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The Opportunists

Rated [R], 89 minutes
Starring Christopher Walken, Cyndi Lauper; Peter McDonald, Vera Farmiga, Donal Logue
Written and Directed by Myles Connell

IN SHORT: A very satisfying indieflick

Click here for Christopher Walken's CrankyCritic® StarTalk

Most non-major studio, "independent" movies can best be grouped into two categories: the film student, movie maker wannabees who are learning their craft and making "small" movies to show at film festivals and thus raise interest and money -- at this level, personal indulgences and precociousness is ignored -- and those by confident directors, willing to let their casts take an admittedly small story and develop characters that are interesting to watch. Sometimes these directors are also just out of film school as well, which is what makes the independent scene interesting. Usually frustrating, but occasionally very enjoyable.

That's the case with The Opportunists, in which both Christopher Walken and Cyndi Lauper deliver low key yet tremendously entertaining performances in the first feature by Myles Conell. Walken's character, Victor Kelly, is a man who correctly runs the other way when opportunity knocks. An auto mechanic with an elderly aunt (Anne Pitoniak) and grown daughter (Vera Farmiga) to support, that opportunity is a sweet safecracking caper proposed by Pat Duffy (Donal Logue), a friend. Kelly wants no part of it. The last time he walked the wild side, in a caper pulled ostensibly to save his marriage from financial woes, he destroyed the marriage and spent eight and a half years in the slammer. Now, reunited with his daughter, and comfortably dating Sally Mahon (Lauper), who owns the Riviera Bar in the Queens neighborhood they all live in, Kelly is getting such a rep for bouncing checks all around the neighborhood, he could tattoo a motto on his arm: "Wait a day. It'll be good". Sally has offered two grand that she had been saving for renovations to the bar, but Kelly won't take it. It isn't what a man does. Besides, he's been rebuilding a Buick Riviera for a local detective, it's hinted that this is the cop that sent him away, and once that's done there will be money enough to make things right.

Complicating Kelly's life is the unexpected arrival of Michael (Peter McDonald) a previously unknown cousin from the old country. Kelly doesn't buy the story, but when it checks out he ensconces the relative in a van at the car repair lot. There Michael, who had been raised with tales of what a great mobster "cousin Victor" was, falls in with Pat. Inevitably, Kelly must fall back into his old ways and falling back on old habits puts the man on the fast track to destroying what life he's rebuilt.

The caper is, in its own way, a sweet deal. An armored car company, whose boss is skimming untraceable cash off the top. Two security guards (Logue and Jose Zuniga) in on the deal and an old safe which is well within Kelly's talents, with a little bit of practice. Being a small story, I can't tell you exactly where and why everything kicks in grandly. It involves a key, and a look on Christopher Walken's face that is both perfect and priceless. You'll know it immediately. You'll know it before it happens, too.

At it's heart, The Opportunists is a purely blue collar American family slice of life drama. In its way it is not all that different from many of the British slice of life dramas that find their way to the arthouse circuits. It is probably a cultural familiarity that makes the film work better, for me, than similarly well acted Brit fare like Wonderland. All Americans strive for something better, so we're raised. It's a grand achievement to make us feel sympathetic, but not pity, portrayals of characters that do their best to succeed, but fail and fail again, and credit goes to Irish born writer/director Myles Connell. Sometimes (and we've seen it many times with Ang Lee's work) the foreign eye picks up American-isms better than we do.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Opportunists, he would have paid...


It's worth the time and effort just to watch good actors, and they're all good, make a small situation real. Recommended.

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