This was another one of those New Line "sleepers" --- a great little film loaded with some top tier acting that went largely unnoticed by just about everyone, much like New Line's awesome Boiler Room, which starred Giovanni Ribisi and Vin Diesel. Diesel appears in Knockaround Guys as well, but I was never turned on to this film until (unfortunately, again) my ex sat me down with the disc one night and I became a fan, much like with Joy Ride which I recently reviewed on DVD as well.

While desparately wanting to be Goodfellas or HBO's Gotti, Knockaround Guys explores, again, the lives and underworld happenings of New York City organized crime figures --- this time lead by odd roles played by Dennis Hopper and his right hand man John Malkovitch. Hopper's son, played by Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan), is shown in the beginning of the film as a young kid, being "let in" and "trained" on how to "whack" someone for the mob by Malkovitch's character; he puts a gun in the young kid's hand and wants him to shoot a guy responsible for putting the kid's father (Hopper) in prison for ratting him out over something, but the kid cant do it......he cant bring himself to kill the guy, proving to Malkovitch that this crime life isn't really made for Hopper's son.

The film then flash-forwards to the present, where Pepper is grown and now looking for a "legitimate" job as a sports agent. But because of his ties with his mafia don father (Hopper), he cannot find one so easily, and so he runs the day to day odd operations for Hopper, such as some cab stands and a catering hall. But he is desperate to be involved in his father's underground mob crime life, as he thinks its the only thing he knows. A situation develops where Hopper is owed some money from another crime figure, and after begging Hopper for personal involvement in the job and some coaxing from Malkovitch, Pepper gets a chance to step up to the plate and be directly involved in his father's mafia operations.

The plan calls for Pepper to get his friend (Seth Green) who flies his own private prop plane to pick up a bag containing $500,000 in it and deliver it somewhere --- only Green ****s the whole thing up and sets the stage for the plot of Knockaround Guys. While landing in a small town in Montana to refuel, Green runs into the Sheriff of the town and his deputy, and getting nervous, leaves the bag of money on the runway near his plane as he walks in to pay for the gas. But outside, the two stoner kids who load the bags at the airport (one of which is the Sheriff's son) end up taking the bag themselves because there was no tag on it so they didnt put it under the plane they were loading......Green calls Pepper and tells him the bad news, that the money is gone, and even after he checked the airport where the flight was headed, Billings, Montana, there was no trace of the bag.

It seems these two stoner kids have taken the bag of money and are burning through it, buying senseless items like junk food and skateboards; in the meantime, a really pissed off Pepper comes flying into Montana with his "crew" --- his friend Chris (who is cousins with Green in the film) and his bodyguard tough guy Jewish friend (played by Vin Diesel) to try and track the money down. What they learn, after beating the **** out of a tough guy in one of the local bars (well, Diesel beats the **** out of him), is that these kids have the money but before they can go and recover the bag, the Sheriff shows up at home and catches the kids with the bag of money. Now, the Sheriff and his deputy decide to keep all the cash for themselves, getting Pepper into deeper trouble and forcing Malkovitch to fly out to Montana with some of Hopper's hit men to take care of the situation.

Eventually, the cops decide to give the money back to the gangsters after learning about how powerful they are --- but they also spring a trap at the very end where the two groups of men meet --- Malkovitch, Pepper, Diesel and his men --- and the Sheriff and the deputy, to arrange for the exchange for the money. But there is a strange twist here, as a shootout between all the men ensues, and then we learn, once the Sheriff and his deputy are killed, that Malkovitch was somehow "in" on this money deal and he actually came to Montana to steal that money for gets a bit confusing, but according to the plot, Pepper figures out that Malkovitch has been stealing from his father (Hopper) all along, and after Malkovitch kind of admits to it and attempts to pull out a gun, Pepper shoots him clean dead with multiple shots --- proving that in the end and put to the test, his character really had the balls to shoot someone.

The film ends with Pepper returning the lost money to his father, and his father asking him to come in with him on his criminal activities --- but Pepper refuses, learning this "life" is not really for him. Some things just dont make sense in this screenplay, though, mainly, are we to believe that these guys from New York just come in and shoot to death the Sheriff and deputy of a Montana town and try and walk away Scott free? There is no investigation into WHO kills the Sheriff and deputy, and Pepper and Diesel return to New York just like nothing happened? And, two characters suprisingly get killed off in this film --- Pepper's friend "Chris" and Seth Green; Green being blamed by Malkovitch for ****ing this whole thing up to begin with by losing the bag of money at the airport, which he did. But Pepper made Malkovitch promise Green wouldnt be harmed; in the end, Malkovitch's hit men take out Green anyway, and "Chris" gets killed in the gun battle at the very end with the Sheriff and deputy.

You can just feel, as I said, how badly this film wants to be Goodfellas but of course nothing is going to come close to that Scorsese mob masterpiece --- yet directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien do a good job creating a real-life New York City organzied crime feel to the picture, if somewhat put-off by odd performances by Malkovitch and Hopper.

If, like I said about Joy Ride, you can find this title somewhere like Wal Mart for $7 or so I paid for it, it will make a good addition to your DVD library because its a nice little action flick that feels different from the big budget mafia films out there --- and it has a nice "underground fan feel" the same way New Line's Boiler Room does.


A nice, solid transfer from New Line for this title, like just about every other DVD they put out --- and they have been putting out some real STUNNERS like The Butterfly Effect. Smooth overall look without any real problems I was able to detect. I did not sample the cropped pan and scan side of this flipper disc, and letterboxing was accurate on my 55" screen at 2:35:1.


Note: I did not yet sample the Dolby Digital mix on this disc, so this review will cover the DTS track only:

Loud, active and suprisingly lively was the DTS mix New Line Home Video dropped on this DVD, for a film that didnt really call for DTS......dialogue was clean and clear above all the action, except for some parts where you couldnt make out certain things Malkovitch was saying because the center channel stem got a bit muffled; other than that, the soundstage is wide and deep here, with wallops of LFE that will rattle your walls during certain scenes, believe it or not --- there is a scene where Diesel, Pepper, Green and their friend are firing guns to practice shooting out in a field on an abandoned range, and with each gun blast, the bass ROCKS through the center and main speakers; the bullets never really make it into the surrounds much, but the bass during these gun shootouts is just awesome. There is also a moment in the film where there is a deep bass drop --- I cant really recall exactly what part --- and the sub bass tremor that follows just fills your entire room for a good 10 or 20 seconds and your whole room will seem to go numb --- it is an AWESOME use of the LFE channel here.

While its mainly the front soundstage that gets utilized here, the entire DTS mix on this DVD just sounds active, alive and immersing, creating a great sense of atmosphere --- whether its birds chirping in the trees coming through the surrounds or the support of interior bar shots with ambient noises like music and voices. And, what I love most of all, the volume of this mix seemed to be pumped up pretty high which leads me to believe its running at almost full bitrate, although I doubt its FULL bitrate because thats usually saved for high-octane action blockbusters. I couldnt see how the Dolby mix would improve on this excellent DTS track, so I have not compared it yet. The "immersing" environmental effect of this DTS mix is much like the beautiful, enthralling DTS mix on 20th Century Fox's Man On Fire.

Aside from pretty cool animated menus, New Line has added a feature on the disc called ALL ACCESS PASS, which included:

-Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
-Feature Length Audio Commentary
-Original Theatrical Trailer

Plus, there was DVD ROM content on this disc, which featured:

-Script to Screen
-Link to Theatrical Website