Welcome To Collinwood

There really is a Collinwood, Ohio—a satellite city of Cleveland, as it is in this film. Most likely, the real Collinwood doesn't have much in common with its cinematic counterpart, but the latter certainly has a basis in the real world. Everyone knows this particular nowhere: It's the place where yellowing newspapers cover half the windows, gleaming towers loom over gritty vacant lots, and fading posters advertise attractions that didn't look spectacular to begin with. In this remake of the much-imitated Italian comedy Big Deal On Madonna Street, relative newcomers Anthony and Joe Russo—brothers who co-write and co-direct—populate their Collinwood with a motley crew of subsistence-level criminals who could serve as comic relief in a David Mamet play. Pinched while jacking a car that hardly looks worth the effort, jailed criminal Luis Guzmán learns of a tremendous score that's anyone's for the asking, a jeweler's safe located next-door to an abandoned apartment. In attempting to hire none-too-impressive boxer Sam Rockwell to take the rap for him, he unwittingly puts him on to the scent. Soon Rockwell, with Guzmán fiancée Patricia Clarkson, is leading a team of marginally skilled criminals, including dandy Isaiah Washington, feeble Michael Jeter, would-be tough Andrew Davoli, and William H. Macy, who, since his wife is in jail, totes a baby around throughout the planning stages. But what at first looks like easy pickings soon slips further and further away. Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney serve as executive producers, the latter giving himself a plum cameo as a wheelchair-bound safecracker, but the spirit of Mario Monicelli's original is what informs the film; the bumbling never obscures the neediness of the characters' gutter dreams. A low-key charmer that balances half a dozen winning performances, Welcome To Collinwood's momentum occasionally stalls, and it doesn't always produce laughs. But if the Russos and their cast didn't bring so much poignancy to their have-nots' desperate attempt to put Collinwood behind them, the film could still breeze by on personality alone.

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