Vince Vaughn may play the two best movie serial killers this year if his Norman Bates rendition can match his performance in “Clay Pigeons.” The focus of the story is our anti-hero, Clay Bidwell (Joaquin Phoenix), in tiny Mercer, Montana. Clay has a really bad day when his unbalanced best friend Earl commits suicide in a manner to indicate Clay had killed him. Clay makes a couple of BAD judgement calls, and then Lester Long (our boy Vaughn) enters his life and the wacky fun REALLY starts. FBI agents Janeane Garafalo and Phil Morris arrive to complicate matters.
I don’t want to say any more about the plot, it’s just too much sick fun. A more appropriate title would have been, “What the f–k do I do now?” but it’s a little long. First time director David Dobkin kicks Clay in the nuts in the first five minutes and launches him down the abyss. Earl’s tart, sociopath wife (Georgina Cates) stalks him mercilessly to rekindle the affair they had prior to Earl’s farewell gesture. The great part is, as vicious as the film is at this point, it’s only when Clay thinks she’s finally out of his hair that he learns what his real problems are, and the movie kicks into a whole new gear. Suddenly, the movie belongs to Vaughn. Why did it take so long for Vaughn to make it? The swagger, improv skills, and self-confidence he exudes here demonstrate he’s ready to go head to head against anybody. Phoenix is fine in a part where he looks like he’s really bummin’ all the time and Garafalo is her usual cranky, funny self. At one point, Clay is asked why he didn’t say something about Vaughn’s Lester sooner. “Wait till you meet him,” he says. Just wait until you see the film.