The Crew
Directed by Michael Dinner
Written by Barry Fanaro

Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel


The Crew

If you care about movies as an art form and not just as entertainment, it's hard to review a film like "The Crew" and keep a civil tongue in your mouth. This is a film whose script doesn't have an original thought, nor its direction a well-staged scene, or its acting -- well, let's not blame the actors. Their job is to read the lines and move where the director tells them, and they do it here. But it's obvious they're not happy about it.

Screenwriter Barry Fanaro has cribbed from every crime film and buddy comedy known to man, from "Reservoir Dogs" to "Goodfellas" to "Grumpy Old Men" to "Going in Style," and made a mess of the whole thing. Starting with a good if unoriginal premise, he puts four aging, has-been New Jersey mobsters in a tattered old South Beach Miami hotel, the Raj Mahal, where they live on -- well, what? -- since they're too young for social security and only two appear to have jobs, one of whom keeps getting fired from Burger King. Oh well.

Richard Dreyfuss is narrator and lead actor here, along with Burt Reynolds ('Bats,' because he hits people with a baseball bat), Dan Hedaya ('Brick,' because, if you can figure out the connection, which I can't, he's '10 Lucky Strikes short of a pack'), and Seymour Cassel ('the Mouth,' because he never talks).

The group is hired by Jennifer Tilly, a lap dancer they visit often, to kill her mother-in-law Lainie Kazan, a hit that will make them rich. By mistake they burn down her neighbor's house, owned by a big drug lord (Miguel Sandoval) and complications ensue. Fair enough. The problem is that writer Fanaro doesn't know how to put these events in their right order for comedy, nor has he given anybody witty lines to say, or written playable scenes for them. And director Michael Dinner cannot frame a shot, nor light it, nor even put those shots together coherently. His scenes are all a collage of short edits; he does not let anything play out to make its effect, and in comedy that is the kiss of death.

The four actors are mismatched to the extent that they appear to be listening to each other speak for the first time, rather than playing off hearing the same things again and again like old people supposedly do. None of them has anything resembling a personality, other than those one-word traits, and Dreyfuss hasn't even been given that much. The four seem to have been cast from availability lists rather than from any expected chemistry they might have together, and Dinner has either failed or never tried to make it work for the movie.

Two of what might charitably be called subplots are also experienced in this film. One is Dreyfuss's search for the daughter he last saw at age five, who turns out now, thirty years later, to be a Miami detective (played by Carrie-Anne Moss); the other is that daughter's own relationship with her partner (Jeremy Piven). Both are classic clichés and add nothing to the already empty film.    

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