Criticism

Welcome to Collinwood

“With a populace of antediluvian oddballs and nary a Starbucks in sight, Collinwood doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last forty or fifty years.”

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A quirky throwback to the screwball comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s, Welcome to Collinwood  follows a gang of misfit thieves and their attempts to rob a local pawnshop. The job’s a “bellini” – a perfect, infallible heist – laid out to them by a death-row prisoner who set it up before his incarceration. With every detail already in place, the undertaking should be a no-brainer. But even with the help of a cantankerous, wheelchair-bound safecracker (George Clooney), the ragtag crew of would-be criminals (Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Michael Jeter, Isaiah Washington and Andrew Davoli) can’t do a single thing right, resulting in a series of increasingly complicated developments.

The “bumbling crook” premise is hardly new. However, co-writer/directors Anthony and Joe Russo have packed the film with enough clever dialogue, inspired imagery and outstanding performances to breathe plenty of life into this age-old setup. Without relying on the excessive violence or vulgarity typical of the genre today, their inventive script combines sidesplitting absurdity with genuine affection towards each of the characters involved.

Interestingly, the most important of these characters is actually the working class neighborhood in which the film is set. With a populace of antediluvian oddballs and nary a Starbucks in sight, Collinwood doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last forty or fifty years. The archaic atmosphere of the setting lends the movie a timeless quality, which perfectly serves the peculiar, fable-like story within it. With the look and feel of an old-fashioned caper and a swinging jazz soundtrack running under most of the action, the film seems, at times, like what might happen if Woody Allen were to direct an American version of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

It also frequently feels like a not-so-distant cousin of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, thanks to its rambling action and kooky protagonists. This isn’t surprising, as Collinwood was produced by O Brother star Clooney (along with his partner, Stephen Soderbergh). Together, Clooney and the rest of the first-rate cast deliver superb performances in creating a group of well-meaning but desperate misfits who aren’t quite suited for a life of crime. It’s hard not to want the best for these goofballs as they fumble toward a salvation they may never reach. Their journey is a pleasant one, however, tickling the funny bone and tugging the heartstrings without resorting to cheap tricks or stale gags. Warm, sweet and incredibly funny, you’re sure to enjoy a trip to Collinwood.

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