Bruce WillisMichael Clarke DuncanNatasha HenstridgeAmanda Peet
The Whole Nine Yards
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Writer: Mitchell Kapner
Keywords: comedy, gangster
Country: USA
Actor: Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Natasha Henstridge, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollak, Harland Williams, Carmen Ferland, Serge Christianssens, Howard Bilerman, Robert Burns, France Arbour, Sean Devine, Richard Jutras
Format: 98 minutes
Website category: Comedy
Review date: 15 April 2011
It's a hitman comedy with Bruce Willis (killer) moving in next to Matthew Perry (dentist). Gangster fun ensues.
Did I like it? Yes, I suppose so. It's fun and it made me laugh. I'd have probably loved it if I'd been able to believe these were real gangsters instead of movie gangsters, but that would have been scary and hence less of a crowd-pleaser. It's not the actors' fault, mind you. It's just that the film's a bit silly, with a light-hearted tone and an implausible plot. That's my only complaint and I couldn't even really call it a criticism, since the results are entertaining, likeable and doing exactly what it was designed for. It grossed over a hundred million and is a good deal better than a lot of films that achieve similar commercial success.
I liked the cast. Bruce Willis and Michael Clarke Duncan do everything right in their mobster roles and are a perfect fit for what the film's expecting them to do. Goodness me, Duncan's big. Matthew Perry struck me as a bit weird and uptight in his opening scene, but that's because his character is stuck in a marriage from hell to Rosanna Arquette. These people have good chemistry and made me laugh. I wasn't wild about Kevin Pollack, who's a bit lightweight as a Mafia boss even if the script's giving him an excuse, while there are a couple of police detectives towards the end who nearly threw me out of the movie... but I can't really get too upset because they fit the film's tone.
The ones I'd want to talk about are the women.
Natasha Henstridge is a little cold and not particularly easy to empathise with, but I think that's partly deliberate. The plot doesn't quite work if we don't have a little distance from her character. There's even a shot on a quay where I was wondering if they weren't going for a Humphrey Bogart homage, especially since a while earlier we'd heard Key Largo on TV, and I could easily imagine Henstridge as a tall, intimidating blonde alongside Bogart and Bacall. Her hairstyle in that scene fits that theory too. However I'm probably talking out of my backside there.
Amanda Peet is stunning, though. She's beautiful even by Hollywood standards, knocking Henstridge into a cocked hat, but she's also lively and lots of fun in a role that could have been a little unlikeable. On top of that she gets naked, so that's another selling point. (Arquette in contrast preserves her modesty even when having sex, but we get plenty of cleavage.)
I was interested by the director, incidentally. It's Jonathan Lynn, whom I'll always regard as the co-writer of Yes Minister. However he started out as an actor and these days is doing very well as a movie director, having been at it for 25 years since Clue (1985). Films of his that I'd heard of include Nuns on the Run, My Cousin Vinny and Sgt. Bilko (oh well), with his most recent being last year's Wild Target.
Random fact: the three girls who run between Willis and Perry when they're next the flower cart are Willis's real-life daughters: Tallulah Belle, Rumer and Scout LaRue. Does writing names like that on a birth certificate count as child abuse?
There's also a sequel, The Whole Ten Yards. Don't watch it.
Overall, I'd call this a recommendation. I wouldn't call it a favourite or anything, but it's enjoyable. Personally I'd have liked to see it played darker and with more intensity, but there's nothing at all wrong with the script if you don't mind a certain... um, heightened plausibility. There's fun to be had with the contrast between Matthew Perry's decency and the world of hitman morality, which in fairness does get perverse in its internal contradictions. I was particularly fond of Perry's behaviour. He's more honest than you'd expect from any other movie protagonist in his situation and I can see why everyone else loves his almost self-destructive innocence. In summary, it's a good time. If nothing else, worth watching just for Amanda Peet.