12 April 2000 | ipswich-2
A Sardonic Tale of Two Hit Men
This is the movie that brings you into the world of the ordinary hit man, well not the machine gun tottling Mafioso gunmen we're so used to watching in the big gangster movies. But the ordinary hit man who does his job as a necessary means to a living. The job is fine but there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The art of doing well is to kill with nonchalance. It is a hazardous occupation -- you go on as long as you can but don't know if you'll be a target yourself one day. There are no fancy trenchcoats or big cigars. The hit men work as used car salesmen, wipe windows in the lot when free and pay for their own movie tickets. They supply their income by knocking off their assigned victims. A respectable year for Tom means usually getting about two to three contracts done. Need to dismember the body after a murder? They go for a cheap K-mart chainsaw instead of the more renowned Black and Decker brand, and get frustrated when they find that it doesn't work at first try. Young Jerry (Sam Rockwell) learns the ropes from Tom (Joe Mantegna) and witnesses his first murder in the front seat of a car. Jerry's induction is every bit as abhorrent as one would normally react to seeing a man killed. But he learns to like what he does and becomes as cold and merciless as his mentor is. In fact Jerry gets to be as ruthless as Tom, to the point that he even takes sadistic pleasure when whacking off his victims. Tom's professional detachment is his strength and hallmark. But this trait unfortunately is never learnt by his protégé and the latter's intractability proves to be his undoing. Apart from a very entertaining script, what makes the movie an excellent watch is the top-notch performances from the cast, especially Joe Mantegna, Sam Rockwell, Maury Chaykin and Charles Durning. And of course the wonderful cameos by William Macy and Ted Danson. The brutality of the killings is shocking but any darkness in the movie is balanced by the humorous edge throughout. This is about ordinary hit men getting their contracts done. There are no recriminations and regrets. The movie starts and ends on a sardonic note, the very tone that first-time director Saul Rubinek wanted to create. I'm sure if this was a bigger name director with a bigger budget JERRY AND TOM would have been a screamer at the box office. This was a movie I thoroughly enjoyed and it comes highly recommended. Ten out of 10 from me.