Review: ‘Small Time’

Three ethnically diverse dopes bungle a dope deal in "Small Time." A sort of "Reservoir Pups" (right down to the chapter headings) set in a particularly low-rent kennel, pic resembles "No Exit" played for laughs. Whether it's actually funny depends on your appetite for unpleasant characters killing time, and other people, in a hellish setting. Commercial rewards seem unlikely to outstrip title.

Three ethnically diverse dopes bungle a dope deal in “Small Time.” A sort of “Reservoir Pups” (right down to the chapter headings) set in a particularly low-rent kennel, pic resembles “No Exit” played for laughs. Whether it’s actually funny depends on your appetite for unpleasant characters killing time, and other people, in a hellish setting. Commercial rewards seem unlikely to outstrip title.

Putative ringleader Ben (Glenn Plummer), mellow driver Marty (Ernie Reyes) and high-strung palooka Jesus (co-scripter Patrick Cupo) are the bag men on an illegal transaction for an unseen gangster known as the Dutchman. Their assignment: Take a bowling bag full of coke to a ranch in the desert, wait for an emissary to arrive with an identical bag full of cash, make the switch and deliver the proceeds to the Dutchman for a healthy commission. Duration of wait: unknown.

The so-called ranch is a corrugated dump without water or electricity. It’s 110 in the shade and the protagonists quickly run out of warm beer. Ben tries to run a tight ship with semi-monastic discipline but is undermined by Jesus, a sleazy proponent of instant gratification. An orgy with three assertive call girls summoned by cell phone depletes the merchandise. In the throes of excess, Ben has a vision of a holy man, but will that be enough to save him when a no-nonsense customer finally comes to collect the now-short goods?

A caper film with more bitching and moaning than suspense, this sunbathed dark comedy is an ode to lowlifes with poor judgment. Performances vary, with Reyes, Rae Dawn Chong and James Russo making the most of their screen time. Tech work is crisp. Outside the U.S., pic, which shot under the title “The Nesting,” will be known as “Waiting for the Man.”

Small Time

Production

A Kushner-Locke Co./Workin' Man Films presentation of a Three Men Co. production. (International sales: Kushner-Locke Intl., L.A.) Produced by Larry Rattner, Steven Reich. Executive producers, Mark Balsam, Steve Mackler. Co-producer, Dave Pomier. Directed by Jeffrey Reiner. Screenplay, Patrick Cupo, Reiner, from a story by Reiner. Camera (color), Feliks Parnell; editor, Carter de Haven; music, Vinny Golia; production design, Stuart Blatt; costume design, Kristen Anacker. Reviewed at Amiens Film Festival (competing), France, Nov. 11, 1996. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Ben ...... Glenn Plummer Jesus ...... Patrick Cupo Marty ...... Ernie Reyes The Woman ...... Rae Dawn Chong Sam ...... Darren McGavin Jerry ...... James Russo The Dutchman ...... Jeff Fahey
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