A Good Night to Die (2003)

Rating: C-

Dir: Craig Singer
Star: Gary Stretch, Michael Rapaport, Deborah Harry, Penelope Fortier

That this fails isn’t for want of effort, since Singer hurls everything he has at the viewer – up to and including a stop-motion animation sequence, and I’m surprised there wasn’t a musical number, just for the hell of it. However, when you take that approach, favouring style over substance, odds are that you’ll come up with an incoherent mess. That’s just what happens here – albeit a kinda interesting, incoherent mess. Ronnie (Stretch) takes young thug August (Rappaport) under his wing after the latter tries to mug him in a cinema. Fast forward three years, and August’s life hangs by a thread, with only Ronnie standing between him and death, in the shape of eccentric hit-people Donny and Marie, played by – get this – Ralph Karate Kid Macchio and Ally Sheedy.

Yes, in Where Are They Now? terms, it’s a stellar cast: also appearing are Robin Givens, Lainie Kazan, James Russo and Frank Whaley. Stretch is excellent, too, with a world-weary charisma that belies his origins as a boxing champ. However, the script bounces about like a speed-crazed monkey, and far too many scenes exist only for the writer’s amusement. Singer lobs in every visual trick he knows; while sometimes this works, most of the time it distracts more than enhances. He’d have been better off letting the actors get on with their jobs, which is what he did in his previous movie, the vastly superior Dead Dogs Lie. Of course, that got no distribution at all, while this amped-up knockoff is in every video store across America. There’s no justice in the film industry…