Rook., directed by Stephen Morgan, is one of those crime stories made up of the incompetent and insane. You won’t find many criminals in the movie who take their lifestyle seriously—firm handshakes don’t bury hatchets, and deals aren’t made in antique furniture. Everyone’s out for blood or money, and every move is a Hail Mary. Perhaps, the most interesting thing about the movie that it all takes place in Cripple Creek, Colorado—an old, scenic gambling town that isn’t the most obvious background for an Elmore Leonard free-for-all. I was there about ten years ago. Nice place. Bought a slingshot.
Given the types of characters in the story, the movie takes on a predictable tone. You’re immediately made aware of this when introduced to the main character, Ben (Zack Rush). He’s talking to the camera with that used car salesman confidence where an uncharismatic person attempts to be charismatic—this usually involves moving your hands a lot and speaking in a slightly higher than pitch than normal. It’s the wrong foot to start on, as it comes off as an amateurish imitation and a poor attempt at peacocking dialogue that should stick its head in the ground like one of those ugly birds. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and bury the talking to the camera shtick for a few decades, too.
“…the chaos isn’t caused by cash or drugs, but a small vial of powdered gold…”
Once that’s out of the way, you can have fun with the movie—with a few exceptions. It stops trying to fit into a particular lane and embraces its lunacy. All the chaos isn’t caused by cash or drugs, but a small vial of powdered gold—a throwback prize and appropriate for the Colorado setting. Along with his tweaker sidekick, Ben is in cahoots with his strong-willed sister, her cop boyfriend, and a handlebar mustache with a man attached to it. Ben also ends up dealing with a mobster who hates gentiles—when asked if he’s Jewish, Ben mistakenly lies with a “no.” That’s the movie at its funniest and most contributive to its zany crime sub-genre, which it mostly just takes from.
As for the exceptions, the bad dialogue that flubs the movie’s first impression pops its head out of the ground every now and then, straining to sound snappy and slick. Oddly, Rook. has a truly awful ending that has no tonal resemblance to anything that came before. It’s a hokey attempt at an emotional buzzer-beater as if the deep characterizations and relationships are what anyone watching the movie ever cared about. You don’t have to shoehorn drama into your film to make it credible. Imagine if an Abbott and Costello movie ended with them driving down a highway, somberly staring into the horizon as they pondered their losses.
Even though Rook. has a mean identity crisis, there’s a meaty middle portion of this movie that you can lose some time in. You may not be quoting the lines with your friends, or remember them at all, but it seems like the actors had fun saying them, and that fun’s a little contagious.
"…an Elmore Leonard free-for-all."