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
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.
Trailers for Love Wedding Marriage, The Trip, Brighton Rock and Burke & Hare play before the main menu. A trailer for Flypaper is also included.