Suicide Kings

* 1/2*

Kidnapping thrillers seem to be the rage these days, and Suicide Kings is a film that's so eager to join the trend that it has not just one, but two! But more doesn't necessarily equate to better, and the only thing that holds the film together is a rock solid performance by Christopher Walken.

Rich student Avery Chasten (Henry Thomas) has a problem that his friends are trying to help him solve. His sister, Lisa (Laura T. Harris), has been kidnapped by some goons who are demanding $2 million in ransom. Avery's dad doesn't have that kind of liquid cash, so Avery's pal Brett Campbell (Jay Mohr) has come up with this brilliant scheme: kidnap mafia don Charlie Barrett (Christopher Walken), aka Carlo Bartolucci, and force him to pay the ransom.

Assisting Avery and Brett in this crime are Lisa's boyfriend Max Minot (Sean Patrick Flannery), med student T.K. (Jeremy Sisto), and the constantly worrying Ira Reder (Johnny Galecki). Meanwhile, Charlie's hitman/driver Lono (Denis Leary) is on his boss' trail.

The first thing that jumps out at you about Suicide Kings is its ridiculous premise. What type of brain-dead scheme is this? I mean, are we supposed to believe that the characters fully expect Charlie to pay $2 million and forget about it? True, this is supposed to be a last-ditch effort, but the "Suicide" in the title would be a simpler way out.

But, incredulous premise aside, Suicide Kings hums when Christopher Walken is onscreen. Even though he spends most of the movie taped to a chair, he's still the strongest presence in the room. The mental games he plays with his five kidnappers are intensely interesting, and nearly make the movie worthwhile.

Of the five kidnappers, the only one who nearly holds his own against Walken is, surprisingly, Jay Mohr (if only he launched into his superb Walken impersonation...). That's not to say that the other four do a bad job, but they all seem to wither when next to an actor of Walken's caliber.

Unfortunately, the movie retreats from its main story too often. Each character seemingly has one story to tell, and as the movie mechanically plods along, he tells it (usually in some sort of contrived one-on-one with Charlie). But not one of these digressions is either entertaining or interesting. Even the usually lively Denis Leary is subdued and bland in his wandering subplot (which never makes that much sense).

The film's climax does contain a few good twists, but nothing an observant viewer shouldn't expect. However, the ultimate resolution of those twists is disappointing.

"Disappointing" is a word that is apt to describe the whole film as well. Walken gives a terrific performance, and it's too bad he's duct taped to the rest of the film like Charlie to the chair.

[R - strong violence and language, and for some nudity and drug use] (Live)


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