"Welcome to Collinwood" is the latest entry in the dumb crooks/botched heist genre, not to be confused with the smart crooks/brilliant heist genre of, say "Ocean's Eleven." Of course, the two genres are kissing cousins, especially in this case: George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh produced last year's "Ocean's Eleven" remake as well as "Collinwood," a remake of Mario Monicelli's 1958 Italian crime comedy "Big Deal on Madonna Street."
"Ocean's Eleven" featured A-list stars cracking wise while executing a masterful casino robbery in glam Las Vegas. "Collinwood" is populated by a who's who of character actors - including William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell, Luis Guzman, Isaiah Washington and Patricia Clarkson - cracking not so wise as lowlifes trying to rob a safe in a grimy Cleveland neighborhood.
The drop in class is evident in more ways than one, although "Collinwood" isn't a bad place to hang out in the short term. Most of the fun comes early as you're introduced to the characters and their silly slang terms.
Cosimo, the street tough played by Guzman, is stuck in jail and wants his fast-talking girlfriend, Rosalind (Clarkson), to find him a "Mullinsky," a paid dupe to cop to his crime and serve his time. That's because a fellow inmate just told Cosimo of a "Bellini," a surefire, big-score robbery opportunity.
But all the potential Mullinskies would rather be in on the Bellini, even though their bungling may turn the whole caper into a "Kaputschnik" (a bust).
The movie has been cannily cast, and writer-director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo take advantage of their actors' natural appeal. Macy plays another of his patented sad sacks, a photographer who lugs his baby everywhere because his wife is stuck in jail. If anyone can get more than one laugh from baby schlepping, it's the hangdog Macy, though the filmmakers do repeat the gag endlessly.
Also, Clooney has a couple of funny scenes in his cameo as a wheelchair-bound safecracking expert who speaks of "methods" like an acting teacher, even if the goal is simply to blow up the darn thing.
Alas, setting up a grand plan isn't the same as executing it, the characters as well as the audience learn. The scheme isn't much different from Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks" - the thieves want to enter through the apartment next door - and Woody knew to spend just half of his movie on that caper. (Too bad he forgot the laughs in the other half.)
"Collinwood" feels like half a movie itself as it starts spinning its wheels instead of building up to any sort of climax or consequential moment. It plays like someone took a chomp out of the third act; when Macy appears in an arm cast, you never even see how he was injured.
Even at a mere 82 minutes, the movie is guilty of killing time. It's not a complete Kaputschnik, but it's sure no Bellini.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
"Welcome to Collinwood"
Written and directed by Anthony & Joe Russo; based on the film "I Soliti Ignoti" ("Big Deal on Madonna Street"); photographed by Lisa Rinzler, Charles Minsky; edited by Amy Duddleston; production designed by Tom Meyer; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; produced by George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh. A Warner Bros. Pictures release; opens Friday, Oct. 18. Running time: 1:22. MPAA rating: R (language).
Riley - William H. Macy
Leon - Isaiah Washington
Pero - Sam Rockwell
Toto - Michael Jeter
Cosimo - Luis Guzman Rosalind - Patricia Clarkson
Mark Caro is the Chicago Tribune movie reporter.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times