Safe Men (1998)

Written & Directed by John Hamburg

How have I never heard of this!? Starring Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Mark Ruffalo and Paul Giamatti?! Written & directed by John Hamburg!? The guy who brought us I Love You Man and wrote Meet the Parents and Zoolander!? I mean given, it was at the beginning of everyone’s career pretty much, but still! What a group of people to be involved in a comedy.

This is not your average comedy either. It is about a singer/songwriter team (Zahn & Rockwell) who struggle to even attain gigs at retirement homes, who get confused for Providence, Rhode Island’s two best “Safe Men”, or guys who are the best at cracking into safes (Ruffalo plays one of the real “safe men”). They are confused by none other than Veal Chop (Paul Giamatti), who is the right hand man to one of the biggest Jewish mobsters (Michael Lerner) in the city. I say “one of” because believe it or not there are two, the other one played by Harvey Fierstein, whose daughter starts dating Rockwell’s Sam. Oddly enough they meet when Sam and Eddie (Zahn) have broken into her father’s house in an attempt to break into his safe.

If the last description seems somewhat odd and quirky, you would be correct, and in fact the entire movie is that way, but it works and is actually quite funny. Sam Rockwell, as always, is fantastic and quite funny as is Steve Zahn. What really sells the whole film is how absurd the whole thing is. Yes, the characters make decision that no human being may ever make, and yes, the criminals have their strange quirks too, like trying to steal the Stanley Cup from your arch nemesis, who has also stolen the Cup, just so that you can give it to your hockey crazy son for his Bar Mitzvah.

The film certainly has its fair share of flat spots, and overall it is probably just an average film, but perhaps it is somewhat above average with the laughs and quirk it is able to provide. What a strange thing it was to watch all these players in their earlier years. I certainly had a fun time with it, which is all you can hope for from a film like this. Anything less would be uncivilized. Anything more and I may have actually heard of this film before my boss gave it to me to watch.

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