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Pigeon - Holed
Clay Pigeons flutters with good performances, but fails to break free of standard indie mold
by SFS Staff on Jan 26, 2005
I'd somehow managed to avoid every single commercial and preview of coming attraction for <I>Clay Pigeons</I> prior to viewing the film itself. The tiny bit of information about <I>Clay Pigeons</I> I did possess eliminated any breath of hesitation when I was presented with the opportunity to see it--the star power of Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix, Yum One and Yum Two, was more than enough to get me to the theater on time. I have now seen the <I>Clay Pigeons</I> television commercial (in case there are many, I am referring to the one that ends with Vaughn and Phoenix in what appears to be some sort of showdown, Phoenix glaring, clench-jawed, and claiming that the two, Lester Long and Clay Bidwell [Vaughn and Phoenix] are not friends, and Vaughn responding affably "Well, sure we are...fishin' buddy!"), and I thought it made the movie look quite like a younger, less grimy <I>U-Turn</I>.
Therein lies one of this movie's problems: it asks to be related to a number of the recent (and not-so-recent) filmic releases in the ever-popular dark, evil, edgy and witty genre (in this case, plot-wise, some poorly explained deaths in a Montana hick town lead to an FBI investigation). Not just <I>U-Turn</I> but <I>Fargo</I>, <I>Scream</I>, <I>Silence of the Lambs</I> and <I>The Hitcher</I> came to my mind over the course of the film. Not that any movie defies comparison; and, if your female cop character is going to remind the audience of anyone, why not aim high and give her a Marge Gunderson appeal (no, Janeane Garofalo does not do a Minnesota accent). But <I>Clay Pigeons</I> lacks a sense of extremity that the other movies succeeded in creating--it holds back just enough when it comes to juicy elements like violence, sex, suspense, and sarcasm to leave you feeling a bit let down.
Luckily, the disappointment is countered by plenty of little cinematic treasures. The soundtrack, for ex.ple, thanks to John Lurie's amazing musical acumen, is outstanding. And the acting: the four main characters are beautifully realized. Vince Vaughn, good in Swingers, is great in <I>Clay Pigeons</I> as the creepily appealing Lester, managing, somehow, to turn heavily fringed denim shirts and tight jeans into inoffensive articles of clothing. A disheveled but steely Joaquin Phoenix does a banner job playing the unflappable Clay, and the handsome duo stylishly develop the interesting on-screen friendship between Lester and Clay.
The ladies, Janeane Garofalo and Georgina Cates, are similarly fun to watch. Garofalo does what she does best and plays the acerbic, self-deprecating but not self-pitying woman with a razor wit, now in blue (and vastly improved over her policework in <I>CopLand</I>). Cates, last seen in <I>An Awfully Big Adventure</I>, is Amanda, seductively bad to the bone in a deliciously pared-down wardrobe.
On balance, I do think this is a good movie and I do hope people go see it. And I hope, as well, that those smokers who go see it have bought a fresh pack before the movie; the nonstop smoking--and a good deal of it sexy and in slow motion--that goes on in this movie leads to a veritable race for the sidewalk after the closing credits rolled, lighters and cigarettes in hand by the midpoint of the lobby.
by SFS Staff on Jan 26, 2005