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Film / Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

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Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead is a 1995 crime film directed by Gary Fleder and starring Andy García, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Treat Williams, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken and Gabrielle Anwar. The title was inspired by a song by Warren Zevon from his album Mr. Bad Example.

Andy Garcia plays a former mob man who tries to turn straight by starting his own business, which produces taped messages for the terminally ill and dying. His business goes into debt, which later brings him into having to do one last favor for his former boss: scare off his son's ex's current boyfriend. A loose team of former acquaintances is then assembled to do the job, but it turns out their target is smarter than they think.

The film contains examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: Notably all 5 job men, Jimmy included.
  • Badass Boast: Critical Bill, after getting the drop on Mr. Shush and shooting him first:
    Critical Bill: I am Godzilla! You are Japan!
  • Bittersweet Ending: All 5 job men die, but The Man With The Plan is alone now his son is dead, and is said to have never spilled any blood again. Lucinda is now pregnant with Jimmy's child, and leaving the prostitution game. Dagney seems to have moved on, and for some reason the 5 job men are seen hanging out together in the afterlife on a fishing trip.
  • Carnival of Killers: Jimmy The Saint (Andy Garcia), Franchise (William Forsythe), Critical Bill (Treat Williams), Pieces (Christopher Lloyd), and Easy Wind (Bill Nunn).
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Buckwheats, which is killing someone slowly and painfully. Specifically, by literally popping a cap in their asses. This is done to Easy Wind and Franchise.
  • Cramming the Coffin: A mafia body is arranged to disappear this way. At the funeral we see the pallbearers stumble in surprise when they first pick up the coffin.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: As incompetent as Critical Bill is, out of all the Job Men, he's the one to ambush and kill Mr. Shush.
  • Deadly Euphemism: It's emphasised to Jimmy that the job he's been hired to do is just "an action", and not "a piece of work". From context it's pretty obvious that the former refers to intimidation and beating, the latter for a hit.
  • The Don: "The Man With the Plan" (Christopher Walken).
  • Dramatic Irony: Combined with Disproportionate Retribution and maybe a little Karma Houdini. Pieces and Critical Bill, the ones who actually killed Meg and her boyfriend, and Jimmy — who set everything up — are killed instantly by Mr. Shush and the Martinez Brothers respectively (in Pieces and Jimmy's cases, it was because they both solemnly accepted their deaths, while in Critical Bill's case Mr. Shush had to kill him with a last resort shot after Bill ambushed him and fatally shot him first), while Easy Wind and Franchise, who were just there and didn't do anything besides serve as lookouts, both get buckwheats.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. Shush sees three white men brutally attacking a black man, he immediately intervenes and dispatches all three men without saying a word. His motivation for doing so is a complete mystery. He may not like an unfair fight, he may hate racists, or it may have simply been a Pet the Dog moment on his part.
  • Evil Cripple: The Man With the Plan, a Mafia Don left quadriplegic after an attempt on his life, but who's still powerful.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Pieces. All he does when Mr. Shush comes for him is nod and say, "Do it quickly." Which Shush does.
  • A Father to His Men: It's Personal for both The Man and Jimmy; the former is because of the Relative Button, but Jimmy's only motivation is protecting his crew.
  • From Bad to Worse: The plan to scare off Meg's boyfriend results in him getting killed, along with Meg herself when her unexpected appearance in the van spooks Pieces into accidentally shooting her.
  • Hospital Hottie: The Man With the Plan, being a quadriplegic mobster, has an attractive blonde nurse to care for him.
    The Man With the Plan: She can't nurse worth shit, but I keep her on, because even though I can't feel it, I know I get erections in her presence.
  • I Lied: The Man With The Plan has Franchise killed anyway after promising Jimmy he'd allow him to get out of town with his wife and kids. He explains that as a criminal, "[his] word doesn't mean dick."
  • If I Can't Have You…: A proxy version. Bernard's father wants to have the fiancé of his son's childhood crush run out of town because he thinks seeing her with another guy will be bad for Bernard's mental health.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Two main characters pose as police officers to stop their mark. Given that one of the criminals had a short fuse, it went From Bad to Worse very fast for everybody involved, putting into motion the main plot of the movie.
