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‘Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 16, 1996

"Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead"—may it burn in Hell—ought to be the subject of an obituary, not a review. A creepy film noir modeled on Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," it was a stinking stiff on arrival.

Like Tarantino's 1992 mob movie, "Things" concerns a band of outlaws involved in a job gone horribly wrong. Jimmy the Saint (Andy Garcia), now a legitimate businessman, is called out of retirement by his former boss, The Man With the Plan (uber-ham Christopher Walken), for one last assignment: Intimidate the kid who's dating The Man Jr.'s former girlfriend.

Though reputedly a smooth operator, Jimmy recruits the gang that couldn't shoot straight to help with the job. Pieces (Christopher Lloyd), a leprous projectionist in a porn theater, doesn't even have a trigger finger anymore. Critical Bill (Treat Williams), a psychotic ex-con now working as a mortician, keeps his violent tendencies in control by using the corpses as punching bags. Easy Wind (Bill Nunn) and Franchise (William Forsythe) complete the crack team.

Being such a swell guy, Jimmy gives in to Critical Bill's pleas and makes him the point man, and he screws up big time. The Man orders Jimmy to get out of town in 24 hours, and demands "buckwheats"—slow, painful deaths—for the others. The diabolical assassin Mister Shhh (Steve Buscemi) arrives to carry out the sentence.

Alas, Jimmy can't split, because he's just fallen in love with a leggy looker (Gabrielle Anwar). In Jimmy's vernacular, she's a girl who glides. "And girls who glide," he whispers in her shell-like ear, "need guys who make them thump." And guys who talk like that are just asking to be Mister Shhhushed.

The dialogue, sometimes foul, often idiotic and always self-consciously hipsterish, was written by Scott Rosenberg, who crawled up out of this muck to write the commitment comedy "Beautiful Girls." Gary Fleder, who directed two of Rosenberg's scripts for HBO's "Tales From the Crypt," is making his feature debut with this rotten Tarantino knockoff. Quick, somebody get the lime.

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead is rated R for profanity and violence.

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