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Movie Reviews : 'Disorganized Crime' Calls for Less Disorganization

April 14, 1989|KEVIN THOMAS

Jim Kouf's "Disorganized Crime" (citywide) is a pleasant comedy caper enlivened by enjoyable actors and a couple of belly laughs, but it's stretched too thin for its own good. As a result, it's acceptably routine rather than truly successful.

Ruben Blades, Fred Gwynne, Lou Diamond Phillips and William Russ play a quartet of ill-assorted crooks who haven't met before and have been summoned by a mutual friend (Corbin Bernsen) to a remote, ramshackle farmhouse outside a small Montana town, where Bernsen intends to rob the local bank. Before Bernsen can make his own rendezvous he's nabbed by a pair of New Jersey cops (Ed O'Neill, Dan Roebuck), but only temporarily.

Kouf, who also wrote "Stakeout," parallels the quartet's querulous efforts to go ahead with the heist with the cops chasing Bernsen across the wilds of Montana. Since it's clear that the film is headed for a climactic "Rififi"-"Asphalt Jungle" robbery, Kouf puts off getting there for far too long. (How many cuts to Bernsen racing through the woods do we really need?) "Disorganized Crime" suffers from a slack, wearying middle, a common flaw in genre films made by fledgling directors.

If the plot meanders and is resolved evasively, the cast is nonetheless terrific. Looming, lantern-jawed Gwynne is a special pleasure as the senior member of the gang, a career criminal who has no intention of spending the rest of his life behind bars. Russ is the gang's safecracker with a short fuse, liked by no one but obviously indispensable. Phillips, the hot-wire getaway car expert, is laid back, and he and Blades, a small-timer with a saving sense of humor, provide the group with some ballast. "Disorganized Crime" offers the usually suave Bernsen a nice change of pace as a hapless scruffy type who is subjected to one indignity after another in his scramble to escape; he emerges as adept at slapstick as he is with more sophisticated comedy.

"Disorganized Crime," however, is stolen by the cops rather than the criminals. O'Neill and burly Roebuck are actors with solid experience in theater and TV whose perfectly average looks serve them well playing obnoxious, smug, city boys whose mishaps in the hinterlands prove a hilarious comeuppance. Observing them with a certain amount of glee is local sheriff Hoyt Axton.

Also on the plus side is all that gorgeous Montana scenery (captured by cinematographer Ron Garcia) and a lively score by David Newman. Refreshingly, "Disorganized Crime" (rated a rather stiff R for language) isn't cynical, doesn't glamorize larceny and doesn't make anyone a numskull, but it sure does drag.

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