Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Somehow I managed to go ten years without seeing Clay Pigeons. Judging by the reviews I have read, this is a movie you either like or hate. There are some average ratings, but overall, it appears that this film evokes strong opinions. Personally, I am in the “love it” camp. Clay Pigeons takes an interesting somewhat predictable story and delivers an entertaining piece of cinema highlighted by superb acting.
Clay Pigeons drops you right in the middle of the action, where the title character, Clay Bidwell (Joaquin Phoenix) is drinking and target shooting with his buddy Earl (Gregory Sporleder). Although there is a strong redneck feel to this film, the backdrop feels more like Wisconsin or Minnesota. Beer, shooting at beer bottles hanging from a tree and a town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. I thought this movie had a great start. Earl ends up as the first of many bodies that are discovered by the Sheriff (Scott Wilson). As bodies turn up all over town, the FBI steps in. Agent Shelby (Janeane Garofalo) leads the search for a potential serial killer, and has her eyes set on Clay. A series of twists and turns (some predictable) lead us through a tangled web of deceit and violence.
Clay Pigeons was written by Matthew L. Healy. It is his only credited screenplay. Healy managed to produce interesting dialogue, with characters that were a bit on the flat side. Clay Bidwell has a little bit of depth, but the rest of the characters fall into stereotypical behavior. In spite of the flat characters, the dialogue provides enough substance to overcome this defect. The Sheriff’s Deputy Barney (Vince Vieluf) is a predictable Barney Fife patterned character. Although Barney is inept, his character provides some comical exchanges between characters. The plot and sub-plots are skillfully woven together to keep the story from being completely opaque. At times I thought I knew where the plot was going, but wasn’t quite sure. The script manages to keep you guessing throughout the film.
The acting in Clay Pigeons was its greatest strength. Vince Vaughn was eerily funny and scary at the same time. His character (Lester Long AKA Lyle AKA Bobby) provides some interesting drama accompanied by a creepy laugh. It was weird seeing Vaughn and Phoenix together, both of them ten years younger. The two had great chemistry together and provided credibility to the story. Georgina Cates character, Amanda, was predictable. Given that fact, Cates managed to present her character in a fun enjoyable performance. She was a cold hearted witch and completely sold her part. Janeane Garofalo did moderately well in her role as the lead investigator. I wasn’t completely sold on her part and didn’t care too much for her character. However, her character wasn’t completely weak. I was interested in seeing where she would go with the part and she grew on me as the movie progressed. Overall, the cast did an excellent job creating continuity and believability within the confines of the script.
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