeane Garofalo) come in. While Phoenix, Vaughn, and Garofalo turn in good performances, it's nothing that hasn't been done numerous times before in a different dressing. Perhaps this will seem fresh and interesting years down the road, when the self-aware-thriller genre has long played out, but for now, it's a tired horse that should have been put down in the pitch meeting.