Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1995 with Andy Garcia and Christopher Walken)


USA / 1995

Director: Gary Fleder
Writer: Scott Rosenberg

Cast: Andy Garcia, Treat Williams, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn

After the release of Reservoir Dogs, the word ‘Tarantinoesque’ entered the film critic’s lexicon to describe a crime movie with lots of violence, plenty of swearing, a host of pop-culture references and no discernible moral. Things to Do…, written before Tarantino’s feature debut, is often thrown onto the bandwagon, but Gary Fleder’s film boasts a sharp, witty script by Scott Rosenberg (Con Air, Beautiful Girls) that sets this way ahead of the Xerox Quentin set.

Populated by jive-talking gangsters whose repartee is as sharp as their suits, Fleder’s grim black comedy stars Andy Garcia as former gangster Jimmy, who runs a last-will-and-testament video-message service for people with terminal illnesses. However, the business is going bust but crooked moneylender The Man with the Plan (Christopher Walken) is willing to underwrite the debt if Jimmy will help reunite his wayward son with his ex-girlfriend – by bumping off her current beau.

Jimmy rustles up a gang to help him, and a motley bunch they turn out to be. Pieces (Christopher Lloyd) is a porno-movie projectionist with a debilitating skin complaint; Franchise (William Forsythe) manages a trailer park with his bickering wife; Critical Bill (Treat Williams) is a mortician who practices his boxing moves at work; and Easy Wind (Bill Nunn) is a pest exterminator.

Of course, the plan goes badly haywire but it’s the in-fighting and the aftermath that provides the film with a platform for Rosenberg’s cool black humour. Most entertaining of all is Critical Bill, an eye-bulging, vein-popping performance by the rarely seen Treat Williams, who blasts away a victim with the kiss-off line, “I am Godzilla – and you are Japan!” before finally sinking into a paranoid dementia that seals his fate.

Aficionados of the Tarantino cosmos will certainly appreciate the film’s casting, specifically the baleful presence of Christopher Walken as the paralysed Man with the Plan, operating his wheelchair with his teeth and making his guests perfectly ill-at-ease with grotesque and wholly inappropriate sexual wisecracks.