Dir. Tom DiCillo, 2001, US, 100mins
Denis Leary, Elizabeth Hurley, Steve Buscemi, Luis Guzman, Maurice G Smith, Melonie Diaz
Writer/director Tom DiCillo sums up the central idea of his latest film: "when something bad happens to you, knocks you to your knees, and you think 'I can't believe that just happened to me, but at least I'm still alive and it'll probably never happen again' - it's usually been my experience that that's exactly when the next one hits you." So in the opening minutes of Double Whammy, we see New York cop Ray Pluto (Denis Leary) - a widower who blames himself for the death of his wife and child - hit for a second time by his failure to stop a robbery because of a crippling twinge in his back.
Ray suffers the humiliation of being known as 'the loser cop' throughout the city, and in desperation takes the advice of his partner Jerry Cubbins (Steve Buscemi) to visit a chiropractor. There is an instant attraction between Ray and Dr. Ann Beamer (Elizabeth Hurley), and their relationship develops. But just as things are looking up for Ray his friend Juan (Luis Guzman) is brutally attacked. Ray is determined to track down the perpetrators - out of loyalty to his friend, and also out of his own need to regain a sense of self-respect. But as Ray investigates the crime he begins to ask himself questions about Juan's teenaged daughter Maribel, whom he has known since she was a young child.
Tom DiCillo's film is a fast paced and twisty concoction of drama and comedy with Dennis Leary convincingly cast as the 'good cop with a bad back.' Likewise, sixteen-year-old Melonie Diaz is fantastic in the demanding role of Maribel - her first film work. Producer Marcus Viscidi felt that her performance would be central to the success of the story-line, that the audience must be made to "fall in love with her." With great angst and vulnerability, Diaz meets Viscidi's expectations - still grasping our sympathy even as we witness Maribel's terrible betrayal of her father.
However, the combination of Maribel's story, (which is like something from Homicide or CSI), with light romance and broad humour, is not very successful. Running in parallel to the unfolding drama, we see the attempts of Duke (Keith Knobbs) and Cletis (Donald Faison) - two enthusiastic young screenwriters of doubtful talent - to create a violent crime film which will shock and astound Cannes, Sundance and the World. Whilst the dialogue between the two aspiring Tarantino's is occasionally funny, Duke and Cletis are more often simply annoying. The romantic element is a little more successful as the attraction between Leary and Hurley is believable, if predictable. Most disappointing is Ray's colleague Jerry - Steve Buscemi is likeable as the cop buddy with a crush on Leary, but totally underused. In the end, and despite some good performances, Double Whammy is decidedly underwhelming.