Review: ‘Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead’

Tartly written and vividly performed by a fine ensemble cast, Gary Felder's bracingly entertaining first feature covers familiar ground in a fresh, breezy way.

Tartly written and vividly performed by a fine ensemble cast, Gary Felder’s bracingly entertaining first feature covers familiar ground in a fresh, breezy way.

Jimmy the Saint (Andy Garcia) is a smooth-talking, sharp-dressing hipster who has retired from the life and started up an ‘afterlife advice’ video company that tapes dying people’s testimonies for the benefit of their survivors. Jimmy is in the midst of launching a promising romance with a gorgeous young woman, Dagney (Gabrielle Anwar), when he is paged by his former boss (Christopher Walken), an ailing criminal kingpin, who asks him to do a small favor in return for a big payday.

The ‘action’ requested is for Jimmy to put a scare into the new boyfriend of the boss’ son’s ex-girlfriend and make it clear he’s not to enter Denver. To this end, Jimmy rounds up his old gang: Franchise (William Forsythe), a tough biker type who’s now got a weird wife and brood of kids; Critical Bill (Treat Williams), a hair-trigger psycho; Pieces (Christopher Lloyd), a disfigured porn theater projectionist; and Easy Wind (Bill Nunn), a hulking black man who has shifted from human to insect extermination.

Due to a bit of mistaken judgment on Jimmy’s part and typical rashness on Critical Bill’s, the ‘action’ goes awry, pushing the big boss into issuing death warrants for all the boys, to be executed by hit man Mr. Shhh (Steve Buscemi).

Some of writer Scott Rosenberg’s conceits are too precious and cute by half, and the film’s eagerness to please may put some viewers off. But this is far outweighed by the pic’s constant inventiveness, the bright, original dialogue and the vibrancy of direction that can be felt in the excitingly alert performances as well as the dynamic visual style.

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Production

Miramax/Woods Entertainment. Director Gary Felder; Producer Cary Woods; Screenplay Scott Rosenberg; Camera Elliot Davis; Editor Richard Marks; Music Michael Convertino; Art Director Nelson Coates

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 114 MIN.

With

Andy Garcia Christopher Lloyd William Forsythe Bill Nunn Treat Williams Jack Warden
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