Suicide Kings [1997]

Here's another gritty independent film that tries to invade Tarantino territory by casting Christopher Walken--that most reliable of indie-film actors--as a Mobster who gets chummy with a group of preppie-like young men and becomes the victim of a kidnapping scheme. One of the kidnappers (Henry Thomas) has a sister who's been abducted by another group of kidnappers, and they've bagged Walken for his Mob connections and negotiating power. What follows is a game of psychological strategy in which the desperate group of guys slowly lose their advantage to the smarter, more experienced gangster--even though they've got Walken tied to a chair. The situation turns volatile when the young men start to doubt the wisdom of their strategy and suspect betrayal within the group, and Suicide Kings turns into a talky, repetitious thriller only partially redeemed by Denis Leary's cagey role as Walken's Mob lieutenant. The movie's a showcase for its cast of rising talent (including Jay Mohr, Jeremy Sisto, Johnny Galecki, and Sean Patrick Flanery), but not even Walken can hold it all together. What's best about the film is Leary's sinister presence in a peripheral role and Walken's trademark villainy, here toned down to a steady, simmering menace. --Jeff Shannon

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