Mafia Freshman
Knockaround Guys
Review by Ross Anthony

"Tonight is the night that you become a man," Uncle Teddy (Malkovich) preps little 13 year old Mattie, "For as long as I've been raising you, you've been as tough as nails." He hands Mattie the gun and points at the unfortunate Mafia player tied to a chair and pleading.

Fast-forward fifteen years, Mattie is now a young man trying his best to be a normal citizen despite the fact that his father (Hopper) is a NY Mafia underboss. Frustrated and under-appreciated by both the Knockaround guys and Joe Citizen, Mattie decides to take up a life of crime in the family tradition. For the simple job of moving a bag of cash, he enlists a small clan of sons of Mafia tough guys (half of which are spoiled); Taylor (Diesel) is the only member with any experience as a bad guy. Of course, the job ends up becoming more problematic than anticipated.

It's an interesting twist on the Mafia genre, really a rite of passage story that gives the picture some depth. But this depth is only picked and poked at, then left for the ending in hopes of impact. Though thinner, the botched job story overpowers. Mostly Interesting and sporting its share of intentionally awkward tense/fun moments this story line is severely weakened by the presence of two incredible coincidences. We, filmgoers are usually game for one highly unlikely coincidence per film. We're there to have fun and are willing to suspend statistical analysis for an amusing twist that "actually could happen." But when we're asked to do that more than once, one of three things usually happens: 1. The film is a farce, or 2. The filmmakers incredible talent sufficiently distracts our logic. 3. The filmgoer will begin to feel yanked by the filmmakers. Here, I felt yanked.

Most of the performances are solid, but seldom extraordinary. Though a big favorite of mine and nonetheless charismatic, Vin Diesel delivers an underwhelming performance pocked with drab Hollywood tough guy lines. After "XXX," I feel a need to remind people that Vin is actually a good actor, but this film isn't one to give me much support. The ornery Sheriff (Tom Noonan) and Malkovich are very strong, however.

Even with these problems the film has a good heart in the Mattie dilemma and engages on more than one occasion. So I was looking forward to grading it a B+. However, cliché dialogue scribbles over an otherwise acceptable climax and resolution. Actually, only a few words were necessary, possibly none. And, what ends up in the bag at the climax also makes little sense.

Warning! SPOILER: Ross Anthony's Revision Notes

  • Knockaround Guys. Copyright © 2002.
  • Starring Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Andrew Davoli, John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, Tom Noonan, Shawn Doyle.
  • Writers/producers/directors: Brian Koppelman, Daved Levien at Newline.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:06:26 PDT