Double Whammy

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Double Whammy

Although it no doubt bruises filmmakers' egos when their movies go directly to video, few directors wage public campaigns attempting to secure theatrical releases. Most are worried about alienating potential employers, but many probably accept that their DTV films aren't exactly the second coming of The Magnificent Ambersons. But Living In Oblivion director Tom DiCillo proved the exception when he went public with his anger at Lions Gate for not giving Double Whammy a proper big-screen release. The studio perhaps rightly assumed that there wasn't an enormous audience for a slight detective comedy top-lined by Denis Leary, but while Whammy is far from a triumph, worse films have received better distribution. An intermittently engaging trifle, the movie opens with an awful sequence in which a Rambo lookalike crashes his vehicle into a fast-food restaurant and begins indiscriminately shooting people. Wisecracking cop Leary is too incapacitated by back pain to react, but a little boy grabs Leary's gun and kills the shooter, becoming a hero and shaming the cop in the process. But Leary gets a chance to redeem himself when the superintendent of his building is stabbed, and he also finds time to woo his pretty chiropractor (Elizabeth Hurley) before initiating one of those arbitrary breakups that exist solely for the sake of an equally arbitrary film-ending reunion. Luis Guzmán and Donald Faison co-star as fellow tenants of his apartment building, while Steve Buscemi rounds out an overqualified cast as Leary's sympathetic but sexually confused partner. Wes Anderson cinematographer Robert Yeoman gives Whammy a bold, vibrant look, but the film still feels like an odds-and-ends collection of half-formed ideas and gags. Leary's public shame and the boy's public glory provide a running gag that barely manages to limp along, but while DiCillo's satirical aim is often fuzzy, he does a nice job of keeping the film brisk and agreeable. His affection for his slight but likable film is understandable, but Double Whammy's straight-to-video burial is just as easy to fathom.