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By Michael Ferraro | March 23, 2005

A little after 1994 (thanks to Tarantino), it seems that writers working on crime films chose cursing and violence over story and content. Even though “Pulp Fiction” had both of those elements, it also had some extraordinary writing. The others that followed it tried to capitalize on that formula, leaving the good writing out and pouring an overage of pointless violence in. No one is saying that violence and bad language should be dismissed from films but it is so much better when they actually help the story along. With this film, however, writer/director Eric Fleming not only chose to include his influences (like Kurosawa’s “High and Low” and Coen’s “Raising Arizona”) but he also threw in some unique perspective.

The exposition almost sets up “The Almost Guys” as another cheap formula exercise but if you keep with it, you find an adequate amount of pleasure to take away that feeling. Not all typical formula movies are crap. As long as you can find depth and relate to the characters, your level of enjoyment shouldn’t be spoiled. After all, the ultimate goal is entertainment and from an entertainment standpoint, “The Almost Guys” succeeds.

Repo-man Rick Murphy (Fleming) and his Colonel sidekick (Culp) stumble upon a kidnapped baseball pitcher in the trunk of one of their pick-ups. Of course this car also belongs to some wannabe mobsters. The repo-team is keen on helping the sportsman get back to safety at first, but when he steals their car and takes off, they decide to try and kidnap him themselves.

Aside from the kidnapping plot, Rick is struggling to better himself as a parent. He doesn’t see his son Buddy (Oliver Davis) too often, so he decides to bring him along for the ride. Sure, including your child in on a kidnapping plot or showing him how to pick locks and steal cars may not get you to parent of the year status, but he is trying to be closer to his son and ultimately, a better father than he has been the years prior.

For a first feature, Fleming has shown he can handle himself well. The direction is never too amateurish or over-the-top. It is perfectly subtle enough to flow with the pace of the writing and performance of the actors. He doesn’t choose the route that some others before him have, which may include (but not limited too) crazy and unnecessary camera angles mixed with an overage of editing. It would be nice to see what he will be able to do the next time around.

“The Almost Guys” is all about fun. If you are at a film festival, and you happen to see this film on the list, go check it out.

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