There are a number of funny moments in "Thursday," but not nearly enough to save this comic thriller from the category of sub-Tarantino retread, a designation first-time helmer Skip Woods invites due to his shameless lifts from both "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction."

There are a number of funny moments in “Thursday,” but not nearly enough to save this comic thriller from the category of sub-Tarantino retread, a designation first-time helmer Skip Woods invites due to his shameless lifts from both “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” The market has already soured on this type of hip, violent fare, so Gramercy will have to hope for a more receptive audience in video than it will find in theaters.

The premise is simple and all too familiar. Casey Wells (Thomas Jane) is a former drug dealer who has dumped his criminal pals back in L.A. and settled down to a comfortable life in the Houston suburbs with his lovely wife, Christine (Paula Marshall). He works as an architect — though it’s never made clear how he prepped for his new career while selling drugs — and he and Christine are planning to adopt a child.

It goes without saying that this suburban dream is about to come crashing down. The destruction comes courtesy of Nick (Aaron Eckhart), Casey’s former lowlife partner, who turns up on Casey’s doorstep one Thursday morning. Promising to stay only a couple of days, Nick sets out to take care of some gangster business. An agitated Casey opens the briefcase Nick has left behind and, naturally enough, discovers a stash of heroin. In full freak-out mode, Casey flushes the dope down the sink, which triggers all kinds of trouble.

Set over the course of one day, remainder of the story essentially chronicles the arrival at Casey’s front door of a succession of nasty characters looking for Nick, his drugs and his money. First up is a pleasant Rasta hit man (Glenn Plummer), who makes the mistake of agreeing to smoke a couple of doobs with Casey before offing him. One of the funnier moments has the Jamaican killer doing a reggae audition on his cell-phone as Casey waits to die.

Then the psychologist (Michael Jeter) from the adoption agency shows up, followed in short order by Dallas (Paulina Porizkova), a fetching old crime pal of Casey’s who makes quite an impression with her red rubber dress. The scene in which she ties Casey to a chair, strips off her clothes and rapes him will likely stir up some talk, which is clearly the point.

The unpleasant guest list is rounded out by Billy Hilly (James Le Gros), a refugee from “Deliverance” with a penchant for innovative torture techniques, and rogue cop Kasarov (Mickey Rourke), who claims Nick owes him a large sum of money.

Tone is set in the first five minutes, which contain two bloody murders that have nothing to do with the central plot. But pic’s gratuitous violence has little impact because it follows the conventions of the genre so closely. “Thursday” works best when Woods plays up the bizarre comedy, but the central contrast between Casey’s new clean-cut lifestyle and his prior career as a murderous hoodlum is too heavy-handed to create any meaningful dramatic sparks.

Jane is quite good as Casey, creating a sympathetic, complex portrayal of a guy trying to do the right thing in a tough situation. Eckhart is even stronger in his smaller role, giving Nick a malicious charm that makes him more than a one-dimensional heavy. Other thesps make less of an impression, and vet model Porizkova is badly miscast as the vicious mob babe.

Lensing emphasizes the almost surreal serenity of the suburban setting, in sharp contrast to the flashbacks to Casey’s previous life, which explode with jarring, garish colors. Soundtrack contains the usual edgy guitar-rock tracks that come with the turf.

Thursday

Production

A Gramercy Pictures release of a Polygram Filmed Entertainment production. (International sales: Polygram Film Intl., London.) Produced by Alan Poul. Co-producers, Skip Woods, Christine Sheaks. Directed, written by Skip Woods.

Crew

Camera (color), Denis Lenoir; editor, Paul Trejo, Peter Schink; music, Luna; production designer, Chris Anthony Miller; costumes, Mark Bridges; casting, Christine Sheaks. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 16, 1998. Running time: 85 MIN.

Cast

Casey Wells - Thomas Jane
Nick - Aaron Eckhart
Dallas - Paulina Porizkova
Billy Hilly - James Le Gros
Christine - Paula Marshall
Dr. Jarvis - Michael Jeter
Rasta Man - Glenn Plummer
Kasarov - Mickey Rourke
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