Minutes before Credit International is about to close up shop and Kaitlin (Ashley Judd) is going to head to the airport on the way to her wedding, two men with guns stride in the front door. Then, mere seconds later, three more men, also armed, appear on the stairwell. Both groups of criminals have arrived at the exact moment the bank's security system is about to get an all-important upgrade, right inside the very short window when the bank happens to have no security whatsoever. For a moment, it looks the two groups of criminals are about to play "Finders Keepers" with shotguns and assault rifles, until Tripp (Patrick Dempsey) steps in and suggests, since the two guys at the door are solely interested in the ATMs, and the three guys on the stairs want the vault, why not let everyone get on with it?
And so begins Flypaper, a heist/romance/action/comedy/thriller, written by (as the packaging and extras will not let you forget) Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the screenwriters of The Hangover. Although I have heard the story that Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong heavily rewrote the duo's draft for The Hangover, there one major similarity in the way both films structure themselves like mysteries. Dempsey's Tripp is an obsessive without his medication, and after someone accidentally shoots a guy in the lobby, the wheels in Tripp's head start turning and they refuse to stop.
Flypaper is one of those movies on the verge of comic anarchy, running down a racetrack with truly inspired, Coen-level lunacy and falling short a few kilometers from the finish line. Although the movie ramps up quickly and remains snappy until the end, it never truly takes the audience by surprise. Somewhere between the hostages (Dempsey, Judd, Jeffrey Tambor, Octavia Spencer, Curtis Armstrong, Rob Huebel, and Adrian Martinez) the competent, technologically-inclined vault-crackers (Mekhi Phifer, John Ventimiglia, and Matt Ryan) and the hiillbillies with explosives (Tim Blake Nelson and Pruitt Taylor Vince), there ought to be plenty of comedic sparks flying, but it's more like a well-oiled machine: efficient, but not surprising. Some of the dialogue brought a smile to my face (like Ventimiglia venting about racism even in the bank-robbery industry in a conversation that starts with Phifer's kid's invisalign braces, or Nelson, Vince and Ryan comparing their ranking on the Most Wanted List for bank robbers), but it's far from a laugh riot.
Luckily, the film has that mystery to fall back on, and Dempsey is there to hold the mystery up. As Tripp becomes increasingly twitchy, he starts wondering about all the details, starting with one casualty in in the lobby down to the appearance of the bank robbers' faxed "inside info" on the security shutdown, and Dempsey gleefully takes a host of performance tics, potentially squirmy physical comedy, and pages and pages of exposition and melds it into an energetic, likable character. He's got a snappy rapport with all of the bank robbers and most of his fellow hostages, and even better chemistry with Judd. In far too many of these kinds of films, a role like Kaitlin would be all reaction and no action, but the two characters work up a good push-and-pull routine, all while Dempsey almost singlehandedly takes a film that might've been wildly hit-and-miss and keeps it cohesive and consistent. Comparatively, the direction by (Rob Minkoff) is nothing special: some nice Dutch angles, but this is Dempsey's show.
The film plugs along with a decent amount of momentum, avoiding any serious dead weight (the worst, sadly, being Huebel; although I enjoy his comedy, it feels out-of-place here), and the ending is decent, hopping over one potentially disappointing, predictable twist and settling for an acceptable, predictable one. Again, it'd have been even better if Lucas and Moore could really pull the rug out from under the viewer, but like so much of Flypaper, the movie doesn't stretch too much. It's a pleasant, likable film that'd be great to catch on television, but fails to replicate the slick, stylish fun of, say, the Ocean's movies at their best.
The Video and Audio
This 2.35:1 MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer isn't quite as good as it could be. Although fine detail is up to snuff for an HD transfer of a new movie, black levels are wildly inconsistent. In some shots, they'll be so light as to be gray, while others display the depth and richness befitting Blu-Ray. Posterization is also visible in a shot or two. In said darker scenes, a fine sheen of film grain is visible, and I did not spot any artifacting, DNR or EE in the picture.
Audio is a bold 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track (which looks to be mistakenly identified on the packaging as a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track -- someone didn't completely update the specs from the DVD, methinks) which has great directionality and immersiveness. Gunshots and explosions are powerful, dialogue is crystal clear, and music is bold and bright. A rock-solid audio presentation. Also available: PCM 2.0 lossless, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Spanish subtitles.
Each of the following cast and crew members gets their own interview: Patrick Dempsey (18:35), Ashley Judd (9:11), Mekhi Phifer (7:23), Jeffrey Tambor (10:51), Tim Blake Nelson (14:58), Pruitt Taylor Vince (15:45), John Ventimiglia (13:25), Matt Ryan (9:01), director Rob Minkoff (13:52), producer Peter Safran (13:54), co-writer Scott Moore (20:48), and cinematographer Steven Poster (10:32). I don't like EPKs -- once you've heard one standard soundbyte, you've heard them all -- but the one thing even worse than a run-of-the-mill EPK is the original, uncut interviews, which are perhaps the most dry, interminable footage ever to appear on home video. Indeed, these are all uncut interviews, filled with a faint interviewer asking each of the interview subjects the same basic questions from off camera, with very little deviation. There's a few tidbits of interest buried here and there -- the original director was replaced, Octavia Spencer's role might have been bigger based on Judd's comment that their characters stick together, that the title Flypaper gave the marketing department some troubles -- but it's not necessarily worth devoting almost two hours to sift through them, especially without a "Play All" option.
Trailers for Love Wedding Marriage, The Trip, Brighton Rock and Burke & Hare play before the main menu. A trailer for Flypaper is also included.
Rent it, especially if you're a fan of Patrick Dempsey or Ashley Judd. It may not be as inspired as its premise, but their performances are loose and lively (and hey, I may not have seen them, but it's gotta be better than Made of Honor and Tooth Fairy put together).
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