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Review: Derivative, sure, but ‘Clover’ makes its Martin Scorsese/Quentin Tarantino moves work

Jon Abrahams and Nicole Elizabeth Berger running in a train car in "Clover."
Jon Abrahams and Nicole Elizabeth Berger in the movie “Clover.”
(Emily Argones / Virtuoso Films)

In the crime dramedy “Clover,” the title refers to a teenage girl (played by Nicole Elizabeth Berger), who gets caught between some bumbling mob enforcers and a man who owes them money. When a bad situation takes a turn for the worse, Clover finds herself on the run with two well-meaning goons: the bickering brothers Jackie and Mickey, played by Mark Webber and Jon Abrahams.

Abrahams also directed “Clover,” from a Michael Testone script. The filmmakers don’t disguise their influences. “Clover” draws on the long tradition of gangland farce, combined with a lot of shtick borrowed from Scorsese and Tarantino. From the occasional flashy camera angles to a soundtrack peppered with deep-cut R&B songs, this movie slots right into some well-worn grooves.

And yet it mostly works, thanks to an ace cast and a story that springs a few surprises. The plot follows a pretty straight line, as Clover and the brothers call in favors across the underworld, while ducking a vengeful boss. Along the way they cross paths with eccentric characters played by some terrific actors, including Tichina Arnold as a straight-talking “fixer,” Jake Weber as a mentally ill criminal genius, and Erika Christensen and Julia Jones as mysterious assassins.

Mostly though, “Clover” relies on the chemistry between Abrahams and Webber, as an irascible pair of losers who prove unexpectedly resourceful. These two don’t act like they’re in a derivative mob movie. They genuinely seem like they’re just trying to make it to the end of a really, really bad day at work.

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'Clover'
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Playing: Available April 3 on VOD


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