A film is such an organic entity. It could have great actors, great script, and a creative director, but yet it still might not click the way it’s supposed to.
One important factor is the “background” of similar works that we can’t help but compare it with. “Citizen Kane” is fine as a classic but can you watch “Citizen Bob – The Sequel”?
That’s the problem with “Jerry and Tom.” It watches like a film that Quentin Tarantino wrote with David Mamet from a Coen Brothers idea. “Pulp Fiction” was fresh and electrifying. But “Jerry and Tom,” the n-th iteration of a similar concept, feels as tired and old as the used cars that the main characters trade in.
To compensate for that, director Saul Rubinek resorted to some very creative scene transitions which are okay the first few times you experience it. But since EVERY scene segues to the other in the same fashion, you soon come to expect it as if expecting a scene change in a stage play. At that point directing starts to call so much attention to itself that it begins to overpower everything else. And that’s the problem with Rubinek’s brilliant but in-your-face directing. It make it difficult to suspend our disbelief in the whole enterprise.
J&T are two contract killers who pretend to be used car salesmen during daytime. The film is a collection (not even a “chain”) of episodes in which they invariably kill someone, but only after a long and witty give and take a la Tarantino. Throughout the film we have no idea why the victims are killed or who they are since the focus is relentlessly on our narcissistic anti-heros.
In that way, the film raises an ethical question that it does not intend to answer in any form – the morality of homicide (duh!). The director asks us “just to enjoy” one scene of butchery and bloodshed after another for the sake of all that “witty conversation” between two psychopaths who should really be locked up somewhere for good.
The forced ending does not resolve this core problem either. In that sense, this movie, packed with linguistic pyrotechnics and directorial gunpowder, is at its core a vacuous exercise in “entertainment for entertainment’s sake” because it lacks a human heart.
Acting by the whole crew, starting with Joe Mantegna (Tom) and Sam Rockwell (Jerry) and including Maury Chaykin (Billy), Ted Danson (The Guy Who Loved Vicki), Charles Durning (Vic), and William H. Macy (Karl) is pretty good. Rockwell in particular is amazing as the slow-witted protege of the old-timer Tom. He is almost as good as he was in the “Matchstick Man.” But all that acting cannot help save this sinking project.
5 stars out of 10 for all the smart talk around corpses. But if you’ve seen “Pulp Fiction” or “Blood Simple” you’ve seen this one already with one exception – the director tried to make this a “sweeter” picture, if you can imagine that. You like your castor oil with one sugar or two?