Friday, February 05, 2016

Crackers (1984 film)

Based on the film Big Deal on Madonna Street by Mario Monicelli, Crackers is the story of a group of small-time thieves who decide to rob a local pawn shop that is owned by a greedy man. Directed by Louis Malle and screenplay by Jeffrey Fiskin, the film is a comedic take in the world of caper films where a group of men try to boost their luck in hoping to rob a store and succeed. Starring Donald Sutherland, Sean Penn, Wallace Shawn, Larry Riley, Christine Baranski, and Jack Warden. Crackers is a delightful and silly film from Louis Malle.

Set in a neighborhood in San Francisco, the film revolves around a group of misfits who decide to rob a pawn shop in the hopes of making their lives better as well as give the greedy pawn shop owner his comeuppance for short-changing them. It’s a caper film of sorts that play into guys who are broke, unemployed, and in need of money and food as they decide to do a robbery. Along the way, hilarity ensues as their attempts to create alibis and all sorts of things cause trouble as it leads to the climatic heist. The film’s screenplay by Jeffrey Fiskin is simple as it play into a group of guys who are down on their luck as they hope that the heist will make their lives better. Even as some have girlfriends or families to take care while one of them in Turtle (Wallace Shawn) is just homeless as he’s constantly hungry.

Louis Malle’s direction is actually very simple where he shoots the film on location in this street in the middle of San Francisco as it plays into a world that is very diverse. While Malle does use some wide shots to capture the look of the city as it is a character in the film, Malle goes for something that is more intimate by utilizing close-ups and medium shots to play into the characters and the situations they endure. It also plays into the pawn shop which is where many of the characters socialize at as there are things they want but also hope to score money for whatever they can steal and pawn off. There are elements that are fun and raucous but also silly where the film does lose a bit of steam in its third act as it leads to the climatic heist. Notably as Malle tries to mix some suspense with some silliness as the result is a mixed bag where one overwhelms the other. Overall, Malle creates a flawed but fun film about a group of misfits trying to rob a pawn shop.

Cinematographer Laszlos Kovacs does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of lights for scenes at night in the exteriors as well as some naturalistic look for the scenes set in the day. Editor Suzanne Baron does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward to play into the humor and some of the suspenseful moments. Production designer John J. Lloyd and set decorator Hal Gausman do fantastic work with the look of the pawn shop with all of the objects and the things at the shop as well as the elaborate look of the alarm.

Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman does terrific work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual but also has some style to play into the personality of the characters. Sound editors Ruth Blakeslee and Gail Showalter do superb work with the sound from the way the shop alarm would sound as well as some of the sparser moments in the film. The film’s music by Paul Chihara is wonderful for it mixture of electronic music with some blues to play into the vibrant and diverse world that is San Francisco while the theme song by Michael McDonald is a fun and upbeat number that plays into the film‘s mischievous tone.

The casting by Juliet Taylor is amazing as it features some notable small roles from Edouard DeSoto as a bartender that Ramon wants his sister to be with, Tasia Valenza as Ramon’s sister Maria whom Dillard falls for, Charlayne Woodard as a maid named Jasmine that Boardwalk wants to help, Irwin Corey as an old friend Weslake in Lazzarelli, and Anna Maria Horsford as Boardwalk’s hooker wife Slam Dunk who is tired of her husband’s constant failures. Christine Baranski is wonderful as Maxine as a traffic cop that Weslake is dating as she also spends time being with other men. Trinidad Silva is terrific as Ramon as a Mexican who is dealing with trying to evade immigrants while joining in the heist for money. Larry Riley is fantastic as Boardwalk as a pimp with a baby that deals with his wife leaving him and trying to get out of the game once he meets and falls for Jasmine.

Wallace Shawn is brilliant as Turtle as a homeless man that is always hungry as he’ll eat anything he sees while being a man of few words as he joins the heist so he can feed himself. Sean Penn is excellent as Dillard as a Southern musician who falls for Ramon’s sister as he’s also a skilled electrician that helps out in the heist so he can get revenge on Garvey for not giving him a guitar that he wants. Jack Warden is marvelous as Garvey as a pawn shop owner that is reluctant in giving people money over objects that are worth a lot more while selling those at a high price as it relates to some realities over what is happening with his business. Finally, there’s Donald Sutherland in a remarkable performance as Weslake as a man who just lost his job as he decides to steal from his friend Garvey in the hopes that he can give Maxine a dream vacation as well as a good life as Sutherland also brings a lot of humor to his performance.

Crackers is a stellar film from Louis Malle. Armed with a great cast as well as a fun premise, the film is a light-hearted and enjoyable comedy though it is one of Malle’s more lesser works but one that remains to be very entertaining. In the end, Crackers is a terrific film from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film) - Zazie Dans le Metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - Murmur of the Heart - (Humain, Trop Humain) - Place de la Republique - Lacombe, Lucien - Black Moon - (Close Up (1976 short) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - Pretty Baby (1978 film) - Atlantic City (1980 film) - (My Dinner with Andre) - God’s Country (1985 film) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - Au Revoir Les Enfants - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2016


Dell said...

Don't think I've even heard of Crackers, but I'm not sure how that happened. Sounds like lots of fun.

thevoid99 said...

It's a minor film from Louis Malle but a minor Louis Malle film is better than a lot of people's work and this is an entertaining film. I managed to DVR the film a few months ago on Cinemax which you could probably find through your listings though it is sort of obscure.