Welcome to the world of klutzy assistant veterinarian Corky Romano (Kattan) who loves bad '80s music and is by nature a cheery fellow. However he is also the son of an organized crime family who was kicked out long ago for not fitting in. Hmm wonder why? When the family including "Pops" Romano (Peter Falk) and his two dysfunctional sons Peter (Peter Berg) and Paulie (Chris Penn) come under FBI investigation they convince Corky to go undercover and join the FBI to disrupt the case. Corky becomes the darling of the bureau through no fault of his own which irks its resident jerk (Matthew Glave) who loathes Corky from the start. Seems Corky's bogus FBI résumé has been beefed up to enable him to gain access to his father's case file. It all ends predictably happy.
Saturday Night Live's Kattan is at his best when going out on the comedy limb and as Corky he climbs out with élan rather than dropping with a sickening thud. Corky is a fun character infused with that manic energy Kattan displays so well in his SNL personas. He is very close to being able to carry this film. But alas this isn't quite the role that could establish him as a leading man. Veteran Falk who has about one moment where he is really funny and Fred Ward who plays the family's right-hand man are the only other actors of Kattan's caliber in the film and their characters seem to have been watered down to allow Kattan to shine. The other performances while serviceable fall right into cardboard cutouts especially those in the FBI. Clearly the casting was done with an eye on keeping the audience squarely focused on star Kattan. in star focus.
Unfortunately keeping Kattan in the forefront is also one of the main problems with the film. It was nice watching all the comic's antics laughing our butts off as he jerks his way down the aisle after inhaling a bunch of cocaine but couldn't we have had a good story to go along with it? Here the story exists exclusively to provide setups for Kattan's gags. Do we have to see a bunch of FBI agents make fools of themselves again? The film seems to follow the same route other SNL stars have taken recently focusing on the comedian rather than the film as a whole. At least Corky is not based on one of Kattan's SNL characters. Will Ferrell seems to be one of the only SNL members to have mostly steered clear of any star-making opportunities seemingly satisfied with playing really funny supporting characters (not counting A Night at the Roxbury). Maybe Kattan would be better served following the lead of his good friend.
October 19, 2001 5:57am EST
The film opens with prison warden Colonel Winter (Robert Redford) greeting the highly respected General Irwin (James Gandolfini) at the start of his 10-year sentence for disobeying a presidential order. When they meet Irwin makes a snide remark about Winter--a non combatant--proudly showcasing military trinkets and memorabilia in his office. The comment instantly touches off a power war between the two which ends with Irwin threatening to take over the prison and flying the American flag upside down--a symbol that the castle has fallen. Winter rises to the challenge and the two begin their strategic plotting. Irwin wins the respect of his fellow inmates in an overly drawn scene where he is forced to carry large stones from one pile to another in the prison courtyard and forms an army of inmates using clichéd chess tactics to demonstrate his assault plans. Winter meanwhile watches from his cozy office overlooking the courtyard as if he was watching a reality series on a big-screen TV.
The highly regarded General Irwin is a simple solemn type which unfortunately is what is fundamentally wrong with the film. While Redford does the brooding thing quite well the script never calls for him to do anything more than that. James Gandolfini takes on the role of prison warden Colonel Winter with fitting simplicity. He accentuates Winter's dumb-thug persona by over-enunciating his words and speaking in an unnaturally slow manner. Redford and Gandolfini both churn out great performances but it would have been more rewarding had the script called for their characters to be more well-rounded. Steve Burton plays Winter's right hand man Captain Peretz convincingly considering what few lines he has. His body language facial expressions and dialogue manage to convey his character's thoughts even when his lines don't.
Directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender) The Last Castle is a well-paced story without a dull moment. It concludes with a dramatic and exciting climax but the problem is it's just too simple. While it's easy to get caught up in the story it's hard to buy how easily the inmates are able to take control of such a heavily guarded maximum-security prison. Using cafeteria trays as shields is one thing but hurling stones using a giant catapult that somehow went unnoticed by prison security is hard to swallow. So is the fact that these inmates a group of hardened criminals cooperate so easily with hardly any friction. While it could have been a very emotional story it fails because the characters are one-dimensional and never really explored including the two main characters played by Redford and Gandolfini. One is a great strategist and the other draconian but viewers are left to guess why and how they got that way.