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'Kicked' Meanders Through Parody

September 26, 1997|JOHN ANDERSON | FOR THE TIMES

For a filmmaker to use the Hindenburg as a recurring motif, he might as well call his movie "Kicked in the Head." It's like saying, "Go ahead. Hit me."

If you insist.

"Kicked in the Head" is director-writer Matthew Harrison's follow-up to his Sundance-honored "Rhythm Thief," which not only looked great but managed to combine comedy, existential criminals and a tongue-in-cheek approach to the regrettable conventions of Lower East Side / low-budget filmmaking.

If Harrison wanted to move in a new direction with "Kicked in the Head," he pulled it off, in a loony loop-the-loop: He's made the very type of movie to which "Rhythm Thief" was a positive reaction.

Kevin Corrigan, a fixture in independent New York films who shares screenplay credit for this and currently stars in "Bandwagon," plays Redmond, a jobless, apartment-less would-be author.

His Uncle Sam (an antic James Woods) cons him into doing a drug pickup; his buddy Stretch (Michael Rapaport) is a beverage distributor engaged in a "beer war" against violent rivals. According to a fortune cookie, his "attendant godling has lost her way," which means his guardian angel has left for the coast, which leaves him feeling particularly unhinged: He meets a flight attendant named Megan (Linda Fiorentino) and decides that aviation is next to godliness.

With an increased budget (and an executive producer named Martin Scorsese), Harrison can, and does, indulge himself in gunfights and car explosions; what's funny is that he uses them as parodies in which no one gets hurt and everyone runs from the car before it goes off.

But the laughs are pretty scarce in "Kicked in the Head," which is less a coherent narrative than a series of bits--each featuring Corrigan and one of the well-known co-stars, such as Fiorentino, Burt Young or Woods, none of whom seem to have met. The script is lacking, and although there are some funny lines, Harrison lets them get away by errors in pacing.

It's a likable cast, but with the exception of Lili Taylor--as Redmond's faithful girlfriend, Happy--no one seems particularly engaged; Corrigan, for one, often seems primed to burst out in laughter. They all seem to be having a good time romping about Lower Manhattan. But they should have thought to bring us along.

* MPAA rating: R, for strong language, drug content, some sex and brief violence. Times guidelines: Drug use, vulgarity and adult situations make this movie inappropriate for non-adult audiences.

'Kicked in the Head'

Kevin Corrigan: Redmond

Linda Fiorentino: Megan

Michael Rapaport: Stretch

James Woods: Uncle Sam

Burt Young:Jack

Lili Taylor: Happy

Director Matthew Harrison. Screenplay Kevin Corrigan, Matthew Harrison. Producer Barbara De Fina. Executive producer Martin Scorsese. Photography John Thomas, Howard Krupa. Music Stephen Engelman. Production designer Kevin Thompson. Costume designer Nina Canter. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

* At selected theaters.

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