Welcome To Collinwood

Welcome To Collinwood

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There is nothing new about bumbling crooks. Peter Sellers specialised in them (Two-Way Stretch, The Wrong Arm Of The Law). And the rule of thumb reads: do not rely on a running gag (Johnny English) in the hope that it will carry you through.

Cleveland natives, Anthony and Joe Russo, made a short movie, called Pieces, before going to film school, which was screened at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah in 1997, where Steven Soderbergh saw it. He was so impressed, he called the brothers and said he would help out on their next project. Welcome To Collinwood is it, produced by Section Eight, Soderbergh and George Clooney's new company, and starring a glittering cast of Hollywood's finest character actors.

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Collinwood is a beat up district of a decayed city, where scammers, petty thieves and con artists are two a dime. When Cosimo (Luis Guzman) escapes from jail, he brings the plan of a perfect heist, given to him by a lifer. That's odd, you may think, since Cosimo and the old lag had only just met.

A group of no-hopers get wind of this and hustle in on it. None of them have particular skills that make them indispensable. In fact, they have no skills whatsoever. Only Jerzy (Clooney), a wheelchaired safe cracker, has practical knowledge. He's not part of the gang, but simply used as an instructor.

What's good about the film is that the Russos remain true to Cleveland and don't import foreign farce to boost the gag count, as in Rat Race. The comedy comes from characterisation and, to a certain extent, cock-ups. What's bad about it is that the story doesn't hold water.

The performances are seamlessly entertaining. There is William H Macy with a baby permanently strapped to him, Sam Rockwell as a boxer who never wins a fight, Isaiah Washington playing the cool dude role and Michael Jeter as a geriatric fixer whose pants keep falling down. The ladies do well, too. Patricia Clarkson is Cosimo's girlfriend who attempts to keep an eye on business, Jennifer Esposito provides the glamour as a maid Rockwell tries to seduce and Gabrille Union is Washington's innocent sister.

Soderbergh and Clooney may be the new Hecht and Lancaster, backers of original work that otherwise would not see the light of a multiplex foyer. Welcome To Collinwood does not live up to its promise, but is worthy of encouragement, nevertheless.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2003
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A group of hapless crooks attempt to pull off the perfect heist in Cleveland.
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Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

Writer: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Luis Guzman, William H Macy, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Jennifer Esposito, Isaiah Washington, Gabrielle Union, Michael Jeter

Year: 2002

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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