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Trigger Happy

Larry Bishop

Actor Larry Bishop’s debut as writer-director is one of the wildest Hollywood movies for some time. The son of comedian Joey Bishop, who was a member of Frank Sinatra’s legendary Rat Pack of the 50s and 60s, Bishop junior has concocted a blackly comic pastiche of the gangster movie and peopled it with an extraordinary array of actor pals who clearly relish the witty script. Richard Dreyfuss plays crime boss Vic, whose imminent release from the looney bin stirs up fear, ambition and murderous intent among his associates. Hitman Ben ‘Brass Balls’ London (Gabriel Byrne) has plans to take control, while Vic’s former right-hand man Mickey (Jeff Goldblum) has been fooling around with the boss’ moll (Diane Lane). Meanwhile, mortician Jake Palmer (Kyle MacLachlan) is looking forward to profiting from the inevitable increase in trade when Vic starts settling scores.

The crazy plot takes in countless trade-offs, double bluffs and shoot-outs. One amusing touch is the way Bishop mounts the gun battles in mock homage to Sergio Leone, with gigantic close-ups alternating with long shots as the protagonists face each other while seated behind enormous oak desks. There are also hints of a send-up of the Reservoir Dogs school of hip nihilism, which is appropriate since one of Tarantino’s many borrowings for that cult item was from the Rat Pack classic Ocean’s Eleven.

Trigger Happy is essentially a series of comic sketches, nonchalantly thrown together and played purely for laughs. The starry cast (which also includes Ellen Barkin, Angie Everhart, Gregory Hines and Burt Reynolds) have a ball with the material, and, unlike his Rat Pack forebears, Bishop is wise enough to let his audience in on most of the jokes. The highlight is an inspired sequence in which Paul Anka and Gabriel Byrne murder the Sinatra anthem ‘My Way’ in a sarcastic tribute to Dreyfuss, who, gun in hand, responds with a deadly joke of his own.

U.S.A., 1996.
93 mins.

U.S. title: Mad Dog Day

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