A Black Comedy Psychological Thriller, and the feature film debut of TV director Peter O'Fallon, telling (with heavy amounts of Flashbacks) the tale of two kidnappings and the web of betrayal that spawned them.
When Impoverished Patrician Avery Chasten (Henry Thomas) finds out that his sister Elise (Laura Harris) has been kidnapped and the Police are Useless, he turns to his three lifelong friends—Elise's boyfriend Max (Sean Patrick Flanery), Nouveau Riche blusterer Brett (Jay Mohr), and medical student T.K. (Jeremy Sisto)—to get the ransom by any means necessary.
Their plan: To abduct retired crime boss Charlie Barrett (Christopher Walken) and force him to pay the ransom. With the unwitting help of their friend Ira (Johnny Galecki), who provides his parents' palatial home in the belief that they plan to spend the weekend playing poker, they successfully kidnap Charlie and force him to use his underworld contacts to get in touch with the kidnappers.
As Charlie's right-hand man, ruthless thug Lono Veccio (Denis Leary), simultaneously searches for Elise's kidnappers and for Charlie's, the captive crook plays a game of mental cat-and-mouse with his captors, learning the real story behind the kidnapping of Elise while working to find their weak spots and convince them to set him free.
Provides Examples Of:
- Abusive Parents:
- Ira's parents (or, at least, his father) are implied to be emotionally abusive.
- Lono's father was evidently a mean drunk.
- Affably Evil: Charlie is a charming retired mob boss with quite the sense of humor. Don't think that he won't have you killed if you really piss him off, though.
- The Alcoholic: Charlie's vitamin K deficiency inhibits his blood clotting. This becomes a plot point.
- All Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks: Avery owes Heckle and Jeckle a pile of money.
- Anti-Villain: Charlie and Lono. While they are murderous criminals, they abide by their code of honor and treat each other as True Companions, unlike the protagonists who constantly lie to and double-cross each other. They both in fact are seen doing rather heroic feats.
- Big Fancy House: The setting for the bulk of the film is set in Ira's upscale New York mansion.
- Brick Joke: Brett boasts to Charlie that his plan to kidnap him is going to work despite its risks, and Charlie replies he's going to remember that. Near the end, when Lono arrives, Charlie instructs him to shoot Brett. As a wounded Brett lays on the floor and cries "Why me?", Charlie simply says "It was your idea, dunsky."
- Chekhov's Gun: Avery's sports betting and Max's ability to navigate Harlem.
- Deathbringer the Adorable: The Widowmaker, who is just an obnoxious blackjack dealer.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": That's "Charlie Barrett," not "Carlo Bartolucci."
- Downer Ending: Avery is revealed to have had his own sister kidnapped by the mob to pay off his debts, while Max and Elise double-crossed everyone and took off with the money. Charlie and Lono track the latter two down and murder them to get the ransom back.
- The Dragon: Lono is Charlie's right-hand man.
- Dumb Muscle: Heckle and Jekyll, the loan sharks whom Avery owes money.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Charlie and Lono. Charlie says that you should never lie to your friends while Lono stands up to an abusive stepfather.
- Finger in the Mail: The kidnappers sent Elise's father her finger in a box. Turns out, it wasn't her finger.
- Fingore: To motivate him, the Five-Man Band decides to do to Charlie whatever the kidnappers do to Elise. The first thing they do is cut off his finger.
- Hannibal Lecture: Charlie gives one to T.K., and later gives one to the group as a whole.
- Hollywood Silencer: Lono uses one on his gun.
- Impoverished Patrician: Avery's family "has money, but it's all on paper."
- Improvised Weapon User: Lono, in the living room, with a toaster.
- Instant Sedation: Subverted. It's not nearly as easy to sedate a struggling gangster as it looks on TV.
- Jerkass: Both Brett and Lono, although Lono makes motions toward being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- The Mafia: Charlie used to run it.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Charlie wears sharp suits and enjoys a nice glass of liquor.
- The Medic: T.K. is a medical student and thus the closest thing to a medical professional for Charlie's kidnapping.
- The Mole: Avery and Max were both complicit in Elise's kidnapping. Avery was coerced into it due to gambling debts and recruited Max's help, though later it's revealed that Max is the true mastermind behind the kidnapping.
- Morality Pet: Ira becomes this for Charlie, who genuinely comes to admire him and even repeatedly refers to him as "the man."
- No Name Given:
- Heckle and Jekyll.
- The Widowmaker.
- Pet the Dog: Charlie and Lono get one each.
- Charlie is seen in flashback rescuing a hooker from her pimp.
- Lono beats up a restaurant hostess's abusive stepfather with a toaster and even apologizes to the woman for messing up said toaster.
- Charlie also treats Ira well, as he had nothing to do with Charlie's kidnapping. He even calls Ira "the man" and later "my man."
- Retired Monster: Charlie insists that he's no longer involved in the mob and is only interested in legitimate business. However, he still retains his old underworld contacts and is not the type of person you want to cross.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: "What the fuck are you talking about? You're taped to a chair!"
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Max and Elise are both from opposing families. What doesn't help is that Max's father was cheating with Elise's mother, resulting in both Max and Elise being instructed never to meet each other.
- Twist Ending: Avery set the kidnapping up to pay off his gambling debts, but Max and Elise went behind his back to cut a side-deal with the kidnappers.
- Urban Legends: The one Brett tells about Charlie is true. Only not quite as gruesome as what really happened.
- Villainy Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away right before Lono shoots Max and Elise. All you hear are silenced shots.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: So, whose finger did they get?
- Wicked Cultured: Charlie affects this persona, but scratch his surface and you'll find a thug underneath.