The Opportunists

Co-producers, Martin Fink, Richard E. Johnson.

Co-producers, Martin Fink, Richard E. Johnson.

Directed, written by Myles O’Connell. Camera (color), Teodoro Maniaci; editor , Andy Keir; music, Kurt Hoffman; production designer, Debbie DeVilla. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (American Spectrum), Jan. 27, 2000. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Christopher Walken, Peter McDonald, Cyndi Lauper, Donal Logue, Vera Farmiga, Jose Zuniga, Anne Pitoniak, Tom Noonan.

Scarcely more substantial than a shaggy-dog story with a pleasingly ironic payoff, “The Opportunists” is too slight to score in theatrical release, though it could attract an audience on homevid and cable. Top-billed Christopher Walken provides pic’s major selling point with his ingratiating regular-guy performance as Victor Kelly, a retired Irish-American safecracker who’s trying to live the straight life in New York.

Peter McDonald co-stars to good effect as Michael, an enigmatic young man who claims to be a long-lost cousin from Ireland, drawn to Queens by Victor’s back-home reputation as a successful mobster. Only briefly dismayed by Victor’s status as a none-too-competent auto mechanic, Michael goads the financially strapped ex-con into joining two larcenous security guards (Donal Logue, Jose Zuniga) in a raid on their company’s well-stocked safe. In less than surprising plot points, Victor’s girlfriend (Cyndi Lauper) disapproves, and the heist doesn’t come off as planned. “The Opportunists” generates little suspense as a caper pic and is only partially successful as a character study. But the performances — including Anne Pitoniak as Victor’s elderly aunt and Vera Farmiga as the safecracker’s blunt-spoken daughter — are first-rate across the board.

The Opportunists

Production: A Eureka Films production in association with Clinica Estetico and Kalkaska Films. Produced by John Lyons, Tim Perell. Executive producers, Peter Saraf, Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon.

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