  • Karma Houdini: The Man With the Plan. He's able to have every job man killed, but as Jimmy explains in his afterlife video, he'll now be alone (Jimmy having just killed his son Bernard) and still crippled.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Baby Sinister and his people do briefly put up a fight when Mr. Shush comes for Easy Wind, but back down after he kills several of them and has the rest at his mercy.
  • Malt Shop: The film is narrated by an old man in a malt shop, which is for some reason a bit of a Bad Guy Bar.
  • Mutual Kill: Bill and Mr. Shush end up fatally shooting each other.
  • Mysterious Mercenary Pursuer: Mr. Shush, the taciturn hitman sent to kill Jimmy the Saint's gang.
  • Never My Fault: Critical Bill whines and grovels Jimmy into letting him be one of the fake cops instead of relegating him to a support role, then proceeds to let his incompetence and temper ruin the whole thing and get all of them marked for death. When Jimmy visits him later, he has the gall to blame him for everything for not standing up to him when he asked to be one of the cops.
  • Nurse with Good Intentions: The Man With a Plan declares that the woman he hired to look after him is a terrible nurse, but he "knows he gets an erection every time he sees her", which makes up for it.
  • Pet the Dog: Bernard typically comes across as either creepy or pathetic, but tells Jimmy that he really would feel a sense of peace and leave Meg alone if he could just hear her say that she was happy with her new boyfriend. Unfortunately, his father didn't ask his opinion on that.
  • Professional Killer: Mr Shush is the Consummate Professional type. A gang of three brothers are sent to kill Jimmy after Billy takes out Shush.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Bernard. Growing up with The Don for a father and being able to get away with anything didn't help matters, but given his attempted snatching of a schoolgirl from a school playground during recess (the catalyst of the The Man's mission to Jimmy) Bernard definitely exhibits underlying psychological problems as well.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Jimmy's crew is described as such practically word-for-word after they royally screw up the plan.
  • Romantic False Lead: It is stated that Jimmy's love interest Dagney has a boyfriend (although their relationship status is, in Dagney's words, "somewhere in between"), but it doesn't seem to bother Jimmy that much. Jimmy even continually refers to said boyfriend as "Chip", even when corrected on more than one occasion that it's actually "Alex".
  • Spot the Thread: Meg's boyfriend sees right through Pieces and Bill's disguises as cops, ultimately leading to the plot's derailment.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Bernard.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: "Mr. Shush".
  • Titled After the Song: The film's title comes from a song of the same name by Warren Zevon from his album Mr. Bad Example, which is played during the film's end credits. Interestingly, John Cale later wrote a song about the film, which would have counted as an inversion, had he not shortened the title to just "Things."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Meg's boyfriend. After refusing to cooperate with Pieces and Bill when stating they aren't real cops, Bill pulls him out of the van, and the guy proceeds to verbally assault Bill to the point where he holds a knife to his throat. When Pieces talks him down, the boyfriend badmouths Bill yet again, resulting in his getting stabbed multiple times in the throat.
    • Critical Bill when he decided to gloat to Mr. Shush after blasting him with a shotgun. Shush takes the opportunity to shoot him before dying himself.
  • Tropical Epilogue: Referenced. The protagonists will often say "Boat drinks," to remind each other of their ultimate dream: retiring to some tropical paradise to sip cocktails on a yacht. In the end, we see all of the main characters doing exactly that, except they're all dead.
  • Video Wills: Jimmy makes an honest living setting these up, called "Afterlife Advice".
  • Vox Pops: Jimmy's company's "Afterlife Advice" videos are scattered through the film.
  • Window Love: This is almost an open "secret handshake" of the protagonist group. They're mostly (all) cons and do this when they visit when one of them is in prison.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: Establishing his Hot-Blooded, Hair-Trigger Temper attitude, Critical Bill is introduced working out with a punching bag. It's not until a few shots later that it's revealed that his "punching bag" is actually a corpse.
    Franchise: Critical Bill, man, what the fuck are you doing?
    Critical Bill: Working out, it's not bothering him much.