Executive producers, Charles “Skip” Yazel, Richard Schnakenberg, John Davis , Paul Hertzberg.
Directed, written by Mark Steilen. Camera (color), Judy Irola; editor, Fabienne Rawley; music, Brian Tyler; production designer, Aaron Osborne; costume designer, Nine Canter Fresco; casting, Bruce Newberg. Reviewed at L.A. Independent Film Festival, April 16, 1999. Running time: 101 MIN.
With: John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, Kelly McGillis, David Rasche, Dan Castellaneta, Bill Bolender.
Mark Steilen’s “The Settlement” fails to cash in on its satiric potential, with a flat tone and increasingly far-fetched plot that unravels down the stretch. Pic aspires to be a razor-sharp comic exegesis on the ghoulish insurance business known as viatical settlements (short-term cash-outs of terminal patients’ policies, which became especially hot at the height of the AIDS crisis), but it becomes just another overcooked black comedy involving innocents turned bad, femme fatales and familiar “Double Indemnity”–style twists. Star John C. Reilly’s presence may spark minimal fest interest, but beyond that, it’s a write-off.
Flush with cash in the go-go ’80s as their clients are dying left and right, Viable Settlements Inc. partners Pat (Reilly) and Jerry (William Fichtner) indulge in post-funeral champagne toasts. Flash forward to the ’90s, when new medical treatments extending patients’ lives are driving the duo into bankruptcy. A hopeful case arrives in the sexy/menacing form of Kelly McGillis’ Barbara, but opportunity only leads Pat and Jerry — and the movie — into trouble. Reilly has his moments, but potent casting withFichtner, David Rasche and Dan Castellaneta is ultimately wasted.