Just when you thought it was safe to go to the movies without sitting through another imitation of early Quentin Tarantino, along comes Suicide Kings (Artisan), in which a quartet of apple-cheeked preppies kidnap a mobster (Christopher Walken), tape him to a chair, saw off one of his fingers, and then force him to cough up $2 million by employing the ultimate torture. That’s right, they assault him with dialogue that’s meant to be fearlessly brash and defiant and, instead, makes them sound like wimpy poseurs. Suicide Kings suggests Reservoir Dogs reenacted by the Dead Poets Society. At this point, Christopher Walken could reign over one of these films in a coma, and here, sporting shiny black Michael Corleone hair and a face gone pasty with decadence, he outacts everyone around him, including a flyweight Denis Leary, simply by letting little knots of phlegm ripple his words with menace.
After a while, a twist is introduced: One of the kidnappers may be conning the others. Is it Henry Thomas, who, even as an adult, has the downy softness he had in E.T.? (It looked more dramatic on him as a kid.) Or Jay Mohr, a gifted actor who, like the young James Spader, keeps getting cast as WASPy villains even though he’s actually much better playing sweethearts? With a nod to that garbled labyrinth The Usual Suspects, Suicide Kings lays out a chain of events as if they were true, and then, when it’s revealed that they aren’t, the film is only too happy to leave its loose ends dangling in the wind. As the credits rolled, people in the audience around me kept trying to make sense of what had happened, but with a cynical nonchalance, as though they knew it couldn’t possibly parse. If filmmakers aren’t careful, they’re going to end up on the slag heap of the untrustworthy, right alongside weather forecasters and special prosecutors. C